Oh, 2016- we just can’t quit you.  At least now, we can refer to things like the 2016 Olympics and the 2016 presidential elections as occurrences taking place next year.  We are still a year away from the first primary elections, and as they currently stand, they are  likely to be more interesting on the Republican side of the equation.  While Hillary Clinton’s path to the nomination won’t be quite the coronation many expect, I believe her chances of being the Democrats’ choice are very, very good.  With the Republicans?  Things are a bit up in the air.  I think there are maybe a solid seven people who could conceivably be nominated as things stand now: Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio.  Out of the seven, Bush seems like the front-runner.  Nearly every candidate has severe drawbacks, from low name recognition, to poisonous civil rights stances, to Bridgegate, to losing the election last time.  And despite public wariness with putting a third Bush in the White House within thirty years, he is best poised to collect money from the important donors, avoid saying stupid shit, and wear down primary opponents by attrition.  Bush is probably the most likely to survive the grueling modern Republican dilemma of needing to be conservative enough for the bloodthirsty primary voting crowd, while not scaring off the general voting public.

When I wrote up my top ten running mates for Hillary, there were some guidelines to which I adhered.  I thought her ticket would be poorly balanced by a woman, a Northeasterner, and another person north of 60.  For Jeb, there are a couple of disqualifiers as well.  First- no scions.  If your daddy was a well known political figure, you’re out.  Second- no other Floridians; it is bad balance and still a bit constitutionally dubious.  Sorry Marco.  And…that’s about it!  He may or may not pick a woman, and Florida is such a weird state that just about anywhere else in the country offers regional balance.  Even the South.  (Fun fact- if nominated, Jeb Bush would be the first person on a Republican ticket to be both born in the South and an officeholder from the South.)  As a consequence, all kinds of races, ages, philosophies, and geographic regions are present here.  Being from a swing state is definitely a bonus, but by no means required.  I also think it unlikely that he will pick an opponent from the Republican primaries, at least partly because all of the main candidates are poor temperamental fits for one another, with the exception of Kasich.

I included very few GOP hardliners, though, and for this reason.  I think part of the reason John McCain and Mitt Romney lost their elections came from picking a running mate that scared the electorate in some way, either Palin’s dopey and inartful revival of the Culture Wars, or Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare, which almost certainly cost the Romney campaign the state of Florida.  So, while many of these figures are conservative by any fair definition, many are not bitter-enders or hardliners.  No amount of Tea Party enthusiasm or base-rallying can make up for scaring independent voters who aren’t in the bag yet.

As a hardcore 31-year-old McGovernite, I will probably not vote for a ticket with any of these people on it.  Just the same, here are my best objective guesses for Jeb Bush’s most suitable running mates.

1.  Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Very few people are talking about the veepstakes yet, but when they do, it will be interesting to see if Rodgers’ name comes up as a possibility.  Rodgers is the congresswoman from the state of Washington’s Spokane-centered fifth district.  Presently, she is the chair of the Republican House Conference, the only woman in a Republican congressional leadership that is notoriously white and male.  She will not help Jeb win the Evergreen State, but her work on the presidential ticket could help considerably in other ways.  Rodgers has been reasonably successful at parrying the charges of a Republican war on women, both in the office she holds and in the language she uses.  Since Barack Obama won partly on a massive “gender gap”, that isn’t insignificant.  Rodgers also offers poise, reliability, and message discipline.  She’s a good solider willing to do what it takes for her party to prevail, and won’t go rogue to advance her own career.  That’s exactly what every nominee wants to see in a running mate.

2.  John Kasich: Because of its reputation as a swing state among swing states, being the governor of Ohio seems to automatically warrant some chatter about becoming vice-president.  Kasich narrowly beat the incumbent, Ted Strickland, in 2010.  In supposedly the closest swing state in the country, Kasich overcame some dreadful first-term poll-numbers, reinvented himself as a thoughtful, conscientious pragmatist, and was re-elected overwhelmingly, with over 60% of the vote.  And Kasich has some real accomplishments to run on: Ohio’s recovery has outpaced the rest of the country, an especially impressive feat in a state that is the buckle of the Rust Belt.  He can help reframe the Republicans’ rhetoric about poverty, a toxic leftover from the Reagan years.  “I’m concerned about the fact that there seems to be a war on the poor,” he once said.  “That if you’re poor, you are somehow shiftless and lazy.”  Quite a turnaround from Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47%, no?  So far, it’s just wind; few of Kasich’s policies have demonstrably helped the poor, but the rhetoric will raise eyebrows.  The Republicans’ path to 270 electoral votes will be extremely difficult without Ohio this year.  In fact, the Republican Party has never once won the presidency without carrying Ohio in its 160 years of existence.   A Bush-Kasich ticket might put the two most lucrative swing states off the table for Democrats.

3.  Kelly Ayotte: No doubt about it, New Hampshire is the friendliest territory for Republicans in New England, the bluest region of the country.  In this atmosphere, Ayotte has thrived, serving a strong tenure as the state’s attorney general and easily winning election to the Senate in 2010.  Since then, Ayotte has confidently staked out center-right territory.  She is not on the Cruz cruise, but one would be foolish to confuse her with New England moderates Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe.  Ayotte is a hawkish foreign policy and armed services specialist, and her work with McCain and Graham on immigration nicely complement Jeb’s own views.  While Congress at large has floundered these last four years, the women of the Senate have earned a reputation for listening to one another and moving ideas forward, and Ayotte could bring these accomplishments to the table.  And, of course, she comes from a legitimate swing state, one that Obama carried by only 5 points in 2012.  One hiccup: Ayotte is up for re-election to the Senate in 2016.  People have run for lesser offices while running for the vice-presidency before: Lieberman for his Senate seat in 2000, Biden for his Senate seat in 2008, Ryan for his congressional seat in 2012.  But it is an unfortunate complication.

4.  Brian Sandoval:  Sandoval is the governor of Nevada, recently re-elected in a clean landslide.  In many ways, Sandoval is the perfect candidate.  He is Hispanic, he is just the right age at 51, and he can bring Nevada’s 6 electoral votes back into play for the GOP.  More impressive than these factors is his solid record of accomplishment; he is widely considered one of the best governors in the United States.  Under his governorship, the unemployment rate has gone from a worst-in-the-nation 14% to a much better 8% and falling.  He has also mindfully avoided staking out ideological points: he has accepted the Medicare expansion, and his record on abortion- not so much pro-choice as a more libertarian pro-autonomy stance- can help win over independents.  He has instituted an intriguing education reform, all with a Democratic state legislature, that now includes merit pay.  However, one significant drawback is that a Bush-Sandoval team has no meaningful foreign policy experience.  That will matter if it comes to governing, but with such a toxicly anti-Washington electorate, will this even matter?  Also- I wonder whether Sandoval even wants it.  I think it is an even-money bet that Mark Warner would have been Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008 if he didn’t commit to running for the Senate.  Sandoval has the same choice- run for Harry Reid’s extremely vulnerable Senate seat in 2016, or hold off for the vice-presidency?

5.  Susanna Martinez:  Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, is often mentioned as the kind of person who might be the Republican vice presidential choice in 2016.  Her biography seems like a panacea for the demographic sinkhole the Republican party is wandering into: a relatively young Hispanic woman governing an important state.  She and the state legislature have turned the state’s deficit into a surplus, all without raising taxes.  New Mexico is just barely winnable for Republicans in the general election in the best of circumstances.  George W. Bush won it in 2004, and lost it by a whisker in 2000.  Obama carried New Mexico by more than ten points in both elections, and it seems to have gone from a genuine swing state to a fairly deep shade of blue.  If Republicans want New Mexico’s five electoral votes, Martinez is probably their only realistic chance of getting them.  For all of this, I still wonder whether Martinez is a better candidate on paper than she would be in real life.  She is alleged to be sharp-tongued and acerbic, qualities that, unfairly, will not redound to the benefit of a female candidate.  In a way, she is similar to Chris Christie:  mouthy former prosecutors who govern a blue state, alternately working well with opposition leaders and butting heads with them over principle.  One further consideration: Sandoval or Martinez would mean a Republican ticket with two Catholics, a gobsmacking development for a party with historic ties to country-club Protestantism.

6.  Mike Pence:  Here’s the dilemma each presidential nominee faces when choosing a running mate: a governor will give you executive leadership and usually bipartisan credentials.  But being in Congress, while less popular, provides crucial experience in foreign policy and how Washington works.  Mike Pence, an influential Indiana congressman and presently the Hoosiers’ governor, could give you both.  He hasn’t racked up an especially right-leaning record in Indiana, partly because his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, already slashed the budget and enacted right-to-work legislation, the first state in the Rust Belt to do so.  Where do you go from there?  He has strong support in institutional conservatism, both Koch Brothers fiscal conservatism and “values voters.”  In terms of communication, his talk radio pedigree will help galvanize the ditto-heads (he has been called “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”) Pence’s team has called him a “process of elimination candidate” for the presidency, but Pence’s faithful partisanship could make him a strong contender for the second spot on the ticket as well.  This is especially so if circumstances force Jeb to move right, rather than left, such as a contentious primary battle with a more conservative challenger.

