THE BLOG

Democrats Celebrate to a New Tune

11/12/2012 05:33 pm ET | Updated Jan 12, 2013

Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" peaked at number three on the charts when I was still in high school. When I first heard it on my ball and chain radio in 1977, I was already into Democratic politics. Within three years, I would find my way into the 1980 Democratic National Convention as a 20-year-old delegate for Ted Kennedy in his run for the White House against Jimmy Carter. But it would be another 15 years before the upbeat pop song would enter politics, first as Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign theme song and then performed live by Fleetwood Mac at President Clinton's first inaugural ball.

For those years in between Carter and Clinton -- and for decades before that -- the undisputed theme song of the Democratic Party was "Happy Days Are Here Again," FDR's 1932 campaign song, composed in 1929 by Milton Ager with lyrics by Jack Yellen.

That song always seemed to tower over the popular music of my youth, carrying with it my parents' wartime stories and the enduring and haunting memories of millions of people lifted up from the Hoover depression into the prosperity of FDR's New Deal.

Like the Greatest Generation itself, that song's place in the Democratic identity struck me as beyond the reach of anything contemporary culture or politics could ever inspire among the Party faithful again. All the more so given the electoral record of the president it evokes -- four consecutive wins for FDR.

It would be 60 years from FDR's first election victory before any other Democratic nominee for president would complete two full terms of office. For Democrats, Bill Clinton's arrival meant winning was finally here again. And for America, so were the happy days of economic prosperity.

So it should come as no surprise if Clinton's theme song were to finally replace FDR's.

It may be hard for "Don't Stop" to strike a monumental historic chord in those of us who danced to it at the prom wearing leisure suits or Farah Fawcett hair-dos. But when I heard them playing "Don't Stop" at an Obama campaign rally, I wondered if it's different for kids who are in high school now. Perhaps the image of an 8-track tape player strikes them the same way a Victrola record player struck me.

I told my 18-year-old son I was writing a piece about Obama and the Democrats replacing a song from his grandparents' days with one from mine. He asked, "Isn't it about time?"

I think my son got it right.

The lyrics in both songs are about brighter days being here and ahead. But both songs are even more about leaving the past behind -- a core American impulse. One that was incapsulated in President Obama's "Forward," which framed a winning message for difficult times.

Christine McVie's lyrics "Yesterday's gone" and "Don't you look back" were just a 1970s incarnation of Jack Yellen's "You are now a thing of the past" and "We are rid of you at last."

In that American spirit, I for one am ready to let go of that song about a history I had only read or heard about, and be inspired by one now linked to better times I can recount directly to my own kids.

So, fellow Democrats, as we celebrate our victory, let's move on and make it official. And while we're at it, maybe it's time we think about hitting the refresh button on the Donkey as our party's icon.