Ya Got Trouble — A fresh look at an old con


The Music Man "Ya Got Trouble"

Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool!

Friday, a friend put me on to a musical bit that I know by heart, but he gave me a fresh perspective on it. I had never seen it in a modern political context, in a cable news/talk radio context.

In one, short speech — building intensity as he goes — Professor Harold Hill gathers a crowd of onlookers and rattles off a litany of big city sins “the right kinda parents” worry about corrupting their children and their small town: sloth, drinking, gambling, being “stuck-up,” smoking, loose morals, and indecent pop culture. In a fevered crescendo, Hill warns parents of “shameless music • That’ll grab your son, your daughter • With the arms of a jungle animal instink!”


Harold is selling something. And in four minutes he creates a market for it out of thin air — among people he calls “as green as the money.” Moments earlier…

HAROLD HILL: Now, Marce, I need some ideas if I’m gonna get your town out of the serious trouble it’s in.

MARCELLUS: River City ain’t in any trouble.

HILL: We’re going to have to create some.

Hill presses every button the people of River City, Iowa have to press, plus appeals to patriotism and God to create a city-wide moral crisis that four minutes earlier the townspeople didn’t know they had. Sound familiar?

Now strike pool . Insert contraception , voter fraud , death panels , or a half dozen other right-wing bogey men and the grifter’s pitch works the same. Today, Harold Hill would be working for Fox News or Americans for Prosperity. He’d be running American Crossroads, and making a lot more money.

Eat your heart out, Karl Rove. Watch the video here. Lyrics here.

Categories : Republicans, Strategy


  1. Dixiegirlz says:

    Well it actually ended with an “e.”. My bad.

  2. shadmarsh says:

    He probably be trying to sell us a monorail too.