Regarding the colorful but short political career of David Lee Roth, a person is left with the sense of what might have been, and some may feel relief over what never came to be. In the late 1980s, Roth’s career was in a steady downslide from the heyday of Van Halen and the ebbing notoriety of his successful solo career. Roth may have seen the special Congressional election as a chance to jumpstart his waning fame, but perhaps it was a real desire to enter and enliven the American political scene. His true motives were hard to fathom beneath his ever smiling and jocular exterior. But if his opponents ever salivated at an easy victory over a frivolous office seeker, they were soon forced to drop their dismissal of the once mega-rock star. Roth surprised all with deft skill in deflecting personal attacks and a competent grasp of facts.
His best reply to critics came with his response to televangelist Sissy June Thaxton. Thaxton said electing Roth to such an august body as the US Congress would lead to a “free for all on morals and the American way.” Roth said he would stand up even for Thaxton’s right to speak against him, and see that there was “freedom for all in the USA!” He held himself up as proof that the American dream was something anyone could achieve. Roth’s crowds cheered. Thaxton fumed and her own fame ebbed. Yet not before her husband was arrested in a strip club ironically featuring a performer famous for a rapid striptease to Eddie Van Halen’s guitar opus “Eruption.” Even without the support of his former bandmates, Roth’s rallies showed many fans that loved their candidate. Youth filled the mall parking lots and rented stadiums across southern California.
Roth mainly campaigned on a what now seems a prescient platform of lowering taxes. This might have been to attract a wider, more conservative electorate, but perhaps it was also due to his millions also slowly lowering in his bank accounts. If his young fans cared about his policies is open to debate. They did care about the free t-shirts and were equally happy to thrust signs, placards and vinyl LP covers at the cameras. Polls showed a close race, as would be expected from the scenes of adoring throngs. In the end, the majority did rule. The majority of voters, not fans. Roth left after the polls closed to go on an expedition to Sumatra, without the screaming supporters, but with a lot of leftover campaign t-shits for the locals. Because for all the screaming legions of fans, only a few of them were actually registered to vote.