by JIM KNIPFEL
November 18, 2012
On the night of the 2012 presidential election, I received a note from my friend and upstairs neighbor Bill, a sometime political candidate himself as well as an historian of eccentric political candidates throughout the ages. Along with the usual slew of drunkards, religious zealots, and convicted felons, probably the most interesting candidate this year, he noted, was a fellow from Michigan who admitted publicly that after years of playing Santa during the holidays, he could no longer always separate his own identity from St. Nick’s. For the most part, though, Bill was bemoaning the fact that various state election board regulations made it increasingly difficult for honestly interesting candidates to make it onto the ballot anymore. He ended by noting that he found it sad there were no Nihilist Workers Party candidates running this year.
Of course the last thing any of us wants to start thinking about at this point is another endless and tedious political season, as ridiculous and entertaining as they can be to those of us who understand that none of it means a goddamn thing.
Still, Bill’s comment got me to thinking. I was more than a little drunk at the time and so perhaps more susceptible, but I nevertheless shot off a quick note to my old friend Grinch.
“What do you think of an NWP presidential bid in 2016?” I suggested. “The world is ready for us.”
The same couldn’t be said in the mid-eighties, when the Nihilist Workers Party was formed in Madison, Wisconsin, and in retrospect that may have had something to do with our success back then. Over a relatively short period of time the members of the NWP (meaning Grinch and me), through a combination of hard work and diligence (meaning beer and boredom), were able to bring a new sense of pointlessness and absurdity to political discourse on a local, national, and international level. Through almost no fault of our own, we destroyed rising political careers, turned peaceful protests into riots, inspired protests against us, generated a slew of angry newspaper editorials, fucked with both the Left and the Right equally and randomly (we couldn’t tell them apart anyway), prompted Israelis and Palestinians to set aside their differences for a few minutes in order to kick our asses, shut down the banking district for a day, and turned a foil packet of cheap but powerful crystal meth into a silly prank that led to a national outcry. In the end, shortly after announcing his plan to run for mayor of Madison on the NWP ticket, Grinch was quietly asked to leave town on the next train.
Yes, they were good times, and we could move on with our lives knowing we’d accomplished something, that we’d done a bit of good. That we’d made a real difference. That we’d done what we had set out to do—namely that we’d kept ourselves entertained in a fetid cesspool of a town like Madison.
In the intervening years, Grinch and I have both been approached on a number of occasions by people begging us to re-form our old band, The Pain Amplifiers. We've always declined, however, in part because we didn’t want to dirty up the purity of what had been a magical moment in American musical history, and in part because no one seemed to be offering us any cold hard cash to perform again. From day one, the Pain Amps were always about the big sell-out. Unfortunately this little fact seemed to escape everyone else.
Nobody’s asked us to re-form the Nihilist Workers Party, but the NWP was a different matter, and the time seemed right to re-enter the ol’ political arena with a machete in one hand and a six-pack in the other. It wasn’t merely a matter of . . . well, something or another—it was our sworn duty as . . . you know, whatever we were. After however many years it’s been of whoever it is who happens to be president, this country, or some country I guess, needs us! The Year is One!
Even after Bill outlined the cold fact that we would likely only be able to get on the ballot in two states, and that to accomplish even that much we’d need two things we didn’t have—namely money and organization—in the bleary haze of a chilly Tuesday in 2012, an NWP candidate seemed a shoe in for the White House. I’ve often said that I don’t trust anyone who even expresses the desire to hold public office, and that still holds true here for two reasons. Not only do I not trust Grinch or myself, but I can honestly say that neither one of us wants to hold political office—we just want to fuck things up (well, in a more entertaining way than usual). Besides, who would our competition be? Some fraternity’s picnic boy from Jersey?
I passed out later that night feeling very confident about the future, and woke up to a note from Grinch the following morning. It summed up the whole picture quite succinctly:
A silly cable station just aired an interview with a 15-year-old volunteer at Obama’s victory party in Chicago. She said she wanted to see Oprah elected president in 2016. The silly cable station in question was CNN’s news feed.
A few minutes later, as if he needed to clarify, Grinch offered a final coda to the whole drunken plan:
Wasn’t our goal to make sure that all serious political endeavors degenerate into meaningless farce?
Well, mission accomplished!
He was right. Long time ago, the world took our lead and ran with it. These days the NWP simply isn’t necessary anymore. And you know, is there any other political movement large or small, in any part of the world, at any time in recorded history, that can honestly claim to have achieved everything they set out to do, not only for the place and the moment, but around the globe and for all time?
(One final note. Kerry Bentivolio, the man who thinks he’s Santa, is now a duly-elected congressman from Michigan.)
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