God save the Bush administration

DES MOINES, Iowa – There was a time when punk rock was synonymous with anti-social behavior: smashed guitars, trashed hotel rooms, behavior that would be offensive even on today’s reality TV shows. A punk rock icon whose stage name was Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend in a ratty New York hotel, then died of a heroin overdose.

Today, punk rockers are talking politics in Des Moines, Iowa, which is about as deep in Middle America as you can get, as the state’s Jan. 19 Democratic presidential caucuses approach.

Punk is dead. Boring won.

Some trappings of punk were evident at Punkvoter.com’s “Rock Against Bush” news conference on Sunday, held at a downtown Des Moines hotel. Vibe-wise, the place is several solar systems away from punk. It has a portrait of Woodrow Wilson in the lobby.

One organizer wore heavy black, so-dorky-they’re-cool eyeglasses. Chris No. 2, from the band Anti-Flag, (“We rock the dudes and damn the man”) sported a red Mohawk and a thick chain for a belt. The official T-shirt showed a picture of President Bush with the word “Evil” stamped across his forehead, under the word(?) “Demockcracy.”

Even so, The Man clearly has co-opted punk’s glorious nihilism. Flanking Chris No. 2 was Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (who conceded that he preferred Phil Collins) and political organizers from the United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. They all said they hoped to help attract young people to politics.

“I’m very glad to see punk America come along with this effort,” said Dave Neil, a UAW official.


“This is probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever done,” said Chris No. 2.

It was, the punks said, all about empowerment.

“I had no one to yell at,” said Billy Gould of the band Faith No More. “I could yell at my girlfriend. I could yell at my dog. I was frustrated.”

And so a coalition of punk rockers founded the organization and Web site. They’re also issuing a two-volume CD called “Rock Against Bush.” Organizer Wayne Kramer of the band MC5 said he hopes to mobilize more than 500,000 young voters. Kramer said the site is getting 250,000 hits a day.

Voting, of course, is a relatively establishment-oriented activity, but Kramer said he saw no disconnect between punk and politics.

“Punk is to defy things you find offensive,” he said.