What if Beto O'Rourke Ran America Like Ian MacKaye Runs Dischord Records?

Photo illustration by Danny Wicentowski adapted from photos by Michael Hogan / Flickr and Bossi / Flickr
What if Beto O'Rourke put on his Ian MacKaye hat?

By now you’ve probably heard all about the fabulous piece on Beto O’Rourke that was published in Vanity Fair a couple of days ago. In the story, O’Rourke explains his history, his motivations and his intentions for a presidential run, but he also drops a boatload of cultural references — enough to make anybody from Gen X's or Generation Catalano’s heart skip a beat.

Author Joe Hagan describes O’Rourke’s living room as having a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that “contains a section for rock memoirs (Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, a favorite) and a stack of LPs (the Clash, Nina Simone) but also a sizable collection of presidential biographies, including Robert Caro’s work on Lyndon B. Johnson.” (Hagan also mentions that the presidential biographies are “arranged in historical order,” yessss, papi.)

But it’s not just Beto’s choices in media that won our love, it’s his choice in heroes. Since he's known as the punk-loving, Whataburger-eating, always-on-tour, econo-jamming, skateboard-riding Democratic candidate, it should be no surprise that O’Rourke names Fugazi frontman and Dischord Records founder Ian MacKaye as one of his biggest influences.

MacKaye is best known as the frontman for legendary punk bands Fugazi and Minor Threat. Viewed as the “moral and dignified godfather of the hardcore and straight-edge scenes,” MacKaye’s unwavering work ethic, DIY sensibilities and no-bullshit approach to the music business have influenced every generation who came after him.

MacKaye founded his own record label — Dischord Records — nearly four decades ago, and it is still considered the standard by which all punk organizations should model themselves. The Dischord label never got famous by mainstream standards, but it was well-respected, and that’s what mattered.

In fact, two of the most influential houses in all of the Washington, D.C., area are the White House and Dischord House, MacKaye’s long-time home where he still keeps a small office.

In the Vanity Fair profile, O'Rourke says of MacKaye, "I have so much reverence for him and he means so much to me in my life. He really did represent this super-ethical way, not just of being in a band, or running a label, or putting on shows, but of just living.”

We got to thinking: If Ian MacKaye influenced Beto O’Rourke so completely, then what would it be like if Beto O’Rourke ran the United States like Ian MacKaye runs his businesses? We suspect the experience would be revolutionary and a bit… angular.

If Beto O’Rourke ran the United States like Ian MacKaye runs Fugazi and Dischord Records...
  • There would be a $5 cover to get into America.
  • And since America is an all-ages experience, you wouldn’t have to leave people who are under 21 (like your kids) at the border.
  • If for any reason you got kicked out of or were unsatisfied with America, your $5 would be refunded.
  • O’Rourke would load in all of his gear before each speech himself and load it out after he was finished.
  • His rally events would benefit Food Not Bombs.
  • Instead of Kid Rock visiting the Oval Office, Henry Rollins would drop by when he was in town.
  • It would definitely be a two-term presidency. The first term would be just a minor threat, but the second term would be totally fucked up. (But in the best way.)
  • O'Rourke would always book his State of the Union as a matinee performance at a VFW hall.
  • He’d take cool staff photos of everyone just chillin’ on the front porch of the White House.
  • White House news would be accessible via whitehouse.bandcamp.gov.
  • Everyone would get a government-issued burgundy beanie.
  • There would be no official merch for America. No t-shirts with flags on them, no souvenirs. There would be bootleg America t-shirts, of course, but they would have “THIS IS NOT AN AMERICA T-SHIRT” printed on them.
  • A reunited Fugazi would play the inauguration event and the crowds would actually be the biggest ever.
  • There would be at least one local opening band on stage at the inauguration before Fugazi, and it would certainly have some women and people of color in it.
  • If anybody in the crowd got out of control or somebody was being beat up or oppressed, O’Rourke would stop the whole country and address the issue before resuming America.
  • O’Rourke would never start a war with anybody except the establishment.
  • He'd also catch himself checking the shoelace color of his constituents just out of habit.
  • He wouldn't mind if a mosh pit opened up on the Senate floor, as long as nobody got hurt.
  • America would buy everything in bulk and name brands would be shunned.
  • The empire would be run on very little money. No PACs or anything like that, just tiny donations mailed in with a SASE included to get a free Beto sticker.
  • We’d be respected across the globe for our hard work, discipline and dedication to the cause.
  • There would be no contracts, just O’Rourke saying that he’ll do a good job for you. Because his reputation would be so good, you’d take him at his word.
  • When O'Rourke visited other countries, he’d totally sleep on their floors.
Okay, fine. Maybe that last one isn’t true. But the rest sounds good, doesn’t it? Up the punks. #Beto2020

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About The Author

Jaime Lees

Jaime Lees is a digital content editor for the Riverfront Times.
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