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Posted by on Nov 5, 2012 in 2012 Elections, Guest Contributor | 7 comments

Before You Throw Away Your ‘Protest’ Vote

Actually, it’s for your persuadable friends.

Or, rather, for your friends like my reader ‘Spanky’ P of Los Lunas, New Mexico, who decided to get “they’re all the same” despairy and angsty and vote for Gary Johnson because Johnson is in favor of pot legalization. (There’s an interesting one-issue take on what’s important in The United States of America today.)

This is a story about what those votes do for the interests of those voters.  And about a pig and what became of him.

When Pigs Fly, or, How to Elect Nixon Again and Again and Again …
8 AUGUST 2012

Post Civil War Cartoon lampooning those who
profited from 
the bravery of those doing the actual fighting:

TeeVee Funnyman decides that information anarchy would be hilarious and shuts down a potentially useful source of information:

Game Over: Wikipedia Locks Down Potential VP Pages In Response to Colbert Mischief-Making
BY MICAH L. SIFRY | Wednesday, August 8 2012

The act of observing something can sometimes change the thing being observed. Case in point: my observation on Monday that we might be able to get useful clues as to the identity of Mitt Romney’s vice president pick by watching for a surge of edits on their Wikipedia page.

Not any more.

Last night, Stephen Colbert played a snippet of a Fox News report noting the jump in last-minute edits to Sarah Palin’s page four years ago, and then he went to town. Assuming that Wikipedia edits were the tip-off, he declared, “We could be looking at Vice President Season Six of Buffy-the-Vampire Slayer. So, Nation, let your voice be heard in this history decision. Go on Wikipedia, and make as many edits as possible to your favorite VP contender.” He then proceeded to mime editing Tim Pawlenty’s page…

Funny stuff. Meet another hilarious political prank. Meet Pigasus.

Pigasus was the Youth International Party’s candidate for President in 1968:

Pigasus in New York, 1968

Pigasus was a 145 pound (66 kg) hog. In August 1968, he was nominated for President of the United States during the Democratic National Convention as a theatrical gesture by the Youth International Party. At a rally announcing his candidacy, Pigasus was seized by Chicago policemen and his Yippie backers were arrested for disorderly conduct.

In 1968, Pigasus was nominated for the U.S. Presidency by the Youth International Party (Yippies).The pig’s name was a play on Pegasus, the winged horse in Greek mythology. Selected for the campaign by Dennis Dalrymple, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, candidate Pigasus was purchased from a farmer by Phil Ochs. His candidacy was announced during the the massive protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The Yippies demanded that Pigasus be treated as a legitimate candidate, with secret service protection and White House foreign policy briefings. One reason why the Yippies preferred Pigasus was that “if we can’t have him in the White House, we can have him for breakfast.”


Except that Pigasus was enough of a red herring to elect Richard Nixon in 1968. Reason Magazine (of whom, regular readers will remember, I am not exactly a fan) tells us this:

The Yippie Show
Jesse Walker|Aug. 27, 2008


After a three-ring trial, the defendants [the “Chicago 7”] were eventually acquitted on all charges, though some of them had to appeal the initial verdict before they were completely cleared. The convention and its aftermath had been a victory for the yippies.

It was a victory for their enemies, too. The central story of Chicago wasn’t just that cameras captured bloody police violence every evening. It was that the great American TV-viewing public overwhelmingly told pollsters afterwards that they sided with the cops. “That was our shortsightedness,” says Krassner. “When we started chanting, ‘The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching,’ we didn’t go to the next step, which was, And how are they gonna feel about it?”


In Nixonland, his insightful study of the period, the historian Rick Perlstein points out that Nixon “welcomed conflict that served him politically. A briefing paper came to the president’s desk in the middle of March instructing him to expect increased violence on college campuses that spring. ‘Good!’ he wrote across the face.” Jerry Rubin welcomed the polarization as much as Nixon did. “We yippies must reprint [George] Wallace speeches, get him TV time and open up offices for him all over the country,” he wrote in his 1970 book Do it! “He’s the best Marxist rabble-rouser in Amerika today. He’s our best organizer.” And: “To build their myth they exaggerate our myth—they create a Yippie Menace. The menace helps create the reality.”

The Reason “splash page” summarizes it best:

New at Reason: Jesse Walker on the Yippies, Chicago ’68, and the Power of Political Theater
Aug. 27, 2008 12:00 pm

On the fortieth anniversary of the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Managing Editor Jesse Walker looks back at how the media-savvy yippies inadvertently helped the right …

I’ve slightly edited that last to make my point clearer. (I don’t really care about their point.)

This is what the Yippies managed to turn Disneyland into
(As if it weren’t already that in plainclothes drag).
Look familiar “Occupiers”?

Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden had as much to do with electing Richard Nixon as anybody else.

Which is NOT the outcome that either wanted or intended. But, you know in American politics, those who think that their VISION really matters are more than happy to piss away their vote for some Quixotic notion that ends up biting them in the ass.

Another case in point, the 2000 Democratic National Convention, to which I was a delegate. Outside, the protests and the “Free Mumia!” crowd, and the Shadow Convention complete with suddenly “see the light” Arianna Huffington were happy to piss on the DNC, and the Independent Media Center (in which I was also credentialed press) were thrilled about how pure and noble they were, not like these scumbag Democrats. When I slogged back to our Westwood hotel (miles from downtown, but the “official” quarters assigned to Oregon and Iowa), I turned on the hotel TV and there was Tom Hayden, former Chicago 7 defendant, pimper of Pigasus, on the air pissing on the Democratic party (his party) and the nominee, Al Gore, and I thought to myself, DID YOU LEARN NOTHING FROM ELECTING NIXON?


