Does"Born in the USA" Finally Reflect Conservative Values?

Some of you may recall my piece on Rick Perry’s use of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” at a rally last month.  You can read it here.  It is entitled “Why Rick Perry Should Think Twice Before He Makes ‘Born in the USA’ His Theme Song.” I basically argued, using Ronald Reagan’s use of the song in the 1984, that despite its patriotic chorus “Born in the USA” is hardly a patriotic song.

Today Daniel Scotto, a writer and history graduate student, has responded with a piece of his own entitled “‘Born in the USA’ Now Fits the Conservative Message.”  Here is a taste of his piece at The Federalist:

Writer and professor John Fea recently wrote a thoughtful piece for RealClearPolitics cautioning Rick Perry against using Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” as a campaign song. Fea recalls the issues that Ronald Reagan faced after using the song during his 1984 re-election bid. The Reagan campaign was wrong and its critics were right; the song isn’t about hope, and the frustration it depicts was ill-suited for “Morning in America.” But in the context of America today, “Born in the USA’s” critique of America fits much better on the Right than the Left.
Springsteen’s politics are well-established; he’s quite liberal and a fixture on Democratic presidential campaigns. As Fea writes, Springsteen engaged directly with Reagan’s use of his song by dedicating a performance of the bleak “Johnny 99” to Reagan in the run-up to the 1984 election…
…As the opposition party in an era of reform conservatism, Republicans can engage with the themes of “Born in the USA” in 2015. The song is a blistering criticism of four parts of American society that Republicans can critique fluently: a poorly led war, the treatment of veterans, inequality of opportunity, and a weak job market. These are best examined in pairs.
No time to respond at the moment, but I am curious what Springsteen fans think about Scotto’s argument.

8 thoughts on “Does"Born in the USA" Finally Reflect Conservative Values?

  1. Exactly my point. Patriotism without context can be very dangerous. Kind of like the adage, “My country, right or wrong.” America is indeed a great country and the strongest on the planet. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Our history reflects both good and bad uses of that power. Blind patriotism does not distinguish between those points.


  2. No doubt.

    Gallup poll confirms: US conservatives are more patriotic than liberals

    “This should come as no surprise, but Gallup’s latest poll confirms that American conservatives are significantly more patriotic than American liberals. When asked the question: “How proud are you to be an American – extremely proud, very proud, moderately proud, only a little proud, or not at all proud?”, 89 percent of conservative voters say they are “extremely proud/very proud.”

    In contrast just 76 percent of liberals share this sentiment. 17 percent of liberals say they are “moderately proud” to be American, and six percent say they are “only a little/not at all proud.” Among moderates, 86 percent describe themselves as “extremely/very proud” to be American.

    The Gallup survey also shows that Republican voters are more proud to be American than Democrat voters – 93 percent as opposed to 85 percent. 11 percent of Democrats say they are “moderately proud” to be American, while 4 percent say they are “only a little/not at all proud.” Independents are the least likely to take pride in their country, with only 81 percent saying they are “extremely/very proud.”

    The Gallup poll also reveals growing disillusionment among US voters with the direction the country is taking. When asked “overall, do you think the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be pleased or disappointed by the way the United States has turned out?”, 71 percent say America’s Founding Fathers would be disappointed, up from 48 percent in 2004.

    Americans are now much less likely than they were a decade ago to say the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be pleased with how the country has turned out.”


  3. I'm not sure it is so stupid. It could be seen as a study into how patriotism without context blindly establishes political ideology. Do Fourth of July celebrations tend to emphasize the myth of American Exceptionalism? Do they reinforce a feel good version of America and ignore the reality?

    As a matter of fact, that is the problem with some people who think Born in the USA is a conservative song. They're not examining the lyrics. In many cases I would say they ignore them and the context in which they sit in favor of the mindless USA! chant…much like going to a Fourth of July parade on a nice sunny day cheering veterans without questioning why they were in a war, why some are wounded physically and mentally, and why some people died and what they died for.


  4. Interesting study when you go into the quantitative methodology it employed in generating the results. It is also interesting when you read it and discover a few more factors and the rest of the results.

    “Rain-free Fourth of Julys experienced as
    an adult also make it more likely that people identify as Republicans, but the effect depreciates
    substantially after a few years.”

    You can read the whole report here.


  5. Plus writing a song critical of the Vietnam War in 1984 rather blunts its rhetorical power.

    Personally, I blame Bruce in part for the common misperception of that song; if he didn’t want it to be heard as a hymn to underappreciated patriots, he should have thought twice about releasing a video full of warm, fuzzy Americana where he played in front of the flag; about putting Old Glory on the cover of the record, and as the backdrop to the stage show, and as the backdrop to the tour posters, all at a time when the “USA! USA!” chant was at its highest ebb.

    So ironically, Bruce might have created some future Republicans. ;-D

    “Attending a Fourth of July fireworks display or flag waving parade as a child slightly increases the likelihood that that kid will grow up to vote Republican, according to a study a team of Harvard University researchers.

    Even a single July 4 celebration boosts the chance of turning a kid into a Republican, the study claims…”


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