The news rippled like a shock wave across the Internet last month. When asked about the November elections in an interview by Talk magazine, shock rocker Marilyn Manson, best known for tearing pages out of the Bible, horrifying parents, and desecrating the Stars and Stripes announced, “If I had to pick, I’d pick Bush, and not necessarily by default.” Manson has long been a pet example for those from all political sides who advocate media censorship and more government regulation on what the nation can and cannot be exposed to. The Christian Coalition and the American Family Association, both staunch Republican lobbies, have declared war on Marilyn Manson since 1994, marching before concerts and when possible trying to stop him from performing. This just doesn’t seem to make sense: George Bush talking about personal responsibility with a tall skinny tattooed rock star in white makeup and leather pants. Or does it?
The Republican Party has long been shunned by celebrities and stars for its stuffiness and disdain of Hollywood glitz and understandably so. Celebrities usually don’t voice Republican opinions in a decidedly liberal Hollywood scene for fear of a decline in popularity. Perversely, this might be a boost for George Bush in the eyes of young independents since Manson, by all evidence, doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks. Still reeling from the impeachment fiasco, the Republican Party has desperately been trying to make itself over. Or perhaps more accurately, the party has pushed its more moderate and even libertarian assets to the forefront and relegated the Religious Right to the state of uncomfortable excess baggage. In the rush to grab independent votes both Republicans and Democrats have veered to the center giving us one of the most liberal conservative tickets in history and a markedly conservative liberal one.
You might want to brush off Manson’s comment as simple retaliation for when Joe Lieberman, Democratic vice-presidential candidate and long time media censorship advocate accused Marilyn Manson of being “perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company” in a well publicized hearing a couple of years ago. But if Manson is serious about supporting Bush by choice and not by default, then something deeper could be at work.
Consider this statement made to Spin magazine over a year ago: “Anyone who blames music for their kids’ problems or for kids hurting themselves or others is kidding themselves…[The answer is to] raise your kids to be more intelligent…every house that has a Marilyn Manson record probably also has a Bible and history book and William Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet…if anything is taken out of context, it can cause damage.” Does this ring a bell at all with Bush’s endless string of campaign speeches about taking personal responsibility as the flip side to freedom? What Manson likes about Republicans is probably not so hard to imagine: low taxes, less government, freedom of contract, fewer lawsuits. Now let’s not take Manson’s comments out of context either. Nothing links Manson to the Republican establishment. I would simply interpret the endorsement as recognition that George Bush and Dick Cheney will leave him alone to do what he wants onstage, whereas a Gore-Lieberman administration would try and keep mainstream media aligned with some such standards of “decency” and “morality.”
This is a far cry from the usual Republican and Democratic stances, but it shows that the boundaries between the parties are shifting so as to become almost meaningless. It doesn’t suffice to be Republican or Democrat any longer, you have to look at the sub-labels: moderate, right wing, left wing, Libertarian, constitutionalist, compassionate, centrist, and even then the lines are hazy. Words like conservative and liberal mean don’t mean very much anymore. What exactly are we trying to preserve? What are we trying to liberate ourselves from anyway?
There does however seem to be a new kind of Republican on the horizon, one that accepts the social and political outcome of individual freedom. Bush will likely never sing “The Dope Show” on stage with Manson, nor will Manson ever take the podium at a town meeting with Bush, but one thing is clear: the message of limited government resonates from one generation to another.
People who respect each other let each other live their lives the way they see fit until their spheres of liberties cross. Even in a desperate attempt to rein in voters, the Republican Party won’t touch Manson with a ten-foot pole. Nevertheless, it’s becoming obvious that the message of individual freedom can still break some significant cultural barriers to send the message that no one but yourself should be telling you how to live your life.