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Kinky Politics to the Rescue

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Columnist Molly Ivins recently made the case for Bill Moyers running as a Democrat in the 2008 presidential race, and then The Nation's John Nichols supported and advanced the idea, taking it even more seriously and asserting that "Moyers could be a contender." Both conveniently forgot to mention the draft Moyers for president campaign that fizzled in 2005 despite considerable attention on the Internet. In fact, the petition drive with a goal of 100,000 signatures obtained just 711. Nevertheless, like an Ivins-driven Internet tsunami, others have already started up activities to once again draft Moyers. There are two things wrong with this idea.

First, any unconventional candidate to be taken seriously by the majority of Americans who are disgusted with both Democrats and Republicans has to condemn the two-party duopoly. Any such candidate must be able and willing to passionately attack conventional politics, and position themselves as a trustworthy truth-teller. That means attacking both Democrats and Republicans for their support of the corporatist state and MISrepresentative government. Don't get me wrong. Bill Moyers has integrity, but he has not been critical of the Democratic Party and is more a mainstream Democrat than a progressive. And that seems to true for all the giddy blog writers that became excited by Ivins' column. All the people excited about Moyers must see the feasibility and need for such an atypical candidate running as a new third-party candidate, truly anti-establishment.

Second, Moyers has too much of a public record on countless issues. He has been too honest for too long about too much. Many of his Liberal positions would prevent large chunks of the population from supporting him. It's that simple. Also, don't forget, Bill has had decades of exposure as a Democrat to shake things up and he hasn't. He's been more successful as a truth-teller than an agent of change. Like Ralph Nader and other integrity-rich, anti status-quo people, what's missing is a truly populist personality. American history tells us that we are ready once again for a NEW third party to put forward a non-politician person who can capture the widespread spirit of disgust with our current political system and turn it into a Second American Revolution.

I made the case recently for Kinky Friedman becoming a presidential candidate after becoming Texas governor as an independent and then doing one heck of a job in office in the first year or so. Drop your preconceived notions and take this seriously. Follow my comparison of Kinky - without partisan loyalties - and Democratic Moyers and judge which one would be a better candidate with a better chance for success.

Bill and Kinky are real smart. But Kinky has what this country's political scene has not had in a long, long time - one helluva sense of humor. And America desperately needs good laughs as some courageous president finally tells the truth about the sorry state of our government and democracy. Bill is far too predictable, and ultimately that means boring. Kinky is full of surprises. He has smartly not taken positions on many issues that he currently sees as outside the purview of a state governor. Though he supports citizen ballot initiatives, same-day voter registration, publicly financed political campaigns, and allowing independents to be on Democratic and Republican primary ballots.

Bill and Kinky have not been subservient to the corporatist state, even though both have made substantial money from participating in the communications industry. Each has pursued and achieved success on their own terms. No one can accuse them of kowtowing to the power elites. They would have been even more successful if they had played ball. So here's the difference. Bill has gravitas but is just too preachy. He makes me think of Jimmy Carter. Kinky sneaks up on you with a combination of bizarre and creative twists on ideas and reality. With Bill it will always come down to what we should morally do as citizens and a nation. With Kinky it will be more like self-revelation after he makes you both think and laugh. As Dan Halpern observed in the New Yorker: "politicians are always careful to say nothing offensive, whereas Kinky is careful to always say something offensive; he provokes not to stop conversation but to start it." Good observation.

Both have remarkable talents in public communication. With Bill the nation would be getting one documentary after another. With Kinky we would be getting songs, jokes and parodies. A favorite line of Kinky's when he spots a child in the audience is "The Kinkster never likes to say 'f*ck' in front of a c-h-i-l-d." He really is funny - irreverent, but damn funny.

Both are from Texas. Bill has long escaped from that heritage and become a liberal New Yorker, however, while Kinky stayed (except for a stint in New York) and became a one-of-a-kind Texas character. Kinky was able to get his name listed as Richard "Kinky" Friedman on the ballot for this year's Texas election. Bill was actually born Billy Don Moyers, which was later legally changed to Bill, more fitting for a conventional person.
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Both graduated from the University of Texas in Austin. Bill went on to become an ordained Baptist minister and during the Kennedy Administration was first appointed as associate director of public affairs for the newly created Peace Corps in 1961, and then served as Deputy Director from 1962 to 1963. Friedman served two years with the Peace Corps in Borneo. You get the idea. Kinky is so much more of an ordinary American; he never had any good political connections. Bill was a special assistant, informal chief of staff, and press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson and an insider Democrat for years. Friedman ran for Justice of the Peace in Kerrville, Texas in the 1980s and lost the election. But Kinky has managed to be friends with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and he visited both at the White House in which Moyers once served.

