Tony D. Senatore
"I'm the spokesman for the OK Boomer generation

Rich Men North of Richmond

On Wednesday night, I viewed the first Republican presidential primary debate with my eighty-seven-year-old mother and a bottle of Wild Turkey 101. Fox News host Martha MacCallum posed the first question to eight candidates for commander-in-chief, which was about the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100. Mac Callum asserted, “As we sit here tonight, the number one song on the Billboard chart is Rich Men North Of Richmond.” She continued,” It is by a singer from Farmville, Virginia, named Oliver Anthony, and his lyrics speak of alienation and deep frustration with the state of government and this country. Washington, D.C. is about 100 miles north of Richmond.” Ron DeSantis agreed with Anthony’s dire prognosis, adding that America can not succeed when Congress spends trillions and trillions of dollars. Those rich men north of Richmond have put us in this situation.”

 Even though I am a musician, I am unfamiliar with Mr. Anthony, so I decided to listen to his song and learn more about this so-called champion of the working class, the doyen of forgotten America, and the Republican Party. My first impression was that Mr. Anthony had a multi-faceted persona; with his Gretsch resonator guitar and hirsuteness, he looked like a man who looked adept at operating a steam engine during the Industrial Revolution or ordering a mocha latte at a trendy coffee shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Moreover, when comparing him to the great musicians/activists of the past, he was not of the caliber of Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs. Nevertheless, Oliver Anthony has struck a nerve in American society, but his success is by design. He’s a confused and disillusioned man being manipulated by the people who put him in the predicament he finds himself in. For this reason, his song was the debate’s opening, not because of its intrinsic artistry or powerful message. After listening to Rich Men North of Richmond, I was reminded of Socrates’ words in Plato’s Apology about how poets and creative types do not create their art via great wisdom but rather a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like “diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things but do not understand the meaning of them.” Whether Anthony understands it or not, I concluded that Rich Men North Of Richmond is not a clarion call for the virtues of capitalism or conservative principles but the exact opposite; it is a call for socialism and the ideas of individuals ranging from Karl Marx to Bernie Sanders.

The rich men and women, both north and south of Richmond, and everyone on the debate stage on August 23 want Mr. Anthony and individuals like him to continue to believe that struggling Americans on welfare and illegal immigrants are the reason for all that ails them. Working class members “selling their soul, workin’ all day, overtime hours for bullshit pay,” resulting in alienation, and alcoholism is not a north vs. south issue but a commonality between all working-class Americans that cuts across racial and gender lines.

I find it obscene and insane that Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the media are using Oliver Anthony’s heartfelt plea to turn Americans against each other for their own gain. Manufacturing jobs are never coming back to the United States. Anyone who says otherwise is perpetuating fairy tales. Americans need to “retool” and learn skills needed in today’s global world, whether they are blue-collar or white-collar. After all, you can’t pay your rent and buy food with Instagram “likes” or Spotify streams.

In closing, I would like to give Oliver Anthony some advice. If he wants to understand the true nature of his struggles, he should realize that often, people who pretend to be sympathetic to his cause are his enemies. He should educate himself regarding the history of labor struggles in the United States. If he claims to be a Christian and a man of God, he should empathize with his fellow Americans’ problems of food insecurity and not rich politicians from either political party. He should acquaint himself with the ideas of Karl MarxMilton FriedmanVladimir LeninMurray Rothbard, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

Finally, should he desire to continue to write songs in the activist vein, he should listen to Pete SeegerPhil Ochs, and Woody Guthrie to maximize his songwriting skills and craft a more articulate message, not a collection of miscellaneous grievances. These musicians summed up the state of America in their poignant lyrics and changed America in the process. By letting his music be used by duplicitous politicians who seek to undermine his cause, he is doing himself a disservice, even if it contributes to his newfound overnight fame. In doing all of the above, Mr. Anthony might learn the most crucial lesson; who supports the American working class and who is trying to destroy it.

About the Author
I was a sociology major at Columbia University, where i received my B.A in 2017, at age 55. My opinion pieces have appeared in the Columbia Spectator, the Tab at Columbia University, and Merion West.
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