As American politics devolves into a sideshow of risibility, I am reminded of my old friend Vermin Supreme. With politicians of both major parties scrambling to convince the general public that their brand of snake oil is the balm for a divided nation, perhaps Mr. Supreme’s moment has arrived.
I first encountered this street performer-cum-politician in 1988 at the historic launching place of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs, Cape Canaveral. While attending a protest of the Strategic Defense – aka “Star Wars” – even before I met him, Vermin’s presence preceded him. On every Porta Potty was emblazoned with a 11×17 sign reading “Vermin Supreme is your Mayor – Demand a Recount!”
While pondering this discordant message, I listened to a string of speakers who attempted to make the case that far from bringing about world peace, the country’s SDI program would accelerate the race to get a system up that could potentially render all ground-based missile systems obsolete, undermining any treaties or restraint in using nuclear weapons.
My digesting of this rhetoric was interrupted by the next speaker who took the stage in a faux military uniform sporting rubber chicken epaulets and jackboots. His opening salvo riveted my attention, ”My name is Vermin Supreme, the friendly fascist, a tyrant you can trust.” What followed was a disarmingly straightforward explanation of who this apparition claimed to be.
Some of the things that bubble up in my memory of this satiric office seeker’s fiery rant include: “Let me point out that all politicians are, in fact, vermin. I am the Vermin Supreme, therefore I am without question, the most qualified candidate in this race, at this time.” … “Of course as a politician I shall lie to you, because I am a politician, and I have no reason not to.” … “Since individual liberties can be counterproductive to a smooth-running corporate climate, and since police represent law and order, martial law will be imposed upon election (or coup d’etat, whichever comes first).” … “Remember, no one is a criminal until we say you are!” and this zinger, “Let Vermin Supreme run your life because he knows what is best for you!”
Vermin managed to escape that day without my meeting him personally but not without making a vast impression on me. I did learn that the placards on the Bucks referred to his efforts to be elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1987. While he finished last of three candidates, he made a presence in the race and set an early precedent for contesting elections, maintaining that he had won by a landslide and was being denied his “rightful public office.”
Our next encounter was at the 1989 Rainbow Gathering near Ithaca, N.Y. He had toned down some of the more extreme of his 57-point plan that promised, among other things, “To pave over anything that hasn’t been paved over yet.” … “To make the homeless disappear. Poof! As if by magic, presto chango. Out of sight, out of mind. Where did they go? Oh well, you don’t really want to know now, do you? Nope, not really. I didn’t think so!” … “And to only call in an air strike if really, really necessary to seize power.”
We ended up working together to organize a talent show at a campfire at one of the camps and hit it off rather well. One of his prized possessions was a used disco ball scored at a yard sale. This was featured in the talent show and later was the star of spontaneous movement to convert people into worshiping the disco ball by a group of chanting disciples who brought the divine disco light to anyone foolish enough to pitch their tent close to the path.
As a fledgling jester I was also on the entertainment circuit and Vermin invited me to visit him at his base of operations in Massachusetts near Boston. I met his other half Becky and enjoyed getting to know more of his plans and schemes. All of which were designed to mock in a satirical fashion politicians and the political system by making unrealistic and outlandish proposals, such as “To do something about the weather.”
Bust of more modern Vermin Supreme. as a thank you for supporting the documentary “Who is Vermin Supreme? An Outsider Odyssey,” 2014.
Vermin added mandatory teeth brushing to his plank of innovative ideas for improving the life of the masses. Claiming that “Teeth are the backbone of America” and “That this is a bill with teeth,” Supreme declared that, “It’s a constitutional amendment that ‘Effective immediately each and every American citizen must brush their teeth after each and every meal and after each between-meal snack’.”
I lost contact with Vermin after a while and when we reconnected years later, he was wearing three neckties all at once and a tall rubber boot on his head. Several new causes had been added to his arsenal.
While still wielding at times a giant toothbrush and hanging tough on the mandatory toothbrushing idea, Supreme had begun advocating for “a free pony for everyone,” Zombie Apocalypse awareness, and promoting time travel research for the express purpose of going back in time “to kill baby Hitler.”
Vermin Supreme has run in every presidential primary since 1992 and many other national, state, and local elections. He considered running for governor in Kansas when he heard of a “very interesting and attractive loophole,” namely lack of virtually any requirements to run for office there. This had allowed a couple of teenagers to file to run for governor and so as not to siphon off votes from the teens, chose instead to run for the Kansas Attorney General’s office. His plan ultimately failed due to lack of meeting the state’s residency requirements.
Supreme planned to protest a well-known government official’s appearance at a Concord, N.H., bookstore to promote a new book, because in Supreme’s opinion, the official “did not like ponies enough.”
When Vermin applied for a protest permit for his “Pony Protest” (which was to include at least one live pony), local police ordered the City to deny the permit. Supreme sought help from First Amendment rights lawyer Marc Randazza, who successfully sued the City and secured an injunction that forced the city to issue Vermin a permit, allow the protest to go forward, and to have ponies there.
There was a stipulation that the ponies had to pay the same rate as cars if stalled in parking spaces. When the protest went forward it did so in a grand style with a parade, ponies, and over 1,000 people to protest and attend the book signing.
With the 2020 election Vermin Supreme pivoted again, this time leaving behind many of his trademark satirical issues and addressed some real concerns of the voters. Having run in the past as a Democrat, Republican, and as a Libertarian, he chose to seek the Libertarian nomination for president this time. He focused on ending foreign wars, and stopping the prosecution and incarceration for small quantities of drugs.
He also criticized the former president’s response to Covid and testing and repurposing some of his standard material to take the virus on. Among his proposals were declaring Covid illegal, establishing Covid-free zones, and to, of course, travel back in time to kill the baby Covid.
The new improved “Serious” Supreme with his slogan “In on the Joke,” did fairly well in the early contests, winning both New Hampshire and Massachutes primaries but ultimately bowing out once Jo Jergenson sewed up the LIbertarian nomination for president.
A few years after reconnecting with Vermin Supreme via social media in 2010, I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign to film a documentary on Vermin. I had the privilege of knowing that I helped birth “Who is Vermin Supreme? An Outsider Odyssey” released in 2014 and received a large bust of Hizzexcellency, which now sits on my fridge as a thank you.
Vermin Supreme, you are going to have to work quite hard to out-crazy some of the current crop but I have seen you at work and know that you have the chops to do this and rise above the rabble and claim your place as rightful leader of the free world.
Get ready for ponies and toothbrushing! Vermin Supreme is still the most qualified candidate in the race at this time!