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Steven Van Zandt: ‘The people always lose’ in football-team politics

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Steven Van Zandt says Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have a “football-team mentality,” caring more about victory for their party than for their constituents. 

“I tend to personally judge issue by issue rather than sort of endorsing this football-team mentality that we fall into in this country, where it’s all about the team,” Van Zandt told ITK in an interview Tuesday. “You’re either on the Republican team or the Democratic team, and all that matters is that your team wins. Judging by history, regardless of which team wins, the people always lose.”

{mosads}Politicians, the DJ and E Street Band guitarist said, “have more regard” for their own successes than for helping Americans.

“The civilians out there — the hard-working people everybody’s so concerned with — never quite see the progress that we should be seeing because of compromises made so the football team can stay in office,” the 66-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer added.

Van Zandt will be close to the heart of the political world this weekend to headline the Rock and Roll for Children Foundation’s annual benefit concert at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md. Tickets are still available for the Saturday event, which raises money for The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health.

Van Zandt, who praised the organization for doing “good work” with money going “to the right place,” said attendees will also get an exclusive listen to songs from his upcoming album, due out this fall.

Asked if a visit to the Washington area gets the songwriting juices flowing, Van Zandt replied with a big laugh, “If it doesn’t now, it never will!”

“I was 100 percent political in the ’80s — the first time around, let’s call it, my first life as an artist,” said Van Zandt, who protested apartheid in South Africa with his 1985 “Sun City” album. “I did five political albums. That was my thing.”

The former “Sopranos” star says he feels a little differently about President Trump than most people do.

“I see problems inherent in the Republican Party that, unfortunately, I think make the Republican Party problematic, instead of the positive second party that they should be where we can have really important, reasoned discussions about very important topics such as healthcare, economics and you name it,” he said.

Instead, Americans are “distracted” by two elements of the GOP’s platform that render Van Zandt unable to have a rational discussion, he said.

One of those issues is the environment: “I’ll never understand why people somehow support pollution. It’s completely irrational, and I don’t get it. Somewhere along the line, they bought into this fiction that one has to choose between the environment and business, which is just a complete falsehood and absurd.”

The other element is equality, which Van Zandt said is a “completely un-American, anti-American part of their platform that says women are not equal and gay people are not equal.

“It’s those two elements of the Republican Party that I think keep the party from being the important second voice it should be in our discourse. I think Donald Trump inherited that and now has to deal with those things, regardless of how he may personally feel.”

When asked why Van Zandt doesn’t then embrace the Democratic Party, he replied, “I’ve always been very socially independent. I’ve never been wildly enthusiastic about either party, to be honest.

“I talked about these things in great detail in the ’80s and, unfortunately, nothing’s changed.”

Saying he recently read some excerpts from some of George Washington’s presidential speeches, Van Zandt noted: “He was actually talking about the same thing. He said, watch out for those political parties — it’s not going to go well.”

“Ol’ George was on to something there!” he added with a laugh.

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