Interview with Joel Wendt
Candidate for President of the United States
Joel Wendt, from the town of Greenville, New Hampshire,
is running as an independent for president of the United States in 2004.
Although an unknown independent has little chance of winning given the
huge financial support needed for a successful campaign, we think
that Joel Wendt has ideas on political reform that are well worth hearing.
And who knows? With modern communication techniques anything's possible.
The following interview is just a beginning. We intend to continue in the
next issue. Meanwhile, readers are invited to submit questions they may have
Joel through us: fts
SCR: Why are you running for president in 2004 when you must
know you can't win?
JW: Your question has a couple of assumptions. One is that
the object of running for president always has to be about winning, and
the other is that I can't win, and I should know this. Lets deal
with the last assumption first.
About 50% of the eligible voters don't vote in presidential elections
(even fewer in local and off year elections). Research on why has
uncovered that it has little to do with apathy, and a lot to do with serious
mistrust of the process - an understandable absence of faith in the real
meaning of the act of voting (Vietnam, Watergate, Irangate etc.). Of
the 50% that do vote, about a third of those are died in the wool members
of a political party (always vote Green, or Communist or Republican
and so forth). The rest see voting as a civic duty and pretty much
indicate that the while choices offered are not all that good, they will
nevertheless do their duty.
The basic way to see this is that the abuses and excesses of the
media, the politicians, the parties and the corporations - all this has
worn out its welcome. If something comes along that genuinely meets
people's real needs, they'll go for it.
Now whether my biography will intersect this need, that is a question
I can't answer or even guess at. Moreover, I have no plans to make
myself into some kind of imaginary figure in order to appeal to such a need.
Basically I am acting as a citizen, in the pursuit of the ideal of citizen
governance (see:"Citizen Governance - the future of the Republic form of
government", at: http://ipwebdev.com/campaign/cg1.html
One of the realities I understood many years ago, was that as soon
as a politician (as against a public servant or a statesman) places as
the goal of their activity "winning", they distort the whole process and
fall into all the lies and half truths which pass today for a political
campaign. Eventually I came to see the "campaign" as an activity
in itself. It's not about winning, but about offering to do a service
and leaving the final choice up to the people.
The campaign then becomes itself an act of public service or statecraft
- something complete in itself. It can serve then as an sample of
who the "candidate" is, what they value, and how they might conduct themselves
in office. Pretense can be done away with. Courting the prejudices
of various voting blocks can be ignored. Making pacts with the various
usual players holding out basket's full of money can be bypassed - word
of mouth is priceless (see: "Election Processes in the Future - how citizen
governance in practice eliminates the need for conventional media and the
corresponding demand for excessive amounts of campaign contributions", at:
I will give relatively short public talks and speak of matters often
ignored, and others now forgotten. Following these talks, I will
invite those present to join me in changing the fundamental nature of
the political conversation. What will be done, will be something done
I will not ask for votes, or money, but only for companions striving
to be more responsible citizens. The professional cynic will expect
nothing whatsoever to happen. I believe the American People will
surprise even themselves. Time is on our side, and excess always
shoots itself in the foot in the end.
I believe it was Archimedes who said: "Give me a place to stand and
I will move the world". For me, running for president is a place to
SRC: Where will you give these talks - which towns, cities,
states? Do you expect press coverage?
JW: The first one is set up for Temple, New Hampshire, Sunday
March 16th. The basic idea is to work outward from a center, much like an
object makes a splash in water, forming outward moving concentric rings.
The people who attend the first one will be asked to make possible the
next ones. No step will be taken without (beyond the first two or
three) invitation and initiative being in the hands of others.
I won't be selling myself, or these ideas (which aren't exactly "mine").
The press is not specifically being invited, since the principle of word
of mouth is essential. I say "not specifically" because the individual
whose initiative is making the first meeting happen, appears to have alerted
a couple of local (small town) papers. I am not making any "announcement".
If people take an interest, then it grows, but the "campaign", and the
"citizen governance movement" are not tied together. People will
be told they can be part of citizen governance and have nothing to do with
Obviously the whole thing could fold in a couple of months, because
whatever I have thought I could offer brought no response. In which
case, I'll find something else to do with my retirement.
SCR: Can you tell us briefly what you mean by "citizen governance
movement"? And isn't it somewhat impractical to not even invite the press
- especially in small towns where the press is usually interested
in anything different?
JW: It isn't about being "practical" in the ordinary sense, which
is usually goal oriented. It is all about "right means", an activity
that has more kinship with something like Zen Archery. What is interesting
is how actually "practical" that is.
In my view there is a hierarchy of failure within American politics.
