Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) raised some eyebrows on Monday when he recommended the progressives open up about “Rich Men North of Richmond,” the country song by Oliver Anthony that became an overnight hit last week be.
In a video Now viewed by millions, Anthony’s sonic ballad expresses his anger at a life dictated by “overtime for crappy pay” while Washington officials overtax workers who “milk the welfare of the obese.”
Murphy did not endorse Anthony’s hatefulness towards welfare recipients or taxes, instead suggesting that progressives should “listen” to the song because it was “just a good tune” and because it could provide insight into the anti-elite sentiment that the Right fuels populism.
The song “shows the path of realignment,” according to Murphy posted Tuesday morning on X, the social media application formerly known as Twitter. “Anthony sings about the soullessness of work, crappy wages and the power of the elite. For all problems, the left has better solutions than the right.”
Murphy, a mainstream progressive known for his reserved foreign policy views and tougher gun controls, responded to his first post with a second message that linked to a left-wing Labor reporter Hamilton Nolan’s essay about the song. Nolan agrees with Murphy that Anthony is venting his justified anger while identifying the wrong culprits. “The capitalist class needs workers to point fingers at government programs and welfare recipients so that popular anger can drain away from the rich,” Nolan said.
“I do not agree [with] the whole play of Nolan”, Murphy wrote. “But he does a good job of identifying the problem as the song’s focus is on taxes and food stamps as the main enemy.”
This explanation was not enough to calm Murphy’s largely left-leaning critics, who expressed outrage at the suggestion that the song even happened to have political merit. It certainly didn’t help that Murphy registered his comment, citing right-wing influencer Benny Johnson’s Friday post where he shared the video. Johnson claimed so Video had already gone viral, and his post only added to the impact, attracting 5.9 million views as of Monday afternoon.
In addition to the offense of “tweeting positive quotes”. Ultra ding dong Bennie Johnson” Murphy’s Democratic critics reproached him not acknowledge the song’s verses stereotype welfare recipients as fat and lazy, fetishize the rural white working class falling in love with a propaganda piece secretly developed in a conservative think tank to give you credibility pro-confederate “dog whistle” and raise someone who can obviously be spoiled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Many of Murphy’s liberal critics are influential online or in Democratic Party politics. Kaivan Shroff, a Democratic advocate and activist with more than 117,000 followers on X, explained“It’s disgusting of you to reinforce Benny Johnson of hate group Turning Point USA.”
Eric Kleefeld, a senior writer Liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America asked, “Is anyone out there ready to put Chris Murphy front and center before he accidentally becomes a total horseshoe brother?”
Of course, Murpy’s haters are perfectly justified in arguing that Murphy is naïve about the potential to persuade people like Anthony or to build a populist coalition with politicians sympathetic to Anthony’s worldview. And those critics are right when they note that Anthony’s YouTube playlist is titled: “Videos That Make Your Head Big” contains two conspiratorial clips of five Israelis reportedly dancing on a rooftop in sight of the Twin Towers as they burned down on September 11, 2001. (The story about the Israelis on a roof is based on one though true eventhas been wrongly confiscated as evidence of Israel’s involvement in the terrorist attack.)
But Murphy’s critics should also give him the credit for looking at Murphy’s social media posts in the context of his entire analysis on the subject. Murphy’s commentary on “Rich Men North of Richmond” as well as a visit he recently attended Boone, North Carolinato participate in a discussion of how neoliberal policies are affecting Appalachia are part of a broader effort to connect liberal economic policies to the country’s social and emotional ills.
For the past year, Murphy has been consuming right-wing media and literature to understand how sometimes racist and misogynist social media influencers, thinkers and politicians appeal to young men seeking meaning, community and answers to their problems.
In response to his findings, Murphy, who had been driving the passage of a bipartisan gun safety bill focused primarily on improving mental health, embarked on a media tour earlier this year to raise awareness of the loneliness crisis in the United States — and what impact this crisis has politics.
Although Murphy was not available for an interview Monday, he was said HuffPost In April, he declared that the far right is offering an “escape” to the anger gripping many young men, and called on progressives to address that anger and offer an alternative.
“I think people who end up being attracted to these hate groups could be offered a much more constructive identity or set of connections,” he said. “But you don’t see that often.”
Murphy believes the working class on the political left and right has more in common than the elites on either side of the aisle. He also believes progressives like himself can work with right-wing populists like Republican Sen. JD Vance (Ohio) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) on select issues like trade and antitrust policy.
That’s probably what Murphy meant when he said Anthony’s song shows the “road to realignment” — a realignment of politics based on a shared skepticism about corporate power.
“If you study the evolving New Right within the conservative movement, you will see early signs of possible realignment among people in this country who may not share the same views on abortion or civil rights but believe our economy and the ” The condition of American children and families has become so unhealthy that the government must take new measures,” Murphy said in April.