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Beto O’Rourke Launches New Offensive in War to Be the Democrats’ Biggest Fan of the Clash

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke is still locked in a nascent but bitter war with fellow longshot 2020 candidate Bill de Blasio over which Democratic presidential hopeful gets to lay claim to being the campaign season’s biggest fan of the Clash. To that end, O’Rourke recently discussed his fandom on the San Francisco Chronicle’s It’s All Political podcast.

Fortunately for O’Rourke, Chronicle senior political writer and It’s All Political host Joe Garofoli is a huge Clash fan, and as such gave former punk bassist O’Rourke ample opportunity to gush about the Clash after answering questions about less important things such as border security and the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy.

O’Rourke began his musical flex by namedropping legendary D.C. punk bands Nation of Ulysses and Rites of Spring (Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty’s mid-80s pre-Fugazi band) before delving into how he discovered the Clash during the eighth grade when a classmate loaned him a copy of London Calling.

“It absolutely changed my life,” O’Rourke said said of the 1979 double album. He credited “the urgency of the music” and how the songs espoused “politics in a way I had never experienced it before,” before exclaiming that the late Joe Strummer was “the coolest human being that ever walked the planet.” That last statement elicited a “preach, brother” from Garofoli.

O’Rourke famously referenced the Clash song “Clampdown” during a debate with Texas Senator Ted Cruz  in September while vying for Cruz’s Senate seat. He has since used the song as his walk up music during the Iowa Democrats Hall of Fame event on Sunday. As O’Rourke explained, the song tells the listener that “you can grow up idealistic with the best of intentions” but still “be compromised or corrupted or consumed by these larger forces and powers.” O’Rourke also tied the song, which deals with themes of xenophobia, the moral failings of capitalism, government crackdowns on protests, and young people abandoning their idealism as age, to the Trump administration’s hardline anti-immigration policies.

“And some of the lines in that song where they’re talking about being afraid of somebody because of their differences,” O’Rourke explained before quoting the lyric “taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?”

“It’s just chilling for me to even say that, but we say that during an administration that has sought to ban all Muslims from traveling to the United States of America,” O’Rourke said. “Or has called Mexican immigrants ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’ or asylum-seekers ‘animals’ or ‘an infestation.’ ” He added: “The Clampdown is upon us and sometimes we are tempted to laugh it off, ’who is the clown in the White House saying this ridiculous stuff?’”

Your move, de Blasio.

Listen to the entire conversation between O’Rourke and Garofoli here.