Help me overthink a song from Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.
July 6, 2012 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Some very specific questions about three different lines from the song "The Corrupt Bargain" from the musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson

Alright, so I love this soundtrack to bits. I'm pretty steeped in US History, and so I get almost all the references and sly gags, but a few lines - particularly in the song "The Corrupt Bargain" - have me thinking that I'm only getting half the joke.

And, yes, "if you have to explain it...." I know, I know.

1) "Alexis de Tocqueville says something in French that none of us can translate."

I get this is a reference to Democracy in America (and an anachronistic one, at that!), and probably even a dig at the Francophobia of the post Iraq War II era, but I've only read selections of DiA and wonder if this is also a specific reference to one of De Tocqueville's more accurate predictions, or even just his general view that democracy would/could descend into rule by ignoramuses.

2) "James Madison said something prescient about this but he was kind of a dick."

This is really the one of the two that really digs at me. I'm almost certain this must be a specific reference, probably to something written in one of The Federalist Papers. But, what?

3) "I’m sure Michel Foucault would have an opinion but he hasn’t been born yet."

I've only ever dealt with History of Sexuality in any real detail, so again, I feel like there's something specific here I'm missing. I know there are a lot of Foucault experts around who might know what's being referenced here.
posted by absalom to Media & Arts (1 answer total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: #1... I agree with your theory about devolution of democracy. I can't recall any specific statement by de Tocqueville that is meaningful here. De Tocqueville did have some statements that support the sentiment of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" which might point to Clay siding with Adams just to beat the obviously powerful Jackson (and thus to take the presidency for himself later). But there is little-to-nothing to support my theory.

#2 might be some statement that Madison made about going from Secretary of State (under Jefferson) to being president. He may have said something about Clay wanting the presidency for himself in 4 or 8 (or more, at the time) years.

#3 might be a reference to Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge in which he claims that the context and society surrounding a word/phrase give it meaning. The term "corrupt" may be the term in question here because not all parties believe that "corrupt" was the appropriate term to use to describe this bargain.
posted by cmchap at 11:42 AM on July 6, 2012

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