Imagine showing up to a party and realizing your worst frenemy is wearing the exact same patched-up, safety-pinned army surplus jacket you picked out for the occasion. This is essentially what happened at a Democratic presidential campaign event in Iowa over the weekend, which was attended by 19 candidates, including Beto O’Rourke and Bill de Blasio. According to a reporter who was there, both of the field’s middle-aged ex-punks chose songs by the Clash to play as they walked onstage for a speech. How embarrassing!
(For the record, it’s likely that Pete Buttigieg took the stage to Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” which he’s done in the past, and not Batchelor’s “Never Giving Up,” which is a random cheap-sounding unofficial remix of the Panic! song. Maybe the reporter’s Shazam app misled her.)
As you can see, de Blasio picked “Rudie Can’t Fail” (a song he’s mentioned loving before, but still a funny choice considering the way its chorus sounds like an endorsement for a certain Trump-defending Republican predecessor of his as NYC mayor), and O’Rourke picked “Clampdown.” Bill and Beto both have histories with punk, and both of them have attempted to parlay their fandom into relatability with voters. The former has talked about his youthful love for the Ramones, was once photographed in the crowd during a Trash Talk set, and recently professed his love for ska (and the Clash) on national TV. The latter is himself a punk musician of (very) minor historical significance, having played in an El Paso band called Foss with one of the guys who went on to form At the Drive-In.
At this point, the chances of either man actually winning the Democratic nomination look pretty slim, so maybe they should focus on the contest that matters: who loves the Clash more? Who is the real punk and who is the poser? Both of them have dropped conspicuous references to the the band in the past. Only de Blasio can claim to have raised funds as a teen for Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista political movement, which the Clash named an album after; but Beto has the benefit of appreciating the band as a fellow musician, plus he picked a less obvious song. It’s sure to be a tight race going forward, and we’ll be watching closely.
And if for some reason you’re interested in actual policy instead of vaguely cool and rebellious style points, allow me to point you in the direction of Elizabeth Warren—who, incidentally, is also the only candidate who picked a feminist anthem recorded for a movie about kidnapping and planning to murder your boss in an effort to improve labor conditions for your fellow workers. Pretty punk!