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Working Man Blues
Presidential debates revealed very little
Life on the Ark.jpg

Songs about the struggles of the working class aren’t new. Merle Haggard recorded “Working Man Blues” in 1969. It was released by Capitol Records at the end of July and was a hit by mid-August.

“It’s a big job just gettin’ by with nine kids and a wife,” sang Haggard, “I been a workin’ man dang near all my life/I’ll be working long as my two hands are fit to use/I’ll drink my beer in a tavern/Sing a little bit of these working man blues.”

Now Oliver Anthony has written a song describing the working man’s struggles. “Rich Men North of Richmond” was released on Aug. 8 and quickly went viral online. The lyrics are a little more coarse, but basically start with the sentiment that the singer has “been sellin’ my soul, working’ all day/Overtime hours for (meager) pay/So I can sit out here and waste my life away/Drag back home and down my troubles away.”

Anthony’s song also complains that what money he does earn is “taxed to no end/’Cause of rich men north of Richmond.” (Washington, D.C., is 106 miles north of Richmond, Virginia.)

The first question asked at the 2024 Republican presidential debate on Aug. 23 was about this song. Fox News Channel moderator Martha MacCallum asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis why the song has struck a chord with so many Americans.

There are plenty of questions we’d like to ask the people who are vying to become the next president of the United States. For the governor of Florida, we’d ask, “Should the Prager University Foundation material (PragerU Kids videos) be taught in elementary schools? Prager U is not a university; it is a right-wing media organization that creates political content that is widely criticized for being inaccurate or making misleading claims.

Today’s presidential “debates” are not really debates at all, in the traditional sense. They are press conferences; they are free advertisements that give candidates a chance to present their canned mini-speeches and take verbal potshots at their opponents. We might as well base debate questions on the importance of song lyrics and why they resonate with the masses. We might as well ask: “Do you agree that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make?”