"People don't know what to make of me," says Dave Benedetti, who, with his bands Murder and the Creepy Crows, sometimes goes by the name Roach McKrackin. "I don't look like a conservative."
He doesn't, you know. The 32-year-old looks like an unreconstructed punk rocker circa 1995, replete with tattoos and big ear plugs. He's fond of cowboy hats. Romney will be his second-choice candidate in November. "In a perfect world, it would be Ron Paul, but that's not what's gonna happen," he says.
In 2010, Benedetti wore a zebra-print cowboy hat, plastic sunglasses, and a button-covered military vest in a video he made for the New York Times, explaining his ideological support of the Tea Party movement.
"I've been invited to Tea Party rallies and Boston meet-ups, but I've never actually gone," Benedetti says, citing his alienation from the older, strongly Christian crowd; he's an atheist. "I'm more comfortable with my friends, period. That definitely trumps any politics."
Part of the reason Benedetti is so comfortable around liberals is that he used to be one. "I was a punk rocker since I was 13," he says. "Obviously, I was very liberal. . . . [But] once I got out on my own, my political views started to form and change. It wasn't like an overnight type thing — this is what happens with a lot of people. You're out there working, trying to make ends meet, and you change."
Now, as a self-employed horror filmmaker and editor, Benedetti often finds himself "at odds with a lot of people in the industry." And his politics also impacted his music career. "I know for a fact I've lost both band gigs because of my politics," he says. "One of my bands was the Murder, and it was not unknown where my [political] stance was. I was told we'd been considered for shows that we didn't get because of it."
Nonetheless, he doesn't shy away from debate. "Most of my friends are incredibly liberal, and politics is almost like a sport," he says. "It's sort of become a game at this point."
Justin Perilli knows this first-hand: he's been friends with Benedetti since the fifth grade and chose him for a groomsman. Benedetti got him into punk rock; they started a band together back in Benedetti's liberal days. "He's one of my best friends," Perilli told me. "He's one of those people that if I needed anything, he could help me out, and it'd be the same thing back."
These days, there's some friction between the two.
"I don't like his point of view, and it makes me angry," Perilli says. "I'm just about as liberal as you can get, but he doesn't believe in global warming."
Perilli chalks it up to Benedetti's contrarian nature. "He finds every article he can find [about climate change denialism] and posts it to his Facebook feed to make people's blood boil. He loves to troll people in ways that I can't even explain to you. One time at a party I saw him make a girl cry over politics. It was the biggest thrill in the world for him. He was laughing his ass off."
All the antagonism has made it all but impossible for Perilli to discuss politics with his conservative friend. "When I wanted to know what the other side's thinking, I'd ask him about an issue," he says. "But I learned very, very quickly that it turns into a shouting match whenever we start talking about politics. There was a point where it started to get to me very personally, and I had to stop arguing with him and engaging with him because he likes to get a rise. I really try not to talk to him. I'd get so angry about his Facebook messages, but then I realized he was trying to consume me. Now I just talk about other things, like music."
But to Perilli, Benedetti's fiscal conservatism seems abstract. If Benedetti was a social conservative, "that would be a deal-breaker. The fact that he identifies with those people is unattractive enough, but I could not be friends with someone that thinks same-sex couples shouldn't have the right to marry."
Eugenia Williamson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.