The Boss is Centered

Bruce Springsteen’s Super Bowl commercial was exactly the message the country needed. The reaction from a polarized nation proves it.

The Boss has steadfastly passed up offers (and, no doubt, bizzilions of bucks) to do commercials, so I doubt that he did a Jeep ad just because he really believes in off-road vehicles. (Though, apparently, the 1980 model he drives in the ad is his own.) A better guess is that he really believes in the message.

And that message was about centrism, literally, The ad starts with an image of a little church in the snow in Lebanon, Kansas. Bruce explains that it sits in the exact geographic middle of the country and that it is always open and everyone is welcome.

Springsteen reads a tome to moderation and just getting along with one another over images of middle America and with music behind him that he wrote. But the pictures aren’t exactly the Reaganesque “morning in America.” There’s a little more darkness under the surface. For one thing, the ad was filmed in the last few weeks amid a lot of snow and cold. For another, Springsteen’s score is less “Born to Run” and more “Tom Joad.” The overall effect is one of stark beauty, of promise but also of vague threat and some uncertainty. In other words, it captures the moment perfectly.

Springsteen and his own 1980 Jeep near Lebanon, Kansas

The response has been what you’d expect. The New York Times sniffed that is was, “a message of platitude-filled centrism while trying to sell a car. It was all a bit jarring.”

From the right, Blaze Media pointed out that Springsteen is an “outspoken progressive” and that only three months ago he was calling for Trump to be “exorcised” from the White House. “Come, again,” they write.

Even Yoopers voiced their grievances because in its stylized map that accompanied the ad, Jeep lopped off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was erased. That’s even more ironic since the company headquarters are in… Michigan. (Full disclosure: I own a home in the UP and I share their outrage. Yoopers Unite!)

Anyway, I found the whole thing moving and inspiring, as I’d suppose you would expect from a guy who has created a whole website around the idea of centrism.

You can watch it here. (I can’t stop watching it.) And, because I think it’s so beautifully written, I’ve transcribed it below:

“There’s a chapel in Kansas. Standing on the exact center of the lower 48. It never closes. All are more than welcome. To come meet here. In the middle.

“It’s no secret. The middle has been a hard place to get to lately. Between red and blue. Between servant and citizen. Between our freedom and our fear.

“Now fear has never been the best of who we are. And, as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few. It belongs to us all. Whoever you are. Wherever you’re from. It’s what connects us. And we need that connection.

“We need the middle. We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground.

“So we can get there. We can make it to the mountain top. Through the desert. And we will cross this divide.

“Our light has always found its way through the darkness. And there’s hope, On the road. Up ahead.”

As of this writing, the ad has been viewed 24 million times. Thanks, Boss. We needed that.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

One thought on “The Boss is Centered

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