With the New Hampshire primary behind us, and the March 10 Florida primary looming, you may find yourself stomping around in circles, bellowing (in the manner of James Earl Jones in Yellow Pages ads), "Choices! I NEED choices!" Because the choices you've gotten so far just don't cut it. The Democrats served up five men whose concept of a "race" was to Moonwalk backward from the starting gate. The Republicans offered two gents whose idea of enlightened racial politics was to point out, proudly and loudly, that unlike their shared opponent, David Duke, they have never been registered Nazis.
So you desperately need choices. Well, I think I can help.
Some people insist the U.S. government doesn't do anything worthwhile, but that isn't true. During every presidential season, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) releases a list of the names of people who have declared their intention to run for our highest office - including dozens and dozens of hopefuls whose names you rarely (or never) hear. The list inspires exciting daydreams. Hoist the hefty FEC printout (the most recent edition contains 202 names), close your eyes, riffle and sniff its pages, and you find yourself surrendering to visions of vital, compelling, and - well, yes - pathetic alternative campaigns. The sounds of the names themselves often bark for your attention. Among others in the edition I have (the list is updated regularly) is Billy Joe Clegg, a Christian Southerner who has established several campaign committees in Mississippi and Florida, including "Clegg (Won't Pull Your Leg) for President," "Just Kaus Committee" (that's country-spelling for Just Cause, a la Kountry Korner and Hair Kuttery), and "FDA (Foundation Drug Annilation [sic])." James "Bo" Gritz and "Curly" Thornton are running, as are The Messiah (a.k.a Fred Irvin Sitnick of Owings Mills, Maryland); Staten Island's favorite son, Moshe Friedman ("Kollel Chaverim for Moshe Friedman for President," "Shtier Holtz for Brains"); Frank Barela, an Arizonan who heads the People's Revolutionary Continental Army; Abraham Washington Bognuda; Tracy Allen "Hollywood" Hall; Lloyd "Alamo" Scott; Jeffrey "Flake" Marsh; and one whose name may cringe even you who fancy yourselves whimsy-invulnerable - Germantown, Maryland's George Alexander Muzyk.
By the way, the FEC wants to warn you against the persistent myth that it officially recognizes the people on this roster of declared "candidates" as candidates. Not true, says press spokesperson Sharon Snyder. Getting your name on the list only means that you mailed the FEC a letter announcing your intention to run. The government's definition of presidential candidate, says Snyder, is someone who meets the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971's standard of having "raised or spent $5000." By that measure, only 23 of the current 202 file-ees qualify.
OK, got it. Myth shattered. But for our purposes, we'll go with the more sophomoric definition: A candidate is anyone with the motivation to apply tongue liquor to envelope gum and mail a letter, card, or bar napkin announcing that he or she will fight for snoozing rights to the Lincoln Bedroom.
Every four years journalists take this list and roam through its pages to produce the familiar "kooky" round-ups of fringe presidential campaigns. The Boston Globe weighed in December 26, with a crisply done genre specimen that displayed both the strengths and weaknesses of such coverage. On the up side, there was fine raw information on quadrennial greats like Harold Stassen (at 84, he's just run in his eighth New Hampshire primary) and Lyndon LaRouche (fifth campaign, hampered this time by the fact that he's cooling his buns on federal cell-block concrete in Minnesota); and on exciting newcomers like Tom (Billy Jack) Laughlin and Charles Woods, a wealthy Nevada businessman who is running on a classical anti-Federal Reserve, extreme-right-wing platform. On the down side, daily newspapers have limited space, so surveys of a field this big have little room for analysis. What motivates subcultural politicians? Who are they?
Do they have the kind of small-d democratic goals and inspirational values that could change the way we elect presidents in this country?
We aren't told. The Globe writer plastered over these questions by quoting humorist Dave Barry (who is wackily running for president but did not wackily file with the FEC) on the question of motives. "Barry said he and the others all want the same thing - `a big free airplane and the chance to invite Julia Roberts to the White House.'" Heh heh.
