Ry Cooder Slams “Fascist” Clear Channel In Anti-Romney Rant

17 August 2012 | 3:14 pm | Dan Condon

The legendary musician tells theMusic.com.au why he's scared for America's future.

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For his 15th solo studio album, Ry Cooder is pulling no punches; Election Special is a pissed off indictment of the American social and political climate. In an interview with theMusic.com.au this morning, Cooder slammed the American right wing, speaking at length about his fear of the direction in which the country is heading politically as well as his fear of how the likes of Republican candidate Mitt Romney are manipulating the American working class.

“The south, since they weren't gonna have out and out slavery, they were gonna replicate the conditions as close they could. How they did that was they came across the happy idea of segregation. They made sure that African Americans were leading a second class life of poverty and degradation and lacking access to mainstream society. Whether that was the ability to move around, the ability to get good paying jobs, the ability to have medical care of any kind; it's something you can't even imagine today, it seems incredible to us now.

“In doing this – because it was all about money, it's always about money – they guaranteed that that population would be in virtual servitude for the rest of history, they would never advance, they would never come up to the level of white society and that they had a cheap labour supply for the rest of history.”

This was what was known as Jim Crow; a term Cooder uses a great deal on this new record. He believes Jim Crow is back.

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“Jim Crow was the term for the laws that, for instance, kept Afraican Americans away from the voting polls – naturally they didn't want them to vote, there were so many more of them than white people in the south, they would have voted the white people right out. So they prevented them from voting.

“This country, we call ourselves a democracy, we call ourselves one man, one vote, but that's never been true. Leaping forward to the '60s, it was in 1965 when the equal rights amendment was passed in Lyndon Johnson's presidency, one of the components there was the voting rights act, a law that said “everyone votes”. Period. End discussion.

“Do you think the republicans in the white south were happy about this? They were furious and they've been after it ever since and now they've found a way. They've used the 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court – the 5 majority is in the hands of people like the Koch brothers and worse – they have formulated these new voting restrictions that are just Jim Crow all over again. They blame it on immigrants, they blame it on voter fraud or some bullshit thing they dream up. They want to keep poor people away from the polls, because those are the people who vote for Obama for Christ's sake. So, if they can find a way to do it, they'll do it. That's how they stole the election in Florida for Bush Number One, or Clown One as I call him. For Clown Two, they stole it out of Ohio. They do this with various means, it's a complicated thing, but the deal it; Jim Crow is back, this is what I'm trying to tell you.

[SB] 1070 in Arizona, that's a Jim Crow law focused on Mexican people and Mexican Americans, this whole thing about “show me your papers. These people never stop; 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the propaganda machine never stops and the effect is the same old story and in this country that is race. It's the cheapest shot there is but it works. You get this whole section of the population, mostly white men, who are out of a job – who are poor, who are broke, who are mad – and you tell them that the reason you're out of a job and broke and mad is Mexicans and black people; these are the people you should hate and these are the people you should vote against. And these poor sons of bitches do it every time.”

His distaste for Mitt Romney is evident throughout Election Special, but in conversation he's even more viscious.

“Of course when you have Mitt Romney and his attack dog buddy [Paul] Ryan, you've got a couple of guys here who are so painfully obviously the kind of people that they are, they're so transparent, you wonder how on earth these people can be run as candidates – it's appalling. But they've got money behind them you can't even begin to imagine, they've got the media behind them too because the corporations are their masters and the corporations own all the goddamn television stations and the newspaper chains and the radio stations – and the radio stations don't play my records.

“If the Dixie Chicks opened their mouth they got slapped down by Clear Channel, who is a fascist conglomerate that Bush put together. What are you gonna do about these kind of things? All you can do is, if you can do something, do it. I write these songs out of a sense deep frustration. And I'm scared. But I can't just sit here and shake; I have to do something so I get my guitar and write a goddamn song.”

Election Special is out now through Nonesuch/Warner, or you can stream it here for a short time.