Supreme, a Candidate in the 2020 US Presidential Election, Feels there is Room for Him in the Mess that is US Politics.
I met Vermin in a bar in Manchester, New Hampshire. I had just rolled off a bus trip from Boston, was nursing a beer and getting to know my fellow reporters. The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ) had graciously given me a sponsorship to cover the Manchester Primaries for the US Presidential Elections. Six long days and nights reporting on the political circus that Manchester becomes for one week every four years. Not being a political journalist didn’t faze me or seem to bother BINJ — they wanted stories that other journalists didn’t cover. Most importantly, they wanted stories that made no mention of the negativity and character bashing prevalent in the US political environment. In the end, I wrote a piece on the gig economy, a review of the 10 best restaurants in Manchester, and a profile of Vermin Supreme. He is just that fascinating.
When Jess asked me to participate in a recorded round-table discussion about civic engagement and politics, I was taken aback and honored.
“I would love to, but I have not eaten dinner, the beer is going to my head and I smell like an old bus. Will that be ok?” I inquired, certain that one of those would disqualify me.
“Not to worry, this is a very relaxed group.” Jess was quite gracious.
Vermin Supreme and one of his minstrels were already seated and ready for the roundtable. Not being an anarchist or a libertarian, I had no idea who he was. He struck me as a charming and odd older gentleman who happened to like wearing oversized boots on his head. His minstrel, Rob, reminded me of a well-dressed Sancho Panza. Once the discussion started, I soon learned that I was in the presence of something special and different.
Since 1992, Vermin Supreme had run as a candidate in the US Presidential Elections. His campaign was a parody – his first, and most famous, policy is to give free ponies to every American. Of course, it will fall under the Federal Pony Identification Program. When asked if taxes will be raised to pay for the ponies, the answer is no. “They are free,” states Vermin in complete deadpan.
Other key policies are a zombie preparedness plan; time travel research through which he will go back in time and kill baby Hitler; and a mandatory toothbrushing laws. He and his supporters are fond of carrying around giant toothbrushes and debating the need for a dental police-force. If you do not believe me, please find him on YouTube. It is a treat.
Always self-described “jokester”, Vermin’s spoof campaigns were always an attempt to show the ridiculousness in politics, to poke fun at inert policies and inept politicians. In 2012, he went viral and became a meme. While speaking at a panel of ‘lesser known’ presidential candidates in Manchester, he sprinkled “fairy-dust” on a homophobic candidate, claiming that “Jesus had told me to make Randall Terry gay”. Overnight, he became an internet sensation and now has over 30,000 Twitter followers.
During our roundtable, I could not help but admire Supreme. On the surface, his campaign is fun and games. On a deeper level, his message is one of love, community and the inherent right for self-governance. As a proclaimed anarchist, he had recently decided to become a libertarian as he saw no difference between the two philosophies. Rob the Minstrel and his Campaign Manager, Dan, professed deep admiration and love for Supreme and his modeling of self-acceptance, creativity and perseverance.
“I was bullied as a child and used humor to rise above it. My involvement in politics was always to be the prankster and show the silliness of the situation. Suddenly, I became blew up, went viral and became famous. And the message became so much bigger than I am.”
Over the next few days, I realized that Vermin is a local legend in Manchester. Everyone knows, loves and accepts him. A few days before the 2020 New Hampshire Primaries, Vermin rented ponies to parade throughout Manchester. When he brought them to the Trump Rally, held on February 10, the police didn’t bother him. Vermin Supreme was and is the one truly happy and positive candidate in the 2020 US Presidential Election, which counts for a good deal. In a primary race characterized by back-stabbing and nastiness, Vermin floats on by and doesn’t play mean politics. Like any great satirist and comedian, he uses both to invert the political process and showcase its idiocies and weaknesses. In his own words, “I believed I paved the way for Donald Trump. I brought ridiculousness to politics and he saw an opening and just jumped on in there.”