It's easy to criticize, of course. When I began my own search - pausing for a moment to look at the telephone and dread it as the prickle-backed fiend it can become in these situations - the snickering ceased. I discovered, fast, that most people who lust after commander-in-chief powers don't list their telephone numbers, and that some who do probably shouldn't. My first "successful" call was to "Alamo" Scott, whose Lubbock, Texas, extension rang with that eerie, burpy rumble often produced by calls to The Outback - ample warning that one is entering uncharted turf. He picked up, listened to my spiel, calmly said, "Oh yes," like he expected this very call at this exact moment, then delivered the following rantatorial in a breathy growl.
"All of my campaign planks are copyrighted under the copyright law. And I intend to promote them myself. I intend to promote `universal' rights in the next century. The emphasis is to take the politics out of the Republican and Democrat hotels. We're losing about 100,000 students - murdered every year - by whiskey sales. Like in the Kentucky bus matter. I'm campaigning for Right to Life and Right to Graduate. Amendment 5 and Amendment 18 are your background regulations. I'm 61. I've been teaching school but haven't really pushed hard to get another teaching job this semester. Yes, so that I have enough time to campaign! I began it when Jimmy Carter first campaigned against Gerald Ford. I don't want to advertise in the "News Cartel Intoxicant Syndicate'" - meaning newspapers and magazines that accept alcohol ads - "so I do all this by mail. I will not mail materials to you, however, because you say you're going to publish them in a book - "
"Wait," I interrupted. "I said newspaper article."
"Oh." Then, in a high-pitched Mr. Haney wheedle, "You're writing a newspaper article? All right. What's your address?"
He took it. The stuff never came. (I did eventually receive materials from a like-minded candidate, The Messiah, who mailed a stack of business cards and a platform statement that was long on idealism but woefully short on specifics. "End Poverty!! End crime!! End unemployment!! End war!! End disease!! End insanity!! ect. [sic] Tired of the insanity!! God Bless The United States of America!! The Universe!! I took it!!")
Call two was to Beltsville's Tracy Allen "Hollywood" Hall, a 23-year-old University of Maryland student who ran to win a bet with a friend. (The friend didn't believe Hall could be officially listed as a candidate. Before ponying up for a six-pack, the friend should call the FEC for its ruling.) Hall claims he's been overwhelmed by mail since filing. A lot comes from oily consultants eager to "help" him, but he also heard from elementary-school naifs in Rocky Mount, Va., requesting his campaign materials for a class project. (One wonders: Will his cynicism breed kiddie contempt for "the process"?)
Call three was to an Alexandria, Virginia, man whose name I'll humanely skip. A woman answered, heard me out, and whispered, "He's asleep now. He's not doing that well at it [running for president]. He sort of has a problem. But he likes it. He likes the attention. Why don't you call back later?"
Call four was to a young man from Lanham, Maryland, whose name I'll type in all caps, ROBERT LEE SAUNDERS. Why the harsh singling-out? Call me a nut cutter, but I think anyone who files for president shouldn't have his mom screen calls once the Fourth Estate starts homing in with tough questions.
"Hello," I began, "is Robert Lee Saunders home?"
"What is this about?" a woman's voice said.
What else? His bid to wrestle the nuclear-codes "football" from the patrician talons of George Bush. "It's about his presidential race."
"He was running for president, I don't know if he still is. I would rather have him give you that information."
"Are you Robert Lee's mom?"
"Yes. Listen, it's better if you talk to him. I'll give him the message." That seemed unlikely. Groping, I tried the truant-officer approach.
"Please put Bobbie Lee on the phone now."
"I told you he isn't available now."
Pause. "He's never going to call back, is he?"
"Let's just say that I suggest that if you don't hear from him you not call anymore."
I didn't. And the early yield of my informal research method - two cranks, a college boy "scamming" the system, a senile gentleman, and a quivering mass of mama's-boy protoplasm who is probably grounded until he's 40 ("And I don't want you ever bringing the glare of media scrutiny into this house again!") - convinced me I needed an expert with a view of the big picture.
Shockingly, there is one. "I believe the overwhelming majority of these people are geriatrics, the disenfranchised elderly," argues Tod Moore, editor of Zephyr (an alternative weekly in Galesburg, Illinois) and the closest person we currently have to a Norm Ornstein of non-mainstream pols. Moore, a former parallel-universe candidate himself, knows the landscape. He ran for mayor of Galesburg on a Zen Symbolist ticket in '81. After that he moved to Seattle, where "there was a guy running against Scoop Jackson in the Democratic primary - John G. Haverty, who was in Walla Walla prison serving a thirteen-year sentence as a `habitual criminal.' I was appointed to be his campaign manager. In '88, when Bill `Spaceman' Lee ran for president" - Lee ran on the Rhino Party's platform; Moore "can't remember" what the party advocated - "I chaired his Western Regional `hind'quarters."