7.  John Hoeven:  The Great Recession hit many of us hard.  For all of its severity, North Dakota weathered the recession better than any other state, a situation that makes for some fine talking points.  While the nation as a whole nearly had double-digit unemployment during the depth of the recession, North Dakota’s never approached 5%.  Nowadays, it hovers between 2-3%.   This could spell good news for John Hoeven, two-and-a-half term governor and first-term senator from the Peace Garden State.  If the Keystone pipeline becomes a major issue during the 2016 election, Hoeven could give a great deal of credence to the “drill, baby, drill” crowd, citing North Dakota’s economic miracle.  Indeed, the lucrative Bakken oil fields have created a multitude of high-paying jobs, which in turn have bolstered the state’s service sector as well.  This is, of course, a bubble, and like all bubbles it will burst.  For now, though, the numbers are looking fine.  A conservative who won’t scare independents off, Hoeven’s ten years of executive experience, six years in the Senate, and impressive Ron Swanson mustache will brush aside any questions that he isn’t ready.  Besides, he continues the weird trend of running mates who have represented only a small area- either one solitary congressional district or a three-electoral-vote state: Palin (Alaska), Biden (Delaware), Cheney (Wyoming), Paul Ryan (Wisconsin’s fightin’ first), Jack Kemp (New York’s fightin’ 38th), and Geraldine Ferraro (New York’s fightin’ 9th) and even George H. W. Bush (Texas’s fightin’ 7th). Seriously- isn’t that strange?  Since 1984, only four running mates (Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Dan Quayle, and John Edwards) directly represented more than perhaps a million people.

8.  Tom Cotton:  In 2014, the race between Congressman Tom Cotton and incumbent Mark Pryor Cotton for the Senate seat from Arkansas was expected to be a dramatic nail-biter.  Instead, Cotton bulldozed over Pryor, scion of that ~other~ Arkansas political dynasty, by seventeen points- a margin similar to Democrat Blanche Lambert Lincoln’s defeat in 2010 for Arkansas’s other Senate seat.  Cotton, a 6’5″ Iraq war veteran with two Ivy League degrees also presents a compelling personal narrative, and would protect Jeb Bush from discontent from the Republican Party’s increasingly conservative base.  The man oozes the conservative definition of patriotism, even campaigning for his Senate seat in a camouflage-colored bus.    In a way, he hearkens to an earlier time when an Ivy League education and military service often went hand in hand (a worldview that John Kerry, a man Cotton might view as an enemy, encapsulated.)   Called a “conservative superstar” by The Atlantic, Astonishingly, you’d have a GOP ticket susceptible to charges of being “too cerebral” (a criticism that was never an issue with George W. or Sarah Palin on the ballot.)  This doesn’t work in it’s favor- Cotton is also a hard-edged ideological conservative- more than anyone else on this list actually- and his devotion to Heritage Foundation dogma has lead him to take academic, but still troubling, stances.  As the Atlantic article notes, “Cotton also was the only Arkansan to vote for a budget drafted by the Republican Study Committee that would slash spending, voucherize Medicare, and raise the eligibility age for Social Security to 70.” Elsewhere, his on record saying that the Founders were wise to limit democracy.  Including in Senate races like the one Cotton prevailed in just a few months ago.

9.  Todd Platts: Chances are, you probably have never heard of Congressman Platts.  He is now a judge on the York County Court of Common Pleas.  That may seem like a resume that’s not exactly vice-presidential, but for twelve years, he represented a congressional district in south-central Pennsylvania.  He left in 2013, wanting to spend more time with his family (and this appears to be genuine; I know everybody else says it for other reasons, but with Platts, this is probably true) and because he supports term limits.  Platts stands out for his everyman appeal.  He commuted three and a half hours most days Congress was in session to help give his family a steadier life in PA.  Consistently, Platts has stood for good governance over ideological conservatism, a stance which is typified by his love of films like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  Like many Republicans, he voted for war in Iraq and in favor of offshore drilling, but also took less popular stands within his own party, favoring McCain-Feingold campaign reform and voting to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  When he left Congress, a Democrat colleague told him “I just want to thank you for your friendship and your leadership. You have approached issues with judicious analysis. You have avoided strident headlines. You’ve avoided bitter partisanship, and I think you are a model that many could learn from.”  In all, he is a Main Street Republican (that is, a relative moderate), which may or may not be what Jeb needs.  That means forfeiting tea party zeal in an attempt to win over middle American voters in a tough election against a formidable opponent.  Now, I don’t actually think Todd Russell Platts is the ninth most likely Republican running mate.  But someone like him might be just the shot in the arm Jeb needs.  The buzz from picking this relatively humble and unassuming man currently serving as judge on a low-level court and tapping him for the vice presidency has a kind of Cincinnatus feel, and could be an unexpected game-changer.

10.  Rob Portman:  I originally had Condi Rice listed as #10 before crossing her off.  Too tied to the George W. Bush administration, and despite her calm, her intelligence, and her foreign policy credentials, it is just too big a risk to run with someone who has never once run for political office before.    Instead, what about Ohio senator Rob Portman?  Here’s why.  You get economic heft; Portman was the head of the Office of Management and Budget during the Bush 43 administration, and was part of the ill-fated supercommittee that attempted, without success, to resolve a budget impasse a few years ago.  You also have debating chops; Portman is routinely chosen to play the Democrat when Republican candidates prepare for debate.  He is credited with being able to anticipate and articulate Democratic talking points well, while eerily channeling Obama, Edwards and other figures.   But Rob Portman offers two other strong advantages.  Firstly, he is, like Kasich, a popular figure in all-important Ohio.  Secondly, he became one of the first GOP senators to endorse same-sex marriage, on account of his son, who identifies as gay.  Same sex marriage is a losing battle for the GOP, and the possibility of a Supreme Court decision making it legal across the country makes hardline opposition even more untenable, especially as it continues to poll ever more favorably.  Portman offers you a way out- and it is virtually the only issue where he departs from conservative orthodoxy.  Even better, you get to frame his departure as one of family values- what is more honorable than sticking up for your son at the expense of the party line?   On the other hand, you get some baggage as well- being George W. Bush’s OMB guy may not communicate economic prowess, given that this team was dumb enough to cut taxes during a protracted and expensive war.  Portman is also a poor choice if populism becomes an issue, and if Hillary picks a barnburner like fellow Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, he could be in real trouble.  Like #3 and #7 on my list, Portman will be placed in the awkward position of running for a Senate re-election and the vice-presidency at the same time.

Five honorable mentions: former Secretary of State Condi Rice, South Dakota senator Jon Thune, former Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuno, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

What do you think?  Did I miss anyone?

One of my first major posts on this blog was “My Annual Complaint“, back in September, 2013.  I was still hella pissed off at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for refusing to induct some no-brianer acts, so I listed 100 artists who should be enshrined in Cleveland.

Since that post, we’ve had the classes of 2014 and 2015 nominated, and their inductees announced.  Eight of my one hundred have either been inducted already or are scheduled for induction later in 2015: Peter Gabriel, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt, Hall and Oates, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Bill Withers, Cat Stevens, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  (And I would have included Green Day as well if they had been eligible when I first made that list.)  Others received nominations for the first time, even if they ultimately did not get in.  The Zombies, Sting, The Smiths, and Yes fall into that category.

So, I am happy to give credit where credit is due.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is slowly improving and including some more popular artists and longtime snubs.  Granted, it was not as quickly as I’d like- and it was frustrating to see artists on Rolling Stone magazine’s buddy list- Jett, Reed, Green Day- get in before artists who deserve it more.  But Stevie Ray, Hall and Oates, Cat, and others are the kind of acts that should have been in years ago.  And since then, my knowledge and appreciation of music history has been helped wonderfully by participating in the Future Rock Legends site.  Entire new genres have opened up for me, and Rock Hall choices that seemed sketchy to me once now make a certain amount of sense.  Not all (I still think Laura Nyro, Del Shannon, Percy Sledge, and Paul Butterfield Blues Band are bad choices.)  But the important thing is that I don’t hate the Hall now, although I study it partly because it is so fascinatingly flawed and at odds with rock and roll’s populist mentality.  As I tried to show with my ‘Pick your own Rock Hall’ project, it is very tough to narrow down the list to what is now 198 artists inducted, even though it might not seem that way.

So here, I present my renewed list of 100 artists who I think should be the next ones in.  They cover a wide range of genres that I consider to be descendants of 1950s rock and roll (so this includes rap, electronic, disco, R&B, some metal and punk, folk, and of course, British Invasion and Classic Rock).  Artists who veered too far (Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Johnny Coltrane) were left off.  I’ve tried to balance my preferences with an objective view, but wasn’t always successful.  As much as I can understand a historical case for Joy Divison or Roxy Music, they both sound terrible to me.  And thus, I left both off.  So, here is my new list of the next 100 eligible artists I think should be in the hall, in rough order of worthiness.  Again- giving credit where credit is due- artists who have been nominated before, but remain uninducted, are noted with an asterisk.

