Forrest Gump ran, according to his own words, “for no particular reason”. But why do the rest of them run? No, I’m not talking about the mildly retarded, although worse labels have been applied to them. I’m talking about candidates who have no chance of winning. You know who they are. They’re usually from one of the many struggling third parties or independent. And I mean independent in every sense of the word – no money, no network, and no supporters – but not always.
While the democratic side of the 2008 presidential race culled the herd relatively quickly, republican candidates Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee held on to the bitter end in spite of never having a snowball’s chance in hell. So, why do they even run? There are two explanations for this phenomenon. Let’s explore both.Ron Paul Makes a Statement
First, and most noble, some, like Ron Paul, do it to make a statement. He is the classic Libertarian candidate (although he ran as a Republican). His positions and proposals make sense in the theoretical world, but are completely unrealistic in the real world where most of us live. Nobody in their right mind would make the kinds of statements he’s made in the presence of the Republican Party faithful and expect to win. Stop interfering in other countries’ business? Afford homosexuals the same rights as “normal” people? Pro-choice? Decriminalize drugs? Ron, you lost them at “hello”.
Why does he run then? Because he’s forcing people to talk about things that they would otherwise never even consider. He’s raising issues and, as is the case with other libertarians and independents, slowly building a movement. At some point in the future an independent or third party candidate is going to win something big. The press will chalk it up as an overnight success, but the real reason will be because of “losers” like Ron Paul who came first.
As for the Huckabee-type candidates, it has nothing to do with God, country, or issues. It’s all about them. Huckabee (a Baptist Preacher by vocation) stuffed his own electoral pockets by tugging at the heartstrings of religious conservatives who, let’s face it, will evidently believe just about anything.Campaigning Pays the Bills
The truth is that for candidates like Huckabee (i.e. unemployed) campaigning pays the bills for a while. All you have to do is preach to the choir. Then you ask them for money and live off the money they give you. Huckabee is a 52 year old man who has never made more than $60,000 in a year. That doesn’t make him a bad person, but it sure doesn’t reflect the kind of motivation and tenacity required to be the leader of the free world. But he’s funny and nice you say? He’s a snake charmer, of course he’s charming. How else is he supposed to get little old church ladies to write him checks?
In spite of the slim chances that any of these independent or fringe-of-the-party candidates have, we need more of them. American politics belong to everyone, but has been hijacked by our two major parties and, within each, an aristocracy of professional, life-long politicians. The more candidates we have to choose from, the less of a coronation our elections become. Unlike Forrest, who ran “for no particular reason”, we need more candidates (like Ron Paul) to run for all the right reasons.
Randall H. Miller is an American educator and blogger currently living in the Dominican Republic.