We Talk To 3 (Fringe) Alternative Presidential Candidates
1,910 Americans have declared their candidacy for president, and while it's doubtful that Swagmasta420 KenG$ has developed a nuanced foreign policy platform, there's no denying that voters have options in an election which features the two least-liked candidates in American history.
In the short term, voting third-party will count for about as much as a hastily scrawled YouTube comment. But a good third-party campaign is about building momentum for ideas that could one day challenge the status quo. Whether you consider that approach valid is up to you, but you should at least know what your options are. So I reached out to eight third-party campaigns, and three candidates agreed to an interview. I asked them serious questions about their policies, followed by stupid questions about themselves for my own petty amusement. These men hold no illusions about their chances of winning, but for better or for worse, you have the option of offering them and their beliefs your support.
America's buzzkillingest party has existed since 1869, but has fallen upon hard times. Once an influential party, they earned just 518 votes in 2012. Their main goal, obviously, is to restore alcohol prohibition. They also oppose all non-prescription drug use, tobacco, pornography, and gambling (including state lotteries, which is objectively a good call). And they're against same-sex marriage and abortion, all of which suggests a party of grumpy old grandfathers whom you try to avoid at Thanksgiving. But more modern planks include free college education (presumably with the caveat that students don't spend all the money saved on illicit booze) and increased funding to combat climate change, and they manage to squeeze out some dad jokes in between making valid observations on the War on Drugs.
Their 2016 candidate is 78-year-old Jim Hedges. Hedges is a professional tuba player who spent 20 years in the United States Marine Band, a science writer with a master's in geography, and he was elected to two terms as township tax assessor, making him the only Prohibition Party member to hold office since 1952. Hedges currently works at a living history museum, and given that he looks like he wandered out of American Gothic, I expected him to either ignore my request or denounce Cracked as a hotbed of sin.
Instead, a chipper and sporting Hedges got back to me almost immediately. Here's what he had to say.
Why, briefly, should our readers consider voting for you?
"For historic preservation, to keep our option alive on the table, to provide a viable alternative for voters who say to themselves, 'None of the above.'"
Government data has found that teenage consumption of alcohol is on the decline, and one of the contributing factors seems to be improved education on the risks of over-consumption. Why do you support total prohibition, as opposed to education on how to drink responsibly?
"Education is the beginning of the political process in dealing with any issue. For example, people always knew that smoking was harmful (education), but there was no significant decrease in smoking until smoking became socially unacceptable and was actively opposed by governments at all levels (prohibition).
"To drink 'responsibly' is to drink Adam's Ale -- water. Virtually all drinkers of alcohol think they are drinking 'responsibly,' regardless of their level of consumption. That's PR fluff designed to neutralize the issue and maintain alcohol pushers' profits."
The vast majority of your membership is over the age of 60. What are the challenges that come with running a party without a youth movement, and how are you trying to attract younger supporters? Is there a concern that the Prohibition Party might be on its last legs?
"My greatest concern. I'm making tentative initiatives in social media, although I don't know enough about it to get full benefit from it. (I need to be tutored by some teen-agers.) We are getting a bit of interest from young people. When we do, I try to find a way to get them involved, so they'll bond with us and hang around. I have people doing Twitter and Facebook, for example. I'm also trying to present the Prohibition Party as living history, rather than as an influential organization -- people find that realistic and believable, whereas if we tell them we're the wave of the future, they laugh and leave."
Your party is obviously opposed to vice in all of its forms. What vice are you most tempted to indulge in your day-to-day life? Be honest!
"I'm a scofflaw. I never use a seat belt (an anti-government statement), I do my own home repairs without bothering to get building permits (a benefit of living in a remote location), I eat too much chocolate (marginally overweight), I use foul language when I'm among friends. Oh yeah, and when my granddaughter was little, I taught her how to swear in foreign languages, so she could say whatever she wanted to in school without offending the teacher."
Alcohol, for better or for worse, is currently a major part of American culture. In particular, champagne is used to celebrate weddings, to celebrate New Year's Eve, etc. If prohibition is reinstated, what do you suggest that Americans use as an alternative?
"The Woman's Christian Temperance Union has a booklet of non-alcoholic punch recipes -- they call them 'Fruestas.' Carbonated fruit juices (available as 'celebration beverages' in supermarkets) chilled in the punch bowl with frozen juice concentrates. It's easy to concoct flavors you like, no recipes needed. To have something really good, get fresh (unpasteurized) apple cider, get some fresh pineapples and crush them for their juice, press some fresh grapes (local varieties, not necessarily the standard grocery store fare), squeeze your own fresh orange juice (even premium juice in the store has bitterness from mechanical grinding up of the rind -- mandarin oranges provide a juice with delicate flavor)."
Okay, yeah, that sounds delicious, and would cut down on the number of drunken wedding guests making unwanted speeches. Hedges' goal for 2016 is to garner 6,000 votes -- enough to be considered a valid bit of support. You can visit the party's website here and Hedges' campaign site here.