  1. Chicago
  2.  Kraftwerk (*)
  3.  Janet Jackson
  4.  Carole King (*)
  5.  Moody Blues
  6.  NWA (*)
  7.  Chic (*)
  8.  Deep Purple (*)
  9.  Weird Al Yankovic
  10.  Steve Miller Band
  11.  The Spinners (*)
  12.  Dire Straits
  13.  Iron Maiden
  14.  The Cure (*)
  15.  Indigo Girls
  16.  Doobie Brothers
  17.  Jimmy Buffett
  18.  Peter, Paul and Mary
  19.  Whitney Houston
  20.  War (*)
  21. Jethro Tull
  22. Nine Inch Nails (*)
  23.  Pat Benatar
  24.  Joan Baez
  25.  The Monkees
  26. Dionne Warwick
  27.  The B-52s
  28.  Rufus and Chaka Khan (*)
  29.  Duran Duran
  30.  Carly Simon
  31.  Lenny Kravitz
  32.  L.L. Cool J (*)
  33.  Joe Cocker
  34. Supertramp
  35. Kate Bush
  36. The Zombies (*)
  37. Sting (solo artist) (*)
  38. Journey
  39.  Lionel Richie
  40.  The Chi-Lites
  41.  Dead Kennedys
  42.  Electric Light Orchestra
  43.  The Smiths (*)
  44.  De La Soul
  45.  Emerson, Lake and Palmer
  46.  Brian Eno
  47.  Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine
  48.  Bon Jovi (*)
  49.  The Stylistics
  50.  Judas Priest
  51.  The Guess Who
  52.  The Eurythmics
  53.  Sonic Youth
  54.  The Pixies
  55.  King Crimson
  56. Cheap Trick
  57. Todd Rundgren
  58.  Gin Blossoms
  59.  Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  60.  Three Dog Night
  61.  Melissa Ethridge
  62.  Cyndi Lauper
  63.  Larry Williams
  64.  Depeche Mode
  65.  Phil Collins (as a solo artist)
  66.  Paul Revere and the Raiders
  67.  Devo
  68.  Dan Fogelberg
  69.  Tina Turner
  70.  Bjork
  71.  T. Rex
  72.  Brian Eno
  73.  Yes (*)
  74.  Phish
  75.  Edgar Winter Group
  76.  Barry White
  77.  Gerry & the Pacemakers
  78.  Boston
  79.  Steve Winwood/Spencer Davis Group (*)
  80.  Jim Croce
  81.  Black Flag
  82.  Salt N Pepa
  83.  Fugazi
  84.  Fairport Convention
  85.  Soundgarden
  86.  Connie Francis
  87.  Jan and Dean
  88.  America
  89.  Mary Wells (*)
  90.  Meat Loaf
  91.  Afrika Bambaataa (*)
  92.  Gram Parsons/Flying Burrito Brothers (*)
  93.  Dick Dale
  94.  Big Star
  95.  Johnny Winter
  96.  Peter Tosh
  97.  Johnny Burnette & the Rock and Roll Trio
  98.  DC Talk
  99. Suzanne Vega
  100.  Plastic People of the Universe

#4: James Monroe

bigmonroCategory: Super-Competent Administrators

Term in Office: 5th president, 1817-1825

Political Party: Democratic-Republican

Home State: Virginia

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, meet James Monroe.  Perhaps Hegel’s most famous idea was that of a thesis and an antithesis merging together to form a new paradigm, a synthesis.  This dialectic nicely describes the significance of James Monroe’s presidency.  He was able to temper the pragmatism and majesty of the Federalists with the simplicity and republican flavor of the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans.  The synthesis that emerged gave us, I am prepared to argue, the beginnings of an American national character.

This lofty placement- for Monroe usually hovers around #15 in most rankings- may be startling.  Designating James Monroe as our fourth greatest president probably raises eyebrows to the same levels as George H. W. Bush (#9 in my system), Grover Cleveland (#10), and John Tyler (#17).  Yet in my judgment, Monroe’s steady leadership, forward thinking, and ability to unify make him one of our ablest presidents, and certainly our ablest president to have not faced a major, Category-5 crisis in office.

James Monroe came from much the same cloth as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, the privileged world of Tidewater planters profiting from- with widely varying degrees of regret and reluctance- the institution of chattel slavery.  Originally, Monroe was a critic of the Constitution, believing it should allow for the direct election of U.S. senators and include a hefty bill of rights.  He mellowed over time, and became instead a committed Jefferson lieutenant, earning berths as a senator, and a Minister to France and to Great Britain.  To this day, he is the only president to have served in two separate cabinet offices, as Secretary of State for James Madison’s entire presidency, and briefly double-dipping as Secretary of War in a pinch.

Monroe benefitted from excellent timing.  When inaugurated as president in 1817, the fledging nation was engulfed in a spirit national pride after the successful conclusion of the War of 1812 (if your definition of successful is broad enough to mean ‘not disastrous’).  There was peace, a certain amount of prosperity (which would be compromised by the Panic of 1819), and only one functioning party left in the U.S.  The Federalists’ opposition to the war, their badly planned threat of secession at the Hartford Convention, and their perceived aristocratic pretensions made them dead men walking.  In 1816, Monroe faced only token opposition from an also-ran named Rufus King.  In 1820, in the midst of a financial panic mind you, he faced no opposition at all.  He would have been elected unanimously by the electoral college, except for one recalcitrant elector from New Hampshire who cast his vote for John Quincy Adams.

Speaking of the man, this would be a good time to discuss Monroe’s cabinet, which I believe to be the very best in United States history.  Monroe was confident enough in his own abilities, and cognizant enough of what he did not know, to incorporate men of the highest ability to run the nation’s sundry departments.  John Quincy Adams is often considered our most accomplished Secretary of State.  He appointed the talented but ambitious William Crawford to Treasury, where he could keep an eye on him. John Calhoun, counterintuitively a strong nationalist at this early stage of his carer, took the War Department, while lawyer extraordinaire and future Anti-Mason William Wirt took Attorney General duties.  Maybe you care less about the Early Republic than I do, but let me tell you, this is a sterling cabinet with top notch men in each group, expertly balanced by region, in an age where cabinet secretaries sometimes had more unwieldy portfolios than the president himself.  Although rarely seeking their advice outright, Monroe respected the authority he delegated to them, and sought public and private unanimity- a microcosm of his larger approach to governing the unwieldy nation in his charge.

The one thing that most people remember about Monroe’s presidency is his eponymous doctrine.    As a number of South American countries achieved independence, the question of just ~how~ independent they would be remained on the mind of every head of state.  An alliance of Russia, France, Prussia, and Austria devised a plan that would have put Bourbon princelings in charge of these newly independent states.  Great Britain objected, and the Monroe administration did as well.  The genius of the doctrine lay in avoiding a united front with Britain.  Instead, Monroe and Adams maintained that the era of European colonization in the western hemisphere had ended, and further attempts to colonize the Americas would be viewed as a hostile act.  It was bluster- directed as much to Britain as to the Bourbons- but it worked.  In the long run, the Monroe Doctrine allowed the United States to act more freely from European control, and it could even be viewed as a decision with salutary national security consequences.  Eventually, of course, the doctrine would be used to justify a number of imperialist policies, but those were decades away, and Monroe couldn’t have known it.

Monroe had plenty of other accomplishments, though.  In attempting to quell an insurrection, General Andrew Jackson exceeded his authority (nobody did this better than Jackson), and went on an incursion into Florida itself, even excuting a couple British subjects along the way.  Although mortified and angered by Jackson’s insubordination, Monroe turned lemons into lemonade at the advice of Calhoun.  The incident showed, the South Carolinian argued, that Spain was unable to protect Florida even from Jackson’s small band of frontier freebooters, and Spain sold East Florida to the U.S. for a song. In domestic affairs, Monroe’s even-handedness shined through.

Although much of the credit belongs to Clay, Monroe supported the Missouri Compromise which threatened to upset the delicate sectional balance.  As a result, as every schoolchild knows, slavery was banned north of the 33’30 line (and blessed south of it) within territories seeking to become states.  Unlike the more disastrous 1850 Compromise, this was a difficult agreement but ultimately achieved a certain measure of goodwill.  It didn’t expand slavery as such, but it did provide a workable arrangement by which slave states and free states could be kept in relative balance as the frontier moved westwards and states like Wisconsin or Alabama applied for statehood.

This is sometimes called the Era of Good Feelings, which is something of an exaggeration but isn’t untrue.  Monroe borrowed from the Federalists a desire to spur the United States’ economic development, and thus rejected more extreme Jeffersonian opposition to banks, internal improvements, and the like.  Yet he kept much of the Jeffersonian simplicity and economy of government as well.  Monroe brought back some Federalist institutions, such as the national tours that Washington and Adams embarked upon to allow Americans to see the president who might not otherwise.  But like Jefferson and Madison, he avoided some of the quasi-monarchial institutions of the 1790s like aristocratic levees and delivering State of the Union addresses to Congress personally.  (Every president from Jefferson on sent a clerk to read it until Woodrow Wilson.)   As a result of this middle way, Monroe had strikingly few enemies in an age of petty rivalries and code duello, allowing him to frame not a Federalist or Jeffersonian policy, and betray not a north or south, or coastal vs. frontier rivalry, but a common American identity at a time when it was most needed.  To be sure, this plan had its drawbacks as well.  While he didn’t have many opponents, neither did he have many ardent loyalists in Congress, and without party solidarity, internal divisions would soon rent the Democratic-Republicans.  In the 1824 election, four different Democratic-Republicans ran against one another- including two of Monroe’s own cabinet- and while John Quincy emerged bruised but victorious from the scuffle, the Era of Good Feelings didn’t outlast Monroe’s own presidency.

