Bruce Springsteen Is America’s Greatest Conservative Songwriter, Part VII

In “The Promised Land” – a song that constantly flits about the top of most hard-core Springsteen fans’ lists of favorite songs – paints a bleak picture for the everyday schlub:

I done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day.
But your eyes go blind, and your blood runs cold,
sometimes I feel so weak I just wanna explode

Explode and tear this old town apart,
take a knife and cut this pain from my heart,
find somebody itchin’ for something to start…

And then the last verse tees up:

Well, there’s a dark cloud rising, ‘cross the desert floor
I’ve packed my bags, and I’m headed straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
that ain’t got the faith to stand its ground.

Blow away the dreams that break your heart.

Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted…

The song – which is on the surface about a young buck butting his head against a status quo leaving him, in the immortal words of Howard the Duck, “trapped in a world that he never made”.  And beneath the surface?  It’s about everyone trying to stake their claim in the world while they can, and railing against the petty and not-so-petty things that badger and hector you on the way there…

…and noting, obliquely, another of the key facets of what being a conservative really means: the idea that the only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law.

Humans and the societies they build are intensely imperfect, and that the only justice you’re ever going to see is from something – a higher power, in this case, in the metaphorical form of a tornado – that cares not for your specifics, or of that against which you’re banging your head.

The notion that there is an existing, higher moral order is easy; every political and cultural liberal believes it (although cultural liberals and conservative see the source of that order differently).  The idea that we, petty humans that we are, stand on the shoulders of giants and can only rarely improve on them and their ideas is harder; the idea that we can change the world “for the better” is so wound up in the ideals of liberals that they call themselves “progressives”.

But the idea that absolute equality only exists (outside of the purely legalistic, and then only when everyone involves has a lot of integrity) above and beyond this world is the province of the cultural conservative.


23 thoughts on “Bruce Springsteen Is America’s Greatest Conservative Songwriter, Part VII

  1. Oh My God. The country is about to fall off the Fiscal Cliff, a socialist demagague seeks to disarm us to enslave us all, the economy is crashing, global warming is causing freak weather disrupting Christmas travel, the Vikings have to beat the Packers to get into the playoffs . . . and all you can talk about is Bruce Springsteen????

    Glad to see somebody still has a sense of humor.

  2. Merry Christmas to you Mitch, to Bun and Zam and Willie and the rest of the family.

    Bruce Springsteen made it clear he rejects conservatism; he made that clear when he campaigned so heavily for Obama that he supports liberal thinking, liberal values, and liberal policies.

    No matter how hard you are determined to spin this, he doesn’t agree with you and never will. I think Springsteen knows what he believes better than you do; you just seem to feel a deep need to try to justify that difference between your beliefs politically and his by denying them. He doesn’t deny that difference at all; he makes a point of underlining with both his words and his actions how very much he does not share your world view, or your politics, or your beliefs. It could not be more clear.

    The GOP is the party of hypocrisy and denial – denial of reality, denial of facts that don’t conform to your ideology. And so long as you put an unchanging ideology that doesn’t work ahead of facing facts, dealing with objective reality, and being willing to change when it is important, your party will continue to fail and shrink.

    I miss the days when conservatives were pragmatic realists who put power in the hands of moderates, not extremists. The GOP has gone too far to the right, and now you’re falling off your own edge of the world.

    Your first clue should have been when your side supported Romeny recycling Dubya, instead of engaging in the good kind of recycling that reduces waste.

    Put aside politics for the day; celebrate the reason for the season, and then tomorrow try celebrating differences and embracing change. Among other things, I’m going to replay the Dignity of Difference ( and then listen to the Reith lectures on the persistence of faith.

    Put aside politics for the day – Merry Christmas, and to men (and women) of good will, peace on earth.

  3. Dog On says:
    “Bruce Springsteen made it clear he rejects conservatism..”

    We’re talking about a popularity contest between bands, right? What is the worst that could happen? The wrong band gets picked? This doesn’t strike me as an issue to stand firm on one’s liberal democratic principles. The risk of looking foolish is high.

