Lynn
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How rural Republican fervor, country music, and Loretta Lynn altered American politics

The 90-year-old country music icon Loretta Lynn was remembered in obituaries and tributes by millions of people who remembered her songs, voice, genuineness, and charm.

Her politics were barely mentioned at all.

The feminist effect of her 1975 smash song “The Pill” and even her older classic “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” were mentioned in certain stories.

The 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter, which earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar for her performance as Lynn, allowed viewers to attribute any political views they desired to the character.

But throughout her career, Lynn was highly active in politics.

When country music was at its most popular in the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn was a crucial player in a political transition that paralleled the changing political views of the genre’s most devoted followers.

When it took place, that development significantly impacted American politics, assisting the election of Republican presidents like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and both Presidents Bush.

The 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter, which earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar for her performance as Lynn, allowed viewers to attribute any political views they desired to the character.

But throughout her career, Lynn was highly active in politics.

When country music was at its most popular in the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn was a crucial player in a political transition that paralleled the changing political views of the genre’s most devoted followers.

When it took place, that development significantly impacted American politics, assisting the election of Republican presidents like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and both Presidents Bush.

This week, Lynn’s supporters were shocked to find that she had backed former President Donald Trump.

She once claimed that part of the reason she supported Trump was that she knew her audiences would have booed her if she had supported Hillary Clinton. (With what appeared to be a slighting allusion to the phrase “Stand By Your Man,” the title of Tammy Wynette’s ethos-defining song about marriage, the 2016 Democratic contender offended some country music aficionados.

A few of her fans’ shock at Lynn’s support for Trump was reminiscent of their shock when she shared the stage with George H.W. Bush, the Republican candidate for president, in 1988.

Looking at Bush was “looking at the country” at that time, Lynn reminded the crowd and the cameras, quoting one of her own catchphrases (“You’re Looking at Country”). She leaned towards the microphone and declared, “I know George Bush, and he is country,” in case there was any lingering question.

At the time, that led to a few smiles and lots of puzzled looks. Bush, the son of a Connecticut senator, was born in New England and raised in Washington, D.C. He attended Yale after graduating from a very selective private prep school. After serving in the Navy and establishing an oil company in Midland, Texas for a while, He relocated to Houston’s Silk Stocking neighborhood before returning to Washington, where he served as Ronald Reagan’s vice president, director of the CIA, chairman of the Republican Party, and member of Congress. She later ran a campaign for George W. Bush, his son.

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Naturally, the senior Bush had spent a significant portion of 1988 trying to live up to Lynn’s description by posing for pictures at the wheel of a truck and declaring his undying adoration for deep-fried pork rinds.

But none of that was actually significant. In a sense, Bush was country if Loretta Lynn was right about that. She wasn’t fabricating a phoney biography for him; instead, she was expressing to her audience a particular shared religion. She was claiming that Bush would protect what her supporters believed to be America and would do so better than the Democratic nominee of the year, Massachusetts Governor and technocrat Michael Dukakis.

How rural Republican fervor, country music, and Loretta Lynn altered American politics
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There has been a return to history in both politics and music.

Always standing near to her audience, Lynn. Her Butcher Holler, Kentucky, roots were evident in everything she said and sang. She represented both desire and aspiration, humility and real, fiery pride.

She also belonged to the 1960s and 1970s generation of country music performers, whose public personas were largely created in opposition to the folk and rock icons of the time.

The Nashville sound fit in with established American social conventions, unlike the Woodstock Nation, which supported civil rights and unconventional lifestyles while opposing the Vietnam War. Country music stars appeared to be rallying around the United States as they, and their fans, remembered it.

Since then, Republican candidates have made an effort to align themselves with the country musicians’ concept of harkening back to tradition and the past. Before Trump abbreviated it and put it on a hat, Reagan had buttons that proclaimed, “Let’s Make America Great Again.”

Trump was much more of an unexpected hero of the rural than Bush Sr. Trump did not even have passing ties to country music or country living, but he developed an appreciation for those who did.

He came from an affluent family in New York, of course. But he was able to transfer his portrayal of a tough businessman on a reality TV show into a “tell it like it is” political persona as a candidate. Additionally, he made a point of embracing blue-collar Americans’ pop culture references and social mores, particularly those of rural working-class whites.

Trump was able to capitalize on the tenacious, frequently protective character that has long permeated the Appalachian area, generally defined, which gave rise to much of what Americans have come to refer to as “country western.” It is comparable to the ferociously rebellious spirit that permeates J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy and inspired Trump to support Vance’s run for the Ohio Senate.