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Eric Alterman

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Think Again: When It Comes to Bruce Springsteen, Chris Christie Is Missing the Point

Posted: 07/12/2012 1:07 pm

I will rise above the temptation to treat New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and his ideological allies as he treats those whom he does not like. Quite a few pundits have already had their fun with Gov. Christie, among other conservatives, while also declaring their fealty to Bruce Springsteen as if anyone cared -- here, here, here, and here.

The most extensive of these articles undoubtedly is Jeffrey Goldberg's article in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, which begins with the curious juxtaposition that Gov. Christie is "a very large man who dances at Springsteen concerts in front of many thousands of people without giving a damn what they think," but adds in the very next sentence that the two of them are "in a luxury suite at the Prudential Center," which is, presumably, far from the many thousands of people in the riff-raff sections.

Much of Goldberg's piece is devoted to the fact that Springsteen has no interest in meeting Gov. Christie, despite desperate pleas from the governor and his staff. Goldberg writes:

On occasion, he'll make a public plea to Springsteen, as he did earlier this spring, when Christie asked him to play at a new casino in Atlantic City. 'He says he's for the revitalization of the Jersey Shore, so this seems obvious,' Christie told me. I asked him if he's received a response to his request. 'No, we got nothing back from them,' he said unhappily, 'not even a "F--- you.'

Well, one might add that no response from Bruce -- when Gov. Christie so shamelessly sought to pressure Springsteen into doing something he never showed any interest in doing for a cause (gambling casinos in Atlantic City) for which he has never expressed any sympathy -- would be about the nicest response one could imagine. Someone close to the governor might want to suggest, however, that he listen more carefully to the lyrics to Springsteen's "Atlantic City."

Goldberg does give the reasons Springsteen might not be drawn to Gov. Christie:

Christie has cut taxes, demonized the teachers unions, and slashed spending on social services. Springsteen makes it clear he believes that the wealthy should pay to fix the tears in the social safety net.

But he also implies that Gov. Christie deserves special points for the fact that he is not particularly Islamophobic by the standards of contemporary conservatives and would prefer less harsh drug laws -- though again, none of this is based on anything Springsteen has ever said or done. But Springsteen still seems "actively uninterested" in engaging with Gov. Christie.

What is most interesting about Goldberg's portrait of Gov. Christie, however, is the manner in which he attempts to finesse the fact that while the governor loves Springsteen, the artist heartily disapproves of virtually everything he and his fellow conservatives seek to accomplish. Gov. Christie mocks Springsteen's words to the crowd as "lecture time." Gov. Christie interprets Springsteen's words, which are about the hard times working people face and the rapaciousness of bankers and other 1 percenters in helping create the current housing and jobs crisis, as follows:

He's telling us that rich people like him are f---ing over poor people like us in the audience, except that us in the audience aren't poor, because we can afford to pay 98 bucks to him to see his show. That's what he's saying.

What's key in that sentence are the words "like him." Gov. Christie is insisting that everyone who is "rich" like Springsteen necessarily supports the actions of the very rich in support of their own economic self-interest; that the very fact of earning in the 1 percent -- or even the 1 percent of the 1 percent -- makes you an ideological ally of conservatives who seek to slash taxes for the rich and cut services for the poor and the middle class.

In fact, none of this is true. Springsteen is rich, to be sure, but that doesn't mean he wants to live in a society run by and for the rich. Rather, he believes, like President Franklin Roosevelt, that the rich have a responsibility to lend a hand to the rest so that everyone might have the opportunity to live a life of personal fulfillment and human dignity. "Nobody wins unless everybody wins," as he puts it. Yet Gov. Christie, who apparently cannot imagine what it feels like to be "a rich man in a poor man's shirt," says he "always find(s) this part very inauthentic."

Goldberg implies that this is also true from the crowd as, sitting up in the luxury box, he judges "the indifferent reaction of the crowd" and determines that "not too many people understand, or care, what Springsteen is saying." This may or may not be true, but it is hardly unusual since this is a rock concert and not a political rally.

Springsteen's speech, given mid-concert, focuses on the lack of political accountability for the financial crisis in which:

... [p]eople lost their homes, and I had friends who were losing their homes, and nobody went to jail. Nobody was responsible. People lost enormous amounts of their net worth. Previous to Occupy Wall Street, there was no pushback: there was no movement, there was no voice that was saying just how outrageous -- that a basic theft had occurred that struck at the heart of what the entire American idea was about. It was a complete disregard of history, of context, of community; it was all about 'what can I get today.' It was just an enormous fault line that cracked the American system wide open.

To continue reading, please go here:
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/07/ta_071212.html

 

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