And, again, as the pie-in-the-sky, holier-than-thou votes were bled away, they were just enough of a wedge to swing that election.

 This is what America looked like in 1968.

Raloh Nader’s campaign was always a vanity campaign, except that he and all his followers rationalized (and still rationalize) that its high-mindedness and correct thinking  didn’t have NUTHIN to do with the outcome.

Much of what Ralph said was correct and spot on. But his campaign was always idiotic. Even assuming that he MIGHT have won (when pigs fly) he’d still have had to deal with Congress, and his election would have been a sad disaster with a dysfunctional government (remember what the GOP did to Clinton? Think what they’d have done to Ralph) and discredited ALL progressive politics for a generation.

(The real world has consequences. Let your heart follow your ideals, but let your head govern your steps.)

Because we are at that silly season when, rather than banding together with those who best express one’s beliefs, it’s time to roll out the Green Party and piss on the Democrats for not being “progressive enough,” while, on the other side, there are a number, like Gary Johnson’s libertarian campaign, who will claim that their votes for him aren’t wasted and might as well have never been cast.

To the Greens: How much better was George W. Bush than Al Gore would have been on the environment? What did that childish “my way or the highway” get you?

marching for pigasus 1968

Attention? Certainly that was true of the yippies, except that trading personal notoriety for Nixon (who announced his resignation 38 years ago today, after his excesses and crimes became to egregious that even Republicans refused to defend him) seems like the worst rational tradeoff since they burned the Library of Alexandria for a better view of the sand dunes.

Either your vote counts or it does not. And yet, we think that taking it as a lark, as a moment to express our deep idealistic beliefs actually matters, which is, when you think of it, oxymoronic. Throwing away your vote for an impossibility is the same as not voting, and that doesn’t bespeak much respect for the process of democracy. You are presented with a choice, but decide to get “cute” and waste that choice, rationalizing all the way how you’re “too good” for the parties, and that they’re “Tweedle dum and Tweedle dee” when nothing about your non-choice bespeaks a level of sophistication any higher than could be expected of the imaginary  Carrollian twins on their worst day.

This “they’re both the same” notion isn’t exactly original with you

This is the silly season when “high minded” voters decide that their votes do not count and scream “look at me! I’m TOO GOOD for the rest of you! I’m MORALLY SUPERIOR, which is why I throw away my vote on a hopeless campaign.”

Woo hoo.

(You will NEVER get 100 percent of what you want in a democracy. That only works for dictatorships, and then, only if you’re the dictator.)

And it gives us Bush the Dumber and Nixon, and, arguably Reagan. (Little-known fact: if you add John Anderson’s third party insurgency to Carter’s total in 1980, you come up with Reagan winning 51-49, and that’s not factoring in that a unified Democratic party might well have been worth an extra point or two in the final tally. In other words, thanks, Anderson voters, for Ronald Reagan. How’d that work out for you?)

This is what the Chicago Seven got out of their ‘hilarious’ prank

You’ve got to understand the teleological implications of your actions — teleol0gy  means the study of “ends.”  In other words: what you do has consequences, and no matter how far America is from your IDEAL of America (and I promise you, nobody’s entirely happy with things as they are, and far more are REALLY upset with how things are; those few who ARE entirely happy with the USA today are institutionalized and unable to vote, so we’ll pass over them) — no matter HOW unhappy you are, you can still choose between “better and worse.”

Richard Nixon = “worse.”

Jimmy Carter = “better.”

George W. Bush = “worse.”

President Nixon on television at moment of his resignation 8-8-74

(And, if you’re on the other side of the aisle, come up with your own examples. You are not my primary audience here, although what I say applies equally to both sides of the political spectrum.)

The point here is that the new tr0lling of the “look at me! I’m so RIGHTEOUS!” crowd is EXACTLY the same as the trolling of the other side. And that’s true of ALL sides.

Is that really what you FUNCTIONALLY want? Is that the “better” choice? Or would you rather be Abbie Hoffman and elect Richard Nixon and spend the rest of your life rationalizing it? Or electing George W. Bush and pretending that since some of your issues were correct that you actually did right in voting for Ralph Nader and he had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.

And then no chance whatsoever of governing?

This ain’t a monarchy. The congress and Supreme Court are co-equal branches, and you’d better make the choices that are going to be BETTER for your point of view. Look at the final outcome, and ask yourself if my vote matters, shouldn’t I make sure that I cast it responsibly? Vote for the party (and none of this “I vote for the man, not the party” nonsense — because it is demonstrably nonsense. The Republican congress or senate votes with their party 99 44/100ths percent* of the time, and the Democratic representative just a little less, unless bullied by the fear of Tea Parties or anti-abortion hooligans) and vote for the outcome that’s going to BEST represent your views in the next two years.

[* for those that remember Ivory Soap commercials of old, yes, the joke is intentional.]

If that doesn’t at least convince you to consider it, consider instead what actually happened to Pigasus:

Sources vary on the fate of Pigasus. There is some speculation that a police officer took him home for dinner.*

Pigasus arrested by Chicago police


That’s an apt metaphor for what happens when you betray your realities to your ideals.


[* Wikipedia [ibid]: “The Chicago Tribune, on September 30, 1968, said that after Pigasus was taken into custody by Chicago police, they transported him to the The Anti-Cruelty Society, along with a sow called “Mrs. Pigasus, and a piglet, all collected after being paraded by the Yippies as part of their demonstrations around the time of the convention. The swine were later transferred to a farm in Grayslake, Illinois.”

There is n0 mention of what happened to the pigs at the farm. But I don’t think the answer is that obscure. Very doubtful in America that they ended up as “petting zoo” pets. Pass the bacon.]

Hail Nancy Ray-Gun: This is your brain on the drug of self-righteousness.


A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, an honorary Texan, Clown (ditto) and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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