By Pete Brooks
On social media recently, I not-very-casually remarked that I thought you would make an excellent President. To my great surprise, a guy who’s long-since unfriended me because of his enthusiasm for the current administration and to whom I haven’t spoken since, replied, “I’d vote for Mr. Springsteen.”
Really. Really? This old friend isn’t even a fan of Springsteen’s music; his musical taste remains mired in 80s hair-metal and/or the au courant equivalent. I haven’t heard “boo” from him in months and months, but he pops back up now to say he’d vote for you? That’s the Zeitgeist driving by in an open-bed pickup, spittin out a load of terbaccy and yelling, “Bruce, we need you!”
These are extraordinary times. Every day the news reads like the penultimate verse from any of your most apocalyptic ballads; only a single verse away from the long-suffering judgment of a disillusioned God.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary sacrifice, you’ve been saying so yourself in interviews and from stages around the world for years. So let me be the first one to say it out loud; your country needs you to run in 2020. How many back-stabbing Democratic political hacks does it take to doom a Presidential campaign? Let’s not find out again.
I’m not suggesting you pursue the gig because you want it or need it, I’m asking you because the times demand it. Everyone—left and right—says they feel like we’re hurtling toward some some sort of big, paradigm-shattering event and I do, too. But it doesn’t have to be a bad event! The world doesn’t have to become uninhabitable in our children’s lifetimes.
Their future doesn’t have to be a dystopia.
I remember a paragraph in an interview you did to promote The Rising, where you told the interviewer [paraphrasing] you were out in public shortly after 9/11, and some stranger drove past on the street and yelled out his car window, ‘Bruce, we need you!” And so you got back to work, doing your job as citizen singer-songwriter and forging an album of elegies, and anthems of hope and empowerment.
Well Bruce, ‘we’ need you again. The rocky ground we’ve been traveling over since that time feels like it’s finally beginning to crumble beneath us.
Like you, I volunteered to help a local Progressive’s campaign during the last Presidential election. And like you, my candidate lost. Do you want to know what your candidate and mine had in common with other high-minded electoral losers of our lifetime, from Michael Dukakis to Fritz Mondale to John Kerry to What-Was-That-Guy’s-Name? They were all blessed with zero personal charisma. Less than zero in some cases. When the average Democratic candidate for anything walks into a room, it doesn’t come alive, the lights dim.
Ask Bill Clinton or Barack Obama—or the current resident of the Oval Office—if charisma matters on the campaign trail. Or at the ballot box.
Like them, you’ve got charisma to spare, you’re indefatigable and you’ve been working on your stump speech in concert for decades.
As soon as the current POTUS ascended to office, I assumed ‘Celebrity’ would become the hot new political commodity—I never saw the scandals coming that would render the candidate’s former Celebrity status as barely an asterisk. Thus, even before election night, I was gaming out what other high-profile bazillionaires would be likely follow the candidate’s example next time and instead of settling for bankrolling a candidate, would themselves run.
It occurred to me then that the party out of power was going to need their own Celebrity Candidate in 2020. Their Celebrity Candidate would have to be someone with impeccable Progressive credentials, who also had a crossover appeal to the disgruntled used-to-be ‘middle class white workers’—the kind of people who sang along to “Born In The U.S.A.” as they drove to the polls to vote for the reality-TV star in 2016.
In the last couple years, you’ve released an autobiography; coincidentally or not, a necessary precursor to running for office these days. You contextualized and got all your skeletons out of the closet before the opposition could. You defined yourself. Whatever your private rock star excesses were back in the day, they must pale in comparison to the new low bar set by today’s social norms. The current President’s very outlandishness insulates you; unfortunately, it also insulates everyone else from David Duke to Don King if they, too, should choose to run in 2020.
The opposition will need someone who can not just survive an encounter with this President in a one-on-one debate encounter, but one who will do it with dignity, grace and self-deprecating humor; dominating the contests on both substance as well as in stage presence, without coming off the stereotypical condescending know-it-all Liberal.
Bruce, you just do you, and trust America will do the rest.
Selecting a Vice-President Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg will bring everyone out to the polls. Once elected, you can frontload your cabinet with seasoned professionals—men and women with areas of expertise in the fields to which they’re being assigned to lead, like when government was awful but still worked—who will steady and steer you through the escape velocity of the learning curve of any new President’s early days in office.
More importantly, do you doubt that Patty will make a radiant First Lady?
What a presidential tale yours will make! Poor kid from Jersey grows up to be arguably the most-respected rock star in the world, makes a bazillion dollars, then after his children are raised and out of the house, gives it all away to become President in order to rescue the country from the brink of whatever nightmarish future we’re on track for. Then you campaign successfully to help your Veep win election in 2024 and retire after one term.
I know you don’t want it, don’t want any part of it. It’s that exhilarating lack of political ambition, coupled with your intelligence, compassion and doggedness, that make you the ideal standard-bearer and the best bet to represent your own values in the presidential contest in 2020. Unless a new star arises from the veritable constellation of proclaimed Democratic contenders or someone comes up with a better, more eminently feasible Celebrity Candidate…
“Bruce, we need you.”
Pete Brooks is an author, educator and humanitarian based in rural America.