Jesse Jarnow

what jon huntsman was talking about (u.s. blues ’12)

Jon Huntsman recently prescribed a “Grateful Dead tour of this country” as a cure-all for our national ills led by a candidate “who rallies the support of the American people in getting term limits and closing the revolving doors of lobbyists.” In this case, I think, “Dead tour” slipped out Huntsman’s mouth as shorthand for a populist/collectivist groundswell with its own obsessive following, something richer and more real than mere grassroots support. And if that’s what Huntsman meant, some freegan should flyer him with #ows propaganda ASAP, it being an heir to the anarchistic/countercultural momentum the Dead carried for some LSD-soaked stretch of the time-track. Either that or show Huntsman Bob Roberts, which is probably more what a Republican candidate-based Dead tour would look like.

Either way, the more interesting part to me is the deployment of the Dead as a symbol by a Republican presidential candidate who–despite claiming to be a Captain Beefheart fan–pretty much has to the definition of square. This goes beyond Al and Tipper Gore inviting the band to the White House. They were fans of the band who at least came out of the same cultural moment. For a Mormon son of a billionaire, this is an invocation of a wholly different kind. “Grateful Dead” once meant something in ye olde English folklore about paying the funeral bills of an anonymous stranger who died in debt. Now, it has a folkloric resonance now of an entirely different sort, a meaning in the American mother-tongue beyond the band itself. Jon Huntsman won’t be getting my vote in any reality, but he certainly has my ear. I wish him the best as he is devoured the traditional manner of the grimacing white man’s quadrennial blood orgy.

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