It was all pretty Blue State in San Francisco last night: President Obama flew to the fundraiser from a gathering at Facebook. He got a ride in Marine 1, the presidential helicopter, and commented to the assembled masses at Nob Hill Masonic Center about the beauty of flying by the Golden Gate Bridge. He talked about clean energy, and technology, and health care, and education, and his re-election campaign. The crowd was pretty much ecstatic. Before the president spoke, Oakland songstress Goapele performed covering "A Change is Gonna Come," and a few of her own hits, including "Closer." She wore a radiant blue dress -- and very, very short hair.
But, er, in a good way. It's hard to imagine a more friendly place for Obama than S.F. (You should have seen the elated reception Nancy Pelosi got.) But you don't hear Brooks and Dunn a lot in San Francisco. Hearing a country anthem like "Only in America" -- a sort of we're-all-in-this-together tune whose message is pretty apolitical -- felt like a strong, cold, and useful reminder that the guy has a lot more people to win over than a bunch of young urbanites.
Brooks & Dunn played it at the Bush inauguration in 2000. At the 2004 GOP convention, Dick Cheney used it as his exit music after his speech. And President Bush frequently used it on the campaign trail four years ago, even asking Brooks & Dunn to come out and play it live at rallies in the final week of the race. So you have to think its sudden repurposing served two purposes for the Democrats. Number one, it told millions of Americans that Obama is heartland-friendly enough to use a country smash rather than a Will.i.am ditty to cap off perhaps the most critical moment of his career to date. And number two, for anyone aware of the tune's political history, it was also a subtle, funny, knowing tweak -- too benign to really count as an old-school dirty trick, but almost in that risible spirit.