From all of this, we can take these individual policies and accomplishments and construct a larger picture.  Through the careful use of internal improvements, a foreign policy that allowed for greater American, and indeed, West-hemisphere independence, and by avoiding taking sides unnecessary, Monroe helped to foster a stronger national character.  We may take American nationhood for granted today, but keep in mind that in those days, few Americans traveled far beyond their homes, and provincialism reigned.  Many privileged their state identity over their national identity.  Monroe’s conspicuous public tours, his refusal to be a flunky for the South or any other region, and his aversion of partisan rancor all contributed to a stronger and more cohesive American self-understanding in the early stages of the age of nationalism, as the young nation was also developing its own literary, musical, and cultural milieus.  When we look at why the concept of union was so important fifty years after he took office, Monroe helped to foster that very sense of union- the idea of the United States as a cogent nation, and not the loose, scattershot confederation of states it had often been in the early republic.

Such a world could not last for long, however, and in more than one ways, Monroe was the end of a dying breed, or “The Last of the Cocked Hats” as one early biography put it.  He was the last true Founding Father to serve as president, as well as the last real veteran of the Revolutionary War.  (Yes, I know Jackson was involved too, but he was a mere stripling at the time, and did little more than sass British officers and get himself captured.)  He was the last plantation owner to be elected president without at least some pretense toward populism or Log Cabin-and-Hard-Cider imagery.  (John Tyler fit that genteel mold as well, but he was, if you will remember from my piece on him, both an accidental president and a walking anachronism even in the 1840s.)  And he was the last president who could credibly maintain the visage of non-partisanship.

Although James Monroe was probably the dimmest bulb of our first six presidents, perhaps he demonstrates that while genius is nice, it isn’t always a prerequisite for presidential greatness.  You may have figured out by now that Washington, Lincoln, and FDR are my top three presidents (although I won’t tell you what order yet.)  As much as I value intellect, it is worth noting that of my top five presidents, three never attended university for a single day, and the other two- FDR and Monroe- were cases of ‘second class intellect, first class temperament.’  In a way, his studied, unrelenting blandness and the lack of any good anecdotes about him ended up as crucial integrants to his success.  As a more or less unhate-able figure, he ushered many Americans out of regionalism and into a greater national consciousness.  So many of our greatest presidents are considered great by how they handled crises- sometimes avoidable crises that were partly of their own making.  Monroe looked ahead, and especially through the Doctrine that bears his name and the Compromise of 1820, tried to prevent potential disasters before they happened.  That is pretty rare- both then and now.  While many great presidents had great crisis management skills, perhaps we should elevate Monroe to the higher echelons for singular crisis aversion.

It’s in!  The days when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announce their slate of nominees, and then their list of inductees from that list are two highlights of the year, like holy days of obligation in my own personal liturgical calendar.  Some of the criticism thrown the Rock Hall’s way is at least partially valid (although a disturbing amount of it frames rock and roll in ways that suggest an exclusively white and male province).  I still think that, in its own corporate, closed-door kind of way, it is a worthy institution trying its best to appraise a very populist and highly subjective form of music that defies- and indeed, urinates on- critical appraisal.

Today, we know who will be entering its 2015 class, now that the votes have been tabulated from the hundreds of eligible voters- a group that includes many critics, record company folk, and all previous inductees.  Inducted as performers are: Green Day, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Bill Withers.  In the Musical Excellence category is Ringo Starr, and as a rare Early Influence inductee, The 5 Royales.

My thoughts?  Not bad!  I like this class a lot out of the 15 nominees we had to work with.  Even though two out of the three acts that I didn’t think deserved induction got in (PBBB and Lou Reed), I still don’t feel ripped off.  Even if I don’t listen to them often, Reed and PBBB were consummate musicians who pushed boundaries and honed their craft. I’d much rather see them get in over, say, Def Leppard.  I was worried about an all-male class.  It didn’t happen, thanks to Joan Jett. I was worried about an all-white class.  It didn’t happen, thanks to Withers and the multi-racial PBBB.  My favorite artist in the bunch, Bill Withers got in.  The 2014 class was a favorite of mine, with three artists I really like (Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, Peter Gabriel), and two I respect (Hall and Oates and Nirvana).  I’m not quite as enamored with this group on a personal or autobiographical level, but it is still much better than the awful classes we had in 2009 and 2012.  I would have liked to see Kraftwerk and the Spinners in lieu of Lou Reed and Paul Butterfield, but that’s life.

Green Day and Stevie Ray were givens; almost everybody who bothered to make predictions slated those two in.  Lou Reed’s recent death gave him, perhaps, a sympathy vote that got him over the hump after his unsuccessful nominations in 2000 and 2001, as many expected.  Joan Jett was helped not only by her strong credentials, and her workmanship, but also by a ballot lacking in guitar heroes and women.  Once again, the trend for singer-songwriters to get in every year continues; this time it was Withers (and arguably Lou Reed, although Reed defies easy categorization.)  The biggest surprise for me was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  In fact, the astute reader will remember I had them pegged as dead last, in both worthiness and in likelihood of induction.  Shows you what I know.  I am thoroughly puzzled as to how they managed to place in the top 6 in official voting- especially with a better, cooler blues act on the ballot in the form of Vaughan and Double Trouble.  But then, they polled in the top 5 on the non-binding fan poll, and clearly, they have their advocates.  I like them well enough, but they just don’t have enough fame to be in a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’d suspect that voting was rigged, except that if it was, NWA and Chic- two other perennial candidates- would have gotten in a long time ago.  Ah well- at least they won’t clog up valuable space on the ballot next year.

Surprised that NWA and Nine Inch Nails didn’t get in.  NIN finished second in the Rock Hall’s fan poll.  They have wider respectability and critical acclaim than Green Day and if the voting totals were made public, it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had gotten more votes than Green Day, although that evidently didn’t happen.  And of course, great TV would have been made from Ohioan Trent Reznor getting inducted on home turf.  NWA had the table set for them- with no other rap acts, a Straight Outta Compton film on the way, and a set of domestic crises that pumped new blood in the manifesto “F— the Police”.  And they still didn’t get in.  Worse, the clock is ticking for them, because a veritable deluge of rap inductees is just a few years away, courtesy of Tupac, Biggie, Sean/Puffy Combs, and eventually Eminem.  Poor Chic- they were rejected by voters for the NINTH time.  War, The Spinners, and the Marvelettes join the ranks of twice-nominated, twice-declined nominees.  And The Smiths continue the bizarre trend of alt-rock or ur-alternative or post-punk bands not getting in, keeping company with The Cure and The Replacements.

One final thought about the six performers.  This class, while relatively strong, failed the “Mom Test”.  I’m at home on break from teaching in Singapore, so when I told my mother who got in, she didn’t recognize a single.artist.inducted.  Every other year, at least ~someone~ would have rung a bell.  Not this time.  She recognized some songs Bill Withers did, but never knew Withers by name.  So it goes.  This class has two artists who peaked in the 80s (Jett and Vaughan), one who peaked from the 90s to the early Naughts (Green Day), a semi-obscure 60s band (PBBB), a guy who wrote household songs without ever becoming a household name (Withers), and a guy whose music was often a little too weird for prime time (Reed.)  A far cry from last year, a deeply 70s-centric class, where every performer inducted passed the Mom Test.

And then we have our other two inductees in the auxiliary categories.  Ringo Starr for Musical Excellence, eh?  I love Ringo.  The day I shook hands with him at a 1995 All-Starr concert and the day I got his autograph in the mail after writing a fan letter remain two of the best days of my entire life.  It just seems a bit like a gimmick for higher ratings- and to make The Beatles the second band (after CSN) where every member is a double inductee.  You can make a case for Ringo’s career as a sideman for people like Harry Nilsson, Peter Frampton, and various solo Beatles- or for him fundamentally challenging the role that a drummer played in a rock ensemble, or for inspiring lots of great drummers to begin playing.  It might not be the strongest case, but it can be made.  Still, I’m surprised that whoever decides these things didn’t just throw in the towel, and give this to Nile Rodgers.

The Early Influence category got dusted off this year for the “5” Royales.  Now, in some corners of the web, pundits are irritated, because the 5 Royales were nominated as a performer before, and some of their best work came out in the mid-50s as contemporaries to actual inductees like The Flamingos or Ray Charles.  So, calling them an ‘Early Influence’ seems like a confusing anachronism.  It reminds people of similar ‘back-door’ Early Influence inductions for rock-contemporaries like Freddie King and Wanda Jackson a few years ago.  Whatever.  There aren’t very many 50s artists left who could succeed on a modern-day ballot which by necessity would include strong candidates like from the 70s, 80s, and now the 90s.  Too many voters were born long after their star had come and gone.  So, the Early Influence nod doesn’t bother me, and as a collaborator in what rock and roll became, the 5 Royales certainly deserve it.

Now, the only real drama left involves the ceremony in (I think) April.  A few thoughts on that:

  • As fellow Rock Hall guy Donnie noted, there’s lots of posthumous absences from the ceremony, especially for a class weighted so heavily on the 80s and 90s.  Stevie Ray is gone, Lou Reed died last year, and Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield are gone, as are all of the original 5 Royales.
  • Will Bill Withers show up?  He damn well better.  He’s 76 and hasn’t performed in decades; in a recent Rolling Stone interview conducted in the last couple days, he couldn’t even remember ~which~ decade he last performed in.  He’s probably concerned about his singing voice, atrophied from disuse and age, and as Questlove has noted, he’s also concerned about having been forgotten, remembering a late 70s gig in a Chicago blizzard where only a handful of fans showed up.  Hopefully, the 2015 ceremony will be an almost cinematic experience that shows Bill that he still most definitely has an audience.  I’m hoping for a duet with John Legend on “Just the Two of Us.”
  • Lots of other great moments could happen.  Look for high-caliber names to sub for Lou Reed and Stevie Ray at the ceremony.  Clapton and Buddy Guy have been floated as possibilities for Vaughan; I’d love to see SRV’s one-time collaborator Dick Dale deputize for him, which could lead to Dale’s own fully-deserved nomination next year.
  • Will Ringo perform?  I’m not sure if Musical Excellence nominees do.

