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 for
Joel through us: fts @SouthernCrossReview.org.     

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: http://ipwebdev.com/campaign/cg2.html

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 together.

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 stand.

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 me.

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]