Barack Obama’s Occupy Wall Street Anthem

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The campaign-rally soundtrack is typically as stale as one of those radio stations that promises the hits from each decade. More often than not, the opening bars of U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” welcomes Barack Obama to the stage, despite its ironic lyrics “The more you see, the less you know/ The less you find out as you go.” Republicans like Mitt Romney tend to prefer the opening piano riff from Van Halen’s “Right Now,” even though it was recorded for an album called For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

The candidate usually leaves the stage to the sound of a fresh-feeling campaign anthem. For Romney this year, it’s Kid Rock’s “Born Free,” which is funny, because Romney doesn’t really have much of anything in common with Kid Rock. But it’s a macho ballad, full of red-blooded Republican ass-kicking, so it works in a way. For Obama in 2012, the anthem is Bruce Springsteen’s new song “We Take Care of Our Own,” which drips with both patriotism and that “stronger together” feeling that Democrats love. Then both parties play Brooks and Dunn’s “Only in America,”, which claims, as is the habit of most politicians, that America is the only country where “we get to dream as big as we want to.”

But every now and then the campaign DJs mix it up, try something new and make a statement. (John McCain embraced his outlaw self in 2008 by playing Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away” at one primary election night event.) That seemed to happen again Thursday in Maumee, Ohio, when a song called “Surrender” by the band Angels and Airwaves came on after Springsteen as Obama worked the rope line. What was the statement? I will quote the lyrics, but first watch the video:


To be fair, Obama’s campaign played just the song, not the video. No one unfurled Che Guevara posters or sported Guy Fawkes masks, and there was no sudden appearance of hot youth with good hair, bandannas and flares who then tried to attack the Secret Service. But the video only dramatizes what the song is about. It was released last November, in the midst of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and it is clearly meant as an anthem for the youth of the world engaged in idealistic rebellion. Here’s the chorus:

When God falls fast asleep
The kids still dance in city streets
From the White House lawn to the Middle East
And all around
I’m just saying that this time I feel it now

Then there is the refrain: “I will not surrender.”

Is the Obama campaign endorsing Occupy or battles with New York City police? No. But the campaign is trying to do the same thing that the band Angels and Airwaves is doing: It is piggybacking on the message of the Occupy movement. (If the production values did not give it away, Angels and Airwaves, a side project of Blink-182 front man Tom DeLonge, has far more in common with capitalism than anarchism.) As the guy’s hand reads in the video: “Rise Up.”

That is, in many ways, the central message of the Obama campaign, though the language is different. As President Obama puts it on his own youth organizing webpage: “Let’s do this.”