In 1979, Jello Biafra, the singer for the punk band Dead Kennedys, ran for mayor of San Francisco. He did it on a whim, after his drummer suggested he was such a loudmouth he should run for mayor. His campaign was a brilliant work of political satire. His campaign tactics included making a whistle-stop tour on the BART subway system, and lampooning empty photo-ops by vacuuming the eventual winner, Diane Feinstein’s, front lawn. He made campaign promises that were bat shit crazy, but had enough sane ideas mixed in to make you wonder, what if he won?
These insane ideas included:
- Ban cars from city limits to cut down on pollution
- Legalize squatting for any building purposely left empty for tax reasons
- Auction off high-level city positions (police chief, utilities commissioner) in civic center square, and create a legal board of bribery for liquor licenses, police protection, etc.
- Police officers must run for election every 4 years by the people they patrol
- Erecting statues of Dan White (the man who assassinated Harvey Milk) for the express purpose of being pelted with eggs
- Hire 7,000 former government employees as professional pan handlers in wealthy neighborhoods
- Require all businessmen to wear clown suits
Biafra received 6,591 votes, or 3.79% of the vote, which was good enough to net him fourth place out of ten total candidates, and more importantly, he was able to get Feinstein’s ear for an endorsement in the run-off election that followed. Biafra asked Feinstein to consider adopting his most serious campaign pledge, legalizing squatting in building that were left empty as a tax write-off, but she declined.
Feinstein went on to win the election, and eventually became a senator. Biafra continues to be politically active today, but he believes he can do more to support the causes he believes in with his music and spoken word shows.
I wouldn’t disagree with you that many of his ideas teetered on a thin line between impractical and being a practical joke. But I ask you these two questions: If a conservative idea has been shown to have no effect, or the opposite effect, on its stated goal, but politicians continue to waste millions of dollars on it, is that considered crazy? And, just how much crazier is it than clown suits?