The Magazine

Sing a Song of Ron Paul

The enchanter of the disenchanted attracts white-boy rappers, truth troubadours, and would be Woody Guthries.

Dec 10, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 13 • By MATT LABASH
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"If a thing isn't worth saying, you sing it," the French playwright Beaumarchais once noted. But his heedless naïveté can be forgiven. Beaumarchais expired in 1799, well before the advent of today's endless presidential campaigns. Here, if everything that was not worth saying were sung, the political arena would sound like the high school cafeteria in Fame--one couldn't get down a sporkful of chipped beef without a musical number breaking out.

It used to be that campaign songs featured original lyrics that strove to mobilize supporters ("Get on a raft with Taft!") or to draw subtle policy distinctions between candidates, such as the William Henry Harrison ditty that educated voters about incumbent Martin Van Buren:

Who rules us with an iron rod

Who moves at Satan's beck and nod

Who heeds not man, who heeds not God?

Van Buren!

In recent decades, things have grown considerably more milquetoast. Candidates today are most likely to pick an already existing pop song that exemplifies their ethos. For instance, Hillary Clinton made a perfect choice with "You and I," which is saccharine, turns on synthetic emotion, and is sung by Celine Dion, one of the few people with a voice more cloying than her own.

But the last two cycles, there's been a slight return to original compositions. Four years ago in these pages, I explored the songcraft of the Howard Deaniacs. While many voters now have trouble even remembering the Dean campaign beyond the "I Have a Scream" speech, the songs still remain on songsfordean.com. To this day, I can't watch Dean without thinking of the lyric: "We're gonna need a doctor to fix us up quick / We need to remove our Bush and our Dick."

Despite their prodigious output, however, Deaniacs were positively slothful compared with those called everything from Paulheads to Paultards to Ronulans--the supporters of Ron Paul. On the Bands4RonPaul MySpace page, there are 16 artists listed who've written original Paul songs, with 181 more bands who support Ron Paul listed beneath them: everyone from Larry's Broken Biscuits to Bloody Holly to White Trash and the Catholics to Fresh Cut Salads. So long is the line to throw one's musical backing to Paul that bands like MouthRot, Crash Martinez, and Clown Vomit posted demands to be included. And this page represents just a tiny fraction of the original Paul songs available on YouTube. Good luck finding them all.

To give an idea of Paul's viral velocity, if you hit "Rudy Giuliani" or "Mitt Romney" into YouTube's search engine, you'll turn up about 3,700 hits apiece. Do the same with "Ron Paul," and you'll be wading through 63,000 offerings. Coupled with the fact that Paul holds the one-day record for online fundraising ($4.2 million) and that money is pouring in from all sorts of unpredicted sectors (more active-duty military have given to Paul than to any other candidate), it's small wonder Paul's followers insist that they are underrepresented by conventional polling.

A requisite for being a Ronulan is incessantly complaining that journalists ignore your man. A YouTube satirist named Pudgenet, who himself wrote a song called "You Forgot Ron Paul!," even posted an outtakes reel in which he pinches Johnny Cash's "Sam Hall," singing:

My name it is Ron Paul

And I hate you one and all

I hate you one and all

Damn your eyes.

As for this journalist, I'll eliminate Paultard paranoia by putting my cards on the table: By all accounts, Ron Paul is decent, principled, smart, and honest (John McCain once said he was "the most honest man in Congress"). Of all the candidates, he's the one I'd most trust to hold my purse if I had to use the Jiffy John at a Paulapalooza festival (a proposition his musical backers are considering). While I don't fully agree with him, I enjoy his underdog tenacity and his unslick tetchiness. His laissez-faire libertarianism and old-style limited-government conservatism make me nostalgic for a more innocent time--let's call it "1993"--when Republicans could talk about pruning the long branches of government without laugh-snorting Diet Coke from their nostrils. All this is to say, I like Ron Paul. Or I thought I did, before seeing how much atrocious music he's inspired.

There is nothing wrong with white rappers, except that they're white, and they're rappers. The Paul movement seems to have attracted an unfortunate number of them. The worst of the worst is Digital Funtown's "Ron Paul Rap," in which a dancing pizza slice attempts to elucidate Paul's positions with rhymes like

Every pizza likes to dance

Ron Paul says no to immigrants .  .  .

Tomato sauce, provolone

Ron Paul says leave your fetus alone.