If you were to hazard a guess at what kind of music might be on Paul Ryan's iPod, it would probably be things like Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Counting Crows, right?
And though it's possible he does dig those all-American acts, the man tapped by Gov. Mitt Romney to be his vice-presidential running mate has one band in heavy rotation that might raise some eyebrows:
Ryan, 42, the first member of Generation X to be tapped in a presidential campaign, is an avid fisherman and bow-hunter who has been laser-focused on politics since college, a time when many of his peers were likely joining him in stomping around to some of Rage's most iconic calls to action.
But as the New York Times pointed out after Saturday's reveal of his #2 spot pick, he's also the guy whose family has interests in oil leases, a fact that seems at odds with an adamantly leftist group whose career has been spent speaking out against corporate power structures, large corporations and the tax-cuts-for-the-one-percent policies of Ryan's new #1, Romney.
Rage, after all, is the group that protested the war in Iraq, the jailing of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, railed against censorship and supported Mexico's guerrilla army, the EZLN. The outspoken band has also spoken out in favor of pro-choice rights, against Arizona's immigration law and thrown their muscle behind farm workers and unions.
Ryan is from the state where Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived a recall election earlier this summer after the governor pushed for austerity measures that would have stripped most public unions of collective bargaining rights. The GOP VP candidate praised Walker for his actions, while Rage guitarist Tom Morello helped headline a protest against Walker last February and again in June before the recall vote.
Rage is, moreover, the band that was barred from playing a protest show at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, over what organizers claimed was a permit issue. They later played a show at a local hall and led a long, loud protest through the streets of St. Paul, followed by a gig at Minneapolis' Target Center, where more than 100 protesters were arrested after rallying against the RNC.
Oh, and the group burned an American flag in protest at the Woodstock '99 concert and walked out of a 1996 "Saturday Night Live" taping after producers made them take down one of their standard set pieces: a pair of American flags hung upside-down, a universal symbol of distress, and their statement against what they saw as the restrictive two-party system and that night's host, capitalist Steve Forbes.
In fact, singer Zack de la Rocha caused some serious right-wing fire in 2007 when he gave a speech during a reunion show at the Coachella music festival during which he referred to a statement by famed political critic and radical linguist Noam Chomsky. The quote, lifted from the author of the media bias bible "Manufacturing Consent," suggested that George W. Bush's administration should be investigated for war crimes.
Contrast that with the long-serving Congressman and former prom king/ fraternity member, who was given a green-and-white cake with a giant green dollar sign by Fox News on his 42nd birthday in January, and you have the dictionary definition of strange bedfellows. Ryan, a favorite of the raft of Republican Tea Party freshmen who entered Congress in 2010, is also the author of a budget bill that would increase tax cuts for the wealthy and cut spending on entitlement programs like Medicare and privatize Social Security. The pro-life Congressman has voted against federal funding of Planned Parenthood and supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
It just goes to show you that powerful music can be a universal language, no matter what message you take away from it or how much you agree or disagree with the verbal Molotov cocktails being thrown your way.
A spokesperson for Morello said the guitarist, also known by his folk-singing alter ego, the Nightwatchman, was not available for comment at press time. It didn't look like any of the band's members had reacted to the revelation (and subsequent viral explosion) about their rock brother from a different mother, either, but we suspect that silence won't last for long.
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