Do not mistake Moore for a nut, however. Whatever his original motivations, he long ago stepped out of the goofball arena and is now mainly interested in chronicling this subculture. Zephyr has a unique editorial mission as the only "public-access paper" in the country. Libel aside, says Moore, you write it, he prints it. This year, partly as a way to bring lively material to Zephyr's pages, Moore wrote every candidate listed on an earlier, slightly slimmer edition of the FEC roster and awaited the flood. The results are still dribbling in, but Moore is able to offer some useful generalizations.
"About a third of the letters came right back - many returned to sender. A good percentage of those I heard from are elderly. Another large percentage are people who have a Christian bias." Many hopefuls, much like Peter Finch in Network, are angered to the point of distraction. The aforementioned Frank Barela of the People's Revolutionary Continental Army, for example, sent back Moore's letter covered with a crabby scrawl: "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO - ALL YOUR HOMEWORK FOR YOU?" My BarelaGram was notarized - by Barela - and stamped "Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Department of State. Commission Expires April 13, 1989." He questions my sanity ("Conjecture: Your letter = Signs of negativity, depression. Possibly hostile to me for my candidacy") and refuses to grant an interview until I send a resume, clips, a list of all the profs who shaped my world view, and an overall justification for being.
Surveying the mailings from candidates who share more willingly than Barela, Moore offers this on motive. "The major thing seems to be the value of having run. A lot of these people are good-hearted generalists. They look at all the problems and they feel an overwhelming urge to do something, and this is it. A handful seem fairly bright, and fairly articulate, and sincerely want to bring about change, and some are actually going around with that message."
Who fits Moore's bill is, of course, a subjective matter. Ask The Messiah or "Alamo" Scott if they do, and the answer will likely be, "Yes!!" Others may disagree. In compiling my Candidates You Need to Know About ballot, I started by letting Moore guide me with his informed picks, which he obligingly rattled off with the gruff, insider chatter one would hope for from a flip-side Frank Mankiewicz. ("Barela is a complete schizoid crank...Susan Block's a terrific. Sex therapist. Thinks all problems trace to our loneliness and frustration.") Moore's tip sheet was bolstered (and cut) by my own research and prejudices. I purged the ballot of people who already get plenty of publicity (David Duke and Laughlin) or who have been around long enough to achieve protest-candidate infamy (Stassen, LaRouche, Eugene McCarthy). The Barelas of the world are nifty the first time you encounter one, but the novelty rapidly gives way to pathos, so I ejected all the screamers.
(Several mutterers made the cut, however.)
Finally, sadly, there can be no Billy Joe Clegg. Despite B.J.C.'s sprawling post-office-box empire, he has eluded both Moore and me.
On Election Day, most of the people on the following ballot won't be on the one you get to punch. But don't forget, the glory of our system is that you are free to scribble in any of them as a way to protest the choice you will have: Bush versus whichever Demo Quintuplet survives (Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerry, Paul Tsongas, or Jerry Brown). The list is arranged alphabetically so - Yo, candidates! - hold off the fax barrages about favoritism or conspiracy.
AGRAN, Larry. (Democrat: Irvine, California.) The name probably means much less to you than STORCH, Larry, but within the universe of altie-candidates, Agran is one of the Big Swinging Dongs. Unlike almost all his colleagues, he has held elective office. (He was mayor of Irvine from 1984 to 1990, when he went down to defeat.) Basically, he is a Haydenesque liberal who used his mayoral perch to push futury visions of "thinking globally and acting locally." As a prexy candidate, says Victoria Miller, one of his soldiers, he is out to "reprioritize." For example, Agran would like to shift the bulk of our military expenditures in Europe and Japan to domestic programs, in a parcel-out that would leave most spending decisions to cities and towns.
