The Clash vs. The GOP - Joe Strummer, right again...

by Joshua B. Hoe In December of 1980 the Clash put out a triple album called “Sandinista!”

In 2015 GOP candidates have made statements suggesting that Mexico sends it’s criminals to the United States to rape, pillage and plunder...that immigrants come to the US to exploit constitutional birth citizenship...that immigrants take our jobs and make our health care more expensive nationwide.

This is what Joe Strummer had to say about this 35 years ago in the song “Something About England):

“They say immigrants steal the hubcaps

Of the respected gentlemen

They say it would be wine an' roses

If England were for Englishmen again”

Right wing groups in England scapegoated immigrants, currently they are scapegoating immigrants in France, and we know the rest of the history of scapegoating discrete minorities….Yup, it is no rose-covered road the GOP is leading us down.

As Strummer continues:

“I thought the old man could help me

If he could explain the gloom

You really think it's all new

You really think about it too

The old man scoffed as he spoke to me

I'll tell you a thing or two”

“I missed the fourteen-eighteen war

But not the sorrow afterwards

With my father dead and my mother ran off

My brothers took the pay of hoods

The twenties turned the north was dead

The hunger strike came marching south

At the garden party not a word was said

The ladies lifted cake to their mouths”

Same as it ever was.

The Nativists

For those keeping score. What Donald Trump is doing, so successfully, is running a nativist campaign...He is following the playbook of Le Pen, The National Front, George H. W. Bush (Willie Horton), and Pat Buchanan.

Basically you tell a story of how great our country was, and could be again, but for, the riff raff __________ (insert minority or economic class).

As usual, the narrative is appealing (especially for people out of work or underemployed) but incorrect.

Obviously, the biggest threat to the middle class and to manufacturing and other jobs in the United States has very little to do with immigration...The threat is robotics. And, the people exploiting robotics to reduce human labor are certainly not Mexican immigrants….(They are the people lifting cake to their mouths).

Remember mere years ago..when outsourcing was the biggest risk, because people could be hired in other countries for far less money? Guess what works for no pay, robots. Guess what can do virtually every job humans currently do at higher labor costs...Yup, robots.

We can kick all the immigrants out (well, we can pretend that we can kick all the immigrants out), we can scapegoat immigrants or muslims or whoever we choose to scapegoat, and we can create real misery for people who are actually a net positive on our economy….We also will not reduce much (if any) crime. And, at the end of the day:

“There was masters an' servants an' servants an' dogs

They taught you how to touch your cap

But through strikes an' famine an' war an' peace

England never closed this gap”

“So leave me now the moon is up

But remember all the tales I tell

The memories that you have dredged up

Are on letters forwarded from hell”

“The streets were by now deserted

The gangs had trudged off home

The lights clicked off in the bedsits

An' old England was all alone”

Basically, what I am saying is that we can isolate ourselves all we want….it won’t change the basic problem….the nature of work is changing...The movie ‘Primary Colors’ was right 20 years ago...we have to change the way we look at economics.

In the last 100 years (and probably forever) nation's having issues always try to blame their economic problems on those least able to defend themselves (instead of actually making the hard choices and decisions necessary to institute meaningful reforms).

It has become such a cliche that you would think even the tea party folks would understand….But, sadly no….we will have to play the sad story out again, at the cost of real people and real families who are (mostly) just trying to improve their lives (and the lives of their children) know The American Dream.

Oh and Woody Guthrie

There is a human cost, that Woody Guthrie mentioned in his song Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) and that might be worth revisiting today (some of the lyrics):

Some of us are illegal and some are not wanted

Our work contract’s out and we have to move on

But it’s 600 miles to that Mexican border

They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita

Adios mis amigos, Jesus and Maria

You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane

All they will call you will be, deportee

My father’s own father, he waded that river

They took all the money he made in his life

My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees

They rode the truck til’ they took down and died

Guess scapegoats can have names and faces too..


In other news, a Donald Trump primer:

Here is the DJT playbook

  1. Say something scandalous and outrageous every day because the media cares MUCH more about a scandal than they do about news that actually affects lots of people….I mean for god’s sake, he responded to Megyn Kelly’s question about bullying women by bullying her….and we eat it up like the aforementioned cake.  

By saying something outrageous every single day, media always stays directed at your campaign….Lindsey Graham can talk about Middle East policy all he wants, but Trump called immigrant children “anchor babies” arghhhhhhhh

Proportionality anyone?

  1. Whenever anyone asks you a tough question, answer a different question and then insult the questioner. If possible, start a Twitter war. This is called “always being on the offense.”
  1. Say yes, to every interview request (unless it is from one of those women who ask him tough questions or Latin’s who are apparently ‘overly emotional’).
  1. Sit back and watch the media outlets spend hours of prime news time every day talking about nothing but your latest statement, gaffe, or twitter war.

Sure the endgame still means a loss...But, he will forever be the hero of angry white men everywhere…Woo Hoo!

Of course his counter to his intractable demographic problems is to talk about the amount of turnout he will generate among his base (angry white people). He seems to be sure that turnout will matter more than demographics.

...this also seems pretty questionable….

If the way you energize your base is by actively angering the demographic groups that outnumber and oppose you...How does that = you win exactly? Yes, you energize your base, they turn out, and lose to an equally energized (and enraged) majority, no?

But boy he sure will have a fun year of scapegoating people and saying terrible things….won’t it just be a kick in the pants :).

“The streets were by now deserted

The gangs had trudged off home

The lights clicked off in the bedsits

An' old England was all alone”

And so will we have become a very lonely city on an abandoned hill.

All the potential GOP leadership seems to think what the world loved about us was our bluster, bravado, and most important our ability to be total a-holes to the rest of the world.

It would be nice if anyone would remember that what “made America great” was the idea that the real message that sold people on us was to send us, “..your tired and poor….your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”


Exceptionalism can eventually just become isolation and loneliness when you start caring more about the symbols than the substance.

Thanks Joe Strummer (RIP).

BTW - I would love to see just one of these GOP candidates support a massive national infrastructure policy as a stopgap way to get more people employed immediately followed by the instigation of  a real discussion about the future of work in might actually make the race interesting (even over a year out)....It would also be nice if someone had the courage to state unequivocally that immigrants are a net positive (by far) for our nation.

What do you think of the immigration debate? Even if you disagree, I would love to hear your polite disagreement! Leave a comment