Bill is a high-brow journalist-educator. Kinky is a low-brow writer-entertainer. Kinky can appeal to a broad cross-section of the American electorate. Bill's sharp rhetoric against conservatives and the religious right nullifies a large group of voters. Of course, Kinky being a Jew also poses problems. Crucially, any outsider presidential candidate must attract nonvoters, the truly pissed off and politically alienated. Face facts. Bill is just too much of an intellectual Liberal. With his folksy personality plus clever, dissident rhetoric Kinky can connect with the vast number of ordinary Americans who are turned off by our political system: Democrats, Republicans, libertarians, greens, and independents. Bill is a kind of elitist. Kinky comes across as a common man. Bill is highly virtuous. Kinky has vices like the rest of us; he smokes eight to ten cigars daily and has written extensively about his past cocaine use. "I'd had a number of bad experiences with drugs, one of them lasting for several decades," he once mused. True enough, Bill speaks eloquently for working- and middle-class Americans and against economic inequality. But Kinky seems a lot more connected in a visceral sense to ordinary Americans. Though he is a philosopher, as one of his oldest and best lines illustrates: "You come to see what you want to see, but you never come to know."

As the New Yorker profile noted: "Kinky's problem, he has said, is that he considers himself a serious soul who has never been taken seriously." Bill, it might be said, takes himself dreadfully serious and expects others to do likewise.

Here is a prime example of Kinky's application of creative humor to policy issues - his Five Mexican General plan for dealing with the border with Mexico. "When I talk about the five Mexican generals, people think I'm joking but I'm dead serious," said Friedman. "I will divide the border into five jurisdictions, assigning one Mexican general to each and providing a [one million dollar] trust fund for that general. Every time a person crosses illegally, we subtract $5,000 from the trust fund." Friedman's plan is intended not only to save money, but to place the responsibility of securing the border on the Mexican government rather than the inept U.S. government - by giving Mexican military leaders a monetary incentive. You have to admit it's creative.
In contrast, here is a statement by Bill that was used in the original draft Moyers for president campaign: "America is a broken promise and we are called to do what we can to fix it to get America back on track. St. Augustine shows us how: One loving soul sets another on fire. But to move beyond sentimentality, what begins in love must lead on to justice. We are called to the fight of our lives." Believe me, I have always strongly agreed with Bill Moyers' views. But Americans in their deep distractive consumerism coma need something more akin to a kick in the head to recapture their sovereign power and reclaim their country.
In December 2005, in making the case for Bill Moyers as presidents, Scott Beckman said: "1) the majority of the American people are totally fed up with the direction the country is headed; and 2) a large number of people don't think the Democratic Party is doing enough to get it turned back in the right direction." Probably more true today. But could someone who was clearly a loyal Democrat run as an outsider and obtain Democratic Party backing and then win the election? More recently, Ivins wrote: "Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me." She wants Moyers to make a symbolic run and shake up the Democratic Party, and just maybe the nation. By the way, Ivins said this: "On the matter of Kinky for governor, my response is, why the hell not!" She is seen as a Kinky supporter. If he's good enough for Texas, I say he's good enough for the whole country.

Kinky Friedman, a true maverick, could, like another odd Texan, Ross Perot, and Minnesota's populist Jesse Ventura, attract phenomenal support. Kinky says he's running "against the system and the stagnant status quo and all the politicians who've been there so long they forgot why they're there." As one Texan said: "Kinky is running against apathy, ignorance and complacence, not against the other candidates. He calls it a spiritual campaign, not a political one." Kinky has shown in his current campaign to become Texas governor that he can seriously run for public office, work damn hard at it, and earn considerable public support. Sure, it sounds crazy - Kinky Friedman running for President of the United States. But I think it would be more than great fun. It just might give the nation what it needs - a shot of political adrenalin (or maybe LSD) to wake up and turn around American democracy's slide downhill. Remember Ronald Reagan. What he did for the conservative movement, Kinky might do for the progressive movement.
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Richard "Kinky" Friedman, President of the United States. The Kinkster-in-Chief. You heard it here first. I visualize Kinky giving a televised presidential talk to Americans, soon after being sworn in, wearing his black cowboy hat and a cigar sitting in a nearby ashtray, and after some sage remarks ending with his usual benediction: "May the god of your choice bless you." If this image disturbs you, remember what Kinky says: "It's the career politicians who are the real joke." Ditto for career Democrats and Republicans.

Nervous about what President Kinky would say publicly? Just remember the endless string of sophomoric, inane, downright stupid, and insipid statements from President George W. Bush. Like millions of other Americans, I couldn't be more ashamed and embarrassed. Compared to Bush, Kinky is Thomas Jefferson.

 

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Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. His current political writings have been greatly influenced by working as a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress and for the (more...)
 

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He has a rescue for abandoned dogs he attempts to ... by Linda Milazzo on Sunday, Aug 6, 2006 at 11:12:44 PM