Phil Gulley: Party Of One

As the new year dawns, so does a new political faction: my own.

I grew up in Danville, which is to say my family members were Republicans. So I was sympathetic to their cause, which is to say I believed Democrats were evil and going to hell. Then I married a Democrat, my opinion of them improved, and I began voting for them, having grown fond of my bride and wanting to stay on her good side.

At first, voting for Democrats was difficult. I didn’t tell anyone except my wife. But when Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House, it became easier, and now, with our current crop of Republican office-holders, not voting for them is a breeze. Unfortunately, the Democrats have also been charging hard toward stupid, so I’ve been thinking of starting a third party.

Third parties haven’t fared well in American politics. No one runs on the Whig or Bull Moose platforms any longer. The Libertarians, bless their hearts, keep shooting themselves in the foot by nominating dimmer people than the Democrats and Republicans, which I never thought possible. The Green Party, by putting forward Ralph Nader for the presidency, handed the White House to George W. Bush in 2000, aided and abetted by a crooked Supreme Court. If the Green Party had a future, that pretty well ended it. The Tea Party made its case recently, but it’s hard to take people seriously who think Ted Cruz is the answer to our problems.

For a number of years, I identified myself as an Independent because I didn’t want to upset anyone. When political talk arose, I would say, in a pious tone, “I vote for the best person.” When around Republicans, I praised Ronald Reagan; around Democrats, I raved about Bill Clinton. The truth is, they both annoyed me. That seems to be my pattern. No matter who the president is, I’m mad at him half the time. Someday we’ll have a female president, and I’ll be mad at her half the time, too.

The hardest thing about starting a new political party is finding a name for it, all the good ones being taken. There are people who claim to be Independents, but they’ve never organized, since that would defeat the purpose. Given that we claim to value independence in this country, it seems like a fine name. Of course, any show of ideological autonomy by someone leads the rest of us to think he’s a snob. “Oh, you think you’re too good for the rest of us?” we’ll say. “You think you know better than everybody else, don’t you?”

I asked my wife if she would switch her affiliation to unite with the Gulleyites, but she declined. Apparently, some people are more loyal to their party than to family.

The best third-party name in American politics belongs to a New York group called the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. I appreciate their clarity, laser focus, and straightforward approach, traits all too uncommon in politics today. If I lived in New York, I would join that party in a heartbeat. Since I don’t, I will probably name my new political party after myself so I can remember it. It won’t matter if other people remember, since no one will likely join. I asked my wife if she would switch her affiliation to unite with the Gulleyites, but she declined. Apparently, some people are more loyal to their party than to family.

It’s expensive to start a new party, but the Supreme Court made it easier when it said corporations are people and can donate as much money to political causes as they wish. I’m going to ask White Castle to underwrite my new platform. In return, if my candidate wins the presidency, we’ll change the name of the chief executive’s residence to the White Castle. If they don’t give me money, I will find another sponsor and name it the White Sox House or the White Pages House, whichever the case may be. I won’t make them change the name in government documents, though. That would be too expensive, and Gulleyites are very thrifty.

When our government shut down this past October, it was clear that even people in the same party didn’t agree with one another. Moderate Republicans—both of them—were frustrated by their brethren on the right and their refusal to cooperate. In my political party, I’m going to make darn sure everyone does exactly what I tell them. If they don’t, they can start their own group. What does it profit a man to have his own political party if the people in it don’t obey him? It’s probably a good thing my wife doesn’t want to join. She often disagrees with me and isn’t afraid to say so.

If you were hoping I would avoid negative campaigning, you can get that thought out of your head. I’m going to be against a lot of things and will make no secret of my displeasure. I’m not yet sure what I’ll oppose, but I’ll let you know just as soon as White Castle tells me. Suffice it to say, it won’t be good news for McDonald’s and Burger King. But I do have some principles, and I’ll be against a few things regardless of how the home of sliders feels about them. Apparently a Walmart is coming to our town, so our first official act, should we be elected to office, will be to close it. The town board was gung-ho about having the superstore built, and we’ll be running against them. I’m friends with most of the people on the board, but a true leader can’t let personal relationships stand in the way of doing what’s right.

When I start my third party, I’ll have to suck up to some rich people to get their money. I don’t ordinarily like spending time with billionaires, but I’ll do it for the good of the country. If you see me at a fancy restaurant eating lobster and drinking lots of wine, you can be sure I’m not enjoying myself. You might come up to the table and thank me for my efforts to outlaw the inheritance tax. Once the rich people give me their money, I’ll go back to being my old self, fighting for the common folk. Politics won’t change me, I promise.

The symbol for the Democrats is a donkey. The Republicans have the elephant. The emblem for my party is probably going to be a dog, since there are lots of dog-owners in the U.S. I might even have the dog snuggling with a kitten, to win over the cat people. And maybe have both of them eating ice-cream cones, since everyone likes ice cream. I hope you’ll join my third party and help end the shameless pandering pre-sent in today’s politics.  


Illustration by Ryan Snook

This column appeared in the January 2014 issue.