The Best Men

Finally, the New Hampshire primary

By William Bryk

As for the eccentric individual candidates of prewar days (like the one who used to label himself Mécontent National)…a lone survivor was Ferdinand Lop…with his program of…
(a pension for the widow of the Unknown Soldier and) abolishing poverty after 6:00 P.M.

—Gordon Wright, The Reshaping of French Democracy, p. 92

If one takes politics seriously, if one’s mind is molded by what William Manchester called the glory and the dream, if one is moved by the succession of magnificent images in the opening credits of the American “House of Cards,” of Washington’s neo-classical buildings and heroic statues, all remnants of the American common culture, then one risks a broken heart.

But, if one thinks of politics as did H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, who found “A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in,” then one should be amused by the state of the Union. I refer to the country, not the annual Presidential speech.

Filing ended some weeks ago in the New Hampshire Presidential primaries.  Candidates didn’t have to file petitions; they merely filled out a form and file it with a $1,000 fee.  Some show up in person, others mail it in.

In the past, the more difficult guys showed up to pay the fee in singles, or dollar coins, which William Gardner, the amiable New Hampshire Secretary of State, has seemed to find tiresome.  A local jackass, Joe Haas, periodically files complaints to remove all candidates from the ballot because they did not pay the fee in “legal money,” which to Mr. Haas’s mind is gold, not checks or paper money, the latter of which Mr. Haas dismisses as mere “Federal Reserve Notes.” Mr. Haas’s complaints have invariably been denied.

There are a total of 58 candidates this year, which means that $58,000 has entered the New Hampshire public fisc. More importantly, hundreds of millions of dollars will enter the state economy through campaign advertising, housing campaigners and reporters, and other media expenditures. It’s a good thing, as Martha Stewart, née Kostyra, might say.

Of the Republican candidates, many are of the kind described as “serious” only by other professional politicians. By this is generally meant that they have won elections in the past, held office, and can raise money. The qualities that the French summarize in the phrase, “un homme sérieux,” such as intelligence, common sense, and character, don’t enter into it.

Then there are the many other candidates, of both Establishment parties, of whom nearly everyone knows nothing. But here are a few Democrats of whom I know something.

Keith Judd ran for President in 2008 and 2012 and is at it again this year. As in the past, he filed by mail. He previously had a good reason for not filing in person as he was then a guest of the sovereign people, being immured in Federal prison for attempted extortion. Even so, in 2012, he polled over 40% of the West Virginia primary vote against the President, one on one. Among the West Virginians, some would rather vote for a white felon than Barack.

Sam Sloan supports Hillary Clinton for President. To his mind, this is a sound rationale for entering the New Hampshire primary against her. Ms. Sloan is a professional chess player of some accomplishment.  Apparently, many years’ political infighting in state and national chess federations has qualified him for office.  He ran for Assembly in 2002 as a Libertarian (0.43%) and for mayor in 2013 as the candidate of the War Veterans Party (166 votes citywide, 0.02%). Parenthetically, I’ve seen no evidence that Sloan or any of his running mates had ever been in the armed forces, let alone fought in a war.

In 2014, he ran for Congress against José Serrano, the incumbent, in a Bronx Democratic primary (9% of the vote, José receiving the other 91%).  From Mr. Sloan’s website, one might be justified in thinking that Mr. Sloan believes the public is far more interested in his personal and family life than any reasonable man might expect.

Then there is Vermin Love Supreme. That is his legal name, and according to Pagan Kennedy, even his mother calls him Vermin. How did he come up with this name? Mr. Supreme has said, “All politicians are vermin. I am the Vermin Supreme; therefore I am the most qualified candidate in this race…Yes, I am a politician, that’s my job. Of course, as a politician, I shall lie to you because I am a politician and have no reasons not to.”

Ms. Kennedy reports, however, that he presented something of the same rationale for being a professional musicians’ agent in 1986, when he was managing bands in Baltimore. Perhaps management of any kind requires the same skills.

Mr. Supreme claims to have been a candidate for Mayor of Baltimore in 1986. The state board of elections reports he polled no votes at either the primary or general elections. He claims also to have been a candidate for Mayor of Mercury, Nevada, a closed city in Nye County at a location formerly known as Jackass Flats which is not open to the public. No results are recorded, perhaps because no elections are held there.

He is now on his fourth Presidential campaign. In 2004, he polled 149 votes (0.35%) in the D.C. Democratic primary, coming in eighth of 11 candidates. In 2008, he polled 43 votes in the New Hampshire Republican primary, coming in 12th of 21 candidates (John McCain, who won, polled 88,713). In 2012, he polled 833 votes in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, coming in third to President Obama, who polled 49,080.

Mr. Supreme states now, as he has for the last three elections, that he “represents many abstract emotionally charged buzzwords – such as freedom, justice, law, order, liberty, and democracy – just to name a few.”

He promotes better dental hygiene under the slogan, “Strong Teeth for a Strong America.” To ensure that we regularly brush and floss, he promises “Warrantless random no-knock dental inspections; Government-issued toothpaste containing addictive yet harmless substances; Video surveillance through two-way bathroom mirrors; Electronic tracking, moisture, and motion sensor devices in all toothbrushes…or even preventative dental maintenance detention facilities.” Other promises include

To do something about the weather…Massive and arbitrary censorship of anything found offensive by an appointed truth and morality
squad…Making dangerous weapons available to anyone who wants them…Polygraph, drug tests, and loyalty oaths for all citizens, along
with the issuance of citizen identify cards, radio transmitter implants, and laser fingerprint tattoos to keep track of you and your children,
for your protection…Legalization of prostitution and gambling along with the promotion of professional sports, video arcades, and crack
houses together with other mindless forms of diversion to help you take your mind off what’s really going on…To appoint lots of committees
to look into all sorts of things…To tax the bejeezus out of everything…Free pizza and beer for everybody.

And to think that, when I was managing campaigns back at Manhattan College, J. Stephen Sullivan, F.S.C., the president, called me into his office because one of my candidates was running as the nominee of the Free Beer Party. Brother Stephen, who properly questioned my candidate’s qualifications for any office, including dogcatcher, objected merely to his campaign platform.

Anyway, four years ago, Mr. Supreme promised the voters “Gene splicing to create a race of winged monkeys to act as tooth fairies.” This year, he promises to finance time-travel research so that, as President, he may personally go back in time to strangle Adolf Hitler in his cradle. “After all,” he says, “we don’t want the Holocaust to happen.”

Alas, Pogo Mochello Allen-Reeves of Texas announced but did not file. He is a former soldier and male stripper.  Perhaps he was discouraged by the results of his 2015 campaign for Mayor of San Antonio, Texas. He came in 14th of 14 candidates, with 29 votes (0.03%).

Having begun with Mencken, let us end with Mencken:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.
On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House
will be adorned by a downright moron.

Published January 28th, 2016