Toby Keith: Democrat

Toby Keith say he's a conservative DemocratSo reveals a rather amusing profile in the Boston Globe:

Short-tempered country star Toby Keith doesn’t back down from anything. He has feuded with the Dixie Chicks, quarreled with ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, stood up for rednecks, bashed the Taliban, and furthered his hawk credentials by taking a swipe at terrorists in the radio hit, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).” Sample verse: “This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage/ And you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.”

But Keith has a confession to make. “People don’t realize that I’m a registered Democrat,” he says. “They automatically assume that I’m a chest-banging, war-drum-pounding Republican with my military stance.” Keith goes on to compare himself to Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut: “a conservative Democrat who is sometimes embarrassed for his party.”


Keith has notched 19 No. 1 country hits — most of which he wrote himself from a classic honky-tonk, not militaristic, perspective. They include the recent “Whiskey Girl” and “Beer for My Horses” (with Willie Nelson). Keith also recently winning four trophies at the Academy of Country Music Awards, among them entertainer of the year, male vocalist, and best album for “Shock’N Y’All,” which, according to Billboard, has sold more than 3 million copies since its release last November.


Still, the country star maintains that he’s “more balanced than what some people would lead you to believe.” For those searching for a full-blown conservative, Keith points to rocker Ted Nugent, with whom he just completed a USO tour of Iraq and Afghanistan. They were whisked around in Blackhawk helicopters to perform for the troops. “Ted is so far out on the right that I can’t even see him with a pair of binoculars,” Keith says. “I’m probably the most right Democrat in the world, but Ted is so far on the other side that he’s got problems with a bunch of Republicans.”

If Keith sees himself as a conservative Democrat, he has no problem hanging with those whose politics are further left. Some of Keith’s better friends in the music business are Nelson and Jimmy Buffett, both liberals. One imagines he shuns politics with them, but the stature of such friends gives him the justification to be occasionally cocky with everyone else.

“If I get criticized by another artist who isn’t very successful, people will say, `Did you hear what so-and-so said about you?’ And I go, `You know what, they’re off the radar.’ When I got Willie and Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson and [the late] Ray Charles and Jimmy Buffett and Buck Owens and people like that calling me and leaving me e-mails . . . and going, `Dude, you’re doing it just like I did. You’re the one, and you’re our chosen guy,’ then what do I give a [expletive] about what a guy who sold 200,000 records said about me? I got the ultimate endorsement from five or six people that matter.”

Still, Keith concedes there are some entertainers (he won’t name names) who wouldn’t share a stage with him. “I just laugh at those people and I wear that as a badge of honor,” he says. “I’m thinking, `Where do you draw the line on that?’ If your kid gets his toe cut off with a lawn mower and you rush him to the hospital and you get in there and find out the surgeon is a Republican, do you delay the friggin’ surgery? You know what I mean? Where do you pick and choose on my right to be an American? What cracks them up is the look on their faces when they find out that I’m a registered Democrat. That kills them.”

If you can’t tell by now, Keith can be a bundle of contradictions. He may seem self-centered at times, but he has also raised $400,000 in a golf tournament to help the family of original bandmate Scott Smith, whose 2-year-old daughter, Ally, died last year of cancer. Dealing with an issue of that magnitude made him drop any “kitty fight” with the Dixie Chicks, one of whom had labeled him “ignorant.” And while Keith may be a hawk on the war against terrorism, he’s also a free spirit who shared marijuana with Willie Nelson and lived to sing about it in a recent tune, “Weed With Willie,” which talks about ending up “in the fetal position” after smoking on Nelson’s bus. But don’t think that is Keith’s normal lifestyle. “I’ve drank enough beer and whiskey to float a battleship, but you could put all the pot I’ve ever smoked in a teacup. It’s not my high,” Keith says. “But hey, if everybody could handle their high like Willie, then pot wouldn’t even be a problem.”

The man’s colorful, I’ll give him that.

UPDATE:  More on Toby Keith’s politics, from the folks at Wikipedia:

Political beliefs and controversies

Keith considers himself “a Conservative Democrat who is sometimes embarrassed for his party.” He endorsed the re-election of President George W. Bush in 2004 and performed at a Dallas, Texas rally on the night before the election. Keith also endorsed Democrat Dan Boren in his successful run in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional district and is good friends with Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

In a January 2007 interview with Newsday, Keith was asked whether or not he supported the Iraq War. He responded with “Never did.” He favors setting a time limit on the campaign. He also said, “I don’t apologize for being patriotic… If there is something socially incorrect about being patriotic and supporting your troops, then they can kiss my [ass] on that, because I’m not going to budge on that at all. And that has nothing to do with politics. Politics is what’s killing America.”

The Angry American song

On March 24, 2001, Keith’s father, H.K. Covel, was killed in a car accident. That event and the September 11, 2001 attacks prompted Keith to write the song “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)”, a song about his father’s patriotism and faith in the USA. At first, Keith refused to record the song and sang it only live at his concerts for military personnel. The reaction was so strong that the Commandant of the Marine Corps James L. Jones told Keith it was his duty as an American citizen to record the song.[4] As the lead single from the album Unleashed (2002), “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue” peaked at number 1 over the weekend of July 4.
Toby Keith visits with fans during brief breaks in filming the music video “American Soldier” in hangar 1600 at Edwards Air Force Base, November 17, 2003.

Toby Keith visits with fans during brief breaks in filming the music video “American Soldier” in hangar 1600 at Edwards Air Force Base, November 17, 2003.

ABC invited Keith to sing “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue” on a patriotic special it was producing. However, the host of the show, newsman Peter Jennings, requested that Keith soften the lyrics of the song or choose another song to sing.[citation needed] Keith refused both of the requests and did not appear on the special. The rift gave the song a considerable amount of publicity, which led to many national interviews and public performances of the song.

Feud with the Dixie Chicks

Keith had a public feud with the Dixie Chicks over the song “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue”, as well as over comments they made about President George W. Bush on stage during a concert in London. The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, publicly stated that Keith’s song was “ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant.” Keith responded by belittling Maines’ songwriting skills, and by displaying a backdrop at his concerts showing a doctored photo of Maines with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. On May 21, 2003, Maines wore a T-shirt with the letters FUTK on the front at the Academy of Country Music Awards. While a spokesperson for the Dixie Chicks said that the acronym stood for “Friends United in Truth and Kindness,” many including host Vince Gill took it to be a shot at Keith (“Fuck You Toby Keith”). In August 2003, Keith publicly declared he was done feuding with Maines ‘because he’s realized there are far more important things to concentrate on’. However, he continues to refuse to say Maines’ name, and claims that the doctored photo was intended to express his feeling that Maines’ criticism was tyrannical and a dictator-like attempt to squelch Keith’s free speech.

In the 2006 film Shut Up and Sing, Maines admitted that the FUTK shirt was in fact a shot at Toby Keith, after once claiming that it meant Freedom Understanding Truth and Kindness. In an October 2004 appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, Maines finally confessed that it was indeed an obscene shot at Toby Keith, and that she “thought that nobody would get it.”

However, it was announced in March 2008 that Keith and the Dixie Chicks would appear together in a series of television commercials on global warming, funded in part by Al Gore and his Alliance for Climate Protection. The commercials pair well-known public figures, who otherwise would not agree on many issues, to convey messages about climate change. Along with Keith and the Dixie Chicks, television spots also feature current Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, with former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich, and left-leaning Rev. Al Sharpton paired together with the right-leaning Rev. Pat Robertson.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    One more reason why I like him and his music.

  2. Smitty says:

    Conservative Democrats are the children left behind.