I know how he would answer this, but is Bruce Springsteen a member of the Democratic Party? I don't mean what his political beliefs are, those are clear. I mean does he fit into the broad definition of political parties, the networks and coalitions of people invested in the party's success even if they don't hold an office or a staffing job?OK, first of all, there's the question of whether he's a Democrat in the old sense of "party in the electorate." For that, I think what matters is behavior: if one generally votes for Democratic candidates, then for all practical purposes one is a Democrat in this sense. Whether we want to call party identifiers who are just voters "members" of the party is, once you get that far, just a semantic question.
But what I think the question is getting at -- and what I think is more interesting, really, is about what I've taken to calling "party actors." And for that, I think the answer is probably a qualified yes (given that I really don't know what Springsteen actually does in overtly political terms, beyond appearing at big rallies during presidential campaigns).
To back up: American political parties in the active sense, in the sense that they do things and have positions and the like, are composed of party actors who fall into several categories: formal party staff and officials; politicians; activists; campaign and governing staff, including party-aligned consultants; party-aligned interest groups; and the partisan press.
Where does Springsteen fit in? He's obviously not, say, executive director of the New Jersey Democratic Party (a formal party organization). Nor is he a staffer for any Democratic candidate or New Jersey governor, or a legislative assistant for Robert Menendez. So we can think of him as an a particular type of activist.
We might, also, think of his music and whether that qualifies him as...I don't know. Partisan press? Not really. But perhaps, or perhaps we need another category for ideas and symbols at that level...not the policy level, but a more abstract one.
That is: if that's what he's really doing. There's a bit of a factual question here that I don't know about -- does Springsteen get involved in primary elections at all? Does he attempt to influence the party at the issue level, and if so is he actually influential?As an activist, is he in the subgroup that donates substantial chunks of money? Does he personally lobby Democratic politicians on issues he cares about? If so, does he do it in some organized fashion through some extension of the party network, or does he really do it alone, as a celebrity?
But of course we don't need to just ask these questions about one particular celebrity. Once we understand that an informal party network is important, we need to ask it of everyone within that network (indeed, we need to ask it of people within the formal party structure, too; there are cases, perhaps many of them, in which the formal party merely performs some fairly menial duties and all the real action is elsewhere). There's no assumption, at least for me, that either the different components of this expanded party are equally important, or that people within them will have equal influence, or that any of it will stay the same over time.