By Maggie Doherty, Staff Writer
Ain't that America, indeed. After the announcement that Democrat Evan Bayh would not run for a third term as Senator of Indiana, a grassroots campaign pushing for rock musician John Mellencamp to take his place is in full swing. A "Draft John Mellencamp for Senate" Facebook page has been set up and has reached nearly 6,000 supporters since Bayh's announcement last Monday.
So far, Mellencamp's publicist Bob Merlis has provided a statement: "As of now, there is no response." The open-ended connotation has provoked not only the Facebook page and a Citizen Speak campaign draft for Mellencamp's seat in the Senate, but online bloggers and celebrity personalities have been voicing their support for the singer, fueling an endless Internet rumor mill. Flim critic Roger Ebert tweeted Monday, "John Mellencamp (D-Ind.) has a nice ring to it."
The 58-year-old musician has a strong and credible stance among the Indiana community. Never straying too far from his roots, Mellencamp wrote politically charged songs with a populist stance on issues effecting small-town farmers and small businesses, including "Pink Houses" and "Small Town." In 1985, he started Farm Aid, what began as a benefit concert to raise money to support American farmers and their family businesses. The concert eventually formed into an organization that works to increase awareness and funds for family farms, and the 1987 Agricultural Credit Act was passed in response to help protect families from farm foreclosures.
"He [Mellencamp] worked very hard for farmers who faced foreclosures," said Katrina Van Heuvel, editor of The Nation on MSNBC. "He's a Heartland son of Indiana." Mellencamp is also outspoken in his political views, campaigning for President Barack Obama in 2008. With natural homeland support and appeal, Mellencamp could be a big name to draw Democrats to the ballot box. Especially after the upset victory for Republican Scott Brown in Massachussettes this January and President Obama's lulling approval ratings.
If he chose to run, Mellencamp would join the likes of many celebrities that have turned to politics after successful careers in show business: Arnold Schwarzenagger, Gary Coleman, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Bono and many others have turned fame into an elected position.
Even Ronald Reagan, former president and Hollywood movie actor, used Mellencamp songs at campaign rallies. Whether or not this questions the legitimacy of political positions is an on-going debate, but Mellencamp has the credentials and the political background to fit in among the previous names. It could be "R-O-C-K in the Senate" come next January.