The Juan Maclean's Guide to the 2016 Presidential Election
The New Hampshire-based producer talks politics on the day of his home state's primary elections
As far as voter registration campaigns go, "Rave the Vote" events never really garnered the same cachet as the "Rock the Vote" drives that crop up every four years. But now that the race for the next president of the United States has officially kicked off with the Iowa Caucuses, even club kids are tuning in. That Midwestern state isn't exactly a nightlife hotbed, so it's unlikely that the coveted clubber vote swung the election in Des Moines, but this week, for New Hampshire's primary, we have a man on the ground.
The Juan Maclean has made make his home in the Granite State since moving to Dover from Providence, Rhode Island in 1999. When he's not touring internationally at the Panorama Bar or playing at the U.S.'s tastemaking spaces like Chicago's Smart Bar, he holes up behind the mixing board in his longtime home base, which he says has an "'Alternative' element, enough to make it livable," but remains regrettably conservative in others. "I still get the occasional 'Nice, bike faggot' when I'm out riding my bicycle," he says.
It's that kind of cultural mixed bag that makes New Hampshire such a bellwether state for the nation, with its New England liberals and "Live Free or Die" libertarians. In Dover, Juan says, there is a guy that drives around with a Confederate flag on the back of his pickup truck, but Juan's monthly studio rent is $300, and he can buy lobster fresh off the boat. Pack your bags, Bushwick residents.
The longtime DFA affiliate is currently starting in on his fourth full-length album of shimmery robotic electro as The Juan Maclean, a collaborative project that's come to include Nancy Whang, also of LCD Soundsystem. But in addition to that work, he's also crafting the next EP for his house side project Peach Melba, and preparing to release some new solo material, a collection of "very dark tracks in the world of where house intersects with techno," which he will bill as just Juan Maclean, rather than The Juan Maclean. But even studio rats this busy get Bernie Sanders volunteers knocking at the door, and Maclean— a registered Democrat who proudly earns his "I Voted" sticker every November—has strong opinions on the political circus. So THUMP turned to this true party animal for a guide to today's first-in-the-nation primary, evaluating each party's major contenders. Read up, then register to vote.
Hillary has a huge infrastructure of support here in New Hampshire, but somehow she is trailing behind Sanders in the polls. Maybe this is how New Hampshire will set the tone for the rest of the primaries, by allowing Sanders to achieve what a year ago would have seemed preposterous, taking an early lead. In moments of weakness I give in to looking at my Facebook feed, and I see a lot of discouraging anti-Hillary rhetoric.
It would be easy to say that, even among the supposedly "liberal" thinkers who pollute my newsfeed, much of the criticism is based in deeply rooted misogyny, but in general I see her being cast as an "establishment" candidate and that somehow this is an entirely negative association. I suppose this naturally happens as you get older, but the more objective and realistic side of me admits that Hillary would accomplish a lot more as president than Bernie Sanders would. I think young people who didn't normally participate in the political process got very discouraged after Obama had been in office for a while. It seems like they had forgotten the stuff they learned in school about how the various branches of the government work and that the president can't just make things happen, can't actually make laws, for example.
He's the Black Madonna of candidates, cutting through the cynicism that is appropriate for a system that is almost entirely bankrupt with backroom deals and influence and allowing you to believe that good ideas, integrity, and hard work can pay off with persistence over time. I will vote for Sanders in the primary. I am very curious to see how this plays out. I remain perpetually baffled that the American people don't elect people like him into public office.
As someone who has traveled all over the world for most of my adult life, I am often embarrassed (as in the Bush years) by what is going on back home when I am away. I have had hundreds of conversations that revolve around the question "Why do poor/middle class Americans elect candidates who work tirelessly to screw them over?" The easy answer is: "Americans are generally stupid." If I step outside of my social circle of extremely liberal socialists, the truth is that most Americans don't know the difference between, say, communism and socialism. As much as I am more excited for Bernie Sanders than I ever have been for any presidential candidate, the cynical side of me believes he simply cannot get elected due to the sheer numbers of unenlightened people who make up this country.
It's funny how I've gone from being horrified that another Bush was running for president to actually rooting for the guy. He seems to by far the most reasonable of the main contenders. To be honest, and I say this at the risk of a Ten Walls-type backlash against myself, he doesn't seem like the worst to me. If I could choose a Republican to run against Sanders or Clinton at this point it would be this third Bush guy. He seems much more a George H.W. [the 41st president] than a George Junior [the 43rd president]. He's definitely put a lot of work into New Hampshire over the last few months, he's maintained a strong presence here.
I can't believe this guy is still a candidate. He admits to stabbing his friend and then having a divine revelation and also to attacking his mother with a hammer, but he's still in the running?!?! Whenever I hear him speak he sounds like he's on a little bit of Ketamine.
Cruz is definitely the wrong candidate for New Hampshire. Republicans here tend to be more moderate and secular. His evangelical lunacy is totally out of step with the state. He hasn't been here in two months, so I'm not sure he's even trying. I have friends who believe he is even scarier than Trump. Religious people scare me in general, but this guy has publicly stated that Christianity has not committed any acts of terror since the Crusades. I guess he's not aware of a little organization we have here in the USA called the Ku Klux Klan. Or all these bombings of abortion clinics. People here don't like that stuff. It's more of a 'live and let live' sort of feeling here.
He seems like the most reasonable of all the Republican candidates. There are polls of dubious integrity that show him in second place in New Hampshire behind Trump, but this seems highly unlikely. I do see a lot of Kasich bumper stickers and signs in people's yards. Probably the most positive of the lot, and his fiscal policy plays well here.
Rubio was pretty absent from early campaigning here, but has recently stepped up his presence quite a bit. From what I've read in the local newspapers, people don't know much about him, but he is gaining a lot of traction, possibly poised for a second place victory over Cruz. However, people also seem quite skeptical, saying that he comes off too much like a preprogrammed Washington political robot. "He says a lot but says nothing" is a common criticism. People are pretty no-nonsense here (hence the appeal of Trump) and that of hitting all the key talking points while not really answering questions directly doesn't play well. He's like all these new deep house DJs who came out of nowhere, throw in plenty of references to Chicago and Detroit in interviews, but are indistinguishable from one another.
The Steve Aoki of the candidates this year. Much reviled, prone to outrageous behavior, beloved by millions. When Trump first announced he was running, I thought it was great theater and gave him credit for the performance art aspect of the whole thing. But now he and his supporters have simply made me feel embarrassed to be American. I think he is really is giving voice to a lot of people who have felt unheard and unrepresented. The problem is that it seems to be the voice of racism, bigotry, intolerance, and general stupidity. "Make America Great Again" is code for "silence all these crazy feminists, blacks, Latinos, gays, welfare recipients, and gun haters and give the power back to the rich white hetero male." Or, "We've suffered eight years under this black guy who isn't even an American citizen." It boggles the mind to think that his main supporters are the very people who will be fucked over the hardest if he wins. At any rate, he is poised to win convincingly in New Hampshire on Tuesday. New Hampshire is a funny place, it's a mix of liberal types who drive hybrid vehicles and pickup truck driving hicks (no offense to many friends here who drive trucks). The conservatism here tends more toward the libertarian variety than the Christian right. Our state motto is "Live Free or Die." Prime breeding ground for Trump supporters.
Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Hillary Clinton photos by Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons. Donald Trump Photo by Evan Guest/Wikimedia Commons. John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz photos by Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons. The Juan Maclean photo by Tonje Thilesen.