The political and musical spheres have dramatically shifted respectively since 1972. The world endured a US President who rose to fame from a reality TV show, and the lines between politics and entertainment have never been more confused. Nevertheless, one thing remains the same, and that’s the omnipresent Alice Cooper, a musician who has been running for the Oval Office every election since 1972.
As practical jokes go, to maintain it for almost 50 years takes some dedication. Cooper isn’t an overtly political artist and prefers to keep that side of himself hidden, making his thirteen attempts to become the President of the United States somewhat difficult to understand. Yet his loyalty to the stunt deserves to be commended.
“I don’t like to mix politics and rock ‘n’ roll,” he revealed to The Guardian in 2018. “I don’t look at Bono, Sting and Bruce Springsteen as political. I look at them as being humanitarian. I’ll contribute to anything humanitarian. Helping people who can’t help themselves. But when musicians are telling people who to vote for, I think that’s an abuse of power. You’re telling your fans not to think for themselves, just to think like you. Rock ‘n’ roll is about freedom — and that’s not freedom.”
Although these scathing comments about political musicians don’t match up with the presumed ethos of a man who has tried to enter politics over a dozen times, his reasoning for running for President is unlike anybody else to have ever gotten their name onto the ballot.
In 1972, he decided to poke fun at politicians with his satirical track, ‘Elected’. The song is full of madcap parody lyrics which laugh at both the state of politics and musicians who believe they could make a difference. On the track, Cooper promises, “And if I am elected, I promise the formation of a new party, A third party, the Wild Party!”
‘Elected’ connected with people who, like Cooper, were disenfranchised with politics. Rather than wanting to lead a revolution from the front, Cooper instead undertook a nihilistic approach and realised the only impact he could have was by laughing at the whole charade.
“In America at that time, we had Richard Nixon, who was the ultimate target,” Cooper told Classic Rock. “Your President is always a focal point for satire, but Nixon – you couldn’t satirise him enough. Plus the 1972 presidential elections were coming up and I thought, ‘Who’s the most unlikely person you would ever want as President?’. And Alice Cooper was that person!”
Running for President just once would surely be enough to promote the song, right? Not for Cooper. Every four years, he’s brought the song back to life and unveiled a different deliberately underthought plan for what he’d do if somehow he received the keys for the Oval Office.
In 2016, Cooper’s campaign slogan was, “I can do nothing as well as they can do nothing”. He also enlisted the help of Tom Hanks as his running mate for the election. The only slight hiccup was that the acting legend had no idea that Cooper had selected him to venture on the Presential journey with him.
“I think the idea that I honestly have no platform is maybe the most honest thing I’ve heard in politics in a long time,” Cooper told CNN about his campaign. “I have absolutely no idea what to do and if everybody said that, that would give me a guy I can vote for.”
Cooper is self-aware that the lyrics in ‘Elected’ are meaningless, cliche riddled nonsense, yet, the message behind the song remains pertinent all these decades later. As soon as politicians stop acting like petulant children, then the song will saunter into irrelevancy. Sadly, The chances of that happening are about the same as Cooper finally getting to rest his feet up in the Oval Office.
While there’s a place in music for politics, there’s also room for a cartoonish figure like Alice Cooper to poke fun at the absurd masquerade and laugh at it from a distance.