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What Do the Democratic Nominees’ Campaign Songs Say About Them?

1) Julián Castro- “Baila Esta Cumbia” by Selena

Castro’s choice pays homage to the fact that he is the only Latino candidate in the race. During the debates, he has made his presence known by bringing attention to issues concerning immigration policy and race in America. The song itself is about dancing, but the who the artist is seems to be the more important takeaway. Selena was the “Queen of Tejano” music and is an  influential Mexican-American icon. In picking one of her songs, Castro is displaying the pride he takes in not only his Mexican roots but in being from Texas as well. Listen here.


2) Amy Klobuchar- “The Bullpen” by Dessa

“The Bullpen” is about the artist Dessa, working her way through the rap industry as a woman. She conveys that people underestimate her because she is a woman in a male-dominated industry, but in empowering lyrics she expresses that she is not someone to back down and is good at what she does. As a woman running for president in a country in a country that has never had a female president, Klobuchar is expressing that she herself is not one to be underestimated.  Dessa is from Minnesota, so Klobuchar is also showing respect to her home state. Listen here.


3) Cory Booker- “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers

Booker’s campaign is one full of positivity and “Bringing People Together”, as is his choice of campaign song. “Lovely Day” is about having that one person who has the ability to turn a bad day into a lovely one. Cory Booker’s promise to the American people is to be this person.  He hopes to unite American citizens despite growing divisions. In the most recent debate, he acted as a mediator when tensions grew after Julián Castro went for Joe Biden. The song is all very wholesome like Booker, who claims to have never even had a drink of alcohol. Listen here.


4) Andrew Yang- “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison

Andrew Yang is a man filled with confidence in his ability to be president despite his lack of political experience compared to that of his counterparts.  He believes his experience as an entrepreneur gives him a unique perspective on how to best boost the American economy. He is also very popular with young voters who call themselves the “Yang Gang”. “Return of the Mack” is a song that exudes confidence (like Yang )and expresses that “Mack” is back and is here to stay and slay to put in simpler terms. Yang is trying to show that he is the right choice because of his bold ideas.  Listen here.


5) Beto O’Rourke- “Clampdown” by The Clash

This song holds sentimental value to Beto. The Clash (and specifically the album where this song comes from London Calling) was Beto’s introduction to punk rock music. Punk rock music helped him feel like he belonged and he went on to form a rock band in college. “Clampdown” specifically is a plea the young to fight against an oppressive and society full of capitalism and fascism. Beto’s use of this song reflects his ideas of rallying and uniting the American people to fight against our current oppressive systems in place and build a better America.  Listen here.


6) Kamala Harris- “Work That” by Mary J. Blige

“Work That” is a song about a woman expressing her authenticity and confidence in who she is. Mary J. Blige is singing that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you figure out who you are and show it off. Kamala as a candidate has presented herself as tough and confident in her ability to take down Donald Trump and build a better America. She exudes the confidence that Mary J. Blige does in her song. Kamala is also expressing herself as a powerful black woman by choosing a song by a powerful black woman in Mary J. Blige. Listen here.


7) Pete Buttigieg- “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco

Being the youngest candidate in the race at 37 and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg has definitely been underestimated at times since he announced his candidacy. However, his youth and ideas combined with the fact that he would be America’s first gay president have made him stand out more than people expected him to. His choice of “High Hopes”, a song about shooting for your dreams no matter how far away they seem, shows the spirit and hopes of Pete Buttigieg to be the face of change for America despite his odds. Listen Here.


8) Bernie Sanders- “Power to the People” by John Lennon

This choice of song is very on-brand for the Sanders campaign.  Bernie identifies as a Democratic-Socialist and is all about working for the people of America. His campaign slogan is “Not me. Us.” The song is all about a revolution led by the people, which is what Bernie proposes that his campaign is. Bernie believes in rallying the people to win the election together so they can make a change for America. John Lennon himself was a huge political activist and much of his music was about fighting the oppressive institutions of his time. Bernie hopes to be the same voice in this messy and bewildering time.  Listen here.


9) Elizabeth Warren- “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton

“9 to 5” is the perfect song to represent the campaign of Elizabeth Warren. It is the anthem of women in the workplace who have to fight against men trying to walk over them and don’t give them the respect they deserve. For many women, Warren is a beacon of hope for progress in America. She is all about taking down the current systems and institutions that oppress many different groups of people in America, like the ones that oppress the women in “9 to 5”.  She also hopes to break the barriers of history by becoming the first female president in America. Listen here.


10) Joe Biden- “We Take Care of Our Own” by Bruce Springsteen

Joe Biden has pitched himself as the man who is going to take down Donald Trump and take care of the middle class that he feels America has forgotten. His choice of campaign song is very fitting for the latter half of that pitch.  The song’s overlying message is a very direct one about taking care of the American people. The song is also a criticism of America and its response to the people, so Joe could also be criticizing the current state of America under Trump.  It is also interesting to note that this was one of the top songs used by the Obama 2012 campaign. This could just be a coincidence but it is amusing considering the criticism Biden has received for leaning on his connection to Obama. Listen here.


*This article only includes the candidates who qualified for the last democratic debate on September 12th.*

Marianna Salgado

UC Berkeley '23

Meet HerCampus Berkeley Secretary and writer, Marianna Salgado! She is a first-year at Cal intending to major in American Studies with a minor in Public Policy. In her free time, she enjoys reading (for fun) and spending way too much time consuming everything pop culture and politics related. Passionate about the fight for social equity, Marianna hopes to one day work in education policy to pave the way to higher education for EVERY student. Stay aware, get involved, and let your voice be heard!
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