Last year, the interminable, almost half-hour long acceptance speech by the various members of the E-Street Band meant that we didn’t get to see the traditional jam session at the end of the ceremony.  If they bring it back, it would be great to see them end with either Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” or Starr’s calling-card with The Beatles, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

A couple other considerations– who benefits from this group of inductees?  Unbelievably, two blues-rock outfits got in this year, so that’s probably good news for the presumptive next guy in line, Johnny Winter.  Imagine a Winter induction in 2016 with his brother Edgar paying tribute.  Won’t be a dry eye in the house.  Jett was the woman the Nom Com wanted inducted most, so who is next in that queue?  Janet Jackson and Kate Bush are the first two names that come to mind, with maybe Pat Benatar further down the line.  I also think Carole King deserves it, but her induction as a non-performer (ostensibly for her early 60s songwriting) probably means she isn’t a priority, since she’s already been honored in some form.  Bill Withers and Lou Reed’s inductions further winnows the field of 70s singer-songwriters, leaving us maybe…Warren Zevon?  Todd Rundgren?  The aforementioned Harry Nilsson?  Or is that category effectively dried out?

#38: Richard M. Nixon

bignixon Category: It’s Really Complicated

Term in Office: 37th president, 1969-1974

Political Party: Republican

Home State: California

“As long as Nixon was politically alive- and he was, all the way to the end- we could always be certain of finding the enemy on the low road.  There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard.  He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds.  The badger will roll over and emit the smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action.  But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and the tearing.  It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.”

I do not often find myself reading Hunter S. Thompson, let alone agreeing with him, but the Gonzo journalist’s 1994 obituary of Nixon written in The Atlantic is spot on.  What makes Richard Nixon so starkly contemptible, such a terrible, bottom-of-the-barrel president, is his determination to set Americans against one another and create an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and rancor that continues to poison the well of American civil discourse to this day.

Now, Nixon didn’t create the tensions in America on the eve of his election to be sure.  Identity politics people vs. cultural traditionalists, war protestors vs. old fashioned patriots who didn’t quite grasp the problem of Vietnam, poor minorities in cities vs. affluent whites in the suburbs who couldn’t understand one another; each of these contests had far deeper roots.   But he sure did his best to exacerbate these internal conflicts for his own political advancement.  We needed a healer after ’68, and we got an instigator instead.

Maybe the best example of this took place in 1970, when he smilingly accepted a hard hat from a group of violent NYC construction workers who spent their lunchtime one May afternoon beating up war protestors and threatening City Hall to raise the flag they had lowered in commemoration of the four young people whom the National Guard killed at Kent State.  It was a masterstroke.  He then used this leverage to make unprecedented Republican inroads into working-class white Americans in 1972, blowing up the New Deal Coalition in the process.  But Nixon’s Machiavellian instincts didn’t apply just to the big picture, because it was also so very, very personal.  Nixon, biographer Rick Perlstein writes, was “a serial collector of resentments”, accumulating and listing and ranking everyone who crossed him, plotting revenge in isolation in the Oval Office on his yellow legal pads.  (Indeed, one of the best profiles on the Nixon presidency is tellingly titled “Alone in the White House.”).  The targets ranged from opposition senators to critical journalists to activist celebrities like Robert Redford and John Lennon, and to this day, many old Hollywood folk consider their place on Nixon’s vaunted Enemies List a mark of honor.

Nixon’s presidency persistently attempted to conflate opponents as enemies, dissent as subversion, and social movements as social corrosion.  In it, he won over a lethargic Hee Haw-ingesting Middle America more concerned with “law and order” than, say, racism or endless war, flattering his supporters as a ‘Silent Majority’.  When Nixon talked about disruptive influences in American society, everyone with two brain cells to rub together knew he meant antiwar protestors marching on campus, feminists picketing Miss America, and Black Panthers resorting to vigilantism after years of abuse from police.  And he won over much of the burgeoning conservative movement, its true believers knowing in their hearts that Nixon wasn’t really one of them- but he made liberals so upset; how could they not love him?

How did we get here?  To figure this out, let’s trace out Nixon’s career in four stages:

Richard the First:  As a young congressman, Nixon quickly carved out a niche as a tough anti-communist crusader, avoiding McCarthyite excess, but playing a sly game of innuendo.  He prosecuted Alger Hiss, served as poster boy on the reckless and unaccountable HUAC, and pioneered a comprehensive playbook of dirty tricks to dispatch liberal opponents like Jerry Voorhis and Helen Gahagan Douglas.  Although harangued by cartoonists like Herblock for his gutter tactics, his youth, tenacity, and his popularity with the anti-communist crowd caught the eye of nominee-presumptive Dwight Eisenhower who offered Nixon- still in his thirties- the chance to be his running mate.  Accused by his opponents of harboring an illegal slush fund, and with Eisenhower ready to kick him off the ticket, Nixon pulled off the famous Checkers Speech on national television.  He craftily turned the tables, transforming the issue from a question of his integrity into elitist accusations against him, including an attempt to confiscate his children’s dog, a gift from a donor.  It was pure bathos (and other words beginning with the letter ‘B’), but it worked.  The corn pone, the ingenious but manipulative framing of the scandal as elitists vs. ordinary people like Nixon, set the table for his career to come.  Thousands wrote in, demanding Eisenhower keep this beleaguered man on the ticket.

Richard the Second: Once installed as vice-president, Nixon began a somewhat salutary metamorphosis.  He and Walter Mondale deserve credit as the two men who transformed the vice-presidency from a cipher, the constitutional equivalent of an appendix or a wisdom tooth, into a useful office, defined and empowered by its very lack of definition and portfolio.  Nixon thrived as a utility man and shameless lickspittle for Dwight Eisenhower.  He behaved with dignity, even when harangued and pelted with eggs by anti-American protesters on a state visit to Venezuela.  He impressively outdueled Nikita Khrushchev in an impromptu debate over consumer goods, defending the market economy.  And he did as he was told, patiently waiting his turn.  As a presidential candidate in 1960, he ran almost nobly, dutifully visiting all fifty states and refusing to use John Kennedy’s Roman Catholicism against him, even turning down Billy Graham’s offer of a public endorsement.  And after turning a new leaf- he still lost, under somewhat suspicious circumstances in a close race.  Nixon didn’t forget that he might have been robbed, nor did he forget the journalists who seemed to give the charming Kennedy, with his undistinguished record, a free pass at every turn.  Two years later, after another hard contest, he lost again in the California governor’s race. In both cases, he tried to play fair, he tried to be the better man, and it didn’t work.  In a hissy fit at a post-election press conference, a surly and irate Nixon reamed into newspapermen he felt had not been fair to him, and rancorously announced his retirement, telling the press that they ‘won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.’

Richard the Third: Enter Nixon’s next regeneration as a loyal party man.  Knowing full well that Barry Goldwater would lose in 1964, Nixon played the role of the good soldier, campaigning on his behalf and making appearances for Republican candidates across the country, doing the same during the 1966 midterms, a sunnier time for Republicans.  By doing this, nearly every Republican in office owed Nixon a favor or two, creating an invaluable reservoir of goodwill in order to secure the nomination from a too-liberal Nelson Rockefeller and a too-conservative-for-that-era, not-ready-for-prime-time Ronald Reagan in 1968.  During these years, Nixon found the Secret Sauce for that elusive Republican victory- tear into the Democratic coalition, taking aim directly at Southerners, ready to abandon the Democrats for the first time in living memory after the Civil Rights Act, and working-class voters, who may have been economic populists, but whose cultural conservatism made their traditional Democratic loyalties shaky.  The Democrats, he found, could be framed not as the party of the ‘little guy’, but the party of the effete academic, the overprivileged bra burner, the unshaven picketer who needed a bath- and maybe a conscription notice.

Which brings us to Richard the Fourth, or President Nixon.  Where do we begin?  He attempted to put Harrold Carswell and Clement Haynesworth, two judges with segregationist records and unspectacular intellect, to the Supreme Court for no other apparent reason than to piss off liberals.  Similarly, he picked his first vice-president, Spiro Agnew, to bait his enemies as well, putting an ethically-challenged half-term governor who loved bashing leftists under the guise of patriotism (sounding like a certain Alaskan?) the proverbial one heartbeat away.  Indeed, many in Washington considered Agnew’s presence ‘impeachment insurance’- nobody would dare topple Nixon knowing Agnew was the alternative.

Besides that, Nixon’s outright crimes in office are prolific.  Here’s just a small sample.  Nixon may have sabotaged the Paris Peace Talks as a candidate.  He illegally expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia.  He ordered a break-in into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, hoping to find a way to damage the credibility of the journalist who made the damning Pentagon Papers public.  He used the CIA to topple the democratically elected Socialist, Salvador Allende, in Chile, paving the way for the brutal but ITT-friendly Augusto Pinochet.  When George Wallace was shot in 1972, his first instinct was not to visit or comfort the stricken governor, but to send operatives to plant McGovern literature in his assailant’s apartment.

