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Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Lack of Incumbent Creates Unique Election Year

Not many folks remember 1928. The few folks alive today that lived back then were just kids at the time. So you might not know that 1928 was the last time that there was no executive branch incumbent running for president.

See, usually a current or former vice president tries for the top of the ticket.

I fear that's not the only similarity. It was also the last election before the Great Depression.

Maybe those incumbents knew a thing or two that they weren't sharing, and that's why none of them wanted his hands on the wheel when the whole thing crashed.

So once again we've got a presidential race with no candidates with a presidential record.

Dick Cheney says he'll never run for president - some argue that's because he's already doing the job.

Others claim that Hillary Clinton has run the executive branch. But a recent Slate magazine article - and a few of my own personal observations - claiming that women don't think their husbands listen to them ought to disqualify her as an incumbent.

This lack of prior executive experience allows the Democratic and Republican candidates to chant the same mantra: change.

You know what? Change isn't a message. Change isn't a plan. Change is a word. It's easy to promise, because after the fact it'll be impossible to define.

Heck, I'd argue that after the 1928 election, change was the one thing that the United States got in abundance. From the roaring '20s to financial ruin - with change like that, who needs enemies?

No, I'm looking for candidates grounded in reality, speaking honestly and espousing a plan. And if you want that sort of clarity and candor, I'm reminded this week that you'll need a dark horse.


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And not just the Ron Paul kind of dark horse: I mean the 2004 Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik kind of dark horse. Did you read his book, "Good to Be King"? He reminds us that we're all the sovereigns of this country.

Badnarik campaigned reiterating that the Constitution was written by men who risked being hanged for declaring that one man cannot rule as king. And that we're all "kings" with equal right to self-determination and self-government.

The authorities arrested Badnarik along with Green Presidential candidate David Cobb for trying to enter a 2004 debate thereby silencing this message to the American people. Imagine, arrested just for trying to enter the building; so much for self-determination in the land of the free.

I spent this past week traveling the state with a presidential challenger who in many ways is pretty typical when it comes to presidential candidates. He's easy on the eyes and easy on the ears. He's got fabulous hair, a firm handshake and great eye contact. But he's different from the big guys. He's no friend of special interest, he doesn't dine with Halliburton or Exxon-Mobil CEOs and he cuts rapidly to the chase.

Maine's Green Party is caucusing this month and Jesse Johnson came to town to talk about his bid for the nomination. He spoke to anyone who would listen. He spoke with the media and he spoke with ordinary folks - everywhere he went. I even had to promise workers at one place that I'd return with voter registration cards so two folks who had never voted before could register.

Michael Badnarik would be proud - two more kings.

Johnson's just one of many alternative candidates. He's educating folks on the issues that turned him from a Hollywood actor into political activist. Johnson is conversant about the Second Amendment, labor unions, the economy and health care but what really jazzes this guy is a message he brings from his home state of West Virginia.

Did you know that mining companies set off explosions about 800 times the size of the one that Timothy McVeigh used to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to blow the tops off mountains? They blow up everything from trees to wildlife because it's easier and cheaper to get the coal.

Hey change candidates: that's something that needs changing.

During this unique year without an incumbent, don't discriminate. Listen to all the candidates' messages and then demand that the winner give you the kind of substantive change you want.

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is an author, activist and advocate. She is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States."  Her new novel, The Magic Diary, is now available.


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