Political Candidates As Punk Bands

Published November 2020 in Exotic

Last month, I was having a text argument with Exotic writer Blazer Sparrow, about whether or not Portland is "on fire" or "peacefully on fire." The discussion was political, with me being a more right-leaning asshole, who doesn’t care what inclusive message is attached to the bricks being thrown at the windows of black-owned small businesses, while Blazer, being just left of Stalin, was calling my useful and in-no-way excessive closet of metallic tools a "paranoia-driven stockpile." Look, dude—I don’t even have a lawn, let alone the urge to keep anyone off of it.

Anyways, after venturing into the political ramifications of voting for Joe Beavis or Donald Butthead, Blazer and I came to agreement that every candidate out there, regardless of how cool they once were, is pretty much just another shitty act—sucking up attention, money and fame, in petty power grabs that use division among edgy, adult teens to make it feel like they can change the system. Which, in my opinion, is basically the same as punk rock. With a few suggestions from Blazer (one overruled, as I am not comparing Trump to The Clash), I compiled this list of which candidates for U.S. President (former and current) match with which punk bands (former and current). For purposes of length and clarity, Smash Mouth, Vermin Supreme and Green Party candidates were omitted from consideration.

Joe Biden - Minor Threat

The "sober" alternative to the irrational, drunken and braggart-like option plaguing the stages at various underground venues, Minor Threat was a band that represented a new way of thinking in the punk scene—straightedge sobriety being portrayed as a healthy form of rebellion that doesn’t result in a dumpster fire stories or liver transplants. Much like Ian MacKay’s self-aware, "fourth step" genre of punk, Biden presents himself as the solution to an out-of-control and hyper-masculine scene, full of pussy-grabbing frat boys and reactionary outbursts. The problem, of course, is that Minor Threat and Biden are equally boring, flash-in-the-pan versions of what their fan base is used to—just without the drunken energy that makes other bands fun to watch live. Sure, it’s nice to prop up the guy who doesn’t get wasted or refer to his wife as "Sugar Tits" under his breath in church, but what good is a designated driver who can’t even remember where he put his keys, let alone entertain a crowd anymore? Yeah, he won’t make jokes about women...but, why is he sniffing their kids? This one is just weird, and when not viewed through nostalgia glasses, he’s clearly a bad choice. Dry drunks are still drunks—at least the spray-tanned douchebag alternative knows how to talk to dictators and vulture capitalists...this guy can barely buy Halliburton stock on CashApp without asking his grandson how to charge the pocket computer.

Kamala Harris - Fugazi

See above. Basically, this is what all Minor Threat supporters will eventually get stuck with, most likely after spending a significant amount of beer money on merchandise that appeals more to hipster chicks than it does punk rock fans, simply to show support for what’s popular—same goes for Fugazi.

Donald Trump - Sex Pistols

It’s hard to define "punk" and "sellout" simultaneously, but Trump is just that—on one hand, he’s hated by the mainstream establishment, soccer moms, pretentious college students, people who don’t understand socialism and female comedians alike—in other words, he pisses off all the right people. However, he’s still a product of money and arguably more "mainstream" than anyone else on this list. Trump is the Johnny Rotten of politics—an aging ginger, whose appeal is overshadowed by his inability to open his mouth on television without saying something dumb that will instantly result in financial loss. Sure, it’s edgy and scene-approved to openly hate the Pistols (and Trump) during one’s "still punk" phase, but once an audience grows up and realizes that anyone with a barcode or merchandise is technically a sellout, it’s actually tough to deny that both Johnny and Donnie resemble the "fuck you" spirit more than anyone on this list. No, that doesn’t make "Anarchy In The U.K." or "Pretty Vacant" any less ironic, but I’m sure that Lydon would release the rights to the Trump campaign if asked. Plus, if re-elected, we might get our Public Image phase from Donald, which would be interesting to see.

Mike Pence - MxPx

"Dude, I had no idea about the whole ’used to be religious’ thing."

"Actually, they still are. They just bury it behind stylish riffs and traditionalist values that appeal to Zoomers for some weird reason."

This is how most "fans" of MxPx (i.e. "Magnified Plaid," which sounds like going to a convenient store on acid and is a much cooler name) are eventually re-introduced to that one band from Warped Tour that seemed like undercover cops for some reason. And, with this conversation, one of two things usually happens—either a realization that people who are into Jesus aren’t necessarily as cringe as one would assume, or, that what you suspected all along turned out to be true—thus confirming your prejudice about this act (and why it was hella awkward to bring up the topic of abortion while standing in line for merchandise). I don’t know if Pence can be trusted, but he seems like a decent (as in, presentable and ready for a job interview) dude—which means he’s probably hiding something. Same goes for MxPx. If one of the people in that band isn’t outed for having a Chan’s worth of cartoon kiddie porn on their laptop sooner or later, I’ll lose a bet. I don’t trust "Christian punk" any more than I trust "male feminist," in terms of umbrella terms used by wolves to get in with the sheep. Strangely enough, both MxPx and Pence are what protesters will end up with, if they are successful at boycotting other, less dangerous headlining acts.