And, of course, there was Watergate- both the break-in, and the subsequent cover-up, the Saturday Night Massacre, the weaponization of the Justice Department (which continues to this day), the damning tapes (and the equally damning absences therein), and a fishy pardon from his successor, which meant Nixon never answered for his crimes to any authority greater than David Frost.  It was the IMAX, high-resolution, surround-sound collapse of American trust in their government.

Now, some of you might think I’m being too hard on Nixon.  There’s a case to be made that Nixon was an effective pragmatist with some very real accomplishments, a point Joan Hoff makes in 1994’s Nixon Reconsidered.  Surely, this argument goes, the man who signed the Clean Air Act, validated the EPA, presided over record school desegregation, ended the draft could have been all bad.

Others may point to his successes in the field of foreign relations, presiding over a period of detente with the Soviet Union, and achieving a signal accomplishment in opening relations with China.  Again, I call this into question.  Consider this- suppose a President Humphrey decided to visit China in 1972.  Wouldn’t every major conservative Republican- perhaps egged on by private citizen Nixon- have decried Humphrey as a sell-out to international communism and a traitor to a loyal ally like Taiwan?  Nixon should not, in my opinion, get credit when he created a scenario in global relations where only someone like Nixon- whose anti-communist credentials were unquestioned- could have succeeded.

Consider for a moment that almost any of Nixon’s domestic triumphs would have happened under any Democrat and any Republican opponent sans Reagan.  Nixon didn’t come up with any innovative new bills; at best he dutifully signed what a relatively liberal Congress gave him.  It also pisses me off that he denied us two potentially extraordinary presidents.  Hubert Humphrey had a passion for justice and equality that could have done great things on a presidential level where he was no longer obligated to carry water for an LBJ bent on humiliating him.  And he had executive chops from his time as mayor of Minneapolis and four years in the White House as veep to understand its innermost workings.  George McGovern, if given the bully pulpit, might have forged an America that led by the power of its example, rather than the example of its power.  Confucians believe that a leader’s virtue emanates  throughout the rest of society.  If that is true, it would have been a welcome change for McGovern’s concern for the marginalized and his hatred of all things mean-spirited to inspire Baby Boomers to commit to eliminating poverty and checking the military-industrial complex. (Although, given McGovern’s distaste for, and borderline-incompetence in, executive power, he would have needed some help, perhaps by making someone like Ramsay Clark his chief of staff).  But even if you are skeptical about Humphrey or McGovern, it’s not difficult to see lots of potentially strong Republican presidencies that could have taken his place: George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, Mark Hatfield, or Charles Percy.  Nixon does very badly indeed if we evaluate him on my Value-Over-Replacement-Player theory.

Ultimately, the Confucian concept of leadership permeating throughout society wins out.  It’s not just that Nixon was an evil, conniving, scheming crook- he made Americans as a whole less generous and tolerant, more intent on viewing the government as a corrupt ‘them’ rather than a collaborative ‘us’.  Anyone can be a bad president, but it takes an exceptionally sinister president to dial the entire country’s character down several notches.  I have spent countless hours talking about the 1970s with those who were there, and when almost every single one of them still speaks of Watergate, 40 years later, as a deeply traumatic experience, the beginning of their disillusionment with Washington in particular and America in general, we have a problem.  Such widespread cynicism and disillusionment should not result in a merely ‘below average’ presidency, where Nixon is usually placed.

Whenever somebody successfully uses racialized code words and gets away with it, the spirit of Nixon is alive.  Whenever someone unfriends somebody of a different political affiliation on Facebook, the spirit of Nixon is alive.  Whenever we decide its easier to undermine an opponent rather than dialogue with them, the spirit of Nixon is alive.  Whether under the guise of Lee Atwater and his turgid revolving door ad, Karl Rove’s villainy, the majority of whites who aren’t troubled by Ferguson, or the Fox viewers who thought Trayvon had it coming, Nixon’s shadow, as David Greenberg calls it, is projected once more upon the American backdrop.  Small wonder that Rick Perlstein ends his 700-page tome on Tricky with the depressing conclusion that we are still living in a dystopic and distrustful Nixonland.

And its a shame, because out of all the people he cheated and slandered and lied to, he perhaps cheated no one more than himself.  A man of his keen intelligence and memory, his rugged determination to overcome his humble origins and be someone special, his legendary embrace of hard work, and his strong pragmatic streak that belied any steel-cut ideology are all traits that could have lent themselves to considerable success.  Nixon, with a functional moral compass and a more noble spirit, might have been a very good president.  And that’s that.  With #38 out of the way, I regret to say that I don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.

In Part One of this series, I ran through my cursory thoughts on the ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2015.  There were fifteen artists on it, and a collection of rock music journalists, record executives, businessmen, and, of course, all living inductees, will soon receive their ballots.  Some will post their choices on instagram.  Most will keep their ballots secret.  But collectively, they will have an opportunity to vote for the inductees who will be formally enshrined in the spring of the coming year.  In this second and final segment, I will run down the 15 nominees, detailing my personal preferences (e.g. how much I like ‘em), their worthiness of induction, and their likelihood of induction.  These are just my own opinions- I hope they are informed opinions, but it is hard for any music fan to check his or her inclinations and preferences at the door.  In doing it this way, I am borrowing quite a bit from Philip over at Rock Hall Monitors.  I’m sure he will post his own rundown soon, so be sure to check it out.

Let me also say that in spite of any forthcoming snark, this isn’t a bad ballot, and I think all but Paul Butterfield, The Marvelettes, and Lou Reed deserve to be inducted sooner or later.  If history is our guide, though, only five or six will, though, so let’s look at who is probably going to Cleveland this year.  Going in alphabetical order, using last names when possible:

Paul Butterfield Blues Band: (Personal Rank: 9, Worthiness: 15, Likelihood: 15)

I don’t have any quarrel with the PBBB.  Really, I don’t.  But by now, they’ve become Exhibit A in Rock Hall cronyism.  They would not enter into any serious consideration if an influential board member did not really like them- in this case, Jann Werner.  Yes, they played Woodstock.  Yes, they were at Monterrey.  Sure, they are a competent and uniquely multi-racial blues combo.  But if they didn’t really innovate and they didn’t really resonate with the wider public, I don’t think their musical proficiency is enough to carry them through.  There is also no way they will be inducted this year; if a blues artist is getting in, its SRV.  I rank them dead last in both worthiness and likelihood.

Chic: (Personal Rank: 8, Worthiness: 6, Likelihood: 8)

These disco mavens have now been nominated nine times.  Only one artist- Solomon Burke- has been nominated more often.  When I first started tentatively following the Rock Hall a few years ago, I dismissed Chic as a joke candidate, the Harold Stassen of rock and roll, if you’ll pardon a political reference.  They wore me down.  Disco created a vibrant, safe space for two historically disadvantaged communities, urban blacks and gay men, and the anti-disco crowd has always seemed to have a vague George Wallace air of menace to it.  I now see Chic as legitimate, worthy candidates, masters of disco production, and one of the most sampled groups of all time.  What I don’t see is how they can get in this year when they couldn’t last year.  In October, 2013, I’ll remind you, Nile Rodgers-produced “Get Lucky” was riding high on the charts.  One year later, Rodgers has a couple more Grammy awards, but other than that, their situation is unchanged.  Maybe Chic will succeed with a less competitive slate of nominees this year, maybe voters will just say ‘to hell with it’, vote them in, and spare us another decade of Chic clogging valuable space on the ballot.  On the other hand, public support for a Chic nomination is tanking: they are dead last in the Rock Hall’s fan poll, earning less than 1% of the vote.  Public support, though, doesn’t necessarily correlate to the preferences of those who receive ballots.  My spider-sense tells me they are right on the cusp.  It could go either way.

Green Day (Personal Rank: 6, Worthiness: 3, Likelihood: 1)

It will be shocking in the extreme if Green Day doesn’t get in.  Having been in middle-school in the 90s, I was there at exactly the right time to watch their impact.  I don’t think it is an understatement to call them a generation-defining group, one that uniquely spoke to suburban angst, and, initially their pop-punk approach brilliantly turned punk’s revolutionary DIY ethos inward.  In 2004, they came full circle and made an overtly political statement disguised as a rock opera, American Idiot, that lampooned the war effort when it was still borderline-dangerous for a mainstream artist to do so.  (Let’s contrast this with Neil Young, a shockingly opportunistic artist who made plenty of money off of ‘Let’s Roll’ when America was hungry for Taliban blood, and then turned around in 2006 with ‘Living With War’, criticizing Bush and our engagement in the Middle East when the public had already decisively turned against him and it.)  There are legitimate arguments for holding off a Green Day induction; some say 2015 seems way, way too early for a band with thrived in the late 90s and early 2000s.  But nobody spoke to the disillusionment and cynicism of their times better than they.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Personal Rank: 11, Worthiness: 10, Likelihood: 7)

Joan Jett is quickly on her way to becoming a perennial candidate.  She’s got her best chance yet this year, with only one other entirely-female artist, The Marvelettes, on the docket.  Happily for Jett, the most recent mental image we have of her is of her deputizing for the late Kurt Cobain and singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and playing its iconic guitar intro.  Arguably, she might also be the most “rock and roll” candidate on this list, a vague characterization to be sure, but I don’t see how anybody can challenge it.  She simply plays a brand of rock that cannot be hyphenated.  Add her status as an icon of kick-ass, rock-and-roll feminism and godmother to the riot grlls, and Jett could take off this year.  I’m still cleaving to an attitude toward the Blackhearts as “a bar band made good”, a lucky outfit that paid its dues, and I haven’t heard a convincing argument that Pat Benatar isn’t better.   But the Hall could certainly do worse than Joan Jett.  One of my students in Singapore was shocked when he heard that she wasn’t inducted yet- and who am I to argue?

