The Anti-Bunk Party’s Candidate for President

As the race for the presidency began to get rolling in 1928, the editors of Life magazine (at that time an outlet for satirical writing) prevailed on my fellow Cherokee Oklahoman Will Rogers, arguably the best known and best loved man in the country, to run for the office as the candidate of the Anti-Bunk Party.

Rogers agreed to do so. Whereas Calvin Coolidge had responded to requests that he run again by saying “I do not choose to run,” Rogers made his slogan “He chews to run.”

In his acceptance speech, he said:

Life‘s offer has left me dazed—if I can stay dazed, I ought to make a perfect candidate. Now, let us be honest. We want the wet vote and we want the dry vote. Our plank hereby endorses wine for the rich, beer for the poor, and moonshine liquor for the prohibitionist.

Many famous persons, including Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth, and Henry Ford, endorsed Rogers’s candidacy. In August, Rogers challenged Herbert Hoover to a joint debate, “in any joint you name,” but Hoover, who preferred a good cigar to a joint, did not meet the challenge (a fitting warm-up, no doubt, for a series of other challenges he would fail to meet from 1929 to 1933).

Although a number of voters wrote in Rogers’s name on their ballots in the November election, the political system was not ready for anyone running under the No Bunk banner, and, sad to say, Hoover was ultimately declared the winner. Said Rogers: “We went into this campaign to drive the Bunk out of politics. But our experiment, while noble in motive was a failure.” He concluded: “the thing that stopped our party is that we are a hundred years ahead of times.”

Who can deny that ever since 1928, without a doubt, political discourse in this country has consisted almost entirely of bunk? Where are the cowboy philosophers when we need them? Barack Obama, I understand, can’t even do a rope trick—but a growing number of Americans do seem to be concluding that he tricked them into voting for him last November by promising them “change.” If Rogers had been running in 2008, he might have promised the voters that he would change their flat tires.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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