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Posted at 10:07 AM ET, 01/12/2012

Vermin Supreme, other satirical candidates enliven presidential race

The political world needs more Vermin Supremes.


Democratic presidential candidate Vermin Supreme speaks into a megaphone as candidate supporters and protesters rally outside a Republican presidential candidates debate in Concord, New Hampshire, Jan. 8, 2012. (Eric Thayer - Reuters)

Mr. Supreme — and you have to say “Mister” or he sounds like a pizza — wears a funky, boot-shaped hat that makes him look like a wizard. He advocates time travel, opposes zombies and carries a gigantic toothbrush. If he should ever find himself as commander-in-chief, he will pass a law requiring people to brush their teeth.

“Gingivitis has been eroding the gum line of this great nation long enough,” Mr. Supreme said at the New Hampshire Lesser-Known Democratic Candidates Presidential Forum last month. “A country future’s depends on its ability to bite back.”

Oh, and he’ll give every American a pony. Who doesn’t want a pony?

Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman haven’t promised horses — yet. But in South Carolina, who knows how competitive it will get? Ron Paul may have mentioned ponies in some long-lost newsletter. Rick Perry definitely likes horses. And satirical candidates like Mr. Supreme have for decades been an entertaining counterpoint to all of them and the serious contenders who came before them.

In 1968, Pat Paulsen, a comedian and regular on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, announced his presidential campaign. His party: The Straight Talking American Government (STAG) Party. (Did John McCain draw inspiration from Paulsen?)

Comedian Stephen Colbert launched a presidential run in 2008. He ranked higher in some polls than his presidential competitors like Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich. Even though he isn’t on the South Carolina ballot this year, some recent polls show Colbert, a Palmetto State native, ahead of Jon Huntsman.

Such silliness is good for democracy, says Dr. Paul Levinson, a media professor at Fordham University. “Court jesters and satirists have played a good role,” Levinson said. “They point out, in many ways, the absurdities of the political process.”

Mr. Supreme has been doing that for years. The performance artist is no new kid on the political block. In 2008, he campaigned in the New Hampshire Republican Party primary, where he received a whopping 41 votes. He fared better in the general election, with 43 votes.

In this year’s New Hampshire Democratic Primary, he got about 781 — which isn’t so bad, if you consider that Rick Perry garnered only 1,762 votes in the GOP primary.

But this year, Mr. Supreme has also become a hit on social media. Facebook has a bunch of groups dedicated to him, including one called “Vermin Supreme for President — 10,000,000 Strong — JOIN OR DIE.”

Even presidential candidate Buddy Roemer,
Former Louisiana Gov. Charles 'Buddy' Roemer (Gerald Herbert - Associated Press)
who has been shut out of the GOP debate process, tweeted about Mr. Supreme Wednesday night. People were asking Roemer if would debate Mr. Supreme.

Roemer tweeted, “Okay people. Help me out here. Who on earth is ‘Vermin Supreme’ and why should I debate him/her/it? #bigquestions.” Roemer later tweeted he had no plan to debate Mr. Supreme.

Also on Wednesday, a New Hampshire voter tweeted, “Feeling a little regretful that I didn’t vote for Vermin Supreme. He promises ponies!”

Another tweeted that Mr. Supreme needs a television show. You laugh, but it worked for former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who not only does interviews but plays bass guitar with musical guests. Herman Cain can’t be too far away from inking a reality TV deal.

Is Mr. Supreme’s kooky hat any different than Rick Santorum’s sweater vests, which have taken on a life of their own? The campaign now sells vests in exchange for donors’ dollars. (Note to Mr. Supreme: Sell your boot-hats online.)

A time travel aficionado, Mr. Supreme wants to journey through the space and time continuum and slay a baby Hitler. Which gives him something in common with Newt Gingrich, co-author of several alternative history novels including “1945,” which creates a world where Hitler never declared war on the United States. Gingrich also supports a lunar colony to mine moon minerals. No, I’m not joking.

Democrats are missing out on the fun this primary season, of course, which is what happens when an incumbent is in the White House. We have to wait to 2016 for another Democratic primary in which candidates like Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich discuss UFOs and propose a Department of Peace. Meanwhile, I’m waiting on Mr. Supreme’s television show.

By  |  10:07 AM ET, 01/12/2012

 
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