Continuing the exploration of strange presidential candidates from American history:
George Francis Train (1829-1904)
Train was a fascinating character. Some facts about his life:
He made a fortune in the railway business.
He traveled around the world in sixty-seven days, which was a record for the nineteenth-century, and which made him the inspiration for Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days.
He ran for President in 1872, as an independent candidate. The issues he stood for included temperance, and women's rights.
In later years he campaigned to become Dictator of the United States.
Campaigning was a bit difficult because he refused to shake hands with anyone, due to his belief that touching another person's flesh would cause a loss of "psychic force." Whenever he met someone he would "gravely shake hands with himself."
He believed that extreme longevity could be achieved by eating no "dead animals" and wearing no underwear.
As an old man he took up boxing and fought in a match at the Bowery Theatre. (He believed the boxing gloves served as insulators against the loss of psychic force.)
According to Wikipedia, "He spent his final days on park benches in New York City's Madison Square Park, handing out dimes and refusing to speak to anyone but children and animals."
When he died, the Thirteen Club (a club of rationalist skeptics -- its name was intended to mock the superstition of 13 at a table being unlucky) passed a resolution declaring Train to be one of the few sane men in "a mad, mad world."
Expanding on the theme of strange candidates, here are some of the candidates that are (or were) seeking your vote in the current presidential election.
Gene Amondson, Prohibition Party
Amondson is running on a single issue: bringing back prohibition. He describes prohibition as "America's Best Years."
Donald K. Allen, Independent
One of the few candidates to have a position on puppy mills: "As President, I would appoint a secretary of agriculture that would effectively shut down puppy mills through true enforcement of existing law and national educational exposure of this despicable business. Instead of working from the bottom up, I would effectively mandate the dismantling of commercial interstate puppy trade from the top. This would be a no- or low-priority issue for any other candidate."
Bruce Bongardt, The Proudican Party
Bongardt describes himself as "a 42 year old middleclass creative problem-solving Mechanical Design Engineer." He describes the Proudican Party as "a new, self-started party focused on sustaining US Democracy principles through an independent platform of boldly aggressive technology-based prolutions (progressive solutions)." Some of his "prolutions" include expanding the standard week to 9 days and transitioning the currency to e-money.
James Harlin Carter, The Real Food Party
"The Real Food Party seeks to revise existing regulations to allow the sale of non-pasteurized milk and other 'food that is helpful.'" Carter has conceded that he's not going to win the 2008 election. Therefore, he's not going to participate in any debates and has no plans to raise any money.
Terry Lee "Tee" Barkdull, Unaffiliated
Barkdull's platform: "IT'S TIME WE ALL TAKE A STAND AGAINST THIS DICTATORSHIP GOVERNMENT THAT IS OUT OF CONTROL!! THESE SILVER SPOON BASTARDS AND BITCHES, CAN NOT CONTINUE TO RUN AMERICA ANYMORE." (Unfortunately, Barkdull has withdrawn his candidacy for the 2008 election.)
Matthew Borman, The American Party
Borman writes: "I am Matthew Borman. I am a 36 year old, who since the age of 14, had to work in order to survive. From the age that I was old enough to recognize government; the excitement about the politician, the writing of new law or the formation of government social program has eluded me. I am a simple working man. The people who seem so int rested in Governing my life have caused more hurt than help with their years of law making."
Borman has many positions, but apparently improving spelling and grammar is not one of them.
Jeff Boss, The Independent Party
Boss is going for the conspiracy theorist vote: "My Goal is to Save America, and make it a democracy again. I witnessed a person high up in the NSA planning the 9/11 attack. They were talking about helping Ramsi Yousef (responsible for the 93 bombing at the World Trade Center) call his uncle Kolid Sheik Mohammed (considered the mastermind of the 911 attack) from the NSA secret prison in Alexandria, VA, and they were talking about flying planes into buildings."
John Taylor Bowles, National Socialist Order of America
Going for the Nazi vote. From Wikipedia: "Bowles runs his campaign out of the "Redneck Shop" in Laurens, South Carolina, which features Nazi, Confederate States of America and KKK paraphernalia. As of March 2008, Bowles is the only listed individual contributor to his campaign." (Bowles suffered a heart attack in July, so he's off the ticket.)