Kraftwerk (Personal Rank: 7, Worthiness: 1, Likelihood: 12)

If you were asked ‘which body of music is under-represented in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’, you would probably say ‘prog’ or ‘metal’, right?  Nope.  It’s the massive, massive body of music by people who do not record in English.  Enter our synthetic Germanic overlords, Kraftwerk.  Ordinarily, you must understand, I can’t stand it when an artist is acclaimed to have “influence” but has no radio presence today on Oldies or Classic Rock radio, and no real hits to their name- if you didn’t resonate with the public at the time your music came out, how good can you be, really?  I’m making an epochal exception for Kraftwerk.  Their work with manipulating synthesizers to make all manners of sounds, create all manners of atmosphere, set the table for new wave, electronica, and, for that matter, any music that uses synthesizers today.  The website Not in the Hall of Fame ranks them as the second most worthy artist who isn’t in yet (Deep Purple is #1.)  They’ve been nominated before, and will probably be nominated again, because this likely won’t be their year- a quintessential love ‘em or hate ‘em artist, but a little weird and out there for some voters.

The Marvelettes (Personal Rank: 10, Worthiness: 14, Likelihood: 10)

Marvelettes fans will ask you: who was the first Motown act to have a #1 hit?  That’s not a legacy.  That’s the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question.  They had one major hit, a handful of minor hits, and quickly got plowed over by a Diana Ross-driven steamroller, and were subsequently trampled by the high heels of Aretha, Dusty, Gladys, Ronnie Ronette, and Martha.  It’s hard to make a case for them when commercially and artistically, every one of their latter-day rivals endured, thrived, and aged better than they.  If they demonstrably influenced them to a greater degree, I’d be less of an ass about it, but every worthy Motown act has been in for years, with the possible exception of Mary Wells.  I still think they have an outside chance of getting voted in, though.  The lack of women this year helps.  But- let’s say you are Smokey Robinson, heating one of the microwavable soul-food canisters bearing your name and image in your kitchen, and the titular postman slides this year’s Rock Hall ballot under your door.  Who do you vote for?  Easy- The Marvelettes and four other artists.  I’d imagine, old rivalries aside, most of the surviving Motown and doo-wop artists will do the same.  Now, imagine you are Paul McCartney, or the Dave Clark Five’s bassist, or The Hollies’ drummer or something, and you get the ballot.  Chances are, you remember the 60s girl groups fondly, and in a fit of nostalgia, check the box next to their name.  This adds up to a pretty sizable number of votes, right?

Nine Inch Nails (Personal Rank: 15, Worthiness: 5, Likelihood: 4)

We could end up in a scenario where a ‘band’ is inducted with only one member: multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor.  Reznor’s role in fostering the genre of industrial music makes him a pioneer in the field- it just happens to be a field I do not like very much, and would not listen to if other options were available.  Anyway- inventive, experimental, and yet enjoying a sizable fan base– Nine Inch Nails is the sort of act that is high on influence and visibility within the music industry, but it didn’t necessarily resonate outside of its fan base.  Still, Nine Inch Nails has two things going for it: they are at this time leading in the Rock Hall’s fan poll, and since they inaugurated the poll two years ago, its winner has heretofore always gotten in.  The second factor is good television: Reznor is a Northeast Ohio boy, and given that the ceremonies are in Cleveland this year, the hometown crowd will be in his corner.

NWA (Personal Rank: 13, Worthiness: 2, Likelihood: 3)

For the third year in a row, NWA is nominated.  I think this is finally their year, for a number of reasons.  Questlove openly boasted something along the lines of “Next year it’ll be NWA on stage,” during last year’s induction ceremony.  More substantively, the Nom Com cleared the deck of not only any other rap groups, but any hip-hop either, avoiding scenarios where they split votes with Public Enemy in 2013 and L.L. Cool J in 2014.  For better or worse, though, the fate of rap groups is tied to the current news cycle.  Last year, “The Accidental Racist” torpedoed Cool J’s chances (while also giving me a great example to draw from when I teach about false equivalences in my history seminars.)  This year, the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri has given NWA new relevance, as this article at The Daily Beast aptly demonstrates.  “F— The Police” will be a powerful sentiment after Michael Brown’s death, and one that I suspect Rock Hall voters who are not at all inclined to side with the police will follow.

Lou Reed (Personal Rank: 12, Worthiness: 13, Likelihood: 5)

Many of the less informed voices in the community lambasted the Nom Com for only nominating Lou Reed after he was dead.  Dudes, they nominated him twice while he was alive- it you have a bone to pick, its with the body of Rock Hall voters!  Reed is probably going to be the annual headache the Rock Hall gives me, where they induct an artist I loath (see KISS in 2014, and Rush in 2013).  I find Reed’s music drugged up, wildly inconsistent, and credible only because of stores of adoration he hoarded by hanging out with Andy Warhol back in the 60s.  He’s the quintessential ‘right-place, right-time’ guy, and his surly attitude and propensity for making enemies do not redound well on one of the luckiest men of the 1960s and 70s.  He’ll probably get in, since death or severe illness often tips the balance, but I don’t have to like it.

The Smiths (Personal Rank: 14, Worthiness: 7, Likelihood: 11)

One recent take on the Rock Hall put it best: “The Smiths remain shorthand for ‘I was a teenage outcast’.”  I gave them a good listen in preparation for writing this post, and I do not like them any more than I did before– too mopey for my tastes, although I appreciate their significance.  My opinion, though, has no bearing on their likelihood: their name generated some buzz and some enthusiasm amid the lackluster 3rd and 4th nominations of most people on this list, and Morrissey’s skill as a lyricist for Generation X is formidable.   While I think they should, and they will, be inducted eventually, I am bearish about their chances this year.  Few artists with their profile have gotten in on their first try- other “lead-up to alternative music” choices like The Replacements and The Cure similarly fell short in recent years.

The Spinners (Personal Rank: 2, Worthiness: 11, Likelihood: 13)

Last year, Daryl Hall, in his induction speech, gave the camera a steely glance and dared the Rock Hall to nominate more Philly-born-and-bred artists.  They didn’t this year.  But instead, they selected a museum-grade specimen of Philly soul, an under-appreciated genre, although The Spinners, in fact, hail from Detroit.  But with immaculate Thom Bell production and swooping strings complementing their native vocal talent and harmonies, it makes one hope they will join their almost-contemporaries The O’Jays in the hall. They are one of Tom Lane’s favorites, and you know what?  I like ‘em, too!  They had a small armada of hits in the mid-70s, an era that chewed up soul groups like they were late 50s doo-wop groups- but on the crucial matter of influence and impact, they fall short.  Who was trying to be The Spinners in the 1980s?  The Commodores?  I don’t think they’ll meet much success this year because, again, there’s too many other 70s R&B guys up against them, although each is in his own sub-genre.

Sting (Personal Rank: 4,  Worthiness: 12, Likelihood: 9)

My lack of enthusiasm for this year’s ballot was reinforced when I realized that Sting was my 4th favorite artist nominated this year.  I was surprised to see Sting get a nod this year.  It seems way, way too soon.  Another artist who broke off from a band and embarked on a lucrative career- Peter Gabriel- only got in last year.  So how does Sting, who also dabbled in world music, but wasn’t nearly so innovative, creative, or visionary- and I think even most Sting fans would agree- follow so closely on his heels?  It’s not like Sting’s career is a travesty or anything, but it looks like he got nominated because of his prolific visibility and connections in the industry- and he is, by far, the most famous person up for a vote this year.  It isn’t impossible that Sting has had his photo taken with half of the people who will be voting on him, and those personal touches may put him over the top.   One awkward moment at the induction ceremony could be NWA performing “F—the Police” with a former member of The Police on stage.

Stevie Ray Vaughan (Personal Rank: 3, Worthiness: 4, Likelihood: 2)

Even people who were ambivalent about the Rock Hall let out a tiny squeal when they saw that SRV was nominated, after being eligible for several years.  As one of the last truly top-shelf guitar icons, he deserves it.  He presided over a 1980s blues revival, and his untimely death and ethereal skill make him, by far, the coolest choice on this list.  It’s hard to think of very many people who can’t find space on their ballot this year for Stevie Ray; certainly Cat Stevens (now a voter, having been inducted earlier this year), undoubtedly among many others, have voiced their support.  He is currently second on the Rock Hall’s fan poll, and has probably benefited from significantly less ballot-stuffing than Nine Inch Nails.

War (Personal Rank: 5, Worthiness: 9, Likelihood: 14)

The Nom Com seems to like War- and you know what?  I don’t blame them.  They created a cool, vibrant sound that originally owed much to the drowned out psychedelia of their collaborator Eric Burdon, but soon found its own funk way that effortlessly alternated between fun (“Why Can’t We Be Friends”) and socially conscious (The entire The World is a Ghetto album).  After NWA, they are probably the most urban artist on here.  I wish them well, but I am pessimistic about their chances.  What did the Nom Com think would happen when they put four different R&B influenced 70s artists on the ballot- they are going to cancel each other out!  Neither as earnest as Bill Withers, as important to their genre as Chic, nor as commercially successful as The Spinners, War is probably the seventh or eighth favorite artist of most voters, and when you only get to vote for five, it is tough to see a way to Cleveland for them this year.