Agran is best known for his maverick squeaky-wheel efforts to get equal time with The Quints. He disrupted the December 19 Democratic debate in Nashua, New Hampshire, moderated by Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.), who grumbled that he would summon the police if Agran did not shut up. The People grumbled back, though, and none of the candidates objected to having Agran (and New Alliance Party candidate Lenora B. Fulani) participate. Since then the freeze-out has resumed. Agran wanted to be in the December 15 NBC debate, but Miller says the network kept "moving the goalposts" on the question of who does and doesn't qualify as a major candidate. Agran didn't make first team at the Democrats' January 19 debate, broadcast by WMUR-TV in Manchester. (That one desperately needed a wild card. Its moderator, National Public Radio's Cokie Roberts, controlled it like a dominatrix kindergarten teacher.) Agran wasn't invited to trade swipes with the big boys at the January 31 Democratic debate, either.
Agran is planning to file various complaints that, like most such efforts, will probably get him nowhere. But his fight brings up a key point: Who does decide who is presidential timber and who is clownish peckerwood? The question seems weirdly subjective in the Dan Quayle era. Why does Jerry Brown have more gravitas than Agran? He hasn't held office for more than a decade.
The answer is that presidential campaigns aren't fair. Michael Nelson, a political science professor at Rhodes College in Memphis and editor of Congressional Quarterly's 1989 Guide to the Presidency, says whoever puts on a debate or campaign event can decide who it wants to recognize as "major."
"Fairness to candidates is not what the election is all about," Nelson says. "It's about helping voters choose a president by giving them a reasonable choice." Standards vary, but the point is whoever puts on a campaign event can set them - and get away with it.
Nelson, incidentally, sheds no tears for Agran. "One good rule of thumb is that to be considered presidential caliber, it probably should have occurred to someone else that you are," he says.
Agran's GOAL: To win the fight for fringe-candidate fairness.
AMERICA, George Washington. (Listed by the FEC as UNK, meaning "Unknown" party affiliation: New York, New York.) The cynical among you will suspect that the name is phony. What worried me was Mr. America's claim that he satisfies the Constitutional requirement that says presidents have to be born in the U.S.A. George says he was born in Washington, D.C., but he discloses this info in a singsong gargle that is part Latka (Andy Kaufman, in Taxi), part Ben Kingsley in Gandhi, and part O.J. Simpson underwater. He discusses his policies in similar riffs: "Bleh bletborm fltblm ithlem jeng bloshul capeetalist - " (Translated: My platform it is to socialize our capitalist system a little, like Germany.) America, like Agran, wants recognition from mainstream outlets. He claims he filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, against the State Department, demanding "admiralcy status" for his ideas on winning the Gulf War, which he mailed to the Pentagon and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and which they cribbed without acknowledging his contribution. His proof? "If they had ignored me," he says, "the Gulf War would have been a disastrous defeat."
GOAL: To win his lawsuit, "gaining cash-flow increases" that will allow him to spread his message like wildfire.
BLOCK, Susan. (UNK: Beverly Hills, California) Block hosts a singles talk-radio show heard in Southern California. She pops up in the news from time to time, thanks to ceaseless self-promotion efforts. In January 1990, she aired a fall-of-the-Wall show from Stuttgart, West Germany, urging East German listeners to celebrate "the aphrodisiac powers of freedom" by crossing to the West and making arrangements to engage in humpnost with the lonely hearts on her mailing list. During the Gulf War, Block taped sultry "Desert Susan" tapes for sale to the troops. The Chicago Tribune's Mike Royko obtained one and crabbily (he didn't like the for-profit part) shared a few paragraphs of Block's whack-off dialogue, "recorded live in her bedroom": "I've missed you....You are the captain of my heart....Your strong mind....Your powerful [long pause] but so fragile [long pause] bodyyyyyyy."
Block wins woman-of-contrast points with a platform that won't just appeal to the pasty-captivated crowds at strip clubs, but to the pasty-faced crowds at the Reason Foundation and the Ayn Rand Institute. Yes, the libertine is a closet Libertarian. According to her campaign chairman, Michael Lobkowicz, she would forcefully attack bureaucracies at the federal and local levels. (Hence her cutesy slogan, "Block is for government that lets you play with yourself, but doesn't play with your tax dollars.")
GOAL: To broadcast live and sizzlin' from the Lincoln Bedroom.
