Bruce Springsteen's letter: supporting Obama, despite 'rough ride'

As Bruce Springsteen campaigns Thursday in key swing states, he's also penned an open letter endorsing President Obama. It's a window into how Mr. Obama's supporters have gone from giddy inspiration to gritty realism.

Alex Brandon/AP/File
Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D) of Illinois, on stage with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha, hugs Bruce Springsteen at a rally at the Cleveland Mall, in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 8, 2008. Springsteen is hitting the campaign trail again on Mr. Obama's behalf, and he'll be joined this time by former President Clinton at a rally in Parma, Ohio, on Thursday.
Amy Sancetta/AP/File
In this Nov. 2, 2008, photo, Bruce Springsteen performs at an outdoor campaign rally for presidential candidate Barack Obama at the Cleveland Mall, in Cleveland, Ohio.

For most of this campaign cycle, rocker Bruce Springsteen had indicated he would sit this one out. He had campaigned for President Obama in 2008, and for John Kerry in 2004, and he told The New Yorker over the summer that he felt whatever political capital he had “diminishes the more often you do it.”

But sometime in the past few weeks, he changed his mind – a sign, perhaps, that the race has gotten too close for comfort. On Thursday, the Boss will appear in the all-important swing state of Ohio with former President Bill Clinton, and then head to Iowa, another critical battleground.

He’s also drawing attention for an open letter he posted on his website explaining why he’s supporting Mr. Obama.

Now, as we’ve written before, we’re skeptical about just how much impact celebrity endorsements really have – and in general, we tend to sympathize with those saying, “who cares what one famous person thinks?”

But Springsteen’s letter is an interesting read – if only because it seems to encapsulate the struggle that many Obama supporters seem to be having this cycle. While it’s a clear endorsement, it comes across as an almost heavy-hearted one. He writes:

“This presidential election is different than the last one because President Obama has a four-year record to run on. Last time around, he carried with him a tremendous amount of hope and expectations. Unfortunately, due to the economic chaos the previous administration left him with, and the extraordinary intensity of the opposition, it turned into a really rough ride.”

A really rough ride. Not exactly the phrasing the Obama campaign would have chosen, but he gets points for honesty. And in a way, the letter expresses a kind of clear-eyed realism. Not only have the past four years been a struggle – but what the president seems to be promising for the next four often sounds like a continuing battle for more incremental progress and hard-fought gains.

To be sure, Springsteen credits the president for a number of accomplishments – from the Affordable Care Act to the auto bailout to the killing of Osama bin Laden. And, without naming Mitt Romney, he makes it clear he believes Mr. Romney would be a far worse alternative – particularly when it comes to the issue of income inequality. “Right now, there is a fight going on to help make this a fairer and more equitable nation,” Springsteen writes. “For me, President Obama is our best choice to get us and keep us moving in the right direction.”

But even that line tacitly acknowledges that not enough has been done on that point so far. Unlike the giddy sense of possibility that defined Obama’s 2008 campaign, this time around his supporters have few illusions. If they rode into office on a wave of “hope” and inspiration, this time around, it's more like they're plodding ahead in a gritty, albeit determined, slog.

As Springsteen writes: “We’re still living through very hard times but justice, equality and real freedom are not always a tide rushing in. They are more often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day.”

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