Working-class songs Mitt Romney should study

It's news to no one that Mitt Romney is having difficulty finding common ground with the voters in his home state of Michigan. His image as a fortunate son of wealth and privilege often clashes with the down-home, middle- to low-class voters of the Great Lakes state. These coupon-clipping, Walmart shopping attendees of "normal" Christian churches have been struggling with the idea that a toothy millionaire who greases his hair with a pomade that probably costs more than their Christmas dinner could possibly relate to their struggles. Here is a list of five working-class songs Mitt Romney can use to rouse credibility in his blue-collar state.

05. "Sixteen Tons" - Tennessee Ernie Ford Rick Santorum loves to boast about his coal-mining grandfather, whereas Mitt can only reference his grandfather leading a Mormon exodus to Mexico to form a plural-marriage colony. With "Sixteen Tons" -- a song about back-breaking, flesh-and-blood coal mining -- Romney can one-up the Senator, showing he understands the plight of those leather-handed laborers who work all day, only to come home and find themselves "another day older, and deeper in debt."

04. "King of the Road" - Roger Miller In Sean Penn's anti-capitalist film Into the Wild, the money-burning, moose-hunting troubadour Christopher McCandless sings this song to himself as he dances around a boxcar he just occupied. If Mitt climbed the stage to give a pep-rally speech while this tune about hard living played in the background, it could go a long way toward erasing his image as a man who only travels first class. Roger Miller's song about "two hours of pushing broom, buys an 8x12 four-bit room," and "smoking old stogies I have found," strikes a chord with Midwestern laborers -- especially the anti-progressive line "I don't pay no union dues."

03. "Finest Worksong" - R.E.M. When Romney's line about the trees in Michigan being "the right height" failed to galvanize voters around his message of home state, perhaps this song will at least get them in the mood. Lyrics like "The time to rise has been engaged," and "Take your instincts by the reins" ooze with comeback-kid inspiration; and the pulsing tempo and soaring chord changes can help compensate for Romney's lack of personal charm.

02. "Working Class Hero" - John Lennon Tread lightly with this one, Mitt. Lennon fans don't take kindly to appropriations of his music for any reason. When Mod princess Marianne Faithfull covered this song in 1979, many cried foul, citing her upper-class Hampstead roots. Don't let this happen to you, Mitt. I would recommend letting this song play softly, preferably at the end of a speech about The Return of the Middle Class. The sentiment could work wonders for softening the hearts and minds of struggling families who understand lyrics like "as soon as you're born, they make you feel small/Until the pain is so big you feel nothing at all." But, again, tread lightly; You don't want to be seen as the narrator behind the lyric "You're all fucking peasants as far as I can see."

01. "Workin' Man's Blues" - Merle Haggard We all know you haven't "worked" a day in your life, Mitt. But that's okay. When Johnny Cash told us about how he "walked the line," never succumbing to marital infidelity while on the road, the truth was he had a teenybopper in every port. So there's no shame in you appropriating this song about a man who "might drink a little beer in the tavern, cry a little bit of these workin' man's blues." But, hey, there's at least there's one line about the pride of the working man that you can certainly relate to: "I aint never been on welfare/ And that's one place I won't be."

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Josiah M. Hesse
Contact: Josiah M. Hesse

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