CARTER, Willie. (Democrat: Fort Worth, Texas) Carter is a Christian aircraft mechanic who also ran in 1988. He wasn't able to get on any state ballots that year, and this time out, his big goal is to make the ballot in California. He got involved in presidential politics in 1980, when the Lord came to him in a vision and told him "that I was being conditioned to become president. I saw myself getting out of a staff car." In 1983, Carter was shown a vision of the destruction of the U.S. by fire. Hence, his centerpiece position: preventing that. Carter's Lord is a Borkian Lord, with a rock-ribbed devotion to the U.S. Constitution as it was originally framed, without judicial "penumbra" that falsely broadens its scope. Another vision has showed him that Long Beach, his 1992 base, will slide into the sea after a massive earthquake if he doesn't prevail.
GOAL: Ballot placement in California; geographical status quo of same.
ELLSWORTH, Barry. (Independent: Salt Lake City, Utah) Ellsworth fits Moore's description of one who despairs at what he sees and decides to run - as a way to exorcise civics demons. "I find that, if nothing else, passing out fliers pricks people's consciousness and comforts me a little." His platform is more specific than many. He would abolish the CIA, audit every damned penny of the S&L scandal, set up 500,000 "yes and no" 900 numbers for instant voting on major issues, and start a mammoth civilian works project to build a national network of "bullet trains that travel in vacuum tubes." Ellsworth finances his campaign with proceeds from books he publishes, like the self-helpers And You Wonder Why Your Life Isn't Working? and Living in Love With Yourself. His next book will contain (with much else) his compelling theories on Bush's psychological problems.
"The broccoli thing," he explains: "Bush said, `I am president of the United States. My mother made me eat broccoli. Barbara made me eat broccoli. Now I'm president, and now I'm not going to eat broccoli.' That is a two-year-old child talking. Bush was obviously so badly abused as a child that he can't break the `fantasy bond.' He is still frightened in his mind that his mother/Barbara is running his life." Result? "Rage. Rage that must be expressed. So you go over and brutally kill 300,000 people in Iraq."
His GOAL (already accomplished, I think): To contribute usefully to the political dialogue.
FOUTCH, Marsha. (Democrat: Moline, Illinois) Another veteran, she too first ran in 1988. "At that time my slogan was `America is sick and it needs a nurse,'" Foutch says. This year it's the bumper-consuming "`I am not handsome enough to be President' - in other words there won't be a woman president." Foutch's ex-husband was a sailor, and stories he shared from his adventures in foreign bordellos gave Foutch her signature Why Not? idea: Legalize prostitution, tax the revenues, and watch the deficit drop like the pants on a skinny 13-year-old male with a new Playboy. Foutch campaigns by scribbling her message on Business Reply Envelopes and depositing these in mailboxes. Unfortunately, she has a humongous skeleton in her closet. As Foutch admits, she is sexually obsessed with Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) and has attempted to gain access to the warmth of his form. In a recent letter, she's been put on notice by the state's attorney in her home county to stop bothering him.
"I was five years ahead of him at the same high school. My cousin was in his class and started talking about him," she explains. "One allegation [by the state's attorney] was that I left `humorous lipstick' marks on his glass office door. But they were just kiss marks." Sorry, Marsha. But the Monkey Business photo "just" showed two good friends, Gary Hart and Donna Rice, relaxing. Perception is everything at the presidential level.
GOAL: "I...don't really know."
FULANI, Lenora B. (New Alliance Party: New York, N.Y.) Fulani, who bills herself as "the first black and first woman in American history to run for president in every state," has scored significant outsider coups in this, her second try for the White House. As reported last month by the New York Daily News, the Harlem psychotherapist ranked third on the list of 1992 candidates (behind Bush and Harkin) for the first round of federal matching funds. Based on the amount her campaign had raised as of January 1, Fulani was to receive $624,497, compared with Bush's $2,629,366 and Harkin's $1,075,189.
(To qualify for matching funds, a candidate must, among other things, raise $5000 in each of twenty states for a total of $100,000.)
Fulani campaigned in the New Hampshire Democratic primary with what her campaign spokesman labeled "people to people" tactics. The vision was to bring inner-city blacks from the Bronx and elsewhere face to face with New Hampshire whites in town meetings, to "share what they have in common." (This is more than a metaphor; Fulani is actually bused inner-citians around the state.)
