“We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
When Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines spoke those words to a London crowd in March 2003, right before the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq, she couldn’t have imagined the media firestorm she would ignite by voicing her political opinion.
“Bushgate,” as it came to be known, resulted in boycotts of the Chicks, death threats towards Maines and the reinforcement of a prominent attitude in country music: you don’t talk about your political beliefs, and you definitely don’t express your disapproval with the president. And you especially don’t make those statements if you’re a woman. (The fact that Maines got boycotted for voicing her political beliefs but Toby Keith made a career out of voicing his is enough fodder for another column, but I digress.)
That’s why, during the 2016 election cycle, Bushgate seems quaint. The Dixie Chicks routinely open up shows on their new tour with a photo of Donald Trump as The Devil, often brought out during their performance of “Goodbye Earl.”
In fact, country artists are still historically mum about who they support on the ballot, but many are still showing their approval (or disapproval) of the two party’s candidates in myriad ways.
Take Jason Isbell, for example. The Americana star hasn’t formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, but it also looks like he doesn’t support Donald Trump, either. He tweeted the following after his wife Amanda Shires gave birth to their first child:
I made a sign for our hospital room door. pic.twitter.com/A5wE3bXG6Y
— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) September 4, 2015
Margo Price put her songwriting chops to good use back in December to decry the Donald:
Donald Trump, a poem
I need a stomach pump
— Margo Price (@MissMargoPrice) December 9, 2015
And the latest rock star-cum-country outlaw Steven Tyler threatened legal action against Trump’s camp if he ever used Tyler’s music again, after “Dream On” was used during campaign rallies.
But there’s still many country artists and celebrities who support Donald Trump, including Ronnie Dunn, who counts “Whoopi [Goldberg] say[ing] she’ll leave the country” and “You will not be able to marry your pet” as benefits to a Trump presidency in a recent Facebook post.
Kid Rock (who previously supported Ben Carson), Lee Brice, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Chris Janson all performed at the Republican National Convention last week, which also saw an appearance from Willie Robertson. Janson somehow made the unbearable “Truck Yeah” even worse after changing the lyrics to “Trump Yeah.”
(Side-note: While not the most relevant artist, Kid Rock’s episode of Planet Money where he goes into his detailed plan to stop ticket scalping at his shows is a beautiful lesson in free-market capitalism.)
Loretta Lynn told Reuters that she thinks “Trump is the only one who’s going to turn this country around.”
Even part of the Oak Ridge Boys are riding the Trump Train, as evidenced by the following tweets from member Joe Bonsall:
Order Bricks @ https://t.co/cGkVjf2Psh Like these 4: @pnehlen @ScottBaio @joebonsall @RealSheriffJoe @TheRevBobLevy pic.twitter.com/p61ZDbWgbx
— Bikers 4 Trump™ (@Bikers4Trump) July 26, 2016
Every second that I watch #DNCinPhilly makes me more and more want to vote for @realDonaldTrump … My head is exploding…
— Joe Bonsall (@joebonsall) July 26, 2016
So who is left in Hillary’s camp?
The Dixie Chicks, of course. And Willie Nelson, who supported both Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary race, and Cyndi Lauper, who expressed her confidence in Clinton in an earlier interview with Rolling Stone Country.
On the whole, many artists are honoring that time old tradition of keeping quiet, and some are even playfully deflecting political questions.
“I’ve been thinking about running for president myself — I have the hair for it. We need more boobs in the White House! You know me, I don’t get into political things, I just hope and pray we get somebody wonderful,” Dolly Parton said at a press conference earlier this summer.
Longtime Democrat Tim McGraw hasn’t said anything about the election yet, and the historically Obama-bashing Hank Williams, Jr. told Rolling Stone Country he “[doesn’t] give a s— about the election.”
But one thing’s for certain: nobody has called for any all-out boycotts of any country artist for expressing their views this election. And that’s truly something that Makes America Great.
Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.
Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.