The Drudge Report had a fun take on the special-election drama in Ohio this week:
The headline in Wednesday's Daily Mail went into a bit more detail: “Green party spoiler candidate in Ohio election whose 1,100 votes could tilt outcome says his ancestors were from another planet and can't remember his own campaign website address.”
See also Fox News, the New York Post, former “Who's the Boss?” star Alyssa Milano and certain thousands of her peers on Twitter. All sound concerned that Joe Manchik — a Green Party candidate who once wrote that he descends “from a planet orbiting a star in the Pleiades star cluster” — may have won enough votes in Tuesday's razor-thin special election to block Democrats from taking Ohio's deep-red 12th Congressional District from the Republican Party.
The claim has a certain allure. What could be more 2018 than the American democratic system degrading to the point that it might be susceptible to the whims of 1,129 Ohioans who voted for a man claiming alien ancestors?
But there's more to the story than those headlines. Even if it's not necessarily any less weird.
Let's start with the alien stuff. It derives from Manchik's personal Facebook page, where — along with his 2014 treatise on “how the United States of America became a Fascist Plutocracy” — you can find this passage in the “about me” section:
My distant relatives originally came to planet Earth from a planet orbiting a star in the Pleiades star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus.
That seems clear enough. However, after international media outlets began to write headlines around Manchik's Pleiadian family tree this week, a Columbus-area TV reporter with ABC 6 tracked the candidate down and asked him what exactly he was talking about.
We strongly recommend you watch the entire interview above, which quickly transcends its Q&A format and becomes a sort of test of wills between Manchik and an increasingly exasperated reporter.
The bit about aliens comes seven minutes in and is excerpted below.
“Let me ask you a question,” the reporter said. “Is it true you described yourself as a descendant of aliens from the, how do you say this word, Plai-a-dees — "
“Pleiades,” Manchik told her.
“— Pleiades star cluster?” she concluded the question.
“You got that off my personal Facebook page!” Manchik said, leaning across the table at the reporter. “Give me a break. That's Facebook!”
“But is that true?” the reporter asked. “And can I ask you why?”
“It's just silliness,” Manchik said, suddenly grinning and leaning back in his dining-room chair. “Sometimes you put silly things on Facebook.”
“Okay, that's fair,” the reporter said, seemingly ready to move on.
“No, no, no, I'm not finished!” Manchik said.
“In my belief,” Manchik said, “the human species possibly could have evolved on another planet millions of years ago, and then some humans were actually transported to this planet.”
He paused a moment. The reporter said nothing.
“And here we are today! This could have happened millions of years ago, and here were are today,” he said. “You know there's billions of planets out there, revolving around stars that are billions of miles away. You know it's just silly to think we might be out here all by ourselves. You know, that's my view, so that's why I put that up there. For you to even bring that up in regards to a congressional election is just silly, too.”
Much of the rest of the ABC interview, which Manchik's campaign recorded and published on Facebook, consisted of him arguing with the reporter about whether he deserved more non-alien-related coverage.
We'll return to their exchange momentarily, after a short break to discuss the Ohio election results.
Manchik was correct when he said his official campaign material mentions nothing about aliens, in jest or otherwise. Rather, he ran on a fairly typical agenda for a Green Party candidate — social and economic liberalism, demilitarization and a condemnation of corporate America and both major political parties.
Or, as he called them on his website, the “corporate-capitalist and corporate owned Democratic-Republican Duopoly Oligarchy Party cabal of evil and greed and wars for oil that is driving our country off the road and deep into the ditch of fascism, oligarchy and plutocracy and onto the path to World War III.”
As to the 0.6 percent of the vote Manchik captured in Tuesday's special election, there is simply no evidence that he swung the race from Democrat Danny O'Connor to Republican Troy Balderson. Even if every one of Manchik's 1,129 voters would have otherwise turned out for O'Connor — very doubtful — the Democrat would still be several hundred votes behind Balderson.
However, the tally could change as provisional votes and absentee ballots come in over the next several days. O'Connor has yet to concede and could demand a recount. And, regardless, whoever is victorious will win the office only for a few months. Manchik has promised to run again for the seat in November's general election, when the Democrat and Republican are expected to face off again, with a full term at stake.
And if that rematch is also a close call, then the candidate of ambiguous alien lineage might play spoiler in an election where partisan control of Congress could hang in the balance. The handful of voters Manchik won Tuesday is a small fraction of the 13,000-plus he won in 2016, the first time he ran in a general election.
And if by chance Manchik does tilt the 12th District or Congress itself to the GOP, he told The Washington Post, he wouldn't lose a night of sleep.
“I don't think there's much difference between Democrats and the Republican Party at all,” the 65-year-old network designer said.
“The reason I got so much lower vote count is most people didn't even know I was on the ballot," he said. ". . . There's some kind of conspiracy going on here to specifically exclude third-party candidates. There has to be. And it's all driven by money. The news media corporations have been bought off by the Democratic Party and Republican Party.”
Thus his apparent indignation when the ABC 6 reporter sat in his dining room Wednesday and asked him about aliens and spoilers, when about the closest thing to press Manchik got before the election was a YouTube live stream with fewer than 1,000 views.
“You really thought you would have had a chance of winning against those two?” the ABC reporter asked.
“If I would have gotten some media coverage,” Manchik told her.
“Well, maybe you would have gotten media coverage if you had your phone number on your website,” she protested.
“It is on the website,” he said.
“No, it's not,” she said.
They continued to argue — about phone numbers and vote counts and whether links to the Pleiades were fair game for election coverage.
Eventually, Manchik managed to capitalize on his newfound celebrity, however long it lasts. He concluded the ABC interview with his thoughts on what he considered the issues of the day.
“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are corporate fascist stooges,” he said. “They're turning this country into a fascist plutocratic oligarchy.”
“Well, she doesn't do anything,” the reporter ventured. “She's in Chappaqua taking long walks with her dog.”
“Oh, I don't believe that,” Manchik said, leaning back, clearly in his political element. “She's sucking up that corporate money.”
“And what is she doing with it?”
“I don't know. You'll have to ask her.”
Finally, ABC's cameraman cut in with a philosophical question.
“This country has pretty much historically been a two-party system,” he asked. “Is there hope for a change?”
Manchik rejected the premise. “No, there really isn't a two-party system in America anymore,” he said. “There's a one party system, and that party is a corrupt, corporate-owned Democratic-Republican duopoly oligarchy mafia —" He paused. “Cabal.”
“Those are strong words,” the cameraman said.
“I think we're good?” the reporter said. “We're good. Thank you.”