Even for me, an ultra-loyal Republican, the two creepiest words in the English language are “Christian rock.”
I’ve listened to my fair share of it, too—long drive across the country; busted iPod—and there’s something so weird about it. It sounds like regular bad music when you first tune in. The lyrics always seem like regular bad music lyrics, too—”I feel your body next to mine/ And that makes my whole life shine”—but after a second or two you realize that they’re singing about Jesus, not some girl named Mandy, and the whole thing just seems, well, creepy. Because rock music—and most other forms of entertainment, when you really think about it—is fundamentally about carnal desire. And Jesus, when you really think about it, is fundamentally not.
Which is all a long way of saying that I don’t think I’m going to enjoy the “entertainment” portion of the Republican National Convention.
It won’t all be Christian rock, of course. According to the most recent RNC press release, conventioneers will be treated to country music acts such as Brooks & Dunn, Lee Ann Womack, Darryl Worley, and Donnie McClurkin. They’ll be joining Michael W. Smith, Daniel Rodriguez, Daize Shayne, Sara Evans, and Dana Glover on the podium. Sounds exciting, no?
I’m aware that I’m going to sound like one of those liberal Democrat media snobs—which is unfair, because I’m a conservative Republican media snob—but who are these people? I live in Venice, Calif., so I happen to know who Daize Shayne is—Google her yourself, if you’re interested—but most of the other names are drawing big blanks. There are rumors, of course, that Britney Spears is a closet Bushie—which might be true; she’s from Louisiana, right?—and we’ve all seen Ted Nugent’s Republican spiel. * But the sad truth is, the real difference between Democrats and Republicans is that their celebrities are, like, actually famous and ours are, well, singing weirdly erotic songs about Our Savior.
Metaphorically, anyway. It’s not so much that Republican celebrities are all Christian rockers, it’s that they all pretty much adhere to the Christian Rock Principle—it sounds like rock, for about one second you think it’s rock, but it isn’t quite. Something’s off. The performers and celebrities who will appear at the RNC certainly sound famous—they have Grammys and awards and huge followings, apparently—but they aren’t, quite.
At least when compared to Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the rest of the famous crowd that swanned around Boston during the Democratic National Convention. As they clustered tightly alongside the Kennedys, or took in the scene from Fleet Center skyboxes, it became clear that if the Republicans are the party of the rich, the Democrats are the party of the rich and famous. Put it this way: There are two kinds of people in the world, famous people, and people you have to Google. Republicans have a lot of the latter and only a few of the former.
I’m not really sure why Republicans even bother to compete. I mean, why go to the trouble to trot out your Bo Dereks or your Robert Davis, when there’s not much cachet to either name? (And anyway, who is Robert Davi again? I’ll pause briefly while you Google him.) After all, the whole point of a political convention is to shine the bright light of fame on the nominee, not the movie star listening to the nominee. The least interesting person at the Democratic National Convention last month was the nominee himself, and he’s the most likely, 12 months from now, to end up being the least famous, too. To become president of the United States these days, you really have to be a star. (It didn’t matter where Bill Clinton went or who he was with, he was unmistakably the most famous, most glittering person in the room.) Hanging out with P. Diddy or Leo or Ben or Barbra doesn’t make John Kerry seem more electric or attractive—star dust, all fables to the contrary, does not rub off. It makes him seem stiffer, weirder, creepier than he already appears.
Worse, if one of these characters does something embarrassing, or illegal, or both—and come on, it’s not entirely unlikely—it will blow back on the nominee, as unfair as that seems. Fame and notoriety are yoked so tightly together in our country that any candidate who would actually allow the famous at his convention, let alone court them, is displaying baffling bad judgment.
This may be why you rarely, if ever, see George Bush in a celebrity photo op. True, he probably has no idea who most of the beautiful people at the DNC were anyway, but there’s also a political strategy to it, a certain faded-European-royalty logic at work: Always be the most powerful and famous person in the room, and if you’re not going to be, get another room.
Except for the humorously disconcerting Christian rock lyrics (“I lie in bed and what do I see/ But your loving face looking back at me”), I’m probably not going to enjoy the entertainment offerings at the Republican Convention. But then, I’m not really supposed to.