Sunday, 21 August 2016

Project Iguana, Corbyn and BreXit

I love that man - I really, truly do.

Iguana Project

The Iguana Project is as good a name as any other for this volatile thing that we're into. Why not? And so much for labels. The potential of the thing is so vast that we can't possibly define the ends-so all we can talk about for now is the "potential," the "goals," the possibility of massive "leverage," and the entirely reasonable idea that any body or bloc who can speak for twenty million voters will emerge - by mathematical definition - as a primary force in American politics. 

The original discussions - in Aspen, during late June and early July of 1971 - have all been agreeably resolved to the same ends: One, that the ugly realities of 1971 America leave us no choice but to involve ourselves in basic politics on the national level-beginning with the presidential campaign of 1972, then to the congressional campaigns of 1974, and finally the presidential campaign of 1976. This scenario should be kept in mind by everybody involved with this project. 

The likelihood of mounting an Aspen-style "Freak Power" campaign on the national level is a far-fetched joke for 1972-at least that's what it looks like, for now. We should keep in mind, however, that in July of 1970 we all (in Aspen) considered it a "far-fetched joke" that I might run for sheriff three months later. Yet in November of 1970 I got something like 44 percent of the total vote in a three- way race with two establishment candidates-the incumbent sheriff and the under-sheriff-backed by the local Democratic and Republican parties. Even with my head shaved completely bald and running full-bore on the "Mescaline Ticket", I forced a coalition of the establishment parties that resulted in total humiliation for the G.O.R candidate. He got about 250 votes, compared to my 1,065 or so, and the incumbents 1,500. (These figures and percentages are approximate, but no matter how they're cut or interpreted, a bald-headed "dope fiend" (admitted) got at least 40 percent of the vote in a three-way race which suggests to me that I was right (in Rolling Stone 10/1/70) when I said that the electorate here was far more (potentially) radical than anyone knew.

Whether this is true on a national level is another question. I think not. At least not until somebody runs a genuinely Weird campaign on a national level-to put the Freak Vote together and let them see their strength. This is what the "Joe Edwards for Mayor" campaign accomplished in Aspen in the fall of '69. We came out of nowhere and lost that one by only six votes. And it was easy, a year later, to mount a heavy Freak Power registration campaign. 

There is a possibility that the McCarthy campaign of '68-which formed the death-aborted R.F.K. effort-could provide us with the frustrated momentum and unfocused power base for a full-bore power move in 1972. If so, this would be a disastrous thing to ignore -because it might not exist in 1976. 

This is a crucial and perhaps fatal question. Can we afford to nurse our momentum along for another four years? Personally, I can't be sure--but I tend to think we have to establish a national equivalent of Back to Freak Power in '72, before we can work off a genuine power base in '74 and especially '76. Everything in the history of political base-building points in this direction- especially with regard to getting on the ballot. 

On the other hand, I remember that month I spent covering the Nixon campaign in New Hampshire in '68: I spent a lot of time around McCarthy headquarters, but only because they were in the same motor inn as George Romney 's HQ . . and Romney, at the time, was considered the main challenger.

I also remember that we began the "Thompson for Sheriff' campaign in Aspen as a joke and a smokescreen-only to find, too late, that we'd tapped a latent firestorm of political energy that none of us had ever anticipated ... and in the final analysis, this failure to take ourselves seriously, soon enough, was what cost us the whole campaign. 

We can afford this kind of loss on a local level, but we can't afford it nationally. If the momentum exists in '72, it should be used in '72. (According to Carl Oglesby's analysis of American politics and the prevailing winds in the Pentagon "H ring," there will be no elections in 1976.) 

But Oglesby is a fool-an S.D.S. refugee who got hired by M.I.T. to explain "radical politics" to old liberals. He makes a good living doing this, but as far as we're concerned he's absolutely useless. 

And so much for all that. In the first three pages of this memo I have tried to define the main question we're faced with-whether to mount a flat-out Alternative Campaign/Candidate in 1972, or use this coming year to build a base for a total shot in 1976. We should also consider the notion that if we mount anything serious in 1972-and if Nixon wins, which is likely-anybody identified with our `72 campaign will be living in a fishbowl for the next four years. There will be IR.S. harassment, phone taps, drug surveillance. all the normal bullshit that comes with menacing a high-stakes establishment. 

So, where do we go from here? Mike is fully convinced that realpolitik is inevitable, even for Essalen. Jann agrees with a vengeance-to the point that he feels only a Freak Power-type candidate (a "Free" Democrat, entering Democratic primaries) will accomplish what we're after. Jann, from a journalistic viewpoint, is opposed to running a Freak Power or Free Democratic candidate, he favors the original idea/mechanics of a "summit conference," out of which will come a "Platform Statement" that will speak for the twenty to thirty million potential voters who will not go to the polls unless they're convinced that at least one of the candidates (in November or even the primaries) is representing them. 

In other words, if we can put together a platform that speaks not only for the new eighteen-to-twenty-one vote but also the eleven million or so who turned twenty-one since '68, and also the Rock Vote, the Drug Vote, the Vet Vote, the Hippie Vote, the Beatnik Vote, the Angry Liberal Vote - if we can do all this, we can force at least one candidate for the Democratic nomination to endorse out position and sink or swim with it. 

