For several years now, the musician known as Kid Rock has been talking about politics in the media and, like any number of other celebrities (including, previously, real estate developer Donald Trump), joking about running for political office. As has been the case with several other entertainers, most observers dismissed this talk as bluff or bluster.
Now, however, the joke may be on anyone who didn’t believe Kid Rock, whose real name is Robert James Ritchie (and whose real age is a decidedly un-Kid-like 46). That’s because Rock has appeared to announce that he’s officially stepping up to the plate for a Senate run from his home state of Michigan, against three-term Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow.
On July 6, Rock served notice that he had 15 days to file official paperwork to run for the Senate seat in what could be a steep uphill battle just to even be perceived as being in the same arena as Stabenow. The fact of the matter is that Rock has zero political experience, although he certainly does know how to build a following and deliver an appealing message, as any number of his hit singles and albums can attest to.
Rock’s 2007 “Rock ‘n Roll Jesus” album hit number one in the U.S. and went triple platinum, staying in the Billboard Top 10 for 17 weeks and selling five million copies worldwide. Rock has had four Top 10 singles over the span of his career and has successfully crossed over from rap to rock to country music, drawing large audiences from a broad spectrum of listeners. He’s toured with the likes of Ice Cube, Blink-182, Metallica, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice in Chains, Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Bob Seger, ZZ Top and Kool and the Gang from the year 1989 until the current day.
As one of the few successful rappers to come out of Detroit (others include Eminem and the Insane Clown Posse), Rock put a lot of hard work into producing his early music, which finally caught on in the late 1990s and saw the young hip-hopper and vocalist appearing on MTV and having his tunes in the trailers for hit movies such as Gladiator and Any Given Sunday. Rock has been nominated for five Grammy Awards. A bona fide rock star, he’s performed at the Superbowl and been on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. In 2006, Rock married actress Pamela Anderson, although they divorced after one year.
Like his fellow Michigan musician Ted Nugent, Rock never shied away from politics, with his single Born Free becoming the campaign theme song for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. Like Nugent, Rock is an outspoken advocate of gun rights and is a proud hunter to boot. He also serves as a deputy reservist in the Oakley, Michigan police force and has supported numerous charities such as Operation Homefront, which helps military families with basic necessities and housing. He’s performed for American soldiers in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and the UK and has met with past presidents George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush.
Rock supported the candidacy of Donald Trump (who he also met with) in 2016. Rock has worked hard to keep ticket prices for his shows low and has even made sure some of his tours included free food, free parking and cheap drinks.
Like Donald Trump, Rock is a political outsider who nonetheless has actively followed politics for decades and has firm stances on issues ranging from abortion to tax reform. On July 12, Rock tweeted a photo of a political sign on his lawn, reading, “Kid Rock for U.S. Senate.” In the tweet, Rock stated, “I have had a ton of emails and texts asking me if this website is real: kidrockforsenate.com. The answer is an absolute YES.”
On Facebook, he posted, “I have recently worked out a unique deal with BMG, Broken Bow, CAA and Live Nation to release music ON MY TERMS. Like politicians write books during their campaigns, I’m planning on putting out music during mine, and IT ALL STARTS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT. [My campaign] is not a hoax, it’s Strategy and Marketing 101! No plans for an album or anything else that has been the usual norm in the music business OR politics.”
Rock also promised that “Senator Stabenow and I do share a love of music, although probably not the same kind. I concede she’s better at playing politics than I am, so I’ll keep doing what I do best, which is being a voice for tax paying, hard-working AMERICANS and letting politicians like her know that ‘We the People’ are sick and tired of her bulls**t!”
On the aforementioned website, Rock posted this quote: “I believe if you work your butt off and pay taxes, you should be able to easily understand and navigate the laws, tax codes, health care and anything else the government puts in place that affects us all.” Rock is selling “Kid Rock for U.S. Senate” t-shirts, yard signs, trucker hats and bumper stickers. The rocker is shown seated in a chair with blue fabric and gold stars next to a life-size stuffed deer. The website rhetorically asks, “Are You Scared?”
The latter headline is likely a reference to a fundraising email sent out by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who referenced Rock’s potential Senate run as a matter of urgent importance for all of her party’s constituents. “I know a lot of people are thinking: this is some sort of joke, right?” Warren wrote. “Well, maybe this IS all a joke — but we all thought Donald Trump was joking when he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower and announced his campaign, too.”
Warren is clearly hoping that since Rock’s website doesn’t have much other content on it that his announcement is all a bunch of hype, but there are no indications at this point that Rock is merely pretending to run for office. “Sure, maybe this is just a marketing gimmick for a new album or tour,” wrote Warren. “But we all thought Donald Trump was just promoting his reality show, too.” Although in the past, Rock claimed to be more of a Libertarian, he’s definitely staked out political positions familiar to most conservatives. Certainly, at least when it comes to guns, Warren and Rock are on opposite sides of the Second Amendment debate.
In 2013, CNN host Piers Morgan asked Rock if he was the owner of “a lot of guns,” to which Rock responded, “Yes, tons.” Morgan asked Rock if the latter was “safe” using his guns, to which Rock responded, “Yes.” Morgan then asked, “Why do you trust 315 million other Americans to be safe with them?” To this, Rock answered, “‘Cause I got one.” Morgan then asked him, “Do you need to have one for protection?” Rock replied, “I need to have one. When I go to Detroit… I am never in Detroit without my gun. Ever. Right by my side — loaded, ready.” Morgan asked, “And you wouldn’t hesitate to use it?” to which Rock replied, “No, not at all.”
Rock credits musician Hank Williams, Jr. for getting him into hunting. “I always loved guns, but we never really hunted. …[Hank] got me into it, and I finally got the itch; I got the bug. The more time I spent with Hank, well, he just doesn’t do much other than hunt, collect guns and make music. Going to visit him in Tennessee and Alabama was what hooked me; I have to give all the credit to him.” Rock adds, “I like win-wins in life. I like things that are all positive. To me, that’s hunting. You form bonds with other hunters; you eat healthier, and you become better at, well, life. I see hunting as an American tradition. It’s a rite of passage to me. There’s so much family and friendship involved that it’s really just the backbone of this country.”
Previously, Rock sold t-shirts on his website that read, “God, Guns & Trump.” But now, perhaps Rock should alter it to “God, Guns & Senator Kid Rock.” Here’s hoping that Rock’s campaign is the real thing. If it is, we may just see our first Senator who’s previously been nominated for a Grammy.