    You also state: …”your [the GOP] party will continue to fail and shrink.”

    In congressional contests voters denied Obama a mandate to pursue any more of the Democratic agenda, ensuring that he will only be able to propose laws that can pass both a House of Representatives that remains firmly in Republican hands and a Senate in which they will still wield the power of death-by-filibuster. Some Republican success, it is true, was down to recent efforts to gerrymander the nation’s congressional boundaries. But that does not fully account for their roughly 40-seat majority. Besides, 30 states now have Republican governors, though state borders cannot be gerrymandered.

    As for a disappointing slew of Senate races, conservative elites can easily blame their tea-tinged grassroots for saddling their party with extreme candidates, such as Akin in Missouri or Mourdock in Indiana. Expect scheming by the party elites to assert more control, somehow, over primaries.

    The Republicans also have long-term problems, exposed by this election with alarming clarity. One is that the party base often pay lip service to the idea of a changing America, but few seem ready actually to see their party change.

    Democratic partisans have their faults: they can be tribal, inclined to believe conspiracy theories about rich elites, and to place too much faith in government intervention. But active Republicans, on average, sound angrier than other Americans. They tend to apocalyptic gloom, from party elites who predicted rioting in the streets if Mr Obama were re-elected, to numberless party activists with theories about the president’s socialist leanings or America’s imminent bankruptcy.

    Thoughtful Republicans are not oblivious to the dangers that they face. Optimists hope that new leaders will emerge to lead their movement rapidly towards greater realism, and positivity. If not, electoral defeats far more severe than those inflicted this time will surely impose such changes.

  4. Dog Gone, you are delusional.
    Obama is the most left-wing president this country has ever elected. Your response? ‘The GOP has gone too far to the right, and now you’re falling off your own edge of the world.’
    GW Bush, and McCain, and Romney, were moderates. You guys rejected them utterly and completely. My God, you ran self-confessed war criminals for prez and vice-prez in 2004, and now you are want a self-confessed war criminal — who rejected his country and his service to it in 1971 — to be Secretary of State?
    See a shrink, or at least watch your own damn video. The ‘other’, to you isn’t gays or people of another race, it is conservatives. You are incredibly intolerant, as your comment today shows.

  5. “Obama is the most left-wing president this country has ever elected”
    Over the top much?

    So the masses want socialism and some sort of woman thing, which is just baby killing?

    So long as you frame the problem in those terms, I think your base is going to continue to shrink.

  6. If conservatism is shrinking, then by inference, socialism must be growing. Dog Gone has reason to celebrate. Let her have her little victory – for now.

    As Instapundit is fond of pointing out: debts that can’t be paid, won’t.

    It’s only a matter of time before Leviatian collapses of its own weight. In the scrabble afterwards, those armed with snarky bumper stickers and unicorn platitudes will fare less well than we despised bitter clingers.

    I suspect in a generation or two, the name “Barak” will be as popular as the name “Adolph” and for the same reason: they destroyed their own nations.

  7. “Obama is the most left-wing president this country has ever elected”
    Over the top much?

    It’s the truth, isn’t it?

  8. Emery: Can you think of a President who has been more liberal than Obama?

    For this purpose, I think SITD readers would say a President who governed by keeping the role of the federal government to the specific duties listed in the Constitution would be Conservative, whereas Presidents who expanded the role of the federal government would be Liberal.

    It seems to me that FDR and Lyndon Johnson are Obama’s only serious contenders and neither of them took over American industries or issued secret Executive Kill Orders to assassinate Americans without trial.

  9. Look, Emery, I know you’ve drunk the liberal koolaid, but don’t you think that a party pretty much is insane when they nominate self-confessed war criminals to run on an anti-war platform? Or when they choose an impeached ex-president to nominate their presidential candidate? Because people think the impeached ex-prez had a good economic record? And then they repudiate the economic record of his administration?
    Or am I being ‘over the top’ by pointing out the truth?