My own point of view (somewhat reluctantly) is basically in tune with Jann's. I think the best we can hope for in '72 is the creation of a general platform and a cohesive voting bloc for 1976. (Jesus, this is such an obviously dull and foredoomed notion that I don't have much stomach for it, myself ... and frankly I doubt if we could generate much stomach for it in anybody else, once the word got out that we were only greasing the rails for a run in '76.) 

This visceral reaction just occurred to me, about eighteen seconds ago. And now, after eighty more seconds of further reflection, I can see where I couldn't possibly involve myself in any kind of political effort, next year, that wouldn't focus on TOTAL VICTORY OR DEFEAT in November 1972. Anything less than that would deprive us, I think, of that energy edge that comes with running an honest, full-bore campaign... and the loss of that edge would be fatal to the only advantage we have. 

What we have to decide, then, is what exactly would constitute a flat-out run for a "victory" in '72. Would we have to run a candidate? Or could we win by constructing a platform that would speak for a minimum of twenty million potential voters ... and then use this platform as a bargaining vehicle for that massive voting bloc? 

What would McGovern, for instance, say to a platform that included 
(1) Total amnesty for all draft dodgers, deserters, etc. 

(2) Legalization of all drugs (without dropping the "by Rx only" concept, which would place the responsibility on doctors, where it should be, instead of cops) 

... and (3) a mandatory cut of 25 percent in the Pentagon budget in fiscal '73, followed by a mandatory cut of 50 percent in fiscal '74. Then another cut of 25 percent in '75, and back to 50 percent in '76.

My own feeling is that if we could force this sort of a radical position on any serious candidate in '72, it would constitute the sort of victory we could work from in '76 ... but this could work only (according to the scenario that Jann and I worked out) if the Demo nomination were still up for grabs by June of '72, with Lindsay and Kennedy (or Bayh and McGovern) going into the California primary head to head.

At this point-and especially in California-a dramatic bid for the Youth/Freak vote might make the crucial difference. But, as Jann has pointed out, you can't just wander into the California primary like an acid-freak with a manifesto in his hand. To have any leverage in California, we will need the exposure that can come only from a skillfully orchestrated participation in at least a few other primaries ... and this, unfortunately, would require at least a dummy candidate. But the idea of a "dummy" is sick.

If we entered Ken Kesey in the Alaska primary, for instance, we'd play hell dumping Kesey for Nick Johnson if our gig looked good by the time California came around. The idea that almost anybody can run on our platform is a nice, idealistic sort of notion-but the savage realities of running any political campaign would croak the idea of switching candidates in midstream, no matter what the rationale.

Maybe we should settle, from the start, on a Kesey/Ramsey Clark ticket. Or Nick Johnson and Jerry Garcia. Any combination of these four names would be good for twenty million votes, I think, if we could get on homebody's ballot. 

We might even consider the possibility of letting George Wallace light the battle to put the American Independent Party on the ballot in all fifty states, then suddenly forcing him into a primary race for the A.I.P nomination. He is, after all, a Populist-and so are we. The only difference is that Wallace hates niggers and Radicals, but I think we could turn that shit back on him. His main trip is anti-establishment, and we can beat him like a gong on that one. 

I think we should consider this angle. It's so incredibly bizarre that it makes sense only when you remember that the polls in April/May of '68 showed that Robert Kennedy was the only candidate who also appealed to the Wallace voters. A lot of people called this "weird," but it wasn't. Both R.F.K. and Wallace appealed to the "Fuck the Bosses" vote-and Wallace will be going the same racist/populist route in '72. His people are already working twenty-five hours a day to get the A.I.P. on the ballot--on the assumption that Wallace is that party's only candidate. 

This is admittedly a lunatic idea, but if we let Wallace get the A.I.P party on the ballot in all fifty states -then took the nomination away from him- we'd be in a hell-heavy position by November of '72. And even if we lost, we'd have generated enough national publicity to consolidate that vote-bloc we're talking about-which means we could wield it as honest leverage between Nixon and the Demo candidate. The other way to go, of course, is to run a traditional race against all comets in the Democratic primaries. But this would require a hell of a lot of money-and with our prospects of victory almost nil, big money would be a hard thing to come by. 

On the other hand, I suspect it might be cheap-at least in terms of dollars-to beat Wallace out of the A.I.P nomination. This would, after all, be a sudden/savage return to the Power Coalition that led to the breakup of S.D.S.... and beyond that, it's so crazy, so intolerably weird, that the very idea would probably attract a laughing, wild-eyed swarm of dropout S.D.S. organizers. 

The only serious problem with this plan-provided it's mechanically feasible--is that it would require the full-time salaried services of at least a dozen Kennedy-style, state-level political operatives. The Hrst moves would have to be made quietly ... or we would lose the advantage of total surprise. But once we got the basic organizing machinery working, I think the excitement and crazy adrenalin of the thing would take care of the rest. 

For the first steps, however, we need somebody who understands that kind of local machinery, and who is also not committed right now to any other candidate. I think we can get the mechanics/type information we need for this move by brain-picking radical/lib Demos on the pretense that we want to "take over" the New Party--or maybe Peace and Freedom; whatever's on the ballot. The idea is to learn all the local A.B.C. steps (that's A-B-C) of taking over the state-level machinery of a party that's getting on the statewide ballot for the first [or second) time. Then, once we get this information, I think we could move in and grab the A.I.P nomination just about the time they get themselves on the ballot.

Woody Creek, 1971

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