For whom would John Lennon vote?

A respondent to my recent post on John Lennon wondered how the former Beatle, if alive today, would weigh in on the current US presidential campaign—a momentous campaign, I might add, but vacuously covered (as usual) by an imagination-challenged electronic media.

After all, Lennon finally gained US residency a few years before his death in 1980. (The fact that Lennon was able to accomplish that was an amazing story in its own right, given the comical attempts years earlier by the Nixon administration, FBI, CIA, and INS to get him deported because of the apparently grave threat he posed to US security.)

Now in April, 2008—with the US involved in a protracted war in the Mid-east and the economy in its most worrisome shape in decades—we're approaching an election that citizens seem to care about.

Three "electable" candidates are left standing. (There are scores of candidates still running, but only three are currently conducting national campaigns.)

So whom would John Lennon support?

Lennon would probably appreciate John McCain's contrariness and outspokenness—qualities JWL would certainly identify with. My guess is he would have also cheered on McCain's attempts in 2000 to challenge George Bush and the "agents of intolerance" (as McCain called them) of the religious right—given Lennon's disdain of religiosity, especially the self-righteous variety.

Yet he would have an issue with McCain's recent pirouettes on many socially moderate views he held in the past, from gay marriage to immigration, which Lennon would have endorsed.

And McCain's continued support for the ill-fated Iraq War would be the deal-breaker for the give-peace-a-chance musician. From his Beatlemania days when Lennon surprised the world at a "Fab Four" press conference in 1966 with his opposition to Vietnam ("War is wrong") to the time he was gunned-down fourteen years later, Lennon remained an opponent of national militarism, if not a full-fledged pacifist.

Lennon would likely applaud a variety of Hillary Clinton's positions, from her universal health care stance to her sometimes-ridiculed "it-takes-a-village" approach to education, which were consistent with Lennon's liberal worldview.

One wild card: how would the eight-year Bill Clinton presidency have played in John's thinking? How he viewed that presidency (and I suspect he would have had mixed feelings about it) might have carried over to Senator Clinton's cause one way or the other. But Clinton's vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq would certainly have diminished Lennon's enthusiasm for her, not to mention her other tilt-to-the-right maneuvers (including her introduction of a bill to make flag-burning a crime).

Lennon would presumably find much to admire about Barack Obama's views—many of which overlap Senator Clinton's, from health care accessibility to green energy investment—along with an appreciation of Obama's global perspective and eloquent optimism.

But Obama's stance against the Iraq war from the beginning would be the clincher for Lennon. For that reason alone I believe Lennon would support Barack Obama for US President.

That said, Lennon would undoubtedly lament Dennis Kucinich's withdrawal, who was the most outspoken peace advocate of the original Democratic candidates and who lined up closest to Lennon's 1970's values.

Of the two other major party candidates technically still in the race, Republicans Alan Keyes and Ron Paul, I believe Lennon would have resonated with some aspects of the latter's libertarian philosophy and aversion to interventionist foreign policy.

I could imagine John Lennon's chuckling at Ron Paul's controversial comments on Meet the Press, quoting Sinclair Lewis: "When fascism comes to America it will be draped in a flag, carrying a cross." (Of course Lennon was a spiritual seeker, with great respect for Christ's message, but he shared the concern of many of us that the delivery systems for that message have severely distorted it.)

I admit to an assumption that opposition to the Iraq war would trump other concerns in John Lennon's presidential choice in 2008. But who really knows how his values would have developed had he lived another twenty-seven years and four months?

And would he even vote? After all, the self-described "dreamer" questioned the value of nation-states to begin with—and certainly some aspects of the American dream itself. Yet we shouldn't forget how driven he was to become a US citizen. In that sense John Lennon was the quintessential American immigrant.


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15 Comments

  1. Speaking of Barack Obama (and following up on the Comments to my previous post), last night I was flipping the radio dial and caught Billy Cunningham (the self-described "Great American" who was roundly denounced for calling Barack Obama "a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician" at a John McCain fundraiser) hosting his nationally syndicated radio show. He repeatedly asserted the shop-worn rumor, as if it were an undisputed fact, that Obama was raised a Muslim and attended a radical madrassa! (The only source I could find for this online was Insight magazine, the conservative PR outlet of Moon's Unificiation Church in an article that itself identified no sources - which was debunked by news organizations and the Columbia Journalism Review.) It continues to ASTOUND me that talkmeisters with such a tenuous commitment to objective, fact-based reporting are given a forum to disseminate prejudice to a national audience.

  2. Stephen - Lennon was granted US residency, a step towards citizenship. Regarding your other point, I remember reading an interview in the 70s when Lennon waxed rhapsodic about both NYC and the USA. When he talked about America he seemed especially impressed by the vibrancy of the culture, especially as contrasted with his experience of the UK. But having been raised in a seaport town he did seem especially smitten by NYC.

