The Political Buzz around Country Music

Ashley Winward

In the past couple weeks, news of Texas senator Ted Cruz’ run as a candidate for the Republican nomination has stirred up controversy but not on the front you think it might: the musical kind.

Ted Cruz (AP photo)
Ted Cruz (AP photo)

Recently in an interview with CBS News, senator Cruz said that while he grew up listening to rock, it was after the 9/11 attacks that he began listening to country music.

“I actually find this intellectually curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded, and country music collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me, and I just have to say just at a gut level, I had an emotional reaction that said these are my people,” Cruz explained in the interview.

As news channels reported on this comment, MSNBC program Now with Alex Wagner discussed the topic, while sparking another controversy entirely. senior editor Jamilah Lemieux sat on a panel and, when discussing the comments made by Cruz, said, “Nothing says ‘let’s go kill some Muslims’ like country music.”

The comment was recanted by MSNBC later on in the segment saying that the network does not condone the comment which was made.

Country music has not been shy about its patriotism in the slightest; many songs were written about the war on terrorism and about the love we have for our country as well as our troops. When I think of patriotism, I often think back to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red White & Blue (The Angry American)” which proclaims, we’ll put a boot in you’re a**, it’s the American way.” John Michael Montgomery’s performance of “Letters from Home” talks about writing our loved ones overseas and how important it is to let our soldiers know that we’re thinking of them.

Alan Jackson even spoke specifically about the 9/11 attacks in “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” asking, “Did you dust off that bible or go home and buy a gun?” While these are all very patriotic and war-centered songs, the country genre is not these songs alone.

What about the fun loving songs of Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia Line? How about the female power of Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert? Remember when country was just about kicking back with a beverage around a bonfire and relaxing or rolling down the highway with the windows down in your pickup truck? To me personally, country music is about having fun, loving others and appreciating family and friends. Patriotism is certainly a piece of the puzzle, but I would hate to see a genre so underappreciated to be pigeon-holed into simply “patriotic tunes.”

Many have noted that being a country fan on the political front may be the best choice for Cruz’ campaign. A resounding amount of republicans classify themselves as country fans, so why not scream your love for Brad Paisley from the mountain tops? But to use musical preference as a leveraging tool in a political campaign is an odd way to go. While I accept all musical tastes for what they are, I feel as though the country genre shouldn’t just be defined for one topic. Whatever gets people listening though, right?