The dreary state of Trump's 2024 rallies

The melancholy, yet incandescent pop song “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” by the post-punk band The Smiths has somehow become a staple at Donald Trump rallies. Though it appears the Trump campaign team has been blasting the indie rock classic for some time, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr posted on X that he “never in a million years would’ve thought this could come to pass. Consider this shit shut right down right now.” 

Countless artists have objected to the use of their songs being played before, during and after his campaign rallies: Notable artists like Adele, Earth, Wind & Fire, Guns N’ Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, Pharrell Williams, Prince (via his estate), Queen and R.E.M. have all made similar statements to that of Marr’s — though most have proven unsuccessful without meaningful legal action.

But something is jarring about the use of this track. The Smiths have long been associated with angsty, teenage rumination, and this song in particular is one of the more desperate and juvenile songs in the band’s catalog. This contrasts with the previous tone of Trump events, which often felt like a twisted combination of a monster truck rally, carnival and shock-jock stand-up set. 

And maybe there’s a certain, subconscious psychology to the selection. 

As Ian Ward wrote in Politico today, while MAGA die-hards are still willing to brave the elements to witness their dear leader in action, the overall sentiment seems one of exhaustion and lethargy. Per Ward’s report, it seems like just playing the hits isn’t cutting it anymore: 

“His rallies aren’t fundamentally different than they have been in past elections, but therein lies the problem: There’s little new substance or material in this year’s revival of the Trump Show. His core grievances — against the “radical left Democrats,” the deep state, the RINOs, the globalists, the media — are little changed since he first started running for president in 2015, and his schticks — spinning out new nicknames for his rivals, goading the crowd to boo the press — are all retreads. Trump may still be full of venom and fury, but his laugh lines feel wooden and rehearsed, his digressions lacking color and zing.”

So while this might not be indicative of any kind of outcome for what is sure to be a tumultuous and nerve-racking election year, it seems to point to a broader frustration amongst the electorate. Trump’s appeal is still rooted in revanchist, grievance-based politics, but it seems like that sentiment is the only thing driving the majority of his supporters to the polls. It’s almost more about “owning the libs” than it is about the righteous virtue of The Donald.  

Conversely, Biden’s pitch has been one about protecting the republic from the return of disorder and iron-fisted cruelty. Neither contains any meaningful reference to the positivist metrics of our social, economic or political health that isn’t wrapped up in partisan decor. It feels as if we’re just going through the same motions that have colored the past two major election cycles. It’s the same sort of listlessness that’s invoked in The Smith’s ambivalent pop-rock. 

As the band’s notoriously contrarian frontman Morrissey once sang: “I wish I could laugh, but that joke isn’t funny anymore.”  

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Jamie Larson