(or at least a D.J.)
As political campaigns in Pennsylvania gear up for their pre-primary winter season, each organization is filling the usual roles: manager, finance director, communications director, etc.
But there’s a role your campaign doesn’t have, that it probably should.
Your campaign needs a Bard.
According to Merriam Webster, a bard is “a tribal poet-singer skilled in composing and reciting epic poems, often accompanied by the harp or the lyre.”
Since there aren’t many harpists running around Philadelphia these days, I suggest an adaptation for the modern political campaign:
Campaign Bard: a poet-musician who hangs out in your office and writes songs about what’s happening. Perhaps spoken word, or haiku. Songs to fix the mood. Songs to please the constituents. Songs about the phone bank. Songs for call time.
A D.J. would also do the trick. But “Campaign Bard” just sounds funnier.
Now. Why would a campaign optimized for efficiency waste valuable resources on a Bard? Couldn’t your Bard be making fundraising calls or something?
Well, if you don’t know how important morale is, do go watch the dreary hours of Sad Democrat TV that resulted from last week’s election. Nothing like flapping gums about the stimulus package to get people in a good mood.
You want your staff and especially your volunteers to be in a good mood. And we have all had a couple of years of apocalypse.
You probably already have someone involved in your campaign who would make an excellent Bard. All you have to do is ask. Or put it out there and see if someone volunteers. If there’s someone on your campaign who knows all the obscure bands: that’s your Bard!
So as you start on this journey, do yourself a favor: put together some good playlists. (Here’s a great local option, thank you Billy Penn, from the 2017 Women’s March.) But that’s just the minimum.
Music has unlimited power to inspire, motivate, and teach people what your campaign is about. There’s a lot more you can do.
You could pick a walk-on song, as is done in baseball. A walk-on song is a short clip of a song played as the hitter walks from the dugout to the plate — five or six seconds.
For inspiration, here is a list of the best baseball walk-on songs of all time. As a result, your supporters will think of a song when they think of your campaign. Your campaign will have personality. Campaigns are, after all, months-long public performances, not unlike improvisation.
Your Campaign Bard can also write a totally ludicrous jingle involving the candidate’s name, which hopefully rhymes with something that is not offensive.
It doesn’t matter if the jingle is stupid. In fact: it’s far better if it’s stupid. You should actually strive to write the stupidest jingle you possibly can.
If you happen to know someone who plays the bagpipes and can come to your events — congratulations, you are certainly fated to win. This YouTube video of military bagpipes can inspire you as you prepare your talking points about the Pennsylvania budget. Perhaps you could write a Celtic marching song about the Pennsylvania budget!
These Republicans won this year because they harnessed emotion, while Democrats talked about economics. Fear and rage: that’s their jam.
Democrats make plenty of emotional appeals and the majority of them are also what’s actually wrong in the world. We tell the truth about oppression. This is invaluable. This is our job. But because of the Internet, we live in a world of infinite, unavoidable, and very depressing truth.
Rage is physically and chemically exhausting for the human body. Depression, which is the outcome of adrenal depletion, is demoralizing.
Art and music are the replenishing sources of joy and buoyancy that we have on our side. They are, essentially, hopeful. Creativity is completely intertwined with democracy. Democracy is where creativity roots and flourishes.
We need some lightness to keep us all going. Having a Campaign Bard is so ridiculous and funny that it will do the trick, especially if you give them a stupid hat. If you have to start Zoom calls singing a dorky jingle, and someone wears a stupid hat, you will perform better as a team. I promise.
I hope you share your songs with the rest of us.
And as the Pennsylvania primaries happen in the spring… you can take inspiration from the Bard himself, for whom music brought flowers to bloom:
Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves, when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
(Henry VIII, 3.1.4–15)