Bernie Sanders - Dead Kennedys

It’s refreshing to hear a genuine, researched and well-informed, anti-establishment stance, repeated throughout the years and never without an edge. It’s fantastic to know that the true spirit of punk is still alive and it gives folks hope, knowing that someone who is actually successful (in terms of spreading their anti-capitalist message) was able to achieve mainstream numbers, without having the mainstream support. And, then, like clockwork, the people backing said act sells out and replaces their front runner with a failed actor who was technically active in the scene for a brief period in the 1990s, simply because money talks louder than Jello. Worse, somewhere in the basement of a failing anarchist coffee shop, the person who once represented this brand is charging activists a hefty fee to listen to them gripe and whine about the billionaires in power. Autographs will be available at the merch table after the show, by the way. Be sure to buy a "Capitalism Is Evil" bumper sticker.

Andrew Yang - The Offspring

Why do people hate this guy? Educated, catchy and just a fun-loving, level-headed institution that people dismiss (even though the staying power is the longest on this list), Yang is basically The Offspring. Never being given a fair swing at things, looking back on him makes you wonder why you always thought he sucked and just how much more polished, catchy and technically sound he is, when compared to other options. I.Q. of 200 and change, accessible to both old school punkers and Tik Tok mall sluts alike, we all miss Yang. By the way, that stimulus would have kept on coming if we put this one in charge, similar to how The Offspring would still be around, if we prioritized them over Green Day.

Jo Jorgensen - Green Day

Why, oh why, did this person get so popular overnight? Is it because they’re "technically" part of a party that dates back to underground, Bay Area roots? Or, is it because they seem cool enough to make a few points about free speech (even if it’s just an excuse to make off-color jokes or college-aged edgy stances on guns, weed and other cool shit). No, they’re not related to Ministry, other than perhaps via Lollapalooza...but, I mean, they could be, right? Wait, what’s this? They’re echoing mainstream political talking points and retweeting establishment-backed, white-run "racial activist" hashtag campaigns?! Oh, come on. Really? Aaaaand now we’re dying our hair black at this age??? I’m done.

Tulsi Gabbard - NOFX

"But, we need a minority!" the crowd shouts at a racially mixed option that isn’t afraid to bring up awkward topics, disowns identity politics and keeps things short and to the point. Given the right exposure to her greatest hits, everyone will find something to like about Tulsi, even though she’s probably said a couple things (or has a few stances) that don’t vibe with the scene as a whole. And, that’s why I like Tulsi—she’s real. But, much like NOFX, she’s been thrice-canceled for, well, being honest about shit and not taking things too seriously, while at the same time, challenging the establishment norms and being oddly attractive to college jocks, who wouldn’t otherwise support someone of her genre (let alone demographic). Plus, Tulsi has more hits that have never achieved mainstream media attention than any other band (or candidate) mentioned thus far. Even people who hate punk can appreciate Tulsi. Democrats and Republicans have both suggested that Tulsi is a good choice, which is why she, like NOFX, was shelved and hidden during her best years. We can’t just have an intelligent, female, minority candidate spouting stuff about how none of those things matter, now can we?

Kanye West - Kanye West

"Kanye isn’t punk," you say? I’m sorry. I can’t hear you over Kanye being the only celebrity with balls to take over the airwaves in, oh, twenty years. "George Bush doesn’t care about black people," Kanye says to an audience of bumper-sticker slactivists during a Katrina telethon. "I’m happy for you and I’ma let you finish, but..." Kanye says to an entitled white woman, who was given an award she didn’t deserve. "The Democratic party is the new plantation and slavery is mental," Kanye says to a *static* "CUT TO COMMERCIAL BREAK, GODDAMNIT," *CNN logo*. Kanye West is basically Axl Rose, if Axl Rose was still Axl Rose and had gone to school. And, yes, Yeezy is running for Preezy. But, do you know how much the establishment hates him? They let another Kanye West on the ballot!!! That is correct—while G.O.A.T. Kanye is technically an option on several ballots, there is someone else with the same name out there, sucking up Kanye’s votes. Plus, some states are even removing OUR Kanye—the true Yeezus—from their ballots! The establishment truly does not want this man to win.

And, with that, I will toss my vote to the obvious choice. Make America Yeezy Again. I’m sorry if this loses some fans, but at some point, you will see me in a M.A.Y.A. hat and I will make no apologies for it. It’s time to rebuild America and make Taylor Swift’s record industry cronies pay for it.

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