Bill Withers (Personal Rank: 1, Worthiness: 8, Likelihood: 6)

I made a longshot prediction that Bill Withers would be nominated this year, and I was delighted to see that it happened.  There’s a case to be made against Bill- his career didn’t last very long and petered out during the late 70s.  The case for him, though, is significantly stronger.  If you write five or six songs that speak deeply to the human experience, have universal appeal, and aged better than almost any other piece of music from that era, I think that is a remarkable gift.  When I listen to “Lean On Me”, I start believing in a universal subconscious; Withers tapped into something deep in all of us, and on intangibles like ‘how many people were encouraged by this song’ or ‘how many people had their sense of loss articulated perfectly by ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone’?  On the strength of “Lean On Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Lovely Day”, “Just the Two of Us”, and “Grandma’s Hands”, and how well they convey the human experience, I say we need to induct Bill.  And the odds are in his favor– the voters love putting singer-songwriters in (Cat, Laura Nyro, Neil Diamond, Tom Waits, Randy Newman), and Withers is the purest singer-songwriter among the nominees.

Let’s wrap this thing up.  In terms of who I predict will be inducted, I’d bet the farm on Green Day and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and I’m pretty confident about Lou Reed, NWA and Nine Inch Nails.  Assuming they pick six artists again, though, that sixth spot is wide open in my opinion.  I can see it going 6 or 7 different ways.  Nostalgia may work for the Marvelettes, raw fame and personal contacts for Sting, the Hall’s history of inducting singer-songwriters may pan out for Bill Withers, Jett’s rock and roll feminism may succeed in a ballot lacking in guitar heroes, capitulation and weariness may work for Chic, and The Smiths’ critical accolades and importance to Gen Xers make them a strong contender as well.  As a historian, I have to use the past as a guide, and the way the inductees have fallen the last few years, it’s the singer-songwriter’s to lose, so the sixth spot on my prediction list is Bill Withers, although I also think Joan Jett is the next most likely contender after he.

If I had a ballot, I’d be required to vote for exactly five artists, so mixing their historical and musical merits with my own personal preferences, my votes would be for Green Day, NWA, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kraftwerk, and Bill Withers.  (If I could have a sixth vote, it would easily be the Spinners, with War seventh.  And if I had a hammer, I’d smash patriarchy.)

On October 9th, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its fifteen nominees for induction in its class of 2015 (which is when the induction ceremony will take place.)  They were:

  1. Bill Withers (1st nomination)
  2. Chic (9th (!!!) nomination)
  3. Green Day (1st nomination- 1st year eligible)
  4. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (3rd nomination)
  5. Kraftwerk (3rd nomination)
  6. Lou Reed (3rd nomination)
  7. Nine Inch Nails (1st nomination- 1st year eligible)
  8. NWA (3rd nomination)
  9. Paul Butterfield Blues Band (4th nomination)
  10. Stevie Ray Vaughan (1st nomination)
  11. Sting (1st nomination)
  12. The Marvelettes (2nd nomination)
  13. The Smiths (1st nomination)
  14. The Spinners (2nd nomination)
  15. War (3rd nomination)

As some of you may remember, I put up my predictions in June.  I fully expected to get 8 or 9 right of the 16 artists I predicted and establish myself as the Nate Silver of the Rock Hall enthusiasts.  Instead, I ended up with a measly six- NWA, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, and my one wild Hail-Mary guess I made, Bill Withers.  Congratulations to Tom Lane, who predicted nine correctly. What went wrong?  Firstly, I screwed up by not including a blues artist, and in the end, two of them- PBBB and SRV- were nominated.  I also guessed wrong for some genres.  I thought Sonic Youth was going to be their “80s artist who inspired alternative music” pick, and The Smiths got that spot instead.  But more than that, I thought the Nominating Committee would emulate their 2014 ballot from last year, which was well received.  (And by ‘well-received’, I mean that most people who commented on it said ‘It’s about time these guys were nominated’ rather than ‘This ballot is a travesty!’)  Therefore, lots of my choices were on last year’s ballot and didn’t get picked this year.  Deep Purple.  Yes.  The Zombies.  Link Wray. Which leads me to my thoughts on the ballot this year.  I am disappointed by it, but not for the reasons you might expect.

One on one, there are lots of worthy artists who are up for consideration.  A few weeks ago, I listed the 192 artists who I thought already belonged in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as of 2014, and Bill Withers, Chic, Kraftwerk, NWA, Stevie Ray, The Smiths, The Spinners, and War were on my list- that’s 8 of the 15 right there.  If I were allowed to add artists eligible this year, Green Day would have made the list as well, and I would have given serious consideration to Nine Inch Nails. But you know how in jazz music, you have to hear the notes they aren’t playing?  When you look at the ballot, you have to consider the artists- and the genres- who weren’t nominated.  There isn’t a single true classic rock artist on here.  Now, Philip over at Rock Hall Monitors points out that one reason the Nom Com is reticent to include more classic rock artists is because the big no-brainers (The Who, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, Aerosmith, etc.) were all inducted a long time ago.  And he’s right.  But to include zero artists who belong in classic rock, progressive rock, or metal on a given year is a major oversight.  Fans of all three genres have been seriously pissed off at the Rock Hall for taking their sweet time inducting Rush, Genesis, and Kiss, nominating Deep Purple and Yes, and ignoring Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, and Cheap Trick entirely.  Seriously- go to a classic rock forum right now.  I’ll wait.  See what they are saying about the Hall of Fame ballot this year.

They are hella unhappy, right?  And for once, I think their anger is justified.  Classic rock and prog rock and metal fans can be childish and juvenile sometime, but in this case, their complaints are quite valid.  For years, the Nominating Committee has been charged with elitism and favoritism, inducting their friends or their private record collections.  The last couple years, it looked like the Rock Hall was addressing these concerns, acknowledging that they had, by their own bad judgment, becoming a laughingstock, had took positive steps to nominate Deep Purple, Yes, Rush, Kiss, Hall and Oates, and other artists hated by many critics but still loved by vigorous fan bases today.  I just feel that the Rock Hall threw all that goodwill out the window with this ballot.  It almost seems like they intended to thumb their nose at the casual fan and the classic rock hobbyist and tell them, “we know quality music– you don’t– here are the nominees.”  With the exceptions of Stevie Ray and maybe the Smiths, nobody was clamoring to get any of these older artists in.  The Nom Com had a great opportunity to telegraph support for the social media and the wider public by nominating Janet Jackson.  The Induct Janet group has tens of thousands of Facebook followers, and its leaders did everything right- maintaining a respectful tone, getting celebrity support, doing interviews, making a case for her legacy, and most importantly, mobilizing and exciting a group of consumers who would have gladly ponied up the money to go to Cleveland and see Janet enshrined.  And it didn’t pay off.  That’s terrible.  It’s not a tragedy, in an age of ISIS, Ebola, and Boko Haram, but it is a naked demonstration that the spirit of rock and roll can be snuffed out in committee rooms and in-clubs.

My dream- and this is a very idyllic dream- is that Rock Hall membership could be a conversation between the public and the experts.  The Nom Com needs to stop holding the public in contempt, stop renominating personal favorites on an endless loop (PBBB, Chic, J. Geils Band), and maybe spend more time talking to music fans who don’t produce, make, or write about music for a living, but for whom music is an essential part of their lives.  And for their part, I wish classic rock enthusiasts and metal-heads would be willing to explore some of the artists critics praise, listen actively outside their comfort zone, and embrace R&B, hip-hop, soul, disco, electronic, and yes, even rap, as part of the same broad family tree that looks to rock and roll as a common ancestor.  There’s no question for me that these genres deserve consideration for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it should happen alongside of, and not at the expense of, classic rock, prog rock, metal and other genres that were snubbed this year, including folk and early rock and roll. I’ll look at the 15 nominated artists, one by one, in Part II, but I’ll conclude with a few random thoughts:

  • Potentially, we could have three members joining the Clyde McPhatter Club for artists inducted twice.  Sting is already in with the Police, Lou Reed is already in with Velvet Underground, and it is possible that War’s lineup might include Eric Burden, who was inducted way back in 1994 with The Animals.
  • My colleague Donnie pointed out that the Hall is perceptibly moving past the 60s and 70s.  If Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, NWA, Stevie Ray, The Smiths, and Sting are inducted- an entirely plausible scenario- you’d have six artists who released their debut records after 1980.
  • I was right about one thing- LL Cool J wouldn’t be on this ballot.  Presumably, this is because the Nom Com wanted a clear path for NWA, and Cool J would take away some votes that would ordinarily go to him.  It’s similar to last year, where Linda Ronstadt was the only woman on the ballot, so they could get her in the Hall of Fame while she was still alive.  Which brings me to…
  • Only two women on this ballot- not counting the Chic vocalists- and its Joan Jett and the Marvelettes.  I don’t like this either.  Neither has that great a chance of actually being inducted, making it very likely that the Class of 2015 will be another sausage-fest for a Hall that doesn’t have enough female acts.

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