The Guns and Dope Party? 5 Great (Mostly) Farcical Political Parties
Do you realize that the date of the general election is Nov. 8, 2016? That means it’s still more than a year off, yet look at how much we’ve already been subjected to. I don’t know about you, but I think it would be a great idea if, instead of the primaries, we had a time-out, meaning the candidates just have to go have a seat — actually, several seats — and think long and hard about what they’ve done to put themselves there. “Time Out 2016: Have Several Seats”: It’s the motto of a new political party borne from frustration, boredom and disgust with politics.
While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about some other left-field political parties. Obviously, they exist all over the world — the UK’s Citizens for Undead Rights and Equality (CUTE) and Canada’s Extreme Wrestling Party come to mind — but the list below covers only American groups. I mostly steered clear of groups that, inadvertently or not, had actual cultural or political impact (e.g. the Yippies and the Birthday Party), since they turned out to be not so farcical in the end. The rest are here, in no particular order. Check out the five best farcical American political parties.
1. The Guns and Dope Party.
Robert Anton Wilson was a patron saint of the countercultural underground and Jack-of-all-writerly-trades, serving as associate editor of Playboy from 1965-'71 and authoring some 35 books, including The Illuminatus! Trilogy, co-written with Robert Shea. Wilson gave us the concept of “model agnosticism,” which holds that nothing should be regarded with absolute belief or denial, and once said, “My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone but agnosticism about everything."
In the early 1980s, Wilson founded the anarcho-libertarian Guns and Dope Party, which advocates, “(1) guns for those who want them, no guns forced on those who don't want them (pacifists, Quakers etc.); (2) drugs for those who want them, no drugs forced on those who don't want them (Christian Scientists, etc.); (3) an end to Tsarism and a return to constitutional democracy; and (4) equal rights for ostriches.”
In direct contrast to the Birthday Party, which promotes Nobody for President, the Guns and Dope Party platform is Everybody for President, and encourages us all to write in our own names at every election. The party also suggests everyone become a “genuine and authorized” tsar, a feat achieved by printing out a free card. Plus, its motto is one anyone could get on board with: "Like what you like, enjoy what you enjoy, don't be afraid to make slurping sounds, and don't take crap from anybody.”
2. The OWL Party.
Back in the mid-'70s, Thomas “Red” Kelly was the owner of an Olympia, Wash., jazz bar called the Tumwater Conservatory. As the story goes, the OWL Party can be traced back to a joke Kelly made at the bar one night about entering local politics that somehow became a reality. Kelly, an accomplished jazz bassist, convinced a few fellow jazz musicians and friends to run for state office under the OWL Party, which he said was an acronym for “Out With Logic; On With Lunacy.” Each candidate's platform was more ridiculous than the next. Kelly’s mother-in-law, “Fast” Lucie Griswold, in a run for secretary of state, claimed she took “unequivocal stands” against “(1) the heartbreak of psoriasis; (2) bedwetting; (3) the big 'O'; [and] (4) post-nasal drip." (Her page in the 1976 Washington State Voting Pamphlet is here.)
The legislature didn’t see the humor in the joke, and responded by making it harder to run for office. One lawmaker apparently even admitted the regulations had been changed “because the satirical OWL party made Washington State the laughingstock of the nation last fall." Red Kelly’s official 1976 voting book page, and the wonderful absurdity of his espoused platform, is below.
3. The Straight Talking American Government (STAG) Party.
A party of one: stand-up comedian and Smothers Brothers regular Pat Paulsen. Though it mostly existed to make fun of real electoral politics, STAG appeared on multiple primary ballots, as Paulsen ran for president in 1968, ‘72, ‘80, ‘88, ‘92 and 1996. His website sums things up nicely, saying, “Pat's campaign was based in comedy and he ran it using outright lies, double talk and unfounded attacks on his challengers. Who would have thought this style would be the method of campaigns in the future?”
Though Paulsen had some success as a candidate, landing in second place in a few state primaries, the STAG candidate was most notable for giving us some of the best satirical quotes ever (e.g., “Marijuana should be licensed and kept out of the hands of teenagers. It's too good for them.” “We have nothing to fear but fear itself...and of course the boogieman." “Every child has a right to go to high school and end up with a third-grade education.”). Video from Paulsen’s 1988 campaign is below.
4. The Rent is Too Damn High Party.
Jimmy McMillan may have the facial hair of a 21st-century Ambrose Burnside, but he is in every other way unique and distinct from your typical politician. His Wikipedia page (which I’m trusting is correct, since McMillan’s own website redirects there) states he is “a Vietnam War veteran, karate expert...former postal worker, stripper and private investigator,” and that he has run for various offices since 1993.
Many of us came to know McMillan and his Rent is Too Damn High Party during the 2010 New York State gubernatorial debate, when he made an otherwise humdrum program into a fully watchable event. As you might guess, the party's primary issue is that rent in New York City is too damn high, a fact we can all agree on, which might explain why McMillan won 41,129 votes in the election.
It’s actually a little unfair to put him on this list because The Rent is Too Damn High Party isn’t a complete farce and McMillan — who was depicted as a recurring Saturday Night Live character for a while — does have a point now and again. (On the one hand, he’s pro-marriage equality and opposes cuts to education; on the other, he says global warming naturally happens every 1,500 years and calls climate change “punk science.”) Did I mention he also has a theme song, and accompanying video, which cannot be missed?
5. Mickey Mouse.
As Wikipedia notes, Mickey Mouse isn’t a political party per se, but disgruntled voters have long used the cartoon mouse as a protest vote write-in. Mickey made his first appearance on a ballot more than 80 years ago in a New York City mayoral race: a New York Times article dated Thursday, Dec. 1, 1932, reports that vote counters tallied one write-in vote each for Al Capone, Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, and of course, Mickey Mouse. That tradition of sorts has continued in elections both local and national for decades, so much so that some states have essentially banned the practice. In 1987, Georgia stopped counting Mickey Mouse votes, as did Florida, parts of Arizona and Vermont, though CBS spoke to clerks who described how voters might still make joke write-ins count:
A write-in vote for Mickey Mouse gets thrown out, said Milton Town Clerk John Cushing and others. But some said a vote for Bart Simpson — a character on Fox's animated comedy "The Simpsons" — is trickier, since that could actually be someone's name.
Interestingly, in Sweden, Donald Duck beats Mickey Mouse as the protest vote of choice. At least until 2006, when made-up candidates were banned on Swedish ballots.