Vermin Supreme has ‘been running for president for over 30 years’. His two most recent bids polled at third and fourth in the 2012 and 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primaries, respectively. But now, the boot-bonneted boomer is running to win.
When I spoke to Supreme in January, he had just triumphed in New Hampshire’s Libertarian presidential primary. Now he’s runner-up in the LP’s primaries, with a chance to be on every American’s ballot come November.
‘This is my first legitimate, actual, bona fide, real campaign,’ he said. ‘In the past, I ran as a Democrat and was not a Democrat, I ran as a Republican and was not a Republican. Right now, I am a Libertarian and seeking the Libertarian party nomination.’
‘It’s notable that I was recruited as a candidate.’ Supreme described how his now-campaign manager, Desarae Lindsey, approached him about seriously running, which he’s been doing for about a year. His campaign staff now has at least 30 members.
Supreme said, ‘This is a campaign that is unlike any other campaign that I’ve run. It has strategic considerations.’
For example, he told me, ‘In the past, I loved to get on the New Hampshire primary ballot and get a lot of my publicity from that stunt. The Libertarian party of New Hampshire, however, did not want any fusion candidates, so I had to forego that.’
He also feared that ‘sore loser’ laws — which forbid a defeated primary candidate from making a third-party run in the general — might keep him off the ballot in some states.
‘I am making an offer to the Libertarian party,’ he said, ‘an offer predicated on my internet celebrity, vast reservoir of political capital and good will, my experience as a seasoned campaigner, and of course, the power of the magic boot.’
‘As you know,’ Supreme said, ‘the boot is magic. It allows me to communicate with the media and millions of people from around the flat earth.’
The ‘magic boot’ is not all fun and games. According to Supreme, his public persona has helped him develop ‘some simple, elegant, yet very effective techniques that are essentially a communications strategy’.
‘My fanbase goes from far-left to far-right, it creeps into places where I’m not even comfortable having fans, quite frankly,’ he said. ‘But I can’t really help that, except denounce their ideologies from time to time.’
During our conversation, he expressed qualified optimism that this strategy would translate into success in the Libertarian primaries and even the coveted five percent of the national popular vote needed for a third party to receive federal funding. No Libertarian candidate has yet reached that threshold, but Gary Johnson captured 3.28 percent in 2016, the party’s best-ever performance.
This expectation might not be unreasonable. More than just the American counterpart to the UK’s Lord Buckethead, Supreme has long stood out among America’s perennial presidential candidates.
Some of his most famous policy proposals range from the ‘pony pledge’ — ‘free ponies for all’ — to the ‘zombification’ of America’s political class, who would then operate power-generating treadmills. His endearing and memorable antics include the ‘glitter-bombing’ of Randall Terry, another obscure candidate in the 2012 Democratic primaries.
But behind his political persona lies an incisive satirist and impassioned activist. A committed libertarian, Supreme has built up ‘street cred’ as a cop whisperer in the rioters’ community.
‘I have been actively exercising the First Amendment to use my bullhorn to break the tension in some very intense police-demonstrator situations,’ he said. ‘I like to read excerpts from crowd control manuals to the riot police to make sure they are trained up and aware of necessary public safety information. I help avoid crowd panic, which can be really dangerous.’
Supreme believes that this background strengthens his credentials with people, especially young people, across the political spectrum.
‘I’ve gotten TikTok famous all of a sudden,’ he said, discussing how he joined the platform after his campaign hashtags started trending. ‘Essentially, I’m the voice of a new generation, though it’s not my generation. I’m a vessel, if you will.’
‘I don’t have any ambition about consolidating political power within the party or something of that nature,’ he said. ‘But of course, there’s a potential pay-off for the party and for myself. That’s the synergy.’
‘Everybody’s got their own motivations for running for president. Selling more books and college tours were never mine.’ With a chuckle, he added, ‘But, eh, now they are a little bit.’