The John Lennon vote

I know I’m not the only person who asks from time to time, “WWJD?” Now with a US presidential election less than a week away—and with so much at stake—I ask myself again, “What would John (Lennon) do?"

A political provocateur in his day, Lennon was finally granted US residency a few years before he died and could have achieved full citizenship—including the right to vote—had he lived. How he would have subsequently voted in the presidential elections is anyone’s opinion. But I gave mine four years, in a lengthy and controversial post.

THIS time around I’m not so sure. Here’s why…

Assuming he retained his basic value system, one can credibly make the case that the former Beatle would be disinclined to vote for either of the two major party choices in 2012. Lennon the give-peace-a-chance activist would have been appalled at the military escalation in Afghanistan, the thousands killed by CIA drone attacks in the Mideast (including civilians), and the rapid and stealthy expansion of the US homeland security apparatus—among other policies. All of this occurred under Barack Obama’s presidency and was fully supported by the Republican challenger, Governor Mitt Romney. That would suggest that Lennon would sit out this election—or perhaps vote for Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who is campaigning on issues such as these.

That should be the end of the story, right? Well, except for the fact that Lennon was also a champion of civil rights, especially women’s rights. While President Obama may have been late to the party on gay marriage, his record—compared to that of his challenger—is closer to the concerns of most American women on reproductive rights. (Governor Romney, unlike the President, wants to see the overthrow of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade—that protects women’s right to choose—and would like to defund Planned Parenthood.) Also, the President supports the Fair Pay Act for women, while Governor Romney has avoided taking a position on it.

Regarding other issues of concern to minorities—especially the Dream Act (enabling immigrants to earn citizenship through military service or college attendance) and protecting minorities’ equal access to voting (including early voting)—Lennon would almost certainly have supported them, which the President has done, in contrast with his challenger.

Of course John Lennon was also a capitalist (and reluctant businessman) who, despite his poetic yearnings for a fully shared commons (expressed in "Imagine"), admitted on more than one occasion that he would have preferred to NOT part with his considerable wealth. (You might say he was a realist—and not the only one.) Someone in his economic tax bracket would understandably be concerned about increased taxes on the wealthy, which President Obama espouses but Governor Romney does not.

But, in the end, Lennon’s concern for the rights of women and minorities would probably outweigh his other concerns. In this independent voter’s opinion, John Lennon would likely cast his vote for Barack Obama.

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  1. so your claiming inside knowledge on how a dead rock star would vote today. that's a good gig. but lennnon would definitely vote for jill stein. gary

  2. I’m shocked by the depth of your cynicism, Gary. You’ve OBVIOUSLY never attended one of my John Lennon channeling sessions. For a small fee I regularly channel John (along with NCAA sporting events).

    Re Jill Stein, I do believe the John Lennon of the early 70s would have voted for her. But the JL of the later 70s was a tad more pragmatic. Some say that he expressed regret over his previous political naivete and was warming up to the realpolitik of war and peace.

  3. From over here in Blighty, and thus based on an alien's reading of the candidate bio's (I love how you colonials call the rest of humanity aliens!), I'd posit that John would have voted for Gary Johnson or Rocky Anderson. They both seem to have a libertarian streak that would have appealed to John.

  4. Yeah, Mark, Lennon seemed to respect individuals who took the less traveled path. Gary Johnson is running as the Libertarian Party candidate, who’s famous for his opposition to the War on Drugs, so Lennon would have appreciated that. Rocky Anderson—whom I had forgotten about—is a staunch progressive at the other end of the spectrum (though some of his views overlap with Johnson’s) and has been extremely critical of President Obama’s War on Terror, which Lennon would also have appreciated. As for aliens, we have a Congress full of them. (And 78 Communists according to one representative.)

  5. I don't see Lennon voting at all. He tried very hard to be apolitical, though he was very socially opined. He acted out on social issues, but none of the Beatles ever committed on specific politicians. Closest they got was Wilson and Heath! They HATED the taxes they had to pay, especially George. When he was dying, he technically moved to Switzerland to avoid taxes. Imagine under the present American system they'd be paying like Romney (0-14%). But no, I don't see Lennon ever voting, that would violate some deep cynical mistrust of all politicians he had.

  6. Ken, it looks to me that most rock & rollers of his day didn't support specific candidates until later in their careers. Now it's true that Lennon was spending more time with family in the late 70s and was less of a sloganeering activist, yet a few weeks before his death he was supporting a strike against a food company. And given his long fight to gain US residency — prevailing over the reactionary forces that the Nixon administration had stacked against him — methinks Lennon would not have squandered the right to vote, especially when he could exercise it against the powers that opposed him for years.

  7. Having used the word "aliens" above, I got to thinking that they come from somewhere faraway in the universe and that naturally lead me to thinking about John's, "Across The Universe." * John would have voted for the Jai Guru Deva Om candidate ("glory to the shining remover of darkness"). Absolute sure fire certainty. Mystery resolved.

    * This is the best ever Beatles lyric and that is not a matter for debate - it's a fact. It's as near to poetry as they ever got and it's marvelous. IMHO.

    1. Oh, and I think we can be certain about who he'd have voted for in 1984. In fact, had he been alive and able to lend his backing, the world would for sure have been blessed with a President O'Leary...

  8. You're too kind, Mark. And I agree on "Across the Universe" — his best lyrics ever. Did a post on that song several years ago.

  9. I don't see how anyone can call John Lennon a champion of civil rights. Sure he was active in peace campaigns. And he gave a few quotes about women's rights (while also treating women, including Yoko, in some less than enlightened ways, shall we say.

    But I don't see any evidence at all that he was involved in the civil rights movement for black Americans to any degree. And he certainly didn't merit the title "champion of civil rights."

  10. Ethan, John Lennon’s concerns for civil rights extended to many groups—from Catholics in Northern Ireland to Native Americans. From his early touring days with The Beatles he was outspoken in his criticism of the segregation he witnessed in the US. For instance, The Beatles surprised everyone by refusing to play for a segregated audience in Jacksonville in 1964 — after which the Beatles stipulated in their performance contracts that they would not perform in front of segregated audiences. Not a big deal by modern standards of course, but surprising for a Brit pop band that up until then was meticulously apolitical. After the band broke up and Lennon moved to NYC he became more directly involved in political causes. His support for Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers earned the enmity of the Nixon administration and almost got him deported.

    I think the better critique of Lennon is that his civil rights activism ran wide rather than deep. He quickly moved on to the next cause, rather than deepening his understanding and commitment to a particular issue. But as he used to say, “I’m a musician first.” (Unfortunately his overtly political songs—sophomoric slogans put to music—were among his worst.)

    In his later years he apologized for his earlier treatment of women and his music seemed to reflect that. (As I wrote in an earlier post, this idealist was a bundle of contradictions—and not a gentle drunk.)

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