All fail, but the least responsible are ordinary people, who mostly sleep
and are encouraged to sleep. After that comes the politicians, who
have violated the trust placed in them and created a culture of lies, while
allowing themselves to believe in many of them. The next worst are
the wealthy elites, who in pursuit of unjustified self interest have corrupted
the political process to the extent of almost destroying the Republic.
The ultimate worst is the Press, who having freedom of speech nevertheless
are more interested in a story than in the truth, and have forgotten completely
that the United States of America is an Idea. They are the true
gatekeepers of our freedoms, and their failures in this regard are near
treasonous. I will not be courting the Press, I'll being trying to act in
such a way that it is irrelevant.
The "citizen governance movement" is my name for what others are
calling "civil society" or "cultural creatives", which are terms I don't
think work in the social situation in the United States. Citizen
Governance is the Ideal element of the Constitution that lives in the
terms "We the People ... do ordain and establish ... ", which is also
in the Declaration of Independence in the Idea "...Governments are instituted
among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,...".
Actually the term "citizen governance" comes from others, and the
relevant references are found on the heading to the previously mentioned
working paper "cg1". The best corrective for what ails this Country
needs to come from the People, who really only need to wake up and assert
their real powers, which do not involve the vote, but the free and independent
determination of the nature of the political conversation - the right to
create the true Ideal foundations of our common way of life.
Right now the conversation is warped away from the truth and the
Ideal (the good), by politicians who mostly only think in abstract platitudes,
wealthy elites who only serve themselves, and a Press more fascinated with
its own preeminence than the maintenance and growth of the very Ideal that
makes the freedom they abuse possible.
SRC: You said something before I want to return to:
JW: It isn't about being "practical" in the ordinary sense, which
is usually goal oriented. It is all about "right means", an activity that
has more kinship with something like Zen Archery. What is interesting is
how actually "practical" that is.
SCR: Sounds good, but weird. I don't know of anyone who has ever
won an election with Zen archery.
JW: George Washington, but he used an ax and then a sword, not
a bow and arrow. I'll be using the pen and the spoken word.
SCR: So far you have attacked - or at least strongly criticized
- ordinary people, politicians and the press. Who's left to support you?
Or is your campaign elitist?
JW: In a polity where flaws exist at the depth of what goes on
in the USA, everyone is responsible. Their level of responsibility
is just a matter of varying degrees. My campaign isn't about currying
favor with voting blocs, but about knowledge of the good and the true as
that applies to the United States of America. I'm not going to be
telling voters they've done everything they can do as responsible citizens,
because that isn't true. In this I'll be including myself.
In the supposed trade off of "not alienating" voters by speaking the truth
to them (so that the politician can get on their good side) we lose any
sense of what really needs to be done by indulging in some kind of popularity
contest (which is why the founders put in the Electoral College - see my
discussion of this in the 1998 announcement, at:
SCR: You say it doesn't involve the vote, but "political conversation",
yet you are running for president. This seems contradictory. Isn't there
some other way to have political conversation?
JW: As I said before, running for president gives me a place to
stand. Working at changing the political conversation is an act of statecraft
in which all can participate. I don't want to "win" by any other
method than "right means". My "election", as an end or objective,
doesn't affect the campaign.
Part of the problem is the number of illusions we all tend to hold
about the political realities within which we live. For example,
you keep coming back to some of them, including the one where "winning"
at any cost is of value. Someone who comes to power by such flawed
means carries that same flaw into all their actions, with the result that
what they do in office is no longer capable of being of service to the People,
except perhaps by accident. With the Bush administration we
witness this potential for flawed activity in its worst form.
Karl Rove did anything needed to win the election for George W. Bush,
and now behind the scenes he urges a "do anything" approach to achieving
the ideological agenda developed by Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Chaney and company
all the way back in 1992.
Ideologies, by their nature, don't have anything to do with the reality
of the world, but view the world in terms of the ideology and attempt to
force the world to behave according to that ideology. We can see this
pointless ideological stance behind all the flawed actions of the Bush administration
in the field of international relations. In three years they have
backed out of international agreements that took thirty years work to create.
They treat two very dangerous personalities (Saddam
Hussein and Kim Jung-il) as less than human and fundamentally evil.
They insult them and back them into corners, and then expect them to behave
like chastened children before a parent who knows everything. Ideologues
have little or no psychological insight into others, and therefore can only
really cause harm.
A People who let come to office ideologues, will pay the price for
such political sleep. If the American People continue to sleep, we'll
risk transforming the ideologues into demagogues, the final step toward
a fascist State ruled by fear and raw power.
Hmmm..., I seem to have gotten on my soapbox, sorry. Let me
end this rant with the other side of things. I don't doubt for a minute
that the American People (in sufficient numbers) are waking up to these
issues and are prepared to do what is needed. The signs of that are everywhere,
if we just open our eyes to them.
To submit questions to Joel Wendt, write to: [email protected]