Barack Obama and Hank Williams, Jr.

Barack Obama and Hank Williams, Jr. Dan Martin has some advice for Barack Obama: Listen to some Hank.

Barack Obama’s candidacy enjoys broad support and seems to be unified in ways most candidates could only dream of prior to the internet and text messaging age. Obama’s wide support, horizontal networking, and ability to inspire various demographics have thrust him within reach of the Democratic nomination. Still, if Obama cannot reverse trends among poor rural voters he may fall short in November. In short, I suggest Obama spend the time associated with airplane flights and drives to speeches listening to “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams, Jr. over and over again. If Barack finds his inner Bocephus and understands those lyrics, Obama cannot be stopped in November.

[…]

If Obama can talk to voters who can plow a field all day long and catch catfish from dusk till dawn, he can compete for rural votes due to the uncertainty injected by the global economy in areas that had previously been largely shielded from change. If Obama can recognize that some voters can make their own whiskey and their own smoke too and respect that there aren’t too many things that country boys can’t do, he will likely steal a few red states and win the whole thing with ease.

The problem, of course, is that Obama (and Hillary, for that matter) are more like Hank’s friend, whose grandfather taught him to be a business man and who used to send him pictures of the Broadway nights in exchange for homemade wine. Further, it’s just incredibly difficult to simultaneously appeal to affluent elites, Obama’s base, and the rural poor. Indeed, that’s the reason Obama and Clinton have had such a bitter nominating fight, since she’s managed to pick off the latter group, at least within the Democratic nominating electorate.

Still, Dan’s right about the recipe for Democratic success. The last two Democrats who’ve won, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, managed to pull it off. Then again, they had Southern accents and grew up in rural America.

Dan’s secondary suggestion, an Obama-Webb ticket, would help bridge that gap more easily than donning hunting apparel and chomping on some Beechnut.

Photo credit: Rolling Stone

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Popular Culture, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    The problem, of course, is that Obama (and Hillary, for that matter) are more like Hank’s friend, whose grandfather taught him to be a business man and who used to send him pictures of the Broadway nights in exchange for homemade wine.

    You forgot to put McCain in that list, as well.

    I’m not qualified to criticize your analogy to the song (being more of a Hank, Sr. fan, myself), but if Obama just tells his story straight–born to a single mother, raised by grandparents, put himself through school, worked to organize unemployed factory workers–he will be in a much better position than McCain who comes from a long line of elite military officers and has been a government employee most of his adult life.

    Obama’s life experience mimics those of the voters Martin is talking about more than any other candidate.

    That said–Hussein would be stupid to waste his time on rural voters. He has much stronger support in urban centers and suburbs where the battle will play out.

    Going after a handful of rural voters won’t be worth the cost, if he had to take away efforts in suburban areas.

  2. James Joyner says:

    [H]e will be in a much better position than McCain who comes from a long line of elite military officers and has been a government employee most of his adult life.

    Considering that military service is a tradition — and one of the most direct routes out of poverty — for rural America, I doubt they’ll see it that way. And being an elite military officer requires excellence for a couple of decades of service as a junior officer first. Plus, at least in the Army (I don’t know Navy culture that well) it means close contact and personal leadership of these people. And then there’s the whole POW angle.

    I do agree, though, that affecting a rural connection would likely do Obama more harm than good.

  3. Brian J. says:

    I don’t think it will happen. “The American Dream” mocks tax increases. Words that will never pass from Obama’s mouth.

  4. Eneils Bailey says:

    an Obama-Webb ticket,

    Come to your senses; an Obama-Jesus Christ ticket could not be be elected.

    The grown-ups will step forward in the general election if he is to the top of the democrat ticket.

    Obama – Anybody; a losing ticket.

    Obama is that shining mirage in the desert, looks good from a distant. Go up and try to stick your finger in it, it’s not there.

    He is a good candidate, got the gift of gab, the personal presence that is appealing, the speechifying that captivates and will make you fall over and faint if overtaken by the moment, and a hidden past hardly yet to be explored.

    And, of course, it does not hurt to be running against one of the most least-liked politicians in the last one hundred years.

  5. Chris says:

    Obama may have been raised by a single mother/working-class grandparents, but he is very much from the middle class – his Kenyan father met his mother at college, and since becoming a graduate himself he has worked in the professions of law, academia and politics. Obama probably does himself the most favour by being honest and transparent, as affecting a working-class background that he doesn’t really possess (a la Hilary and her occasionally affected southern drawl) comes across as a little patronising.

  6. Hal says:

    Further, it’s just incredibly difficult to simultaneously appeal to affluent elites, Obama’s base, and the rural poor.

    I think that one only has to look at the lastest ad by John McCain to notice that it seems that he – McCain – thinks his base is the boarding school crowd.

    I mean, my god. An honor code? You think that running on a record or ratting out kids who were smoking in the boys room has a broad appeal?

    Geebus. McCain actually is running like y’all fantasize Obama should be running.

    Bizarro world, indeed.

  7. DL says:

    I am reminded of a news photograph many years ago of President Dwight Eisenhower on a quail hunt in Georgia with a “negro” carrying his gun for him.

    Maybe Obama can win the good old boy vote if he turns the tables and gets John Kerry (we hunt deer by crawling on our bellies…) to carry his gun for him.

    Some Jeff Foxworthy redneck jokes might work in the north. Anyway, Barry, it’s worth the effort -just don’t ask like a typical white person,”where can I get me a hunting license around here?” or fill in your middle name on the license.

  8. Dr. Weevil says:

    At least no one’s suggested bringing Hank Williams III into Obama’s campaign. Any voter not offended by the line “I’m here to put the dick in Dixie” would surely be offended when he (Hank III, not Obama) tells you what he wants to put in ‘Country’.