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My career as a wingnut candidate for high political office

by William McGaughey

 

As the old millennium ended and a new one began, I was 59 years of age. I had never before run for political office. But then in 2001 a friend, the head of a landlord group to which I belonged, dropped out of the race for mayor of Minneapolis. I decided to run in his stead. The result was miserable. In the primary election held on September 11, 2001, I finished 12th among 22 candidates, with 143 votes citywide. Also, the World Trade Center towers in New York City came down on that day, overshadowing my own deluded ambition.

Even so, I began thinking of myself as someone who could change the world through electoral politics. Now associated with Jesse Ventura’s Reform Party, I decided to challenge the party-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2002 because his message seemed too bland. I would stir things up. To differentiate myself from and irritate the Republicans, I announced that I favored legislation to establish a 4-day, 32-hour workweek by the year 2010. To irritate the Democrats, I said that I favored “the full citizenship, dignity, and equality of white males.” I traveled the state with that dual message. To my great surprise and delight, I finished second in a three-man race with 8,432 votes or 31% of the total. The party-endorsed candidate was held to less than 50 percent of the vote.

Where could I go from here? Even higher, of course. My sights were now set on the White House. I decided to run for President at the earliest available opportunity, which was in 2004. Because the Independence Party was not organized on a national level, I first had to pick a party affiliation. I chose the Democrats in large part because the incumbent Republican president, George W. Bush, was a shoo-in for renomination and probable reelection.

I missed the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary. The other two states that allowed candidates to run on the basis of paying a filing fee alone were South Carolina and Louisiana. I would run in both states’ presidential primaries. After paying South Carolina’s $2,500 filing fee, however, I learned after traveling to that state that the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terrence McAuliffe, had my name removed from the ballot because he judged that I was not a good Democrat. That left Louisiana whose party officials were not so controlling.

Issues-wise, I decided not to advocate “dignity for white males” in the presidential campaign because that theme would seem to be pandering to racist sentiments in a southern state. Also, the issue of a shorter workweek seemed a bit out of place. The new issue to take their place was trade protection. I had a scheme of “employer-specific tariffs” that I thought would allow a reasonable exchange of goods in world markets while also promoting higher labor and environmental standards.

With that in mind, I waged a vigorous five-week campaign in Louisiana in the spring of 2004. The result was that I finished fifth among seven presidential candidates with 3,161 votes or 2% of the total votes cast. The winner was John Kerry who had cinched the Democratic nomination in the previous week. Still, my performance as a presidential candidate was not bad considering that I had virtually no name recognition or support.

As of March 2004, then, I had waged three political campaigns for three different offices and gained a total of 11,786 votes. More significantly, I had raised three policy issues that would form the core of my political identity: (1) advocacy of a shorter workweek, (2) affirmation of my white-male identity, and (3) support of trade protection with an eye to improving labor standards around the world.

In the next twelve years, I ran for five more local, state, and federal offices, again with limited success. The high point was in 2008 when, as the Independence Party’s candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth District, I gained 22,318 votes or 6.92 percent of the total. Even Jesse Ventura complimented me on the result. The low point was in 2016 when I spent five weeks actively campaigning as a candidate in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary and gained a total of 17 votes. (My issues in that primary were the same as in 2002: a shorter workweek and dignity for white males.)

Heck, I did better than that when I dropped out of the race as a Republican candidate for state representative in my inner-city district in 2012 and still had 79 votes - about 20 votes fewer than the primary-election winner. My political career has been a roller-coaster experience, to say the least.

In summary, the three issues that I raised effectively at the beginning of my political career and less effectively at the end were:

(1) federal legislation to establish a 4-day, 32-hour workweek,
(2) encouragement of white males, or of whites or of males, to take pride in their demographic identity (or at least resist disparagement), and
(3) a revision of U.S. trade policy to end chronic trade deficits and create a more balanced and humane trading order.

fast-forward to the present

Enough of 21st Century elections in which I played a part. We come to a point later in the year, 2016, when the political process in America seems to have been turned completely upside down. Two insurgent candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, are mainly responsible for the excitement. At this point in the game (the second week in May) Trump has cinched his party’s presidential nomination while Sanders, an underdog candidate, has yet escaped political demise.