One thing that worked against Fulani: she is enemies with state party chairman Chris Spirou, who, since the mid-December debate fiasco, saw to it that she (and other also-rans on the ballot) were not included in party-sponsored debates. Fulani complained to the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee, without success.
GOAL: Building for the future. In November Fulani told the Durham, N.C., Herald-Sun that she can't win in '92. But by the year 2000, she expects a "major and competitive, independent, left-of-center party' to be a force in American politics.
GRITZ, James "Bo." (Populist: Sandy Valley, Nevada) Gritz (pronounced with a long i) is an energetic rightie who has mounted an intense, years-long crusading saga that has more texture than all three Walking Talls. Gritz packages himself as everything from "the Real-Life Rambo" (in the Eighties, he ran several search-for-POWs missions to Laos) to "America's Most Decorated Green Beret." He has charged the U.S. government with running drug operations in Southeast Asia and has been charged (and acquitted, in 1989) of using a false passport during a 1986-87 swashbuckle to Burma to "find out if a drug overlord named Khun Sa was holding U.S. prisoners." (Gritz claims this mission was ordered by then-Vice President George Bush.) His far-right platform, The Bill of Gritz, would re-establish America as a Christian nation, abolish the Federal Reserve and IRS, "restore states' rights," halt foreign aid, and "retake Capitol Hill." Gritz wants to find 11,000 "senior patriots" to replace the bureaucrats he will sweep aside as one of his first acts. He means senior in the grayhead sense. "Grandmothers and others who have but one agenda," he says, "the healing of America."
Gritz plans to go the distance, and promises a slate of spicy-sounding TV adverdramatorials. "We will hire an actor to portray Thomas Jefferson. The announcer will say, `Thomas Jefferson!' He will look up and say, `What?! You mean to tell me you have income tax in 1992? That's unconstitutional!'"
GOAL: To win. "If we don't take the Hill with ballots," Gritz says, "in 1996 we'll be defending our rights with bullets."
HIRSHON, Russell Baptiste Munoz. (Democrat: Washington, D.C.) Thirty-year-old Hirshon, a lanky bartender and sometime performance artist who ran for mayor in 1990, says he's running to stir young people from their apathy and call attention to the "serious issues." His campaign consists of irreverent posters, television ads, and his travels through downtown clubs, during which he wears an Uncle Sam outfit and passes out buttons.
Needless to say, nothing will come of this. Hirshon is noteworthy, however, for his role in an overlooked scandalette involving Bill Clinton. Hirshon is a bartender at Fifth Colvmn, the downtown D.C. "scene" bar and the site of a Jan. 21 Clinton-for-President fundraiser. Clinton's Little Rock minions, tipped by a Reuters feature on Hirshon's run, apparently didn't have enough real work to do - this was before Fidelitygate became a major problem - so they thought it necessary to call Fifth Colvmn's management and have Hirshon yanked from that night's shift. Why? Hirshon says Clinton's people were miffed that his "tip money" would be used to finance his campaign. (True. But so what if it did?) Perhaps they fretted that Hirshon would pull a performance-art stunt. Again, possible. One time Hirshon covered himself with fudge, whipped cream, and cherries to form "a human sundae." But he says he had already promised his boss he wouldn't do anything.
At the Fifth Colvmn fundraiser, Clinton blew a saxophone to show how cool he is. That won't cut it, "dad": Cool guys don't harass hapless bartenders. The episode, while minor, summons up worries about Clinton's control-freak personality, which in turn brings to mind our last Democratic president, the blubber-lipped micromanaging fella. If Clinton makes it over the Bimbo Bump and wins the nomination, the Bushoids should exploit this. I suggest an attack ad that, a la the Michael Jackson "Black or White" video, shows Clinton "morphing" into Jimmy Carter.
LEE, Kip. (Libertarian: Redding, California) Some of the other fringe candidates have been covered in outlets as diverse as C-SPAN and the wires. Lee, a 37-year-old community college student, has the double-edged distinction of being spotlighted recently by the Fox Network show Best of the Worst as the goofiest candidate available this year. "They are considering my candidacy offbeat," explains the kindly, soft-spoken Lee. "It is a show on unusual people."
