It is as though Texas Republican country western music fans are suddenly discovering that Willie Nelson is a supporter of Democrat politicians. It has been announced that for the first time, at a free admission campaign rally, Nelson will perform on behalf of a Democrat candidate. The campaign rally is open to the public, though registration for attendance is online through Beto O’Rourke’s campaign. O’Rourke will speak at the September 29 rally in Austin.
“My wife Annie and I have met and spoken with Beto and we share his concern for the direction things are headed,” Nelson said in a statement. “Beto embodies what is special about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is completely genuine.”
Texas Republican fans are all outraged about this revelation. Nelson’s Facebook page contains proclamations from conservative fans feeling betrayed after years of enjoying his music but now one Republican lawmaker has stepped forward in support of Nelson. Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican Texas state representative from Fort Worth, while disappointed in Nelson’s choice of candidate, voiced concern about civil discourse.
“Texans should be better than this!” tweeted Matt Krause, a Fort Worth area state representative. “We’ve come to a place where we can’t merely disagree with someone’s political choice but have to attack & berate them.”
“I don’t like his choice either but we shouldn’t resort to name calling,” Krause wrote. “[It] reflects poorly on our ability to have civil discourse.”
It’s no surprise that Willie Nelson likes Beto O’Rourke. During his annual 4th of July Picnic music fest in Austin this summer, Nelson brought O’Rourke up on stage to play guitar along with his band. O’Rourke played guitar with a punk rock band in his younger days.
This may be Nelson’s first musical appearance at a free admission campaign rally for a candidate but it is hardly his first venture into expressing his political opinions. His history of support of Democrat candidates goes back to 1972, for the record. The press release making the announcement appears to have been a tad misleading.
A press release announcing the event claimed that the rally would be the first time that the Red-Headed Stranger lent his voice (and guitar) to a political campaign, but that’s a stretch: A private concert he played in 2014 for then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was reported as a $250,000 in-kind donation. He endorsed his friend and occasional collaborator, Kinky Friedman, in Friedman’s quixotic campaign to be Texas agricultural commissioner in 2010. In 2006, he appeared in a TV ad for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He played events for Ann Richards in the early nineties. In 1972, he performed at a rally at Austin’s Zilker Park in support of the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, George McGovern.
Willie Nelson, now 85 years old and still performing, has even spoken somewhat favorably of President Trump before he entered politics. Now that Trump is president, however, Nelson delivers criticism. His latest album includes a song about the 2016 election titled “Delete and Fast-Forward”. Not exactly subtle. Nelson supported both Bernie Sanders and then Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. He offered to meet with President Trump at an ICE detention center along the Texas/Mexico border, too, as he criticized the administration’s illegal immigrant policies.
“I knew [Donald Trump] back when he owned some casinos, and I worked for him. He always paid me. I had no problems at all,” Nelson tells Rolling Stone. As president, though, Nelson thinks Trump has “stepped into a different world.”
“It’s easy when you can just go bankrupt anytime you want to and say, ‘I’ll check you later,’” Nelson adds. “But that’s hard to do when you’re president of the United States.”
Nelson, by the way, filed for bankruptcy back in 1990 himself. He owed the IRS over $16 million dollars in back taxes. Oops.
Nelson hasn’t limited his political music appearances to those in Texas. In 1980, Willie Nelson performed on the South Lawn of the White House at the request of then-President Jimmy Carter. He also performed at rallies for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich in 2004 and 2012. So, you see, this isn’t even Nelson’s first campaign rally. It’s just his first free admission political rally musical appearance.
President Trump won Texas by 9 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Currently, according to Real Clear Politics, Senator Ted Cruz is up by 3.2 points over Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the U.S. Senate race.