Socialist Party USA
Bernie Sanders' campaign briefly got America -- mostly its 18-year-olds who could vote for the first time and its 65-year-olds who hated them for it -- talking about socialism. But for all the discussion of his "radical" policies, Sanders still wants to reform capitalism -- the Socialist Party wants to overthrow it. Their goal is a complete restructuring of society, or in their words, "a new social and economic order in which workers and consumers control production and community residents control their neighborhoods, homes, and schools."
Socialism, like prohibition, was once a powerful force in American politics (over 1,000 socialists were elected to various offices in Eugene Debs' day), but has since waned to a fringe. Socialist Party USA was founded in 1973, and got 4,430 votes in 2012. They compete with many, many other socialist and communist parties for attention, because if there's one thing socialists truly love, it's holding lifelong grudges over the interpretation of something Trotsky once scribbled down on a cocktail napkin.
The Socialist Party calls for a move to an economy based on need rather than profit, a vast reduction in American military power, free education, government healthcare, major environmental reforms, improved animal rights, a 30-hour work week, and other transformative policies. Their candidate is 41-year-old Mimi Soltysik, who holds a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in public administration, has extensive experience as a community organizer working with programs like clothing drives for human trafficking victims, and spent over a decade playing in a band, the last of which is most obvious if you look at him.
Why, briefly, should our readers consider voting for you?
"We're actually telling folks that, as opposed to looking to candidates to provide the solutions to the problems, they should look to one another. Socialism isn't something that can or should be implemented from the White House. It's a movement led by the workers, by the community, by the people."
There are also candidates running for the Socialist Equality Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Workers World Party. Why is the far left so divided in America, and what challenges does that create? Why should socialist Americans consider your party the one to support?
"I think there are organizations among the U.S. Left who see their role as 'vanguards,' or the leadership of a socialist movement in the U.S. That's not the Socialist Party USA. We aren't here to tell folks what they should or shouldn't be doing. We're here to remind the people that they have the power. We put forth ideas and organize around those ideas. If folks tend to like what we offer, then maybe the Socialist Party USA is a good fit for them."
Your platform calls for the abolition of the CIA and the NSA, as well as significant cuts to the American military and the dissolution of NATO. While this is billed as part of a broader push for international socialism, how would you realistically propose to defend the United States from potential threats in the interim of a process that could take decades or simply never gain momentum?
"Are there threats to the U.S. that the U.S. hasn't created through its own foreign policy?"
The Sanders campaign generated a lot of enthusiasm for left-leaning politics, but it also generated a lot of vitriol and suspicion toward socialism. Your policies make Sanders look moderate in comparison. How do you approach trying to sell your brand of socialism in such a divided climate? How do you even define socialism in an era in which it seems to mean anything, from Sanders' approach to capitalism to a derisive term for any vaguely progressive idea?
"What Sanders appeared to put forth was more in line with social democracy. When we say 'socialism,' we are talking about worker ownership and control, about radical democracy. Sanders also has a pretty strong history of support for the military. We don't see imperialism as part of a socialist program. We find, on a daily basis, that the ideas resonate with the people when you treat them with dignity and respect, when you are prepared to listen, and when you are engaged in a dialogue as opposed to talking at them."
I think it's safe to say that you're the most heavily tattooed presidential candidate in the race this year, and possibly of all time. Do you have any particularly weird or notable ones? If you were to be elected to the White House, what tattoo would you get to celebrate?
"Hmmmm ... I have the cover of Funkadelic's Maggot Brain on the inside of my left arm, and I have the screen from the old arcade game Tempest on my left forearm. On my right arm, the words 'Get Down' are written in graffiti-styled letters. If a socialist was elected to the White House in 2016, I don't think they'd have time to get a tattoo. I imagine they'd be assassinated with the quickness."
You've spoken in other interviews about the influence music can have on someone's politics. If you had to pick one song to sum up the 2016 election, what would it be?
"Shit. The first thing that popped into my head was 'Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead' by Mr. Bungle, but that doesn't make sense. Maybe it does. I don't know."
What's the most decadently capitalist thing you've ever done? Be honest!
"Maybe doing an interview with Cracked. PS, My younger brother is a big fan of yours. Not 'yours' as in Mark Hill, but 'yours' as in Cracked. He's a badass."
Mimi was the only candidate I interviewed to flat-out dodge a question with a rhetorical response, but I do appreciate the blatant appeal to our vanity. That's a pretty slick bit of campaigning for someone so opposed to the current political system. You can learn more about Mimi's campaign here, or check out the Socialist Party's website here.
American Solidarity Party
The American Solidarity Party is a Christian Democratic party founded in 2011. Christian Democracy is influential in Europe (Angela Merkel is a Christian Democrat), but it has struggled to gain traction in America, where devout Christians tend to be lumped in with far-right Republicans. Broadly speaking, American Solidary is socially conservative but economically left-leaning -- they won't let you have an abortion, but your unwanted baby will receive nothing but the finest healthcare available.
Their platform is based on what they call the Consistent Life Ethic. That means no abortion, no death penalty, no euthanasia, no torture, no drone strikes, no Patriot Act, no porn, a reexamination of the use of lethal force by police officers, a crackdown on human trafficking, and no war except as an absolute last resort. They also support economic assistance for the elderly and other vulnerable citizens, stronger environmental regulations, tax reform, increased oversight of the banking industry, and increased support for small businesses.
