Basslines and Protest Signs Part 61: What Would Jello Do?

By | October 28, 2020 at 1:00 PM
Photo credit: Matthew Kadi

Unless this election drags on and on (a genuine possibility), we’ll know who is going to be president for the next four years when the next of these columns is published. Many people, including this writer, are exhausted and just want the nightmare to end. Those on the left are holding out hope that the polls hold true and Biden/Harris will prevail.

And thank god for Harris’ name on the ticket, right? It’s far from perfect but having a powerful woman of color at the bottom of the ticket at least offers a break from the old white men everywhere else. This week, we chatted with former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra about it all as he prepares to release the new album from his Guantanamo School of Medicine project, Tea Party Revenge Porn

Unsurprisingly, Biafra isn’t ready to 100 percent toe the Democratic line. He’s always been his own man, a free thinker, and while he detests Trump with a passion, he doesn’t believe Biden is our friend either. He would, he says, “hold his nose and vote for Biden” if he lived in a swing state such as his former home of Colorado, but living in California he feels he can vote with his conscience, which might mean Green.

“He’s less insane than Trump. But how much of the corporate coup is going to keep moving on, tank tread section by tread section, is going to keep destroying all that we treasure in the world.”

“Biden is a very corporate animal,” Biafra says. “And a rather vicious one if you look at his record over the years. He’s a godfather of the worst of the drug laws. He also threw a public hissy fit that John Ashcroft had plagiarized the Biden Bill with the Patriot Act. Biden is not our friend. No way. He’s less insane than Trump. But how much of the corporate coup is going to keep moving on, tank tread section by tread section, is going to keep destroying all that we treasure in the world. I don’t really trust him to do much on that. And the jury is out on Harris. She was a bit of a pleasant surprise as the California AG and a slightly pleasant surprise in the Senate, although I don’t know how much she really has gone after Amy Coney Barrett like she should. But basically, they’re just like Obama before them, the first clue I got that Obama didn’t mean a word of the hopey changey stuff was when he picked Biden to be his VP. OK, this fits Obama’s actual Senate voting record a lot more than it does his rhetoric. We know what happened next. Even if Obama meant well, he was a much better speechifier than he has ever been as an actual leader or administrator.”

So, should Biden and Harris win the election, Biafra advises that we don’t lose the energy that’s been building up for four years. Election fatigue simply isn’t an option — we have to hold a blowtorch to their asses to make sure they’re doing the right thing. Plus, he thinks it’s still a big “if” regarding a Biden/Harris win.

“Let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton polled as much as 17 points ahead of Trump, in Michigan at this point,” he says. “Granted, a lot of that was vote rigging and whatnot, the real vote fraud. But nobody can get smug and giddy about these polls, let alone think whoever is president is going to solve things on the ground in downtown L.A. — is going to solve the enormous and unnecessary homeless and tent explosions going on all over California and beyond. That requires, not just keeping a blowtorch up Biden and Harris’ ass but also the legislators. Who knows what Newsome is going to do to replace Harris?”

The concern, particularly after the period of American history that we’ve just lived through, is that liberals and progressives will sit back and breathe a sigh of relief in the case of a Biden victory. Take it easy and allow bad shit to happen again. After all, for eight years during Obama’s time, we thought everything was going to be ok.

“It’s going to depend at the national level on how many more people like the ones we call the Squad wind up getting into office, and how much effect they’re able to have,” Biafra says. “I sometimes worry about AOC being too much of a national media pop star and how much that’s going to burn her out or, worse, get her voted out for neglecting her own district. But you can’t deny that she and Ilhan Omar have had a huge national impact, much more than Bernie Sanders, in swinging the national conversation to the point where even Biden has to gingerly latch onto some of what Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been saying about student loans and whatnot. He hasn’t come out against fracking yet — the pressure is on. Bernie is right, we won the fight for the platform. So there is an impact but as I was saying: It’s blowtorch up the ass time.”

Regardless of who wins the presidency, Biafra believes that far more of our attention should be on local politics.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Sloan

“When you vote for the president, you vote for who you can best stomach seeing on TV every night,” he says. “That’s the choice that’s made. It’s an anti-beauty contest. But local is where the action is. It matters who’s the mayor, who the DA is, who the sheriff is, who the city councils are, who the state legislators are, and for crying out loud, it matters who’s on the school board. It sure matters to people like Amy Coney Barrett and the followers of that. They’re all over school board elections. They want to force everybody to pray to their god in public schools, and take all the money too. We’re talking about putting another one on the Supreme Court who even wants to ban contraceptives and stuff. LGBTQ civil rights are a violation of people’s religious rights. They’ve been having meat cleaver fun in that area. You can deny medical care for religious reasons. They want to discriminate against everybody else by force of law. One of the tea party crackpots in 2010 was talking about trying to ban masturbation. How that would be enforced is anyone’s guess.”

“…local is where the action is. It matters who’s the mayor, who the DA is, who the sheriff is, who the city councils are, who the state legislators are, and for crying out loud, it matters who’s on the school board.”

Finally, we asked Biafra about old school punks, such as Johnny Rotten, veering right. 

“Johnny has had a conservative streak in him from the get go,” he says. “He was coming out in favor of nuclear power in the ’80s. He’s his own man, his own thinker, and sometimes that goes array. Some of the people who fall into this and should know better are lifelong searchers. Then they think they found something and sometimes they snap out of it later. I’m hoping for that with Exene, who’s an old and very dear friend. These things do happen. I also have to stress that, if you kick every single person out of your life who disagrees with you politically, you’re not only going to get pretty fucking lonely, but you’re going to find yourself surrounded by people that aren’t always a lot of fun. You’ll get bored.”

There’s “differences of opinions” and then there’s “letting go of racists” — but we know what he means.