Continuing the exploration of strange presidential candidates:
"Mighty Man of God" Homer Tomlinson (1892-1969)
Tomlinson was the founder of the Church of God (World Headquarters). His plan was to bring about the kingdom of God on earth by getting the members of his church elected to public office. Therefore, he ran for President in 1952, 1960, 1964, and 1968 as the candidate for the "Theocratic Party" (which he also founded).
His campaign promises included: substituting tithing for taxes, creating cabinet posts for "Secretary of Righteousness" and "Secretary of the Holy Bible," unifying church and state, and establishing Bible reading and prayer in all schools.
Tomlinson never won an election, though he did receive 24 votes in 1964. But that didn't matter, because in 1965 he declared himself "King of the World." He ruled the world from a hotel room in Jerusalem, wearing a gold-painted crown and sitting on a folding chair. From a 1966 New Yorker profile of him:
He founded the Theocratic Party and has been its candidate for U.S. President since 1952, has written many books and songs, speaks in some 20 or 30 languages. One of many wonders he has effected by being in the right place at the right time was a downpour in the desert, during a 1000 mile walk from Iran to Bethlehem in 1955.
These look like instant collector's items -- if you're a collector of politically-incorrect political memorabilia.
The Sarah Palin School Girl action figure, sold by HeroBuilders.com. Kathleen Angco-Vieweg, an assistant professor of sociology at American International College in Springfield, Mass., has denounced it as sexist, saying it implies that the only power attractive women have "is to turn on a man instead of using their brains and intellect."
Then there are Obama Waffles, which some entrepreneurs were selling at the recent Values Voter Summit. The AP reports that they "play off the old image of the pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima, which has been widely criticized as a demeaning stereotype. Obama is portrayed with popping eyes and big, thick lips as he stares at a plate of waffles and smiles broadly."
So where's all the politically-incorrect McCain memorabilia?
NPR reports on a puzzling pattern in the hair growth of Russia's leaders. Its bald leaders (such as Lenin and Khrushchev) always are followed in power by hairy men who, in turn, are followed by bald men. The full line of succession:
When the Communists took over in Russia in 1917, the first leader, Vladimir Lenin, was bald. His successor, Joseph Stalin, was hairy. Stalin's successor (we're skipping an interim leader, Georgy Malenkov, who never got to be chairman), Nikita Khrushchev, was bald. Next up: Leonid Brezhnev (hairy). Then, in rapid succession, came Yuri Andropov (bald), Konstantin Chernenko (hairy), Mikhail Gorbachev (bald), Boris Yeltsin (hairy), Vladimir Putin (very, very thin on top) — and last and maybe least, today's Dmitry Medvedev (hairy).
What could this mean? Probably nothing. But it is an odd coincidence.
America, by contrast, almost never elects bald presidents. NPR calls this our "baldness barrier." (Thanks to Big Gary!)
With the Presidential election now less than two months away, I thought it would be appropriate to devote some posts to the stranger candidates who have run for President over the years. First up we have "Live Forever" Jones.
Leonard "Live-Forever" Jones Born: July 3, 1797. A resident of Louisville, Kentucky.
Jones was something of a perennial candidate, declaring himself a candidate for President in every election between the late 1840s and 1860s. But his ambitions were not limited to the Presidency. He declared himself to be a candidate for every high office, both State and Federal. When, in 1867, he failed to be elected Governor of Kentucky (he received no votes), he declared himself to be the rightful Governor. He considered himself vindicated when the elected governor, John Larue Helm, died five days into his second term. Similarly, he considered Lincoln's assassination to be divine punishment for the nation's failure to elect himself.
Affiliation: Live-Forever Jones was a member of the "High Moral" party. In fact, he was its only member. The central doctrine he promoted was the belief that immortality could be achieved through a regimen of prayer and fasting. Naturally, he considered himself to be immortal. Thus, his name. He had an unusual manner of speechifying on behalf of his views. He would jump up and down while banging a hickory cane on a table to emphasize his points. Often he would bang so loudly that he would drown out his own voice.
Sadly but predictably, Jones failed to live up to his name. He caught pneumonia, refusing any medical aid because he insisted his sickness was moral, not physical. He died on August 30, 1868.
Despite his odd behavior, he was one of Louisville's favorite eccentrics. Politicians humored him by actually filing the ballots he presented to them, and when he spoke he drew huge crowds who applauded wildly at all his schemes and assertions.
The concept of micronations is a fascinating idea. I utilized the notion in one of my recent stories, the title piece from The Emperor of Gondwanaland and Other Stories. But I hardly began to exhaust the narrative possibilities of the idea.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.