American presidential campaigns are always wild rides. The various parties field a range of candidates, each of which gets a hard vetting from the media and voters. Over the year-long, billion dollar campaigns, each jockeys for position and is given endless opportunities to make outrageous statements. The key is to play to your party base until you are the nominee then play to the country in the general election.
At least that has always been the usual path to the White House. Donald Trump has torn up the rule book and is using it to make a papier-mâché model of the wall he will build to keep out foreigners. His campaign has been a long list of wild statements that would, for any other person, have proven fatal to their run. He has, so far, espoused Birtherism and denied it, said he would date his daughter if only she weren’t his daughter, called for foreign governments to hack Hillary Clinton’s computer, called for a total ban on Muslim immigration… But this list is not about Donald Trump. There’s no way one list could capture the ever shifting Trump campaign.
This list is about the extreme candidates who have run for President in the past. No one can trump Trump when it comes to being the wildest official nominee of a major party. But the people on this list have all gone further than him though in one way or another. They range from those who have garnered millions of votes to those that would struggle to carry their own immediate family. The beauty of the American system is that anyone can be president. The beauty of the general election is that there is generally someone better qualified to stop them.
15. Michele Bachmann
Where better to start a tour of potential presidential insanity than Michele Bachmann? This Conservative former member of the House of Representatives was a flag waving candidate for the Tea Party. Surely elections to the House weed out the nuttiest candidates?
Bachmann has made claims as wild as abolishing the EPA, phasing out Social Security and Medicare, and that scientists support Intelligent Design (an oxymoron used by morons). Straying into the scientific fray Bachmann has come out as saying that Carbon Dioxide, since it is natural, is not harmful. She also believes that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation, not based on her years of scientific enquiry, but because one woman once came and told her that it did.
She has also said that President Obama is bringing about the End of Days. But it turns out that she is okay with that as it means that we will all get to meet Jesus sooner.
14. Gabriel Green
While Bachmann is looking forward to meeting Jesus, Gabriel Green ran a campaign based on the idea that he had already met little green men. As leader of the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America he put himself forward in the 1960 election. He claimed he had been advised by aliens from Alpha Centuri to throw his hat into the ring.
Under a Green presidency we would have heard “GABRIEL BLOW HIS HORN.” He promised to provide free medical care, better housing, better wages, and retirement on full pay. “All these things for all our people without taxing them to pay for it.” How he was to achieve this economic miracle was not revealed. Much like his promises of pollution-free free energy he would no doubt have called on his alien advisers to work out the details.
13. John Hagelin
Hegelin has been the presidential candidate for the Natural Law Party three times. A physicist with a PhD from Harvard he is possibly the smartest person on this list. He is also the recipient of an IgNobel Prize, a scientific booby-prize for research that “cannot or should not be reproduced.”
Having left his post at Stanford he joined Maharishi International University, an institute created to bring the benefits of Transcendental Meditation to higher education. He now tries to link physics search for a Grand Unified Theory to a universal consciousness. He has sought to provide evidence that Transcendental Meditation can bring about peace in the world. The lack of evidence for this is what won him the IgNobel prize.
In 1996 he garnered 113,659 votes in the general election.
12. Homer Tomlinson
The United States is famously proud of being a republic yet many religiously motivated candidates seem keen to replace it with a Kingdom of God. Self-proclaimed Bishop Homer “Mighty Man for God” Tomlinson ran for President on the Theocratic Party ticket.
His posters listed his promise to replace taxes with a flat rate of 10% in the form of tithes. A flat tax has recently been in vogue with some politicians and his desire to bring Bible reading and praying back into schools might be popular in some areas. The abolition of gambling, alcohol, and all narcotics however might not be so fashionable.
When Tomlinson’s campaign failed to propel him to the White House he crowned himself King of the World, with a painted wooden crown. As he said “I’ve usually put the crown on my own head because there was no one to put it on for me.”
11. Vermin Supreme
With a name like Vermin Supreme and a platform that includes raising Zombie awareness and providing free ponies for every citizen you would think those things would be the most eye-catching. Vermin Supreme’s sartorial style however has helped to raise his profile. A boot worn on the head is one way to get some press coverage.
An activist and joker he has campaigned in every election since 2004. He has run as both a Republican and a Democrat. In 2012 he glitter-bombed a rival candidate during a debate. For this gross breach of political etiquette he was not invited back in 2016. He began 2016 running for the Democratic party before making an attempt at the Libertarian Party’s nomination.
10. Victoria Woodhull
Hillary Clinton has been getting lots of press as the first woman to be nominated for the Presidency by a major party. She is however nowhere near the first woman to put herself forward. In 1872, 50 years before women in the US had the vote, Victoria Woodhull launched her campaign.
Woodhull was a women’s rights activist in an age when women’s lives were strictly circumscribed. While in this she was remarkably modern she was also a spiritualist and advocate of free-love.
Woodhull was the candidate for the Equal Rights Party. As her running mate she selected the famous Abolitionist Frederick Douglas. How he felt about this is not recorded. He did not appear at the nominating convention and campaigned for Woodhull’s opponent General Grant.
9. Earl Browder
Earl Browder was leader of the Communist Party USA in the 30s and 40s, a time before the outright hatred of communists following the Second World War. In the Great Depression extreme left wing politics proved tempting to a great many people made destitute by powers outside their control. In 1936 Browder ran on the Communist Party USA ticket, though they broadly supported President Roosevelt, gaining 80,000 votes. Trips to Moscow allowed Browder to get political advice/direction from the Russians.
