Music to Politics: We DON’T Need ‘the Next’ Anybody

Written by Chuck Gruenwald on October 12, 2013

Over the last forty years, how many musical acts have been referred to as “the next Beatles?” Whenever anyone is introduced as “the next…,” he or she will most likely never be heard from shortly thereafter. The words “the next Beatles,” and “the next Bob Dylan,” among others, have been the kiss of death to everyone who only wants to be known as “the first me.”

Perhaps the perpetual search to find a sequel to a talented or well-known person or group is an attempt to land into the comfort zones of a large number of people — without earning the right to enter that space. A spot in each of our individual comfort zones is coveted by everyone from family and friends, to marketing folks. Trying to force a way into someone’s comfort zone is little more than a quick trip to failure – especially for the marketing types with a “there is a formula for everything” mentality.

When it comes to trying to exploit shortcuts to success, the entertainment industry isn’t the only offender – with almost every election comes “the next JFK.”

With the passage of fifty years, the Americans who remember President John F. Kennedy are being replaced by Americans who remember him only in history books and documentaries. After the assassination of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968, and the tarnished reputation of his other brother, Ted – which prevented his own run for the presidency – Democrat strategists have been trying to find candidates who voters could perceive as having the potential as being JFK-ish.

After reviewing the candidates whom the Democrats have tried to pass-off as being “another JFK”, such as Gary Hart in 1988, Bill Clinton in the nineties, John Kerry in 2004, and John Edwards in 2008, it appears as though the most valuable factor in the opinions of strategists who are trying to determine who best represents the Kennedy image is not a detailed plan regarding domestic issues, or the portrayal of leadership in the midst of foreign instability – it is a candidate’s haircut.

Unlike John F. Kennedy, the elitists within the Republican Party are hesitant to use the Ronald Reagan stamp on their candidates.

Ronald Reagan was a likeable politician. With a quick wit and comforting, yet confident personality that were expressed with great communication skills, it would seem as though Republican strategists would want to find a Ronald Reagan clone in order to duplicate the success that he was responsible for in 1980, 1984 and 1988.

However, in the world of career Republicans, Mr. Reagan was an outsider who had crashed a good old boys’ club.

In the years before the “Reagan Revolution,” Republicans were viewed as unashamedly self-serving cronies. As the administration of George H. W. Bush had taken shape, those self-serving traits had once again surfaced. Between 1981 and January, 1989 however, the message from President Reagan was that politicians were the servants, not overlords, of all American citizens, and that American citizens were obligated to hold their elected officials accountable for their actions.

The thought of ordinary citizens having an influence in the future of their country is an unsettling thought in the minds of career politicians, regardless of Party affiliation. This mentality has become clear as establishment Republicans seemingly attack newcomers to the GOP who do not show loyalty to those career politicians — especially members of the Senate who refuse to leave Washington.

Of course, Mr. Reagan had made mistakes, such as signing the “luxury tax” into law; the end result being job losses in the newly-taxed industries, such as yacht and private jet manufacturing.

The Reagan name has not been completely forgotten, since Republican strategists reserve it for emergency use only. Other than those rare instances, those same strategists argue that the Reagan philosophy is a product of a bygone era, with no practical application today; even Newt Gingrich once tried to pass Ronald Reagan’s message off as obsolete.

Both parties do not need clones of past politicians, since voters realize that “the next ….” is a Party’s attempt to not only pass off another candidate who will try to be all things to all people, but will also try to weasel him or herself into voters’ comfort zones. To many conservatives, having “the first Ted Cruz” is a nice change from the “same old John McCain.”

The shortcomings of John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, as well as all other elected and appointed officials, prove that they are human; none deserve a god-like reverence.

From Imperialist Japan, where the Japanese emperors were regarded as gods, to communist countries where by law, the Party is supposedly the god, politicians who regard themselves as greater entities than those whom they govern will welcome corruption as part of the job – especially if those who are governed by leaders with this mentality are willing participants in oppression.

There is no crime in viewing a deserving public servant as a role model. However, as role models, political leaders are similar to sports figures: a role model isn’t someone to copy, a role model is a person to learn from – emulate the positive traits, and work to prevent making their mistakes.

Just like with the music industry, political strategists within the Democrat and Republican Parties have been more than eager to plaster the titles of “the next JFK” and reluctantly, the “next Ronald Reagan” on candidates with either overly-processed hair, or something which remotely resembles wit, with the hope of having more success than marketing people in the music business who have found “the next Beatles, but this time, we really mean it.”

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for