As the fallout from the presidential campaign of the century is crashing around our heads, this might be a good time to consider the state of Americas political culture. For my money, one of the most revealing moments of the season came when Bruce Springsteen made his backhanded endorsement of the Democratic ticket and signed on for the Vote for Change concerts. One remarkable thing was simply the fact that a pop singers political opinion was announced with a New York Times op-ed piece and treated not as entertainment news but as a mainstream political event.
But the real shocker came a couple of days later when Ronald Brownstein, the Los Angeles Times political columnist, filed a piece speculating hopefully that perhaps Springsteens entry into the political fray could raise the tone of campaign debate. Brownsteins column decried the venomous tone of partisans on both sides - picking on Michael Moore and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth hit squad in particular - and cited Sen. John McCain as a rare voice of sweet reason. Then Brownstein wrote, "If anyone can set the McCain standard for the entertainers, retired generals, business leaders, and assorted other combatants rushing into the campaign trenches, it might be rock icon Bruce Springsteen.... Springsteen...has the capacity to help remind Americans on both sides that the differences between Bush and Kerry are policy disagreements, not moral failings."