Electoral Culture Shrouds Offbeat Oval Office Hopefuls

    NATIONAL NEWS — With all the premature brouhaha over next
    year’s presidential elections, it’s probably a safe assumption that most
    Americans have yet to make any decisions as to which candidate to support. Last
    weekend, the Florida Democratic Convention, an event that helps constituents
    make decisions about issues and candidates, was boycotted by all but one
    presidential candidate.

    One would expect the near 3,000 attendees to applaud and
    support the one candidate who actually decided to show up, but those at the
    rally were fixated on something else entirely: those who weren’t present.
    Clearly something is rotten in the state of Florida.

    The boycott was born after a violation of Democratic
    National Committee regulations, when the Florida state legislature rescheduled
    its primary to Jan. 29 (as opposed to Feb. 5), a move only permitted in Iowa,
    New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. To punish the brazen state
    legislature, the DNC agreed to forbid presidential campaigning in the state and
    preclude Florida’s 210 delegates from participating in next year’s national
    convention in Denver.

    The ill-attended convention has already become a bit of an
    embarassment for state Democrats, with a pending lawsuit against the DNC and
    rumors of plans to sack the chairwoman of the Florida Democrats, Karen Thurman.

    So who was the Lone Ranger in attendance?

    Former-Alaskan-senator turned-presidential-hopeful Mike
    Gravel, who, in recent voter polls, sadly trails behind “other” and “not
    voting,” had the daring to show up despite the embarrassing political bathos,
    defying the DNC’s moratorium on Florida presidential campaigning.

    If one so much as casually watched some of the earlier
    Democratic debates, Gravel was hard to forget. Remember the endearingly
    cantankerous, graying man who famously skewered an opponent with, “Who are you
    going to bomb today, Obama?” Yeah, that’s him.

    In addition to his straight shooting, Gravel boasts an
    illustrious track record. He has made a name for himself in the course of
    American political history, lauded for his efforts in ending the draft after
    the Vietnam War and circulating the scandalous Pentagon Papers.

    By winning the hearts of progressive liberals with antiwar,
    pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage rhetoric, at first glance it may appear
    that little distinguishes him from his wealthier Democratic contenders (compare
    Barack Obama’s $33 million in fundraising to Gravel’s paltry $130,000 in the
    same three-month period). However, his more controversial causes have been
    startling for some, including marijuana decriminalization, abolition of the IRS
    and income tax and probably his most well-known and unprecedented measure: the
    National Initiative. This is a theoretical, constitutional amendment whereby
    federal legislation could be introduced, modified or even vetoed by everyday
    citizens via ballot initiatives. It also proposes an accompanying regulatory
    body, the Electoral Trust, which would supervise this process.

    Politically disillusioned students have begun to find hope
    in Gravel and his forward-looking policies concerning healthcare, climate
    change and nuclear disarmament. Finally, young voters are getting excited about
    politics.

    “I don’t need Hillary money,” he said during one of his many
    nearly deserted fundraisers. “She gets a million in a night. If I can get just
    $10 million, I will win.”

    But as with most dark horses (and Gravel is about as dark as
    they get), the road to the White House is grim. Gravel’s fans will cite the
    success of the formerly obscure Jimmy Carter, who in 1976 snagged the
    presidency by a comfortable margin. In that spirit, Howard Dean’s progression
    from obscurity to being a veritable frontrunner in 2003 gives Gravelians a
    semblance of hope.

    Political pundits have recognized the underground,
    Internet-driven success of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, but Mike Gravel
    remains the laughingstock of American politics. The experts fail to look beyond
    his falsely “peevish” disposition and dwell on the “inevitable failure” of his
    campaign. In so doing, they lose sight of his genuine concern for the country’s
    well-being.

    In an electoral culture characterized by eggshell-walking,
    doublespeak and monetary dependency, the candidates who are devoid of capital —
    but brave enough to speak the truth — are almost invariably left in the dust.
    It’s shameful that a country founded on inviolate principles of equality and
    freedom can harbor such a system, and in the process deny presidential
    aspirants like Paul, Kucinich, Joe Biden and the affable Gravel a rightful
    chance at making it to Pennsylvania Avenue.

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