Every time I turn on the news, I have one of those “I’ve been saying this for two years…why won’t anyone listen?!” kind of moments.
Because conservatives suck at pop culture.
Let me quote myself:
The Democrat Party has evolved into a personality cult. Don’t believe me? Consider their figurehead! Consider their high-profile supporters! Joe the Plumber cannot compare with Brangelina and Jessica Alba. In the eyes of the world, the GOP is the creepy redneck next door who invites you over to help skin rabbits and clean shotguns; meanwhile, the Democrat Party is that guy—the one who knows a guy who can get you what you want. The Democrat Party spends its time at posh clubs flirting with movie stars, and we’re the squares who sit at home doing nerd things like weaving American flags and whittling miniature Revolutionary War-era battle cannons out of single blocks of wood. It may not be the truth, but it’s the prevailing stereotype.
Stop for a moment and, in as objective a manner as possible, consider the rise of Barack Obama…He didn’t [get elected] by demonstrating unparalleled knowledge in economics and foreign policy. Oh no, he [got elected] by rolling up his sleeves, immersing himself in pop culture, and making crass jokes about conservatism—all while creating a kind of mystique about himself. As much as you may dislike him, Barack Obama has it. He has that thing that makes people want him; he’s a rockstar, only instead of wearing leather pants, he wears Italian suits and silk ties.
It’s true. I don’t care how much you hate Barack Obama, or how stunning Rick Santorum’s last campaign ad was, or how totally. freaking. awesome. Sarah Palin’s CPAC speech was. These things don’t automatically resonate outside of the echo chamber–especially with the 18-30 demographic. They don’t get it. It’s not that the message is flawed; it just needs the proper packaging.
Enter pop culture.
I love pop culture. I soak myself in it every day, because staying in touch with pop culture is one of many ways to take the pulse of a nation. Overstimulated, oversexed, and overly-corrupt though it may be, proper application of pop culture to conservatism can mean the difference between your message going viral, and falling flat on its face.
Enter Madison Rising.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Bray, lead singer of the breakout conservative rock band Madison Rising. I went into the interview planning on lobbing a few political softballs amidst a sea of “tell me about the band” chit chat, but that all went out the window when I discovered that these guys are the real deal.
Madison Rising was born in a recording studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, on the aptly-named Madison Street. Named for our fourth President, Madison Rising seeks to bring back what James Madison himself stood for — those beliefs he held as a founder and master craftsman of the Constitution. What started with an idea now stands as our next best chance to harness the power of pop culture in favor of conservatism.
Dave describes Madison Rising as a “patriotic rock band,” the idea of which I both loved and questioned until I heard him talk about what that means for conservatism. Dave’s background is what he describes as “not diehard conservative,” but he explained that for the past 5 years, he’s been tuned in to the movement as the only way of life that makes sense to him. One thing he is adamant about, though, is how important it is to use pop culture as a tool to help spread the conservative message.
At CPAC this year, Dave Bray and his bandmates were very nearly asked to leave the conference facilities due to their appearances. They looked like rockstars, and apparently, looking like a rockstar is the opposite of “conservative.” Hearing this story caused me to repeatedly /headdesk, because I can identify with him completely on this one. (I was once given a stern lecture on the offensiveness of the second piercing in my left ear. How wanton of me.) The conservative movement is so completely devoid of anything departing from pencil skirts and power ties that its security force very nearly bounced a group of culture warriors out of their own conference.
What Dave really wanted to talk about during the interview (and I was more than happy to let him do it) was the conservative movement’s desperate need for an injection of pop culture. He told me, “[pop culture] is going to end up being the stock that conservatism needs to invest in the most.” He went on to describe how redundancy plagues the conservative movement; even conference panelists are redundant and contribute to the echo chamber mentality. “We go [to conferences] to be aware and active and engaged, but we get the same story seven times a day in the same way.”
Enter music as a medium.
Above all, Madison Rising is the embodiment of artistic expression of common sense, which exists in direct opposition to the garbage contained in the “message” of mainstream pop culture. Their message is just as conservative as anything that’s ever come out of Sarah Palin’s mouth; it’s their sound that sets them apart. And their sound rocks.
I have to admit, I was skeptical about the whole “conservative rock band” thing when I first heard of Madison Rising. I had flashbacks of youth conferences I went to as a kid, where they’d trot out “Christian rock bands” that made everyone in the room who wasn’t an overzealous music minister feel extremely awkward. When I saw Madison Rising at CPAC, however, my whole perception changed. I saw men in leather, rocking out with a terrific sound, and having fun doing it. There was no pretense, there was no “trying too hard;” there was simply a man with a familiar message in extremely cool packaging.
Dave describes each song on Madison Rising’s debut album as a kind of “business card”; when writing the album, the band wanted to give a nod to each segment of the conservative dynamic. They gave Reaganites a song, soldiers, vets, and wounded warriors a song, and gun owners a song; they even took the time to bash the liberal media. For Dave, a Navy vet with a wife, kids, and an affinity for guns, all of those things culminate in a genuine message that represents core values in his own life. For their second album, Dave hopes to let his artistic side reign supreme. He’s planning an album that is even more artistic, more enjoyable, and–in his own words–more cool than the first. He wants fans and newcomers to like the music first; the message will come with time.
It’s time for the movement as a whole to wake up and stand behind men like Dave Bray, and the other members of Madison Rising. What these guys are doing–and what others like them have been trying to do for years–is updating the presentation of conservatism in a way that will catch the attention of people not normally attracted to what has been, for the most part, a very vanilla-sounding way of life. For Dave, Madison Rising isn’t just another gig–it’s a call to service. It’s his way of exposing the corruption inherent in the Obama administration and the progressive culture at large.
Still a skeptic? That’s okay. All I ask is that you keep an open mind. Check out the band’s website, and hear the message in their own words. Music not your style? That’s okay too, but don’t discount the message simply because you’re not turned on by the d*** dirty rock music.
Give it a chance, and if you agree with their message, give Madison Rising your support. What you’re hearing is not just a song; it’s a call to arms that must not be ignored.