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Republicans Only Mad At 'Rich Men North Of Richmond' Insofar As They Help The Poor
Ah yes, the working class struggle against ... other working class people.
It’s not every day that a song comes along that truly captures the hearts and minds of American conservatives, largely because very few of them are musically inclined. But they’ve had at least two songs they like this year, and that could very well be a record.
The first, of course, was Jason Aldean’s pro-lynching anthem celebrating small town good ol’ boys who will go out and kill people for committing the kind of crimes that people in big cities are totally fine with, like carjacking grandmas all over the place, with a video filmed in front of a famous lynching location interspersed with footage from Black Lives Matter protests.
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They’ve since moved on to a new jam — “Rich Men North of Richmond,” by the previously unknown Oliver Anthony, which many claim is a song that finally gives voice to their anguish.
In case you are wondering why they are so terribly angry, Charles Lipson at Real Clear Politics writes:
It’s a battle cry for people who want to resist the control of big money and big government but know they are losing the fight. They resent being investigated by the FBI as potential terrorists when they speak out at school board meetings or affiliate with a traditional branch of the Catholic Church. They see a government eager to prosecute political candidates from one party but not the other. They see violent street riots go unprosecuted and the southern border left open in violation of the law, fairness, and public safety. They see their children shut out of public schools for over a year by teachers unions and so-called experts with more power than evidence.
Oh, the poor darlings, this must just be hell for them. I mean, just constantly, all of them, being investigated by the FBI as terrorists on a regular basis for basically no reason whatsoever. Not to mention the agony of having to see Donald Trump prosecuted for his crimes just because they are obvious and prosecutable crimes, the horror of not being able to send their kids to school in the middle of a pandemic during which people are dropping like flies, and the terror of imaginary open borders. Things really are very difficult for them, aren’t they?
Several on the Right tried to claim that the song was more universal than political, ignoring the fact that it is chock full of right-wing talking points and conspiracies that are far less universal than they may think.
“The main reason this song resonates with so many people isn’t political. It’s because the song is raw and authentic. We are suffocated by artificiality. Everything around us is fake. A guy in the woods pouring his heart over his guitar is real,” wrote Matt Walsh on Twitter.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day
Overtime hours for bullshit pay
So I can sit out here and waste my life away
Drag back home and drown my troubles away
Well, if it were up to Republican politicians, you wouldn’t be getting any overtime pay at all. You would be getting “comp time.” For years, Republicans have fought to replace overtime pay with “comp time” — which means that instead of paying you time-and-a-half for working overtime, the employer could offer them paid time off in the unspecified future. Given that only half of US workers take all of their vacation time … not exactly the best deal for them.
Oliver Anthony lives in Virginia where the bullshit overtime pay he would get working a minimum wage job would be $18 an hour, thanks to Democrats who pushed to raise the minimum wage and no thanks to Republicans who tried to freeze it.
It's a damn shame what the world's gotten to
For people like me and people like you
Wish I could just wake up and it not be true
But it is, oh, it is
Oh gosh! Well, what do you think the problem is, Oliver?
Livin' in the new world
With an old soul
These rich men north of Richmond
Lord knows they all just wanna have total control
Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do
And they don't think you know, but I know that you do
I get that the idea of rich people who just want to control people for the sake of getting to control them is appealing to some — especially to people who feel powerless and believe that being able to control others in some capacity (or see them be controlled) would make them feel better.
But the idea that all politicians are just out there trying to control you and your thoughts for no reason and to no end is weird and immature.
'Cause your dollar ain't shit and it's taxed to no end
'Cause of rich men north of Richmond
Well then! Perhaps we should put some of the tax burden on the rich themselves? That might be nice.
I wish politicians would look out for miners
And not just minors on an island somewhere
Oh, there’s the QAnon.
To be clear, however, people who want people to continue coal mining are not actually looking out for miners — especially those who cut the funding for the black lung trust fund.
People don’t do coal mining because it’s a fabulous job and they enjoy it. It’s an incredibly difficult job that leads to severe health problems. People don’t want coal mining in particular, they want good jobs that pay them well so that they can take care of themselves and their families — and I’m sure they’d actually prefer jobs that don’t cause severe health problems so that they can enjoy their lives and their families for a longer amount of time. Wouldn’t it be nice if the focus were on ways to build up other industries in those areas rather than making them work in the coal mines forever because Republicans like coal?
Lord, we got folks in the street, ain't got nothin' to eat
And the obese milkin' welfare
So poor people are the fault of … other poor people?
Well, God, if you're 5-foot-3 and you're 300 pounds
Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds
OK, so, I’d just like to clear something up here — human beings are not bears. Does he think people are bears? Does he think that once a person eats enough to gain a certain amount of weight that they can just go without food for months on end? Because that is not how human beings work. People need to eat regardless of what they weigh.
That being said, a lot of the food that is more affordable and lasts longer without going bad is food that is going to make people gain weight, while healthier food tends to be more expensive. Someone who lives off of instant ramen is going to gain weight. Duh.
Young men are puttin' themselves six feet in the ground
’Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin' them down
Hey, you know what’s a really good way to reduce suicide, male suicide in particular? Gun control! This is not something I am just pulling out of my ass — states with the least number of firearm restrictions have twice as many firearm suicides as the states with the most firearm restrictions. Men who own guns are eight times more likely to commit suicide than men who do not.
That’s probably going to be a lot more effective than trying to stop people from criticizing patriarchal norms on the internet.
The rest of the song is just a repeat of the chorus and other verses.
Conservatives love this song because, they believe, it gives voice to their anger and their fears in a way they think will make the rest of us understand how badly we are hurting them. But it is the song of a man who, like so many of them, is angry at the wrong damn people. He is angry at the “bad” poor people for somehow contributing to the “good” poor people being hungry, he is mad at an unspecified desire to “control” him and his thoughts, he is angry that he can’t make enough money to survive but I guarantee you that he is not all that angry at Republicans who try to tear down labor protections for workers and vote against raising the minimum wage.
Which, I suppose, does in fact make him a very authentic voice for conservative America.