  3. Great post John - I am interested in your election from afar over here in England. I am a huge fan of John Lennon. I was a teenager in the 1960's and John was always my favourite of the fab four. I loved his outspoken and rebellious attitude even if it was somewhat tongue in cheek as a younger man.

    I suspect had the great man lived he would have made a massive impact on the world. Sadly that was not to be because of one lunatic. I am sure John would have voted for Mr Obama - and I certainly would if I was a voter in your great country. Any politician who says he will stop the futile and shameful killing of innocent citizens (1 million so far by some estimates) and thousands of brave US and UK forces personnel would get my vote. EVERYTHING else is less important in 2008.

    I have a picture in my mind of a 70 year old John Lennon ranting at a packed auditorium about the futility and tragedy of the war … what a shame that vision will never be reality.

  4. Loved the post, John. I agree that Lennon would have chosen Obama and appreciate your fairness to all of the other candidates, pointing out their contributions as citizens of our great country.

    As I tend to be more conservative on some things and liberal on others, I fully understand and appreciate the betwixted position, one that I am not hostile to. What I am, however, terribly clear on is that our country needs new leadership and this is one of the reasons I am in support of Barack Obama.

    There is no greater agent of change to me than Christ and it is the power of love and considering your brother as yourself that engender the deepest most relevant change. It is his message that I seek to embody. It is his message that Lennon and others saught after.

    I would venture to say that it is Christ's message that we all seek, though we may not know it because the purity of his message is lost amidst loud loveless senseless voices. But the Apostle Paul said it best when he proclaimed that even in the midst of such noise, Christ was being preached and because of this he rejoiced. There is much wisdom and understanding about the frailties of human nature in this proclamation. Therefore, I too rejoice.

  5. Thanks, Judith. I love the dialogue. I too believe the purity of Christ's message gets lost (a process that began over 1900 years ago, in my opinion, but that's a whole book in itself). To me Christ and Christianity live in two different worlds, especially in 2008 America. (Yikes, I'm writing about John Lennon so much, I'm beginning to CHANNEL him.) I actually take the Sermon on the Mount seriously, though I feel it's contradicted by other passages in the Gospel that are of dubious origin (which people use to justify all sorts of mischief). Someday we can chat about this over a drink. Maybe at Barack's inaugural.

  6. Yeah! Now, I would love that! Barack, great conversation, and a good bottle of carbernet sauvignon would work for me.

    Oh, you did say "a drink" didn't you? Well, depending on the hype of the victory celebration, that may not be possible :-)

    Then again, the hype may be good enough in and of itself. I'm psyched at the possibility! President Barack Obama, an agent of change! Wow!

  7. More later on the Sermon on the Mount, dubious passages, and channeling. I'm looking forward to the book.

  8. My book - which at the moment is focused on business lessons from R&R bands (as opposed to New Testament exegesis or channeling of spirits!) - is proceeding slowly, though I'm 2/3 there. I'm a slow writer, but maybe that will boost its appeal to slow readers.

    I noticed a comment was deleted on this thread. Interesting...I thought only the blog author could delete comments. Wouldn't want folks thinking I'm screening comments. I need all the responses I can get.

  9. bet you didn't know Lennon went through a born again Christian phase late in his life. it didn't last but it shows the guy was always searching.

  10. John...I'm a very curious person and quite a fast reader. But with such anticipation, I'll savor every bit of the "slow" process. (You're two thirds done? You're nearly finished!) Sometimes slow is fast. Looking forward to the book.

    Stephen...I didn't know that about John Lennon but I would not have doubted it. He seemed like the searching type. There was a period where I tauted my agnosticism, wearing it openly as a badge of honor to the dismay of my mom. And believe me, coming from my family, this would not have been something to wear proudly. But I did.

    My family continued to show me an abundance of love even when every dinner conversation and every holiday was spent in great debate about my new found agnostic beliefs. (Not they addressed my beliefs, but I did and they indulged me.) This lasted for three years or so.

    We are all searching for our better selves. Is this search revealed in Lennon's writing style and lyrics? Was his writing style reflective of various Eastern scales for example? Were his lyrics infused with both the mistrust and faith of his era?

  11. John...it looks like the author of a comment can delete his or her comment only. There is an icon that appears on the left side of all of my comments, for example.

  12. There seems to have been a pattern whereby Lennon would throw himself into a spiritual pursuit - as he did with the Maharishi - then withdraw and become extremely cynical about that pursuit.

  13. Stephen, I've been reading more conflicting news reports on whether Lennon became a US citizen. I now believe he was given his green card and US residency in 1976, with the invitation to apply for US citizenship in 1981.

  14. You're right; he got his green card in 1976. Regarding voting, it may have been the latter case you suggested above: he never did end up voting in any election (British or U.S.), and there's not much indication he would have post-1980. Who knows, though.

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