The Curmudgeon Party
Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel has added a great deal to the Democratic debates— outspokenness, an uncalculated honesty, and a fierce spirit of reproof. He served in the Senate from 1969-1981. Although, he says he spent the last thirty years “under a rock,” he’s emerged reinvigorated. Back in the day he helped put an end to the Vietnam draft and he exposed the Pentagon Papers to Congress. These days he tends to be assigned a podium at the edge of the debate where he stands waiting, “like a potted plant,” to be asked a question. He does manage the occasional spontaneous intervention: “Shame on you, Hillary!” he said in reference to Senator Clinton’s vote in favor of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as terrorists. When Tim Russert asked Gravel how he would bring the Iraq War to an end, he said, in effect: stop campaigning and hunker down in the Congress; send Bush a bill to end the war, and when he vetoes it, send it again and again. Get the American people on board, he said, and the war would be over in 40 days.
Representative Ron Paul of Texas has made similar interventions into the predictable party-line arguments of the Republican Party. The rest of the field ritually chants its litany of lower taxes, an indefinite stay in Iraq, and an eternal war on terror, all of this accompanied by much competition for the role of Alpha Wolf. Like Gravel’s, Paul’s interventions are surprising and refreshing. During a recent debate he objected, “That’s war propaganda!” Representative Paul opposes not only the Iraq war but also U.S. bases overseas, particularly in Europe, which has now more than recovered from the ravages of World War II. He considers himself a strict constitutionalist; therefore, he deplores the current Republican belief that the executive branch can go to war without consulting the legislature. “That’s against the Constitution!” he reminds his fellow candidates. Ron Paul has a mixed constituency of libertarians, second amendment freaks, anti-abortion zealots, opponents of the war, anti-tax people, and entrepreneurial types. Due to his voting record in Congress, Paul is known as Doctor No.
Here’s my suggestion: that Gravel and Paul run together on a third-party ticket. They could call themselves the Mavericks, the Odd Squad or the Curmudgeon Party
If, in past decades, it was college students who spoke truth to power, now it’s a couple of smart, opinionated, crochety, older dudes. Although Gravel is a Democrat and Paul is a Republican, the two men agree on some important issues: ending the Iraq war, restoring habeas corpus, and abandoning the war on drugs. Their stance on the war, and on military intervention in general, makes them particularly valuable on the political scene.
Unlike all their rivals, they’re unscripted, spontaneous, and fearless of alienating some micro-constituency. It would be a shame if they just vanished after the party conventions. Together, Gravel and Paul could serve as gadflies not just to candidates from their own parties but also to the general population of voters and the timid media. They could give us an October surprise about every three weeks. We should all send them some money.