Laura Jane Grace, Anti-Flag and Bad Religion want to build back better
As the 2020 Presidential Election was broadcast live in front of millions across the country and around the world, the road to the White House is far off. What has turned into one of the most controversial elections in our nation’s history has also become one of the most monumental. Breaking all previous records, President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump have amassed the highest voter turnout the U.S. has ever seen.
Throughout 2020, and arguably heightened in the last four years, the U.S. has faced insurmountable division. Democratic and Republican parties have emphasized their focus on the state of the economy and a plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as well as LGBTQIA+ rights and human rights. 2020 was also met with a stark examination of the mistreatment, inequality and police brutality endured by Black individuals and people of color in the U.S.
At the helm of punk rock with her sharp tongue, Laura Jane Grace spoke to Alternative Press about the struggles minority groups face, specifically noting what the LGBTQIA+ community endured under the Trump administration. Joining Grace, Bad Religion’s Brian Baker and Greg Graffin addressed what we should expect from Trump following his exit from the White House, while Anti-Flag’s Justin Sane and Pat Thetic emphasized the need for the American people to demand more from our government. Their hopes for the incoming Biden administration may vary, but one thing is for certain: Our fight for a new America doesn’t stop after Inauguration Day.
[Photo by: Alexa Viscius][/caption]As the CEO of Against Me! and a vocal advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, Grace shared her confusion of her peers in the community supporting Trump over the last four years. Grace felt “at a loss for understanding where the disconnect was or how far off we were actually from each other.” She also said she finds it hard to imagine someone who considers themself “punk” being a Trump supporter. As the Trump administration comes to a close, Grace is heavily focused on advocacy and human rights issues.
“There's no logic. There's no way to reach some people on it,” Grace says. “My perception growing up when I was a young, young kid, and I get that this is fairly naive, and I was coming from the perspective of a young kid, was that a lot of the difference I perceived between Democrats and Republicans specifically was tax stuff, economic policies. Then growing up and realizing more and more, ‘Oh, no, it's really a lot more about moral things and cultural things.’ Right now, specifically, my issues are one is a white supremacist, the other is not. What's your decision?”
With the unprecedented nature of this year’s election and as vote tallies lingered into the latter half of the week, Trump cited a premature victory on the day of the election results as well as accused states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin of voter fraud in several Twitter tirades. For weeks now, Trump has confidently claimed victory. However, all across America, individuals in both major parties have feared civil unrest breaking out over the election results.
Throughout the week of the election, while Trump demanded vote counts to stop, Biden encouraged them to continue and expressed the importance of having every American’s vote count—and for their voices to be heard. Despite the fair nature of each vote being tallied, Trump supporters protested outside of polling locations in several swing states, demanding that recounts begin immediately or claiming that votes were being disposed of if they were in favor of Trump. The protesters' accusations, as well as Trump’s, have zero evidence to support them.
“I did not want to vote by mail because it seemed like there was already so much reporting on how there were going to be attempts to make those votes invalid,” Grace shares. “So I just wanted to write as direct a line as possible to it.
“All throughout my life, as far as I can remember, with the exception of [George W.] Bush and [Al] Gore, it was understood that you would know what the election results were on that night,” she continues. “Even knowing it was still the Electoral College that would have to cast their votes, and that was actually really what decided it. It was always, ‘Yes, the votes would be counted and tallied that night, and you will know.’ Even with Bush vs. Gore, it was still conceded. It felt within 24 hours.
“Now, to have it presented as, ‘Well, there's just no way we can know.’ It's been so destabilized to that point. Your one fucking job is to decide an election [and] to accurately count for what is everyone's right to cast a vote in this fucking democracy. So, why is this an issue? You couldn't have gone an extra step to make sure that it could all be counted on this night? You couldn't have adapted or pivoted in any way?
