Miss Independent: Why Kelly Clarkson's Ron Paul Endorsement Makes Complete Sense

For those people who adore Kelly Clarkson and hate Ron Paul supporters, the inaugural American Idol's Wednesday night endorsement of Paul's presidential candidacy was especially painful. The move might have been merely confusing in years past, when Paul was a web-specific phenomenon—the equivalent of Carrie Underwood using a ragecomic as her next album cover, or Perez Hilton having a record label—but the recent exposure of Paul's startlingly racist and homophobic newsletters from the 1980s shifted Kelly's gung-ho Paulophilia from quirky to offensive. It turned out that Clarkson (apparently honestly) didn't know about Paul's issues, but the course of excusing her endorsement raised a host of other problems. The resulting Twitfit played out like a weird kind of crossover special, including a co-sign from Michelle Branch, a sullen @-reply to music critic Matt Cibula, and Clarkson's revelation that she is a pro-Obama Republican. The stormy response was heartening, if also predictable (what books will Ron Paul supporters recommend I read in responses to this post? Leave your answer in the comments!), and both Clarkson's and Branch's responses to the criticism—that whether or not Paul was prejudiced, they certainly weren't—were helpful little distillations of the issues inherent in collectively supporting a presidential candidate who doesn't believe in doing things collectively.

In retrospect, though, the endorsement makes a depressing amount of sense, and not just because Clarkson and Paul are fellow Texans. For all the supposedly progressive politics of rock and pop, the structure of the business is incredibly entrepreneurial, with musicians required to front a remarkable amount of their own money for instruments, travel, and recording before they see any sort of return on their investment. There's no large-scale structure that can provide steady employment (and health insurance) while nurturing innovation, just a produce-or-die ethos that receives no subsidies or grants. In America, at least, one of the few areas of life in which government really does have minimal involvement is pop music.

This is especially true for Clarkson, whose story at times sharply parallels that of Howard Roark, the protagonist of Ayn Rand's libertarian erotic novel The Fountainhead, a book well-loved by Paul's fanbase. Like Roark, she was stymied by the establishment, and had to take her appeal directly to the people on American Idol. Just as Roark was vindicated by a jury at the novel's climax, Clarkson was ultimately successful through a powerful display of her talent to the masses, who rallied behind her when the powers-that-be would not, voting her into freedom. Bands are at least nominally collective affairs, but as a solo artist, Clarkson is a fierce sole proprietor, a creative who, like Roark, refuses to compromise. Her songs frequently sound the theme Roark summons in his courtroom speech: "A man's spirit, however, is his self...the man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures." This is, basically, the idea behind "Miss Independent."

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