Wacky presidential candidates are a dime a dozen these days, with every megalomaniac with a YouTube account proclaiming to the masses that they have the key to unlock America's potential. Ever since the dawn of media, hoax and joke campaigns have kept Americans entertained during tense election years and poked satirical holes in the flawed system. (Candidates like "Nobody," Deez Nuts, and Limberbutt McCubbins come to mind.)
Yet some third-party candidates throughout history have taken their campaigns for the highest office in the land very seriously. Whether their fringe political beliefs seemed intriguing or insane and their policies compelling or crazy, they fought tooth and nail for the miniscule number of votes not guaranteed to one of the two major parties. From ultra conservatives to ultra liberals, from Nazi supporters to drag queens, from Pentecostal pastors to Transcendental Meditation practitioners, the group of people who have tossed their hats into the presidential ring is as diverse as the American populace itself.
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Potentially the most well-known name on the list, actress Roseanne Barr's run for office in 2012 garnered curious coverage from the media. The TV star campaigned on behalf of the Peace & Freedom Party alongside controversial anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan as her Vice Presidential pick. Her main policy objectives included ending the Federal Reserve, promotion of marriage equality, and legalization of marijuana. Known for her fiery comedic personality, she insisted that she was completely serious about her bid for the presidency when she announced her candidacy on The Tonight Show. Despite her claims, the documentary she released about her run, Roseanne for President!, is consistently described as a comedy.
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The 2016 presidential election cycle featured the first nomination of a woman by a major party, but it wasn't the first time a woman ran for President. That happened almost 150 years ago, when Victoria Woodhull ran for office, long before any member of her own gender could even vote for her. Her story was a colorful and eccentric one, with her contributions to the history of women's rights often overshadowed by the more sordid details of her past.
Raised by dysfunctional nomadic parents as a child preacher/fortune teller, Woodhull married three times over the course of her life and spent time making money as a traveling spiritualist. She also described herself as a "free lover" (100 years before the hippies adopted a similar philosophy) and may have even carried on an affair with Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt set Woodhull and her sister up with a stock brokerage on Wall Street, making them the first female stockbrokers in history. Her radical social ideals extended into politics, where she believed in the scandalous concept of equality for women and ran for president to promote that view.
However, in addition to being a woman, she also didn't fit the societal requirements of the job because she was a year younger than the minimum age requirement of 35. There was also the small problem that she was in jail on obscenity charges on Election Day. She was put in jail because the Marxist newspaper she ran published details about famed preacher Henry Ward Beecher's adultery. She published the scandalous facts to call out Beecher's hypocrisy after his scathing critiques on her radical views about sex and marriage.
For many of us, our only experience with Lyndon LaRouche is his overzealous followers cornering us on college campuses with brochures that often end up in the trash unread. However, opening those pamphlets and delving i to the man's beliefs reveals that the one thing crazier and more dedicated than his followers is the man himself.
LaRouche ran in every election between 1976 and 2004, never amassing more than 80,000 votes in any race despite his claims of extensive networks of organizations and followers. It was only in his first campaign in 1976 that he ran on a third-party ticket, founding the US Labor Party as a platform for his run. Since then, he has run, very unsuccessfully, as a Democrat. He has called for the quarantining of AIDs patients and claimed that the US military, in cahoots with Israel, launched the attacks on 9/11 as an unsuccessful coup, among many other things. Larouche's craziness could easily fill a list unto itself.
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Even if his party never gets many votes, Gene Amondson's National Prohibition Party gets the prize for most oxymoronic name. Born in 1943, Amondson was a preacher for almost 40 years in Washington state before the National Prohibition Party asked him to be their candidate in 2004.
His campaigns in 2004 and 2008 were met with some curiosity. Amondson even got an invitation to present his platform on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He told a Seattle newspaper that "Prohibition was America's greatest 13 years... Drinking responsibly is like teaching a pig to eat with a spoon. Can't happen."