“Everything seems so designed to discredit that right to vote, to make sure it's as hard as possible for people to vote, to make sure that the elections are destabilized as much as possible. That it is illegitimate as possible to disenfranchise as many voters as possible. It seems that's what all our politicians are like, or half of them at least don't like working toward that end because they know that that's how they maintain power. With that being said, how in any way are they at all working in the interest of a democracy or working in [the] interest of their constituents? Unless it's just fucking about money and about big corporate money and serving those interests.”
While the road to the White House is winding down, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have promised to govern under the rhetoric that they will not see “red and blue states...just the United States.” As Biden and Harris prepare to begin their four-year term Jan. 20, 2021, both Democrats and Republicans are pertinent in keeping the pair accountable for their message of equality and unity.
Grace shares a similar sentiment, one that parallels much of the country, saying, “Hopefully this [will] be a step in the right direction. [We’ll] be able to pressure Biden and the administration to make more positive changes. It seems like you're buying yourself a breath, really—and that no one should take that for granted if we're able to push things in a positive direction of Biden getting into office. There is no time to rest.”
While Grace hopes to see positive change from the incoming Biden administration, Anti-Flag’s Thetic and Sane anticipate a more tumultuous upcoming weeks and months ahead of the inauguration.
“I expect it to be a train wreck and a lot of things that we've never seen before,” Thetic shares bluntly. “One thing that we know is that people never give up power easily, and it needs to be wrenched away from them. People like Donald Trump are the quintessential power grabbers. We can't even conceive of the things that he's going to try to do to maintain this power. The interesting thing about Donald Trump is he's so childlike that he telegraphs his emotions and his plays. So we will see them slightly before they come into action. But a rational human being will not be able to know they're coming until probably a day or so before. You can't conceive the limits that he will go to maintain his power and his superior position.”
Trump, too, has claimed victory of the election this week on several occasions. But Sane echoed that “Trump will do everything in his power to retain control of the White House and to assure himself all the power that he already has and a lot more.” Since the announcement on Nov. 7 that Biden was officially the next president of the United States, Trump has remained surprisingly silent.
“The fact that he came out like a two-cent despot and gave a speech at 2:30 in the morning on the election night before all the votes have been counted and declared himself the winner right there is all the proof you need to know that nothing is out of bounds for him,” Sane says. “He will never concede. He will say it was rigged, and he will say it was a coup. And there's just absolutely no evidence of that. You can't say those things unless there's actual evidence of that. And so far, all the people who actually monitor elections and who have been watching this election for irregularities say that they just aren't seeing any evidence of that.”
“But Donald Trump can throw enough sand in the eyes and make you think that it's not being done correctly. Through that, [he] can change the whole narrative for his own benefit,” Thetic adds.
On Nov. 7, four days post-Election Day, Biden was officially declared victorious and named the president-elect alongside Vice President-elect Harris. Reports from CNN, ABC and FOX News were met with an eruption of celebration and anger across the U.S. While Biden supporters cheered on the next president, Trump supporters protested the election results.
With zero evidence reported to support Trump’s claims, Thetic and Sane agree that he’s attempting to forge his own narrative. Some Trump supporters think he’s gone too far and should concede to the election. But many support his claims and demand justice.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Trump has accused the election process of fraud. After winning the Electoral College votes in 2016 but losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, Trump wrongfully claimed that he had lost due to illegal votes.
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted Nov. 27, 2016.
“A lot of people will hold on to that forever. You're just going to have to confront people with facts,” Sane explains. “But also understand that you can't change everyone's mind. I think it's like racism. [If] you hear it, you say something about it. More people are going to have to be willing to be politically engaged. And more people are going to have to be willing to step up. We're living in a time where if you want to sit on the sidelines, sorry, that's not an option anymore. I really believe that it's important to confront people with facts and with the truth.”
“When Trump was first running for president, none of the news outlets would call him a liar,” Thetic adds. “They would all say he had alternative facts. He was bending the truth and had a different narrative.