Lee wants to introduce a barter system, worries that America is schlepping toward an Armageddon that has been coming "since the downfall of Atlantis," and believes that four live space beings are being held in an underground jail at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. This, UFO buffs will know, is a spin on the conventional anti-conventional wisdom about the famed Roswell Incident, a 1947 episode in which locals in Roswell, New Mexico, a scruffy town in the southern part of the state, reported seeing a UFO crash in the desert. The story goes that the government hauled away the debris - falsely calling it a crashed weather balloon - and now has the debris (and almond-eyed ET corpses) stored in a "Blue Room" at Wright-Patterson. Some think the aliens lived and remain in captivity. Before you chuckle at Lee, consider that, in a New Yorker interview in 1988, Barry Goldwater said he asked Gen. Curtis LeMay in the mid-Sixties if he could see what was stored at Wright-Patterson. Goldwater said LeMay gave him "holy hell" and told him never to ask again.
OK, now chuckle at Lee.
GOAL: To distribute tactile campaign items. "I have campaign cards and ink pens that people can have!" he says.
MARROU, Andre. (Libertarian: Las Vegas, Nevada) Marrou, a former Alaskan state legislator, won the nomination of the U.S. Libertarian Party at its nominating convention in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. Marrou polled well in an October 6 Manchester Union Leader/New Hampshire Sunday News tally, placing second behind Bush. The poll didn't generate widespread panic, though, thanks in part to its "earlyness" and its alarmingly high crank-response content. One respondent, echoing millions of Deadheads, college freshmen, Oprah Winfrey Show audience members, and a now-cynical class of elementary students in Rocky Mount, Va., voted for "None of the Above" and commented, "Their'e [sic] all shits." Marrou offers the traditional Libertarian brew: abolish the IRS, get the government out of the economy, "restore the Bill of Rights." His running mate is D.C.'s Nancy Lord, who in 1990 ran for mayor there - very unsuccessfully.
GOAL: To get a million votes, beating Libertarian candidate Ed Clark's 1980 record of 920,700.
THORNTON, Curly. (Democrat: Billings, Montana) Thornton is a former boozehead who uses his rocky life story to convince voters that he's lived the issues that concern them. "Because of his drinking," one flier cries out, "Curly understands broken homes...abuse...life on skid row....Excessive medical costs forced him into bankruptcy...Curly knows the need for affordable health care." And because he's being ignored by the Democratic Party in New Hampshire and everywhere else...Curly filed a lawsuit December 5 in U.S. District Court in New York, asking the court for relief from discriminatory practices by the National Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, the State of New Hampshire, the Democrats in Florida and Texas, as well as ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox, CNN, and C-SPAN. Carl E. Person, Curly's attorney, just filed for a preliminary injunction against states with filing fees for Democratic primaries. "The candidates in the twelve states we name has to pay $21,590 in all," he says. "That's excessive."
GOAL: Equal time.
Surveying the ballot, one is struck by...an overwhelming surge of relief about the fact that none of these people can win. Still, it would be nice if a few got wider exposure. The great thing about protest candidates - as more mainstream alternative players like Pat Buchanan and Jerry Brown are demonstrating - is their loose-cannon role. They can make statements forbidden to candidates who actually have a chance. This, of course, is exponentially more true for the outright fringers. For all anybody cares, they could drop their pants, rant in a helium-altered voice, and waggle stars-and-stripes-painted genitals. (Note to Russ Hirshon: That's a copyrighted idea, so don't think about using it without sending a consultancy check.) Because the outcasts lack a national nominating convention, some other set-up is needed: a Koppel-esque "TV town meeting," say, or a series of C-SPAN interviews by that channel's fine, stone-faced, monotoned workhorse, Brian Lamb. ("Kip Lee, for the benefit of viewers who haven't heard it before, explain your theory that the Earth is hollow, and that inside it dwells a nightmare race of `super-cyclopses.'") This civic exercise would also serve to silence the complaining fringers who say they never get a chance to be heard. All it takes is someone with the cash to get the ball rolling. How about it, Money Men? We're looking at ten months of mundane campaigning, followed by four more years of President Library Paste. Pay for a National Fringe Forum; keep a polity from lapsing into a coma.
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