Song for Donald Trump: ‘Government on horseback again’

In 1980, the great singer-songwriter, Si Kahn, felt compelled to respond to the rise of Ronald Reagan by penning, ‘Government on horseback’. He noted the disturbing way in which Reagan, a star of many B-movies, had brought his talents from the silver screen and convinced the voters of the USA that he had the skills to restore the country to greatness.

Ronald Reagan: The star from the silver screen who made it to the White House

In the Cold War era, his simplistic ‘goodies versus baddies’ message, delivered in a folksy and accessible style, was an overwhelming success as he swept Jimmy Carter aside. Kahn’s song, though, hinted at the weaknesses in Reagan’s approach and, for all the apparent successes of his now glorified presidency, there were some very damaging events and decisions made.

At the heart of Reagan’s promises and his policies was a deeply held but confused reading of the ‘American dream’. He played on American exceptionalism and the idea of the USA being a light on a hill, a guiding nation for the world. He acted as though there was still a ‘Wild West’ to be won and run, a frontier to be conquered by heroic Americans with quick wits, guns and rugged individualism. The simplistic morality of the cowboy film seemed to guide him whether it be in relations with the Soviet Union, invading Grenada, allowing Oliver North to obtain arms for the Contras in Nicaragua or in proposing the ‘Star Wars’ programme.

Anyway, Reagan’s presidency has provided the template for all Republican campaigns and presidencies since 1988 and Donald Trump has continued that trend. ‘Make America Great Again’ harks back to the golden years of Reaganism. His simplistic message, his speech making style, his anecdotal methods and his appeal to the ordinary voter against the evils of the experts and the establishment, all have echoes of Ronald Reagan’s strategies. But while Reagan had many flaws, he managed to deliver his often frightening messages in a way which inspired hope and optimism; Trump, by contrast, manages to terrify and disturb both friend and foe alike.

A simple message and Donald Trump

Inspired by the original song, I have done a new version of ‘Government on horseback’ as ‘Song for Donald Trump’. My simple hope is that it will be sung by someone somewhere in the US over the coming month. My deeper hope is that somehow somewhere it might make at least one person think about not voting for The Donald.

So, first of all, Si Kahn’s original song. Here are the lyrics for ‘Government on horseback’ which can be found on the album ‘Signs of the Times’, made with John McCutcheon and released by Rounder Records. You can hear Si singing the track on YouTube at:

Si Kahn’s website is full of interesting and important information. It can be found at

Government on horseback

Words and music by Si Kahn

The President stepped off the silver screen
 He said, People put your lives here in my hands
 We can turn our country’s honor white again
 Let the sulfur smoke of progress fill our land

’Cause we’ve got government on horseback again
 Back to the days when Congressmen were men
 We can make it on our own
 Running on testosterone
 It’s government on horseback again

Help me give our land a golden goose
 Turn our native corporations loose
 High voltage lines will go the extra mile
 Now it’s power to the people, nuclear style

Blow out the lamp beside the golden door
 We don’t need cheap foreign labor any more
 Without our unions and the E.R.A.
 We will all have twice the jobs at half the pay

Back again, back again
 We’ve got government on horseback again
 It’s back to home for mommies
 Bomb the hell out of the commies
 It’s government on horseback again

© 1984 Joe Hill Music (ASCAP)

And the lyrics for ‘Donald Trump’.

Song for Donald Trump: ‘Government on horseback again’

Like the President from off the silver screen
 I say, ‘I’m fit and rich and have a dream, 
 We can make this country feared and grand, 
 Let the sulphur smoke of progress fill our land’

When we’ve got government on horseback again
 Just like the days of Ronnie Reagan 
 Cos we can make it on our own
 Running on testosterone
 It’s government on horseback again

Help me give the few their golden goose
 Turn our national corporations loose
 Cheap power lines reach out across the miles
 Give power to the boardrooms, fracking style

Blow out the lamp once bright of liberty

Although we are the brave land of the free

We welcome rich dictators one and all

But next to Mexico we’ll build a wall

Climate change is all a great big con

I tell Fox News so they can pass that on

Raise the stars and stripes way up on high

And the people will believe me, every lie

Women see me as a god-like man

A grope, a kiss, they know I’m such a fan

But any girl who’s fat, ugly or poor

Should get into the kitchen or wash floors

In my world there’s nothing good to say

For Mexicans or Muslims or the gay

It’s their fault we are so deep in the crap

And I say Hillary should take the rap

There’ll be no jobs nor health care for the poor

And Goldman Sachs will stand above the law

But guns and war and tax breaks will be there

So with the 1% I’ll get my share

It’s time to get our business back on track

No workers’ rights so there easier to sack

With Rednecks, Palin and the Ku Klux Klan

I’ll make the USA the Promised Land