Bruce Springsteen, Barack Obama and the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy

October 18, 2012

In Ohio today, Bruce Springsteen formally endorsed President Obama's bid for re-election.

The endorsement begs two major questions: 1)  Where does his endorsement fit on the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy and 2) What songs will Springsteen play at the event in Parma?

(Our guess on the answer to question two: "Land of Hope and Dreams", "The Rising" and "We Take Care of Our Own" and "Promised Land". Update as of 2 pm.... Springsteen played: "No Surrender", "Promised Land", "Youngstown", "We Take Care of Our Own", "This Land is Your Land" and "Thunder Road".))

As for the first question, it's somewhat more complicated than it seems at first glance. 

For the uninitiated -- there may still be a few of you out there (sigh) --  the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy is our attempt to rank the various sorts of endorsements from the utterly meaningless to the genuinely important. (Yes, it is a blatant ripoff of Bill Simmons' Levels of Losing.)  You can see the full list -- in order of importance -- at the bottom of this post.

On its face, the Springsteen endorsement is quite clearly a celebrity endorsement -- a middle of the pack endorsement in terms of influence on our Hierarchy.

And yet, while Springsteen is quite clearly a celebrity, his endorsement seems to us a bigger deal than, say, Scarlett Johansson endorsing Obama or Kid Rock getting behind Mitt Romney.

Springsteen has become something of a cultural figure, a spokesman for the working man, a voice for the voiceless. And, he clearly sees himself as more cultural critic/commentator than celebrity too. In announcing his endorsement of Obama, Springsteen explained himself this way on his website:

"For me, President Obama is our best choice because he has a vision of the United States as a place where we are all in this together. We’re still living through very hard times but justice, equality and real freedom are not always a tide rushing in. They are more often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. I believe President Obama feels these days in his bones and has the strength to live them with us and to lead us to a country '…where no one crowds you and no one goes it alone.'”

With a statement like that, Springsteen is making a play to be regarded as a symbolic endorser -- the height of the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy pyramid. 

But, he just doesn't get there for one major reason: Springsteen's endorsement of Obama was entirely expected. He publicly endorsed Obama in 2008 (and played at the inauguration) and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) four years before that. He has made no secret of his strong liberal leanings -- in both his music and his public comments.  

While Springsteen did express some doubts about getting involved in this campaign to David Remnick in an absolutely amazing New Yorker profile of the Boss -- "While I’m not saying never, and I still like to support the President, you know, it’s something I didn’t do for a long time, and I don’t have plans to be out there every time," he said -- there wasn't ever much of a doubt about where his loyalties lay.

Call the Springsteen endorsement a "celebrity plus"; it's more meaningful than some random celebrity deciding to tweet to the world who they think is the better choice to be president (Answer: who cares?) but it's still unlikely to sway lots of voters who are currently undecided.

The Fix Endorsement Hierarchy

* The Symbolic Endorsement: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush endorsing Mitt Romney for president.

* The National Endorsement: Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for Romney.

* The In-State Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to Sen. John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary in 2008.

* The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for Mike Huckabee in 2008; Oprah for Obama.

* The Newspaper Endorsement: The Washington Post endorsing state Sen. Creigh Deeds in the 2009 Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary.

* Out-of-State Statewide Endorsement: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint endorsing former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate primary.

* The What Goes Around Comes Around Endorsement: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsing Rubio.

* The Obligatory Endorsement: George W. Bush endorsing McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.

* The “Me for Me” Endorsement: Former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) endorsing Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D) 2010 Senate campaign.

* The Non-Endorsement Endorsement: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) passing on an endorsement of Sen. David Vitter’s (R) 2010 reelection bid.

* The Backfire Endorsement: Former Vice President Al Gore endorsing former Vermont governor Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race.

* The Pariah Endorsement: Jailed former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham backing Newt Gingrich.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Aaron Blake | October 18, 2012