  10. You should keep your powder dry, until you can turn your cannon toward wild eyed liberal. Traditionally, Republicans condescended towards social conservatives while standing up for small-government reformers and fiscal hawks. This new fangled conservatism is at best ironic and patronizes everyone but the social conservatives. Bad strategy to patronize every member of your coalition except the people who seem most comfortable with condescension.

    The GOP is in bad shape and getting worse but they still beat Democrats three times out five or so. Until the new, innocent center-right party of prophesy arrives (and the yuletide is upon us!) the GOP can get a lot worse and still win enough elections to overturn vetoes and lithiate the senate. Even if Boehner loses the internal fight and the tea-party takes over, a lot of us will still have a hard time voting for Democratic candidates.

  11. Tea Party Avoids Divisive Social Issues
    Published: March 12, 2010
    For decades, faith and family have been at the center of the conservative movement. But as the Tea Party infuses conservatism with new energy, its leaders deliberately avoid discussion of issues like gay marriage or abortion.
    Emery, you are just another delusional liberal.

  12. Gosh.. and I was doing my best to dumb it own for you. Heck, I was even channeling Mel Brooks and Blazing Saddles in my first (turn your cannon toward wild eyed liberal) sentence…

    Say Terry, can you point to the words “Tea Party” in either one of my two previous comments? Crickets… drum-roll, cymbal crash… and the answer is?

    Project much there pardner?

    Reading is a skill.

    I’ll see your NYT link and raise you one…..

  13. Even if Boehner loses the internal fight and the tea-party takes over, a lot of us will still have a hard time voting for Democratic candidates.

  14. I am starting to think that you do have a reading problem, Emery. I am not a ‘Tea Partier’, and I know very little about the Tea Party — but I do know that it is organized around the idea of fiscal conservatism (“Taxed Enough Already”), not social conservatism.
    Rational, well-informed people know that the purpose of the Tea Party is not to push a social-conservative agenda. You don’t seem to know this Emery.

  15. DG,

    Merry Christmas to you and yours too.

    And as your gift to me, please read and retain the following paragraph:

    Springsteen’s personal beliefs are irrelevant. This is about the messages and resonances in the music.

    You keep repeating the same irrelevant response over and over again. It’s almost as if you’re a hit-and-run commenter of some kind.

  16. Terry, you inferred that I spoke of the Tea Party in a negative manner. I don’t believe that was the case.

  17. Emery wrote:
    Even if Boehner loses the internal fight and the tea-party takes over, a lot of us will still have a hard time voting for Democratic candidates.

  18. Elements of the media and certainly the Democratic party have been anxious to characterize the Tea Party as social conservatives in disguise, but those who I have met don’t seem to be that way. They are an anti-deficit group, which leans strongly towards cutting spending rather than raising taxes. Despite the way that some Republicans are trying to wear the Tea Party label (see The Tea Party Express, a PAC run by a Republican lobbyist), I honestly think that a fiscally responsible Democrat could garner many tea party votes.

  19. The Tea Party and so many of their demands are conflicting. As a result, Republicans have locked themselves into an impossible position on budgeting by simultaneously vowing never to allow taxes hikes, and passing long-term budgets that create a fiscal cliff necessitating tax hikes. As a moderate I hate to see the GOP portrayed in this manner.

  20. Most of the Tea Party blogs I have read spend a great deal of time insisting that they are against incumbents of all types and Washington in general. Being opposed to some of the longest serving Senators may simply be an outgrowth of this. Their opposition may be just as much simple dislike of anyone associated with Washington, no matter how in line with their views, as much as it is an insistence that their representatives refuse to work with the other party.

    I knew that the Tea Party was against business as usual. What I hadn’t realized was that the Tea Party defines business as usual as “passing legislation.”

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