Here are Big & Rich, in 2004, on what still might wind up the best album any human beings make in the ‘00s: “People getting’ mad on CNN/Who’s right, Democrats or Republicans?/I don’t care who’s right or wrong/I know a way we can all get along.” Well, the getting along didn’t last long, did it?
John Rich actually spent the first half of 2008 on a promising mission, positing that Gone Country winner Julio Iglesias Jr. and Nashville Star almost-winner Gabe Garcia might suggest a way for Nashville reach the Hispanic audience—a mercenary idea, maybe, but a potentially smart one. On Aug. 1, though, he debuted his ridiculous (if competently riffed) “Raisin’ McCain,” arguing the White House needs a “real man with an American plan.”
And from there Rich was inseparable from the ugliest, most deceitful, most proudly ignorant presidential campaign in recent history, exhuming longtime anti-establishmentarian Johnny Cash from his grave for a fake endorsement until Daughter In Black Rosanne objected. Even Raisin McCain himself seemed perplexed by Rich’s RNC grandstanding. Then on Nov. 4, reviving “I Walk The Line” with Hank Jr. for a crowd of rich white bigots in Arizona, Rich went down with the ship.
All of which depressingly underscores a parallel between current country and the current GOP—in both cases, dumb quasi-populist dogma about the Real America tends to limit demographic reach. Cowboy Troy, Gabe Garcia, Gretchen Wilson, Michael S. Steele, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin? Probably not enough. Curiously Missing in Action though all this drama: Big Kenny and his “Love Everybody” guitar.