It’s not just Donald Trump. The USA has a long history of jokers, eccentrics, and megalomaniacs running for the top office, from immortals to the king of the world, reports Robert Hume
When his fiancée jilted him, Leonard ‘Live-Forever’ Jones (1797-1868) turned to religion, joined the Shakers, and insisted he was immortal. In Kentucky, he planned to establish a “capital city of the world”, a heaven on earth, where members of the Live-Forever faith would reside, pray and fast, and where graveyards were unknown.
After founding the High Moral Party, Jones ran in six consecutive presidential contests (1844-64). In his election speeches he would roar “like one possessed”, stamp, and flourish a cane. He drew large crowds but remained the party’s only member.
Failure left him frustrated and, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Jones declared it was divine punishment for voters not electing him president.
Sadly, his beliefs let him down: ‘Live-Forever’ died at the age of 71.
George Francis Train
Lifelong globetrotter and possible inspiration for Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, shipping tycoon George Francis Train (1829-1904) refused to shake hands, convinced that touching another person’s flesh caused a loss of “psychic force”. Instead, he would shake hands “gravely” with himself.
To achieve a ripe old age, he reckoned one should eat no meat and wear no underclothes.
In 1872 he stood for temperance and women’s rights as an independent candidate. Failing to make the White House, he set his sights on becoming ‘Dictator’ of the USA.
As Train aged, he became still more eccentric, and spent his final days on benches in Madison Square Park, handing out dimes and speaking only to children and animals.
After he was “almost struck by lightning”, Homer Aubrey Tomlinson (1892-1968) abandoned an advertising career and joined the church. Known as Brother Homer, he enthralled crowds at the 1939 New York World Fair by performing the first parachute wedding.
But his stunt to be elected president — he ran four campaigns for the Theocratic Party, 1952-68, planning to appoint churchmen to cabinet offices — flopped spectacularly.
Unfazed, he turned to grander designs: Prevent war, bring rain to relieve drought, and be crowned in every country. Tomlinson staged 101 coronation ceremonies — including one in Moscow’s Red Square — wearing a blue kimono and a gold-leaf crown, and using a cheap folding chair with ornamental tassels as a throne. He carried a homemade blue and white starred flag and an inflatable globe, ridiculed by Evelyn Waugh — who saw Tomlinson crowning himself King of Tanganyika in 1959 — as a “wizened apple”.
When Tomlinson was in Finland, proclaiming himself king, he read that World War Three was imminent.
He jumped on a plane to Berlin. Donning his robe and crown, and waving his flag, he hurried to the Brandenberg Gate to declare there would be no war, whereupon “the awful threat was scuttled”.
Tomlinson ended up outranking every other ruler when, on 7 October 1966 in Jerusalem, he anointed himself “King of the World”.
Pat Paulsen challenged Bill Clinton in the New Hampshire primary for the Democratic Party in 1996, and managed to win 921 votes to Clinton’s 76,754.
When the Smothers Brothers asked TV comic Pat Paulsen (1927-1997) to run for president in 1968, the comedian replied: “Why not? I can’t dance — besides, the job has a good pension plan and I’ll get a lot of money when I retire.”
The comedian ran five tongue-in-cheek campaigns, beginning as candidate for the Straight-Talking American Government Party — the Stag Party for short. His election slogan was: “I’ve upped my standards. Now, up yours.”
Once asked if he believed in the right to bear arms, he replied: “No, I believe in the right to arm bears.”
Criticise his policies and he would retort with: “Picky, picky, picky.”
Vermin Love Supreme
Boston prankster Vermin Love Supreme is running in his seventh campaign for the position of US president.
Love Supreme, 54, with his wizard-like beard and boot for a hat, recently chased Ted Cruz with a gigantic toothbrush.
President Supreme, who calls himself a “friendly fascist”, would pass a law making people brush their teeth. America has been suffering “oral decay”: It must become “a nation of shiny smiles”.
He also promises to fund a zombie apocalypse awareness programme, and time-travel research, enabling us to return and kill Adolf Hitler in his infancy.
Under President Supreme’s rule, all Americans would receive a free pony, which they must always take around as identification. The pony poo would be used for fuel.
Jonathon Sharkey, who calls himself ‘The Impaler’, ran for the Republicans in 2012.
Former altarboy Sharkey describes himself as a “right-wing vampire”, who first drank blood — “a very healthy thing to do” — when he was five years old. Nowadays he claims to consume the blood of his mistresses twice a week.
Dr Sharkey, 52, who says Obama “has no idea how to run a country”, would ban abortion, and set up a free health service supported by taxes on marijuana and prostitution. Instead of jailing criminals, he would torture them. The US Secret Service investigated him for threatening to impale President George W. Bush, and confiscated a wooden stake with spikes from his house.
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