The song, which takes aim at politicians who ignore the working class, drew strong opinions from both sides of the aisle, with the GOP embracing the song as taking a shot at a broken system while many on the left criticized Anthony for unfairly placing the blame on welfare recipients and their “bags of fudge rounds.”
During last month’s Republican presidential debate, the candidates were even asked about why the song resonated so much with the American people.
For his part, Anthony (whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford) has been outspoken about the song not taking one side or the other, but being a criticism of all politicians on both sides and the broken system that enables them to take advantage of the working class:
“It’s hard to get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change.
But I do hate to see that song being weaponized. I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own, and I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That shit’s gotta stop.”
But the praise for Anthony’s viral hit hasn’t been purely along political lines.
Democrat presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is challenging President Joe Biden for the 2024 nomination, visited with Anthony last month and released an essay on his website praising Anthony for being “determined to use the fame America has given him to contribute to a national turnaround.”
“Oliver isn’t just passively waiting for that day when outrage boils over and Americans reclaim their heritage.
Instead, he is determined to use the fame America has given him to contribute to a national turnaround, to create an oasis where broken Americans can replace despair, fragmentation, infighting, and addiction with spiritual renewal and a sense of community.
“Rich Men” is more than a protest song, for it also heralds a popular awakening. When he sings, “It’s a damn shame,” that’s not just a lament, it is also a repudiation of this state of affairs. The elite creators of all this despair, he says, “don’t think you know” what’s going on, “but I know that you do!””
Kennedy, the son of former US Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former president John F. Kennedy, also said that he and Anthony both spoke about the potential to reform a system that serves the “rich men” while leaving the working class behind:
“We spoke together with hope about the potential to reclaim our lost young people. We both felt a real possibility of national renewal.”
And he also spoke about how Anthony’s personal experiences have guided his vision for what it’s going to take to fix our political system:
“Oliver is an impressive man, pleasant, intelligent, spiritually grounded, humble, and soberly aware of the challenges ahead. He has infectious humor, a tantalizing sense of irony, and a deep commitment to humanity.
Like most of us, his family and friends have been touched by addiction, depression, and overdose. These painful experiences are touchstones for Oliver’s wisdom, spiritual maturity, and musical inspiration. He has also gained many practical insights into the limitations and failures of conventional treatment options.”
Kennedy said that regardless of what happens in the election, he supports Anthony’s vision for America, and to open healing centers for those affected by the addition and poverty that inspired “Rich Men North of Richmond.”
“I’m proud to support him, whatever the outcome of my Presidential campaign, to make this healing center a reality, and if we are so blessed, the first of many more to come.”