Excerpt from The Roanoke Times:
When Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate last week, he appeared on stage to the sound of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
This would seem a curious song choice for a Virginia politician. We are not Alabama and have never wanted to be Alabama. Granted, there’s a dearth of songs that mention Virginia, and “Sweet Home Alabama” is a rollicking little tune, so maybe we shouldn’t read too much into it.
On the other hand, Lynyrd Skynyrd was a band that worked the Confederate flag into its logo and the National Review once hailed “Sweet Home Alabama” as one of “the 50 greatest conservative rock songs,” so it’s more likely that the song was picked intentionally. Stewart does love Confederate symbols. “Sweet Home Alabama” even takes a shot at Canada — more, accurately the Canadian rock star Neil Young —so it certainly seems to fit the current Trumpian zeitgeist.
Meanwhile, the liberal website Slate cited Stewart’s song choice as just one more example of how he’s pandering to the most atavistic elements of the Virginia electorate. In the Slate writer’s words: “He’s a carpetbagger, but for racism.”
Actually, both of them have it wrong. “Sweet Home Alabama” is not a conservative anthem, and it’s certainly not a cover song for racism. It is, though, one of the most misunderstood political songs of all time, one that’s even been the subject of scholarly study.