Dispatch from the culture war trenches


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GOP presidential candidates continue to play controversial Jason Aldean song

Hoping to bank in on the cultural grievance surrounding the trending song “Try That In A Small Town” by Jason Aldean, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, both GOP presidential candidates, have openly voiced support for a song that makes nods to Jim Crow-era acts of vigilante justice.

“If this is a song that a guy is brave enough to actually stand up for, the American values that unite most Americans, but he’s the one that’s canceled, we will do our part to send him to number one on the Billboard Chart,” Ramaswamy explained to NBC News last week.

“I said we would play it at all of our rallies and we did at this event tonight.”

Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have also praised the song, with DeSantis stating he intends to play it at upcoming campaign events.

The Aldean track, which was released in May, has become a conservative anthem after the record faced backlash for its music video — which was shot outside a courthouse in Columbia, Tenn. where a 1927 lynching had occurred — and lyrics and imagery which contrast urban lawless with rural communal unity. News footage of young, Black men rioting plays behind Aldean throughout the video.

Some scholars have noted that the lyrics contain more subtle coding than your standard boilerplate hate.

Karlos K. Hill, a professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Rolling Stone he felt that while the song being pro-lynching was a bit of a stretch, there were clear-cut, reactionary ideas in the song.

“There are actual lynching songs, like songs that are actually about lynching Black people. We can’t equivocate. But, at the same time … someone should have known that there was a possibility that someone would say that,” Hill said.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the song isn’t intentionally divisive: “There are a couple of themes: the idea that rural America is the moral center of America. That’s a very present theme, because you see images of urban America on fire, with protests, but then you have the country music singer placed in the rural area where it’s tranquil and calm and peaceful,” Hill maintained.

You have the rural/urban divide theme, the “rural America is the moral compass” theme, and the “urban America is in chaos” theme.

Aldean, who has long been culturally aligned with the right, denied any intention of advocating for violence. Aldean’s wife, Brittany, invoked another reactionary bugbear by wondering why the media isn’t focused on real stories “such as CHILD TRAFFICKING?”

Mrs. Aldean is most likely referring to a similar controversy surrounding the right-wing film “Sound of Freedom,” which has also become a calling card for GOP presidential candidates wanting to sound off on the culture war.


LISTEN: WCPT’s Patti Vasquez and Heartland Signal Executive Editor Tim Hogan talk about fact-checking the Hunter Biden conspiracy theories, the latest in Wisconsin politics (including who is running for the U.S. Senate seat against Sen. Tammy Baldwin) and the latest hypocrisy from a Republican candidate in Montana who decried student loan forgiveness… while taking Paycheck Protection Program loans himself.

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Jamie Larson