Here we go again. Another election.
Eight years ago, John McCain addressed bikers at the Buffalo Chip Campground near Sturgis and declared, “As you may know, not long ago a couple hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I’ll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day,” It was both a slam at Barack Obama who had recently visited Berlin and a play for what The Associated Press called “blue-collar and heartland support.”
A couple of months later McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin – wearing a red leather jacket – and celebrity bike builder Paul Teutel converged on the Media Courthouse steps in suburban Philadelphia. Among the props was a custom motorcycle and McCain vowed, “Sarah and I are going to get on that chopper and ride it right to Washington and raise hell when we get there.”
Not to be upstaged, a few days later the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) sent out a press release announcing: “More than 30 bikers, most of them members of the Letter Carriers (NALC) and Teamsters, and other supporters joined a cookout and rally in Columbia, Missouri, yesterday to show support for Obama and his plans to revive the middle class. After the rally, the bikers, calling themselves ‘Bikers for Obama,’ headed off for a scenic ride to the state capitol in Jefferson City with Obama 2008 stickers proudly displayed on their union-made Harleys.”
All About Love
Politicians love bikers about once every four or eight years. Nothing better represents the traditional American values of independence, self-sufficiency, courage, anti-authoritarianism, liberty, blood lust and the unhindered pursuit of putting food in your baby girl’s belly by any goddamn means necessary than a biker on a V-Twin motorcycle – preferably a biker on a Harley with forward controls and ape hanger handlebars. And bare arms. And a little, American flag decal. And a Bowie knife. And a couple of tattoos.
What bikers represent is much more than what bikers actually are which is what makes bikers so dangerous. “Those of you who live through me would lock me up and throw away the key,” Steve Earle sang.
This country’s citizens, particularly men, pine for what bikers represent as if the souring of America was just yesterday and reversible. Harley-Davidson has sold a lot of tee shirts to those men. Bikers and their primitively styled rides symbolize the golden age of tail fins, when America never lost a war, jobs were so plentiful as to be disposable, anybody could earn a living by selling his labor rather than his soul, anybody could buy a house, anybody could afford to send his kid to college and it was still a misdemeanor to punch a cop in the nose – and cops used to be a lot more polite, too.
Bikers For Trump
So now there is Bikers For Trump, founded by a 47-year-old chainsaw artist from South Carolina named Chris Cox. And Bikers For Trump is in the news because of a hatchet job a writer named Tim Mak published in The Daily Beast last Friday – April Fools Day – titled “Donald Trump’s Hells Angels Want to Kick Protester Ass.” Tim Mak is a Senior Correspondent for The Daily Beast who looks like that Asian guy in that ad for Harley’s new Street 500.
“Donald Trump has a new line of defense in his ongoing war against protesters,” Mak writes. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-Trump bikers ready and willing to provide extra security at his rallies. And these barrel-chested bikers are already making some anti-Trump protesters think twice about demonstrating at these events. There is a burgeoning political movement of bikers in America that wants to take their organization nationwide, and they’re going all in for Donald Trump. It’s an unprecedented step – bikers are a demographic that has never been tapped by a political campaign before.”
Apparently Mak missed the press release for Bikers For Obama. Apparently he never saw the official photos of Mama Sarah grinning with the Vietnam Vets/ Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club in Anchorage.
The thrust of Mak’s polemic is that Bikers For Trump represent a corps of thugs for Trump. “It was scary, hearing that these bikers were coming,” Mak quotes “Mario Ramirez, lead organizer at the Milwaukee-based Voces de la Frontera who protested the Wisconsin Trump event…. People felt like those people were going to try to do something bad to us. But no matter what they want to do, we will be there anyways.”
Bikers For Trump seems to be aware of how the biker stereotype is being twisted – not so much about freedom as about violence. There has been a lot of Gangland and Sons of Anarchy since the McCain campaign.
Bikers For Trump says its current “Mission Statement” is: “To promote and coordinate Bikers for Trump rallies and events nationwide and to inform voters on issues confronting America. To connect patriotic bikers with the sole purpose of electing Donald Trump President of the United States. Bikers for Trump does not endorse violence nor do we endorse confrontations with paid protesters at Trump for President appearances. Bikers for Trump believes in the First Amendment to United States Constitution and believes in the People’s peaceful right to demonstrate and protest. However we denounce protesters being paid and provided untruthful propaganda and encourage bikers from around the United States to attend Bikers for Trump rallies in a peaceful manner.”
Get ready for more biker stereotypes. It’s an election year.