When the USSR allied with the Nazis Browder had to shift his party’s policy in line with that of the Soviets. This made him unpopular with most moderate left-wing people as it is hard to sell yourself as a champion of the left while supporting the far-right. After his death it turned out that Browder was literally an agent for the Soviet government.
8. John G. Schmitz
John G. Schmitz was a Conservative. The capital C is well deserved, he was once thrown out of a radical conservative group for being too conservative. He ran for the Presidency in 1972 by running to the right of Richard Nixon. He said “I have no objection to President Nixon going to China. I just object to him coming back.”
Schmitz’s party was the American Independent Party, set up by Segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. He wooed various segments of the electorate with his “wit.” “I may not be a Hispanic, but I’m close. I’m Catholic with a moustache.” “Martin Luther King Jr. is a notorious liar.” His campaign received over a million votes.
He did not soften after his defeat saying he lost the election by “a mere 44 million votes.”
7. Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum lost his senate seat by the largest margin of any incumbent for 25 years. For most people this would be the end of a political career. Not so for Santorum. He has campaigned for the Republican ticket twice as a social conservative, though some have characterized him as a Christian Theocrat.
He has likened Obamacare to apartheid, takes a dim view of contraception, rejects climate change (despite the Pope’s acceptance of it), and is strongly against prostitution. Santorum’s name is un-Googleable due to his statements on homosexuality. He has seemingly compared it to paedophilia and bestiality. For this Dan Savage asked his audience to provide a definition for the word “Santorum.” The campaign was a success, despite Santorum’s best efforts to expunge the whole sticky mess from the internet.
6. Ellen McCormack
Abortion in the US is divisive in a way that it is not in most other countries. Generally the two main parties can be lined up as anti-abortion Republicans and pro-choice Democrats. Ellen McCormack bucked that trend.
Identifying herself as a housewife and mother in 1976 she ran for the Democratic nomination on the single issue of abortion. She was the first female candidate to receive federal funding and a secret service detail. She claimed not to be running herself, but as “the embodiment of a total philosophical commitment to outlaw abortion.”
When Jimmy Carter won the nomination McCormack returned in 1980 as the candidate for the Right-to-Life Party, receiving 32,000 votes.
5. Ted Cruz
In the last days of the race to be Republican nominee in 2016, many turned to Ted Cruz as the “anybody but Trump” candidate. This was mainly because he was the last man standing and not out of any sense of warmth. As senator Cruz made few friends. Lindsey Graham said “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
Following the Supreme Court decision in favour of gay marriage he referred to the court as tyrannical. He was instrumental in bringing about a Government shutdown. He filibustered the budget for 21 hours, along the way quoting from Dr. Seuss.
Cruz is strongly anti-abortion but pro-death penalty. He doesn’t believe in man made climate change. Is deeply against gay marriage. In 2012 Cruz called for a wall to be built along the US-Mexican border, so in the end the “anybody but Trump” effort came down to Trump and proto-Trump.
4. Pat Paulsen
While some candidates are unintentionally funny Pat Paulsen set out to get a laugh while making a serious point. Over five electoral cycles Paulsen ran for president for the STAG (Straight Talking American Government) Party.
Paulsen, a comedian on the Smothers Brothers TV show, declared that he was running for president because “the job has a good pension plan and I’ll get a lot of money when I retire.” His campaigns were meant to make a mockery of the bland and inane statements used by more serious candidates. He called himself “a common, ordinary simple savior of America’s destiny.” He declared, with some truth, “If elected, I will win.”
“I do not claim that I can solve all the world’s problems by myself. If I did, I’d have to run as a Republican or a Democrat.”
3. Cynthia McKinney
Cynthia McKinney was the 2008 Green Party nominee for the presidency. The first African American woman to represent Georgia she holds Liberal opinions that should win her large numbers of supporters. Unfortunately she also holds some rather fringe views that have cost her dearly.
She introduced bills in the House to release government documents relating to the death of rapper Tupac Shakur so that the public can learn the truth. And another for the release of files on Martin Luther King Jr. She backed 9/11 investigations and has questioned the official story of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. In fact McKinney has a record of supporting conspiracy theories. Perhaps her strangest belief is that after Hurricane Katrina the government shot 5,000 prisoners and dumped their bodies in the Louisiana swamps.
McKinney received 161,000 votes in the 2008 general election.
2. Joan Jett Blakk
“If a bad actor can be elected president, why not a good drag queen?” That was the phrase with which Blakk launched her (his?) campaign. Blakk is the alter ego of performer Terence Smith. He has twice run for the Presidency for the Queer Nation Party. In 1992 his slogan was “Lick Bush in ’92!” and in 1996 he went with “Lick Slick Willie in ’96!”
Jett Blakk first tried for office by seeking to become Mayor of Chicago. In that race Blakk said that “Once elected, the first thing I’m going to do is change the police to the fashion police.” Blakk failed to become mayor but achieved the secondary goal of increasing gay visibility in a fun way.
1. Lyndon LaRouche
Lyndon LaRouche is one of the most tenacious chasers of the presidency ever; running in every election from 1976-2004. He founded a group which has been called a “left-wing sect” while living on a heavily guarded estate.
In 1976 he revealed in a television broadcast that the election of Jimmy Carter would lead to thermonuclear war “no later than the summer of 1977.” Undeterred by Carter failing to bring about the end of the world LaRouche campaigned for the Democratic nomination at every election thereafter.
LaRouche has turned his mind to many things over the decades. LaRouche is unconvinced by quantum theory, claiming that its randomness depresses the world. Global warming is a hoax. Queen Elizabeth is a drug pusher, or at least the British are… The list of off-the-wall beliefs goes on. Suffice to say Trump’s Twitter tantrums are just the latest strange twist in the tale of American democracy.
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