What a year this has been as the primary election results have shaken things up! The two past Republican presidential nominees and two past Republican presidents have all said they will not support Trump; and the top-ranking Republican officer holder, speaker Paul Ryan, is withholding his support for the time being. On the Democratic side, the likely nominee, Hillary Clinton, has an abysmal approval rating. Bernie Sanders, viewed a bit more favorably, has little or no chance of becoming the Democratic nominee. President Obama, once unpopular, has a relatively high approval rating but is constitutionally barred from running again for President this year. It’s a mixed-up political world.

What strikes me the most is how attitudes have changed with respect to free-trade agreements. A quarter century ago, when Bill Clinton became a presidential candidate, economists had convinced the public that it was fallacious to think that tariffs could be a tool in regulating economic development. Almost by definition, tariffs were bad. But now we have Donald Trump making trade protection the centerpiece of his program to revive the economy. Bernie Sanders and even Hillary Clinton are expressing similar sentiments on the Democratic side.

I think of how my own presidential campaign in Louisiana in 2004 was dismissed as “protectionist” because I thought tariffs should play a role in national economic policy. I think of how in 1992, after I had personally handed my book opposing NAFTA to candidate Bill Clinton, he embraced the very opposite of what I advocated; and now his wife, Hillary Clinton, feels compelled to adopt a position closer to what I recommended those many years ago. A profound shift in U.S. trade policy is overdue and this year, 2016, may be the time when it takes place.

Parenthetically, let me say that I am not against trade per se. I am, however, against trade that is based primarily upon vastly differing stages of economic development and pay scales in the countries that produce goods and those that consume them. I am against trading goods for debt when this pattern shows no signs of abating. The United States, rich as it is, cannot continue accepting manufactured goods from the less developed nations if this means increasing debt that must eventually be repaid. Trump is right to call out the present group of policymakers.

Therefore, with respect to the issue that I raised in my 2004 primary race in Louisiana, I take pride in the fact that today’s leading presidential candidates in both parties, but especially Donald Trump, have come around to the so-called "protectionist” position. I was ahead of my time on that question. But I was behind the time with respect to my other two issues - a shorter workweek and dignity for white males. It may be necessary to wait another twenty years before anyone can or will give effective representation to those policy positions.

Take the issue of race. There is one position, and one alone, that commands any degree of support. And that is that the white population of America is racist, or potentially racist, so that any expression of racial solidarity or sympathy among whites is a tip off to potential Ku Klux Klan membership. Never mind the fact that the KKK has not been a significant force in national politics for almost a hundred years. White people are suspected of racism, and therefore of potential racial violence, unless they forcefully deny group sympathy for persons of their own race. For my part, I think this is a toxic attitude, and I am not afraid to say so. I am not afraid to disagree even on such a sensitive matter.

Let me share with you an amusing experience. There were 58 candidates from both parties in the New Hampshire presidential primary this year. Only one, Ben Carson, was African American. Only one, Hillary Clinton, was female. In this crowd of overwhelmingly white-male (and mostly middle-aged) candidates, only one person - me - said anything remotely resembling sympathy for the white population of the United States.

The videotape of the minor-candidate forum at St. Anselm college on January 19, 2016, shows one of the other Democratic candidates leaving the podium in disgust the moment when I expressed sympathy for white males. The audience for that forum, while not not large, was overwhelmingly white and male as were the candidates themselves. To the best of my knowledge, there was only one black person sitting in the audience. And that person was my wife, not originally expecting to be there, who had come to New Hampshire because she was worried about my health. (I had been in a Manchester hospital for four days.) And so we have a strongly anti-racist ideology in America combined with real separation of the races if that meeting was any indication. The political rhetoric does not seem to match with reality. The reality is better.

The racial differences among Americans may or may not sort themselves out politically. This is a matter for individuals, not legislators, to decide. But there is an issue - the shorter workweek - which is crying out for legislation. Labor productivity has been rising for many years while the level of working hours has remained unchanged. The plutocratic elite and its running dogs in academia and the press have effectively kept the lid on this issue. Some day someone will organize the American people to see what their forbearers several generations ago knew: that you need shorter work hours to keep employment full and in balance when labor productivity steadily improves.

But don’t hold your breath. Until the right moment, only a few wingnuts will talk about such things.

See also: I run for President in the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primary

 

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