That type of language was effective at allowing Trump to tell his tales and people to buy into them. Now, as we got through this, people are very willing to say that he's lying. I think that is a good step. I do think we need to reemphasize that all the time, these facts that he is saying are not true. The reality that we all live in is a very different reality than what Trump is living in. We believe that people will make the right decisions over time if they're given the right information.”
Although it’s custom to concede an election after defeat, many anticipate that Trump will not admit his loss. It also remains unclear if Trump will attend President-elect Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which is also customary. In fact, reports have speculated if Trump will immediately launch a reelection campaign for 2024.
Bad Religion’s Baker weighed in on this speculation. “I think that there will immediately be a 2024 campaign dovetailing nicely with trying to set up something further than OAN [One America News], right-wing media dispensary,” he says. “I guess Fox isn't cool anymore, according to the rage tweeting I've been watching recently.
“We've learned too much about America lately,” Baker adds. “Where we are right now, if anything, it's shown us how many people are completely comfortable with Donald Trump. That's a really frightening place to be.”
In a recent report from USA Today, Rick Gates, an aide to Trump’s 2016 campaign, anticipates that Trump will remain a political figure in the upcoming years. Gates also added that Trump would likely “seriously consider another run in 2024.”
Baker says his life may return to a sense of normalcy under a Biden administration.
“I think you'll find when he gets out of office, things all of a sudden may matter a little more. It's just a horrible man with a shit family, just terrible, terrible people,” he says. “I think they should get everything they deserve. I will look on, but not with the same intensity. You know what I want to be back to? I want to be back to just reading the paper. You remember a life like that? Because I really do.'
“I remember I just read. I read, of course, the ‘mainstream fake lying’ New York Times and the ‘bullshit’ Washington Post and [the] ‘absolutely lunatic’ Plain Dealer. All this crazy ‘left-wing propaganda.’ But nevertheless, it was like there was something to that. Having news disseminated in that more contemplative and softer way. I'm really looking forward to getting back to just reading the paper. And hopefully, I can. It's a different world now than ‘Old Brian's coffee and paper,’ but I'm going to do the best I can.”
Graffin shared a similar sentiment, saying politics should not be treated like “television.” That, he says, is “not what makes America great.”
“It's supposed to be about ideas. And hopefully ideas about inclusivity and ideas about coexistence of different people from all different walks of life,” Graffin says. “That's an existential philosophy almost. That's why I think democracy is interesting, and it makes me happy to live under democracy. But the cult of personality, the fanboy attitude that you get from television stars or Hollywood celebrities, that's not supposed to be in politics.”
Graffin’s expectations for a Biden administration focus on the work the president-elect has ahead of him. Restoration will be key for Biden’s upcoming term, but not just restoring the country internally. Graffin says Biden will be tasked with patching up foreign relationships.
“The one thing he will do is not make America a laughing stock with the leaders around the world. I believe in incremental improvement,” Graffin says. “I don't believe in revolution. It rarely works. [Biden has] got to basically improve upon the disaster that was the last four years in terms of restoring our international relationship with other countries. I believe he can do that."
"In terms of policies, that's not what his job will be. As it was Obama's job to restore the economy and the character of the presidency in his eight years, Biden's got to do a lot of restoration work right now. That's about what we can hope for.”
The election aside, 2020 has been a tumultuous year. All eyes are on the incoming Biden administration with the promise of change and progress in the country. But they're also on the exiting Trump administration. Multiple lawsuits are beginning to unfold throughout the country over election fraud. But one thing is for sure: The American people have voiced the need for change. And that’s exactly what Biden and Harris need to be held accountable for.
The United States is far from abolishing division between the two-party system. But we, as a nation, need to start somewhere to enforce change and to promote unity.
“It's a breath,” Grace says. “You're buying yourself a breath and then the next day on the knife. Time to get to fucking work.”
Change and unity certainly won’t happen overnight. But it’s time to get to fucking work to create a better, more united nation governed for the American people. It’s time to do what Biden has said and build back better.
You can read more Alternative Press digital cover story interviews here.