Folks across the indie spectrum have had their time in the sun to support Bernie Sanders throughout the 2020 Democratic primary cycle. From Iowa to Michigan, Sanders has seen a solid coalition of indie fans pledging their support to his campaign. His campaign has returned the favor by having the likes of Soccer Mommy, Joyce Manor, Lucy Dacus, and more warm up the crowd before his rallies across the country.
Topshelf Records has been among one of the vocal label advocates for Sanders throughout the primary. Artists like Ratboys have been among the selected openers for Sanders on the trail, while peer labels like Run for Cover have also dedicated energy towards endorsing Sanders.
just checking in to make sure we are all:— topshelf records (@topshelfrecords) October 28, 2019
✔️wearing earplugs to shows
✔️listening to music with headphones
✔️not frickin emailing me about where your order is
✔️voting for bernie sanders
Staff writer Adit Ahmed reached out to Topshelf co-founder Kevin Duquette to learn more about his label’s endorsement of Sanders.
Why have you decided to endorse Bernie Sanders this year? What motivated you to publicly vocalize your support?
Kevin Duquette: Topshelf is an extension of our personal taste in music and art. We have not shied away from it also reflecting our support of different social issues in the past — donating to Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, ACLU, etc.
I see this election as a referendum on many things, but for me it is about choosing a candidate that has policies that truly represent and prioritize compassion for all. I don’t think there is a candidate that embodies this more than Bernie Sanders.
Why do you think folks in the emo and indie scenes have come out in support of Sanders? What policies are important to folks in those scenes, yourself included?
KD: In general, I think these communities are comprised of young people, which, in general, Sanders has a bevy of support from. So in that sense, it’s unsurprising to me when you look at his proposed policies and consider the issues young people care about. Sanders has a bold vision for the future of this country that aligns with and resonates with young people, sure, but also the people in these scenes (and music communities in general) I think are acutely aware of the hardships this generation faces and the changes that need to happen.
For me, there’s a deep admiration for a principled individual that has a track record of 40+ years of unwavering commitment to the issues at the forefront of this election — namely recognizing that our democracy is at risk because of the influence of corporate money and lobbyists in government — but also his stances on climate, scaling back U.S. military involvement in foreign affairs, social programs that serve all of us with dignity, an understanding of the complex history of racially discriminatory policies and practices in this country, and ways to give disadvantaged communities real opportunity. No other candidate has this kind of track record. It just comes down to recognizing this is a candidate that isn’t bullshitting you.
Both Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have pressed for Medicare for All, and have been seen as competing for the progressive vote. What led to your support of Sanders over Warren? Do you know scene folks who support Warren, or any candidate other than Sanders?
KD: In my opinion, Senator Sanders is the only candidate with a true, viable M4A plan. I lived in and grew up in Massachusetts my whole life and had Senator Warren as my representative. I was excited about her announcement to run and was initially excited about her vast (and thorough) policy stances, but I have been disappointed with her as the primary process has gone on. Overwhelmingly, most people I know in music are in favor of Sanders being the nominee, though I’m sure supporters for all the candidates exist, of course.
Note: Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the Democratic primary race on March 5, after we received these answers.
How have Topshelf and others in the scene engaged directly with the Sanders campaign? How has the scene organized around Sanders?
KD: We’ve had artists play some of his rallies and we have been supportive on social media. I’ve seen a lot of musicians outright endorse him and seen a few comps and fundraisers to benefit his campaign as well.
If Bernie is not the nominee, do you plan to support whoever the nominee is?
KD: Yeah, but I won’t be nearly as enthused about it.
What political action does the label hope to take beyond the primary?
Not sure. Our focus is definitely on music and our roster first and foremost. I think we try to be more involved in social and environmental issues over politics and we will return to that. Catch me where those overlap, though. I think mostly, we’ll just be active on social media encouraging young people to vote.
Featured Image: Bernie Sanders (Reuters Pictures/Andrew Kelly), Kevin Duquette (Hannah Chan)