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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
George W Bush: Punk icon?
By Damian Fowler
BBC reporter in New York

Michale Graves of Gotham Road
New-look Republican? Michale Graves backs Bush
It sounds unlikely, but there is a surprising new subculture emerging in the United States: Republican punk rockers.

In his knee-high Dr Martens and with his head shaved, Michale Graves is the Bush-friendly face of punk rock.

He is the front man for the band Gotham Road, which has just kicked off its US tour.

On stage he belts out angry, obscure lyrics, but offstage he is also known for his conservative rants and raves.

"The leftist radical agenda seems to be resonating loudly from within pop culture and we are at war on many different levels," he wrote in one of his columns at conservativepunk.com - one of several new web sites for Republican punk rockers.

Gotham Road is one a roster of bands who are anti-anti-establishment - though they represent a small percentage of the punk scene.

They are not raging against the machine - they are raging for it.

Although Graves does not fit the image of a young Republican, he makes no apologies for his politics.

Core values

"I support this government because of our president's core values," Graves says. "I think he's bringing the country in a right direction.

"Is there a better man for the job? There definitely might be, but from the candidates that we have to choose from in America right now, there's no better man than George Bush."

I don't find anything punk about promoting higher taxes and more handouts to people
Nick Rizzuto,
conservativepunk.com founder
Nick Rizzuto is another self-styled conservative punk, and the founder of conservativepunk.com.

The 22-year-old is a fan of the New York City punk band Bouncing Souls, and has the tattoos to prove it.

But he identifies himself as capitalist punk, railing against the left.

"I don't find anything punk about promoting higher taxes and more handouts to people," Rizzuto says.

"I would see the conservative viewpoint as being more punk than a liberal one, because a conservative viewpoint places a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility."

Anti-establishment

When Punk Rock emerged in the 1970s, it identified with youthful rage and rebellion.

It was an anti-establishment subculture whose politics often tended to the left.

The Sex Pistols embraced nihilism and anarchy, whilst bands like The Clash espoused leftist views.

The Punk Voter coalition website
Many punks stick to more traditional anti-establishment views
It is not surprising that most punk bands in America today continue that legacy.

Around 200 liberal and left-leaning bands, including crossover groups like Green Day and Foo Fighters, have teamed up under the banner of punkvoter.com with the goal of ousting President Bush in the November election.

Punkvoter has just released a compilation album of punk bands who are out to attack George W Bush as a liar with their music.

At the heart of this activism is voter registration.

"One of the messages we're trying to get to people is please go out and vote against George Bush," says Justin Sane, the lead singer of a group called Anti-Flag.

"But also we're trying to say to people, it's important to be involved in politics so you know what's going on, or one day you might wake up and realise that it affects you."

Polarised

Not to be left out, conservative punks also want to inspire their share of the youth vote.

Some critics see the emergence of conservative punk as a symptom of just how polarised the US has become in this election year.

In a lot of ways in the United States, the Republicans have gotten much more punk rock than the Democrats
Anthony DeCurtis,
Rolling Stone rock critic
"This country is as politically attuned as it has ever been," says Anthony DeCurtis, a rock critic for Rolling Stone Magazine.

"Often there's a kind of wilful lack of awareness about political issues in the United States - a sense of 'What difference does it make?'

"But that attitude does not really seem to be applying right now and punk rock is reflecting that."

There is little precedent in the US for Republican punk rock, though there are some exceptions.

Ramones

Johnny Ramone, the guitarist for The Ramones, has fiercely supported the Republican Party for years.

When the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, Johnny took to the microphone to offer his thanks, saying "God Bless President Bush, and God Bless America."

For many the idea of George W Bush being supported by punk rockers is a contradiction in terms.

But for others, there is something about this phenomenon that makes a perverse kind of sense because of the Bush administration's hawkish posture.

"In a lot of ways in the United States, the Republicans have gotten much more punk rock than the Democrats," DeCurtis says.

"The right has become more punk than the left : they're much more pugnacious, much more aggressive and much more forceful about putting out their ideas and drawing a line in the sand."

Still, punk rockers like Michale Graves sometimes feel alienated from the rest of punk rock scene, admitting that he receives a tremendous amount of hate mail.

"Sometimes I do feel pretty uncool," he says.


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