Meryl Streep and Willie Nelson: A Contrast in Political Style
Both have expressed liberal viewpoints, but there’s a key difference in delivery.
This past weekend my wife and I were on our way from Austin to Waco to sell a load of pecans when I noticed the Bell County Exposition Center advertising an upcoming monster truck show, a rodeo, and a sold out Willie Nelson and Family concert. I thought about the increasing rhetoric about a country divided by strident and opposing viewpoints. But here was Willie—a long-haired, liberal who said he once smoked pot on the White House roof, a singer who professes love for Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and President Obama—selling out a show in a county that gave just 39 percent of its vote to Hillary Clinton.
The next day, Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep gave an impassioned speech at the Golden Globes calling out President-elect Donald Trump. Her ridicule of Trump for mocking a physically disabled New York Times reporter was right on the mark. She invited a backlash, though, when she praised foreign-born Hollywood stars and asked rhetorically where America would be if they all were deported. “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
Conservative commentator Meghan McCain, the daughter of the U.S. senator from Arizona and a Trump critic, was one of the first I saw to complain about the Streep speech. “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won,” McCain said on Twitter. “And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how – you will help him get re-elected.” Daily Show host Trevor Noah also jumped in, praising the speech while also calling it “tone deaf” because a lot of people love football. “I thought it was a little weird last night that Hollywood celebrated itself for being progressive but ignored how much they reinforce negative stereotypes … Think about it: In Hollywood, Middle Easterners are almost always terrorists. Black people are gangsters and slaves. It’s not like there aren’t other diverse stories to tell. Just look at ‘Hidden Fences,’ you know?”
The Twitterer In Chief, @RealDonaldTrump, blasted Streep at 3:47 a.m Monday: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes.” It was a silly comeback to an actress who has been nominated for thirty Golden Globe awards and nineteen Academy Awards.
Even Dallas radio talk show host Mark Davis disagreed with Trump on that point in a commentary for the Dallas Morning News. “In view of what follows, I should say that I disagree with Donald Trump about Meryl Streep being ‘overrated.’ From the “Holocaust” TV miniseries in 1978, through her 19 Oscar nominations and three wins, she has become, on film, a national treasure. At Sunday night’s Golden Globes microphone, not so much.” Davis noted that professional football and mixed martial arts are followed by millions of Americans.
This ham-handed outburst, a textbook example of why Hollywood is so widely reviled, showed how low the pop-culture left will go to demonize Americans who oppose their views.
Democrats and progressives will dismiss these kinds of views as being just another conservative attack on Hollywood and as a diversion from the potential harm of a Trump presidency. There was an undeniable tone, though, that anyone who voted for Trump was a football-watching MMA rube.
But Willie invites almost universal love from hippies and rednecks, liberals and conservatives—everyone except the professional pot-stirrers. And by that, I mean the political provocateurs, not the people in Colorado using Willie’s Reserve.
During the primary, Nelson threw support behind both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. He also joked, however, that the race was too negative. “It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Nelson told San Antonio’s KSAT-TV. “I’ve seen the circus a few times, but this beats any circus I’ve ever seen.” He added: “Seems like they’re just tearing each other down. They can’t wait to say something negative about somebody and then they still want us to vote for them.”
Probably no one under the age of sixty can understand the level of anger that existed in this country during the sixties, prompted by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. Young people protested outside the White House, chanting, “Hey, Hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?” Police cut loose fire hoses and dogs on civil rights protestors. Police in Chicago released tear gas and billy clubs on anti-war protestors. The conservative creed was “My Country, Right or Wrong.” And probably nothing spoke more about the mood of the time than Merle Haggard’s 1969 song Okie from Muskogee, “a place where even squares can have a ball.” Over the years, before Haggard’s death in 2016, Nelson showed him how to live a more mellow life.
Nelson is the founder of Farm Aid, and it is not like he has avoided controversial statements in the past. During the Bush Administration, Nelson expressed disappointment in both the Republican and Democratic parties and said we should “throw the bastards out.” He also told Time Magazine in 2006 the Dixie Chicks “got a raw deal” when people burned their records after telling a foreign audience that they were “ashamed” that President Bush was from Texas. “I said ‘He’s not from Texas and he ain’t a cowboy, so let’s stop trashin’ Texans and cowboys.’ It got a little chuckle, but I didn’t get run out of the country.”
The big difference between Nelson and Streep is that his comments are directed at the powers that be, while she also took what appeared to be a dig at her fellow Americans. Essentially, in politics, argue all you want and complain about the leaders, but the discussion ends when people start insulting one another.