Their candidate in their first presidential campaign is Mike Maturen, a 52-year-old sales professional, dedicated church volunteer, deputy director of his local branch of the Knights of Columbus, and, most notably, a part-time magician, because don't even try to tell me that you wouldn't want a magician in the White House.
Why, briefly, should our readers consider voting for you?
"The general ugliness of the current election cycle is turning voters off. Many feel like they no longer have a political home. The two major parties now occupy the far right and far left of the political spectrum (on a highway, we call these the ditches). People are looking for common sense and a common ground. While people may not agree with all of our ideas and policies, they will find they likely agree with a good number of them. It's time to send a message to the major parties ... we're tired of the political circus and we want to get something done."
It seems like in the modern media, Christianity has, fairly or unfairly, become synonymous with the far right. What are the challenges in trying to redefine how Americans look at Christian politics, and in trying to lure voters away from the right?
"The American Solidarity Party, although based on a Christian worldview (namely, Catholic Social Teaching), is not strictly a Christian party. We believe in a secular government informed by faith. Much of the perception of Christianity is perpetuated by the media, which paints extreme caricatures. It is, indeed, challenging to try to change these perceptions. However, we believe people can accept much of our platform. Christianity, at its core, is about love, compassion and service to others. I believe that setting an example by the way we live out our own faith is the best way to change the perception."
Your party's platform calls for many generous social programs and anti-discrimination initiatives. But you also call for marriage to be defined as a union of one man and one woman for life. How do you justify what potential voters could see as a glaring contradiction -- a party that wants a government that supports many human rights, but staunchly forbids gay marriage, which many Americans consider to be both an important right and a source of discrimination in their lives?
"People are never going to agree on everything. Marriage is, at its core, an inherently religious institution. Government only got involved fairly recently in the grand scheme of things. My personal preference is to leave marriage in the hands of the church. The core of the argument FOR gay marriage generally revolves around rights. Rights such as visitation at hospitals, health insurance for a domestic partner, right of survivorship, etc. Every one of these problems could be solved simply with the acceptance of a civil union. Besides, the Supreme Court has decided the issue for the country. There are larger problems to deal with."
Demographic data suggests that roughly 70 percent of American is Christian. What, would you argue, does your party offer the 30 percent of Americans who don't share your faith? Furthermore, if elected, how would you balance 'raising consciousness of the Christian worldview,' as your party's website says, and respecting a separation of church and state in a country that's becoming more secular?
"We do not purport to govern as a theocracy. We believe in a secular government informed by faith. That being said, our platform does not depend on religion to make it compassionate. What we believe is 'universal social teaching,' meaning that it can be applied to anyone regardless of faith (or lack thereof), race, sex or any other divisive criteria. Our motto is 'Common Good, Common Ground, Common Sense.' The ideas that we espouse and the policies which we will put forth will be for the common good of ALL the American people (hence the name 'Solidarity'). We will find common ground and move forward on those things.
"Regarding a Christian Worldview: In my mind, that simply means that we will look out for ALL people. That's what Christianity teaches, after all ... that God loves ALL. We are ALL made in His image and likeness. Therefore, we are to love all others, even if we disagree with them, think differently, or live differently than them."
You have extensive experience as a professional magician. What would the benefits of having a magician in the White House be? If you had to perform one illusion to impress a foreign leader you weren't on good terms with, what would it be?
"Perhaps I would be able to make the national debt disappear. At State dinners, the American people won't have to pay for expensive entertainment ... I can do it. I will be able to cut costs in the area of National Intelligence, because I will be able to use my mind-reading skills in that area. I will have a dog, like many other presidents have had. I will have an Abracalabrador. If I needed to impress a world leader that I wasn't on good terms with, I would probably do a torn and restored treaty illusion."
Has anyone ever told you that you bear an uncanny resemblance to Buster Bluth from Arrested Development? If you're familiar with the show, how do you feel about its portrayal of magic?
"HA! I have never watched the show, but in looking up his character, I do look a bit like him! My onstage persona is generally pretty goofy, so I have a lot of the same facial expressions, etc. as I saw in the photos. I studied up a bit on the portrayal of magic. It seems to be spoofed and belittled. That's okay ... it seems to be the media's idea of it. I'm kind of used to it, being both a magician AND a third-party candidate!"
Yeah, sure. "A bit."
It's good to see that, unlike a certain high-profile candidate, Maturen is a good sport when it comes to dumb jokes about him. You can visit the ASP's website and campaign here.
So there are some of your options. There are many more candidates out there, even ones who think that WiFi might be harming kids or that a return to the gold standard is a good idea. No matter what you believe is best for the country, there's someone out there who feels the same way that you do. Make sure they hear your voice.
For some outside-the-box candidates that were also clearly out they damn minds check out The 6 Most Insane People to Ever Run for President and see why none of this even matters in 6 Bizarre Factors That Predict Every Presidential Election.
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