Bernie Sanders

Henry Rollins Punks Out, Supports Bernie Sanders

But other punks such as Pere Ubu's David Thomas would - horrors! - "totally vote libertarian"


Over at Political Punks, Lisa De Pasquale and Brett Smith lay into former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins for his embrace of big government and the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

Rollins has recently told The Daily Beast:

"I like [Sanders], because I think he's a straight shooter. I love his progressive ideas about health care, election campaign reform, and foreign policy. I've always liked him because he's honest to a fault. He's a true statesman."

"Obviously you can't sell him to the Midwest or the South. But I just think he's the best guy running. His concepts are way too radical for America in terms of health care and all that, but I don't think any of his ideas are threatening. I don't think any of them would be bad. I don't think he wants the next war."

I'm with Rollins on foreign policy, at least to the extent that Sanders is a non-interventionist. But Rollins' utter contempt for large parts of the country, especially those of us living in Districts 2 through 12, is nothing new. Recall back in 2010 when he argued that Tea Partiers were amphibian incestuous child molesters.

But as De Pasquale rightly notes, Sanders' health care and campaign finance reforms are all about expanding the size, scope, and spending of government and shrinking the scope of individual autonomy. She writes:

Remember when punk rockers spoke out in opposition to the state and big government rather than in support of it? Is Rollins so naive that he doesn't realize that supporting Sanders "progressive ideas" means more government in every Americans' lives?…

We now have Rollins talking about how cool the President is.  So not punk.  He told The Daily Beast, "I think [Obama]'s an amazing man and he's got more cool than 10 James Bonds. I would have lost my dignity long ago, and he gets called a lot of names."

Punk is anti-establishment. Pro-individual freedom.  Punk is not fawning over politicians or crying over politicians being called names.  Punk is non-conformity.  It is not conforming with nearly everyone else in the entertainment industry.

For his part, Brett Smith writes, "[Rollins] is a shill for Big Government. It makes no sense. It's not consistent with how he lives."

More here.


As it happens, punk rockers were anti-state (or more precisely, anti-everything) for about 15 glorious minutes. By the end of the 1970s, virtually all punks, at least to the degree they espoused anything approaching politics, had converged on a doctrinaire leftism that tended to celebrate regimes and ideologies that rarely created safe spaces for rock-and-roll types. And when it comes to the beneficiary of the single-biggest political statement by a major punk act, well, let's just say The Clash are dead but the Sandinistas are still up to their old tricks.

Meanwhile, over at The Baffler, Eugenia Williamson ponders the cultural stain left by punk long enough to sigh:

Left to its own devices, punk would totally vote libertarian—think of David Thomas, frontman of the four-decades-and-counting épater-le-bourgeois "avant-punk" ensemble Pere Ubu, who has recently come out as an antigovernment individualist in the rawest American grain (even though he's lived in England for the past two decades).

So when punk isn't annoying people on the right, it's disappointing folks on the left. Which means that a movement that famously counseled "Kill Your Idols" is working exactly as it's supposed to: It leaves none of us any place to rest easy. The music and the people what make it fail us always.

And with that, take it away Pere Ubu, with "Non-Alignment Pact."