Why Kinky? Why Not?
By Richard Zowie
I'm an independent conservative who thinks tobacco's sole benefit is as a pesticide, but I still find cigar-smoking humorist/musician Kinky Friedman a likeable person. We share a few things in common: both of our given names are Richard and both of us are left-handers. Friedman is a successful writer from whom much could be learned regarding the publishing business.
Friedman, who writes a regular column called "The Last Roundup" for Texas Monthly, is also considering a run for Texas governor in 2006. What I have read of Friedman's political views tells me that he's an iconoclastic man, tired of politicians who specialize in speaking in sanitized soundbytes. I don't agree with all of Friedman's political views, but if he does run for office, I would be happy to sign a petition to get him on the ballot.
A few weeks ago, after leaving a message on his Website, I was pleasantly surprised to pick up the phone at my office and hear Friedman on the other end. Until I talked to him, I had this picture of Friedman of being like my impish late grandfather, who liked to constantly joke and tease.
As I spoke to Friedman, though, I realized he's serious about Texas and is concerned with its direction. "I've becoming more committed to the idea [of running for governor] each day," he told me. "I think it would be not only a loss for me if I don't run, but for Texas."
Friedman said that if he runs, one compelling reason is because America is falling under what he called the George Carlin Principle. The acerbic Carlin talks in a comedy routine of how we seem to have hundreds of choices in the small issues like flavors of mustard but generally only two when it comes to who to vote for in public office. Those two choices are generally Republican or Democrat, which often are the same.
As an independent conservative, I prefer to vote on principle instead of along party lines. I would really like to see things open up in this country for us to return to a legitimate multi-party election system where third party candidates can have an equal platform. I don't know if I'd vote for Friedman for governor, but I do know that if he runs, I would at least listen carefully to what he has to say. Maybe his candidacy could further the involvement of third party candidates. Perhaps the major parties might soon actually have to work for our votes instead of paying us lip service; a politician's greatest skill is the ability to communicate, which is invaluable for discussing what they'd like to do (when running for office) and explaining why they weren't able to do it after they were elected.
"I aim to get the politicians out of politics," Friedman added. "A vote for me would, for the first time in a long time, be a vote for somebody."
Inevitably, people will criticize Friedman for making an alleged mockery out of public office. Frankly, though, professional politicians have made enough of a mockery. Former Republican senator Bob Packwood was found to be sexually harassing his female staffers and expelled from the U.S. Senate in 1995. Former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry was caught on video smoking crack in 1990 and incredibly, reelected mayor four years later.
As it turns out, many Texans might find Friedman a refreshing change. He described himself to me, in part, as "As an unpolitician and a writer of fiction." I find his latter description especially telling, since I like to write fiction and since many of the crazy things that have happened in Texas lately seem as though they only could have come out of a political novel.
While Friedman has jokingly said in the past that as governor he would like to outlaw political correctness, here are three of the things that especially interest him:
· Inspiring people. This is something Friedman feels Gov. Rick Perry hasn't been doing.
· Insuring that no innocent men are executed in Texas. Friedman wrote in his TM column about Max Soffar, a Texas death row inmate whose capital murder conviction consisted solely of a confession (which he has since recanted). There was no physical evidence and no witnesses. Think a confession is sufficient? More than 30 people confessed to the 1947 Black Dahlia Murder, which is still unsolved.
· Establishment of a Texas Peace Corps. Friedman is one who puts his money where his mouth is, having served in the Peace Corps in Borneo in the sixties.
Friedman is generally a funny man, but he has a serious message. Let's hope others take him seriously.
Richard Zowie, a reporter and columnist for the Times Guardian, once did a write-in vote for Bugs Bunny (who still lost) as a third-party candidate. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.