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.