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Connecticut Democratic senator rebukes left over mocking of Oliver Anthony’s blue collar song

 August 27, 2023

Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy has urged liberals not to mock singer Oliver Anthony but to engage in a conversation about the social ills lamented in his song "Rich Men North of Richmond".

Murphy recently pushed back against left-wing critics of singer Oliver Anthony's viral song "Rich Men North of Richmond". In a Substack post, Murphy noted that conservatives have celebrated Anthony as a working-class hero, while many progressives have mocked him as another "right-wing zealot," as Fox News reported.

Murphy's observation

Murphy observed that both sides have politicized Anthony and his music, treating him as either "with us" or "against us".

He wrote:

I saw it somewhat differently, and I think so did many people outside of the political establishment.

He noted that the positive replies on social media to the song included not only rural white conservatives but also urban young black men. =

Anthony's lyrics don’t add much color to what he considers this "new world" to be, but the viral reaction to the song suggests most people have a pretty good idea what he’s referencing.

Themes of the song

The song is a lament for the working class, characterized as being kicked around too long.

It touches on themes such as working overtime for inadequate pay, high taxation, substance abuse, the suicide epidemic, and other social ills.

Murphy identified with several themes of the song but was frustrated by how Anthony allegedly carelessly and incorrectly labeled conservative complaints, like food stamps and taxes, as the culprits for his economic and spiritual malaise.

Murphy's critique

Murphy wrote:

And it is likely that some of those cheering Anthony's critique are angry at a 'new world' where women and immigrants have more power.

He added that the real issue is that political and economic elites have created an economy that incentivizes low wages and high shareholder returns, not because some other poor people are getting nutritional assistance.

He blamed "neoliberal economic policies" for creating a life that feels empty and devoid of meaning while defending gender equality and continued immigration as positive goods that are "nothing to fear".

Call for engagement

Murphy urged Democrats not to mock Anthony but to consider how they might reach the white, conservative working-class men who have connected with his song.

He asked:

Why not instead view the reaction to his song as an opportunity to engage with his followers on the song’s critique of modern life and force a real conversation about whether it is the politics of the right or the left that are the best antidote to the social ills that Anthony laments?

He suggested viewing the reaction to the song as a chance to engage in a conversion exercise to grow the coalition, rather than deepening the existing trenches between right and left.

Anthony's response

Anthony, speaking for himself in an emotional video, rejected Republicans and conservative media who have tried to "act like we're buddies" and criticized the left for mischaracterizing his message.

He said:

It's aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I'm one of them.

He found it funny that his song was featured at a Republican presidential debate on Fox News and clarified that the song is not about Joe Biden but about the people on that stage and many others.

He also defended his lyrics against mischaracterization by the left and clarified that the song references the inefficiencies of the government.

Conclusion

  • Senator Chris Murphy urges liberals not to mock singer Oliver Anthony but to engage in a conversation about the social ills lamented in his song.
  • Murphy observed that both conservatives and progressives have politicized Anthony and his music.
  • Anthony rejected attempts by both sides to politicize his song and emphasized that it is a critique of the government's inefficiencies and the challenges faced by the working class.