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Not Likely to Be President

March 19, 2019

Here is a look back through history to some past candidates for the highest office in the land who honestly had very little chance of winning.

WILLIAM WIRT

By the 1830s, a conspiracy theory developed that said the Freemasons, a fraternal service organization, was actually a secret society with plans for national domination. In response, the Anti-Masonic Party formed, and in 1832 ran a candidate in the presidential election. Its guy — running against incumbent (and Freemason) Andrew Jackson: former attorney general William Wirt. Then he tried to drop out of the race when it was discovered Wirt had actually once been a Freemason and didn’t think the organization was anything more than a “social club.” Wirt stayed in the race and ultimately finished fourth, winning only Vermont.

EUGENE DEBS

The United States is a capitalist, democratic Republic, which means that it’s been nearly impossible for socialist candidates to ever get a toehold for what were considered their far-out ideas. Undeterred, American socialist leader Eugene Debs ran high-profile campaigns for president five times in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1918, he gave a speech calling for American men to ignore the notices they received when drafted to fight in World War I…for which he was charged with sedition, relieved of his citizenship, and sentenced to a decade in prison. Nevertheless, he won the Socialist Party nomination once more and campaigned from his Atlanta prison cell with the slogan “From the Jailhouse to the White House.” Amazingly, he finished in third place nationally, garnering nearly a million votes.

JELLO BIAFRA

This punk rock icon fronted a band called the Dead Kennedys…which is about closest Biafra got to the White House. In 2000, he unsuccessfully tried to secure the Green Party’s nomination, ultimately losing to consumer advocate Ralph Nader. The Green Party’s views sit on the far-left side of the spectrum, and Biafra’s views were even farther to the left: He wanted to create a “maximum wage,” dismantle the armed services, lower the voting age to five, and legalize all drugs.

WILLIAM DUDLEY PELLEY

William Dudley Pelley had a perfectly fine career as a writer going, penning the scripts for more than a dozen films in the 1910s and 1920s and winning an O. Henry Prize for his short story work. Then he had a near-death experience and threw it all away to form a religion called “Liberation Doctrine.” He also started a political faction called the Silver Legion of America, and in 1936, publicly supported Hitler’s activities in Europe, and proclaimed that the U.S. needed “an American Hitler.” Running on that platform, he made it onto the ballot in only Washington state, got less than 2,000 votes, and was arrested during World War II for distributing pro-Nazi materials.

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