Written by Joshua Patton
Jimmy McMillan has the unique distinction of being the first Presidential candidate for the 2012 electoral season to be lampooned on Saturday Night Live. He garnered national attention during the 2010 New York Gubernatorial Debate – and a victor that night as the eventual winner of the election Andrew Cuomo, echoed Mr. McMillan’s arguments and agreed with him. He is an expert in karate. He served in Vietnam for two years, earning the Bronze Star. His experiences in Vietnam and exposure to Agent Orange are responsible for his signature black gloves, although why that is so remains unclear, possibly even to Mr. McMillan. All in all, a most unconventional politician.
“I am not a politician,” he tells me, “I am a veteran. I’m not black, I’m a veteran… That means everything to me. That’s who I am.” He describes to me, in rapid speech that sometimes blurs together over the poor cell phone reception, how he has been called negative things too, such as an Anti-Semite, but he cares little about that as well. In fact, he looks at being called a politician with a similar distaste. “They are not voting for the welfare of the children,” he tells me, “they vote out of fear.” Often, he argues, the poor are left out of the political discussion all together. The concerns of the modern politician are focused on a single goal – the best way to get reelected.
I asked him if he was going to modify any of his platforms for a national election. The only change, he said, would be that it would not be running as a member of the Rent is Too DAMN High Party. He is looking to align with another party, one he doesn’t have to build from the ground-up. “The party I decided to pick, has the same values” as the movement. “Learn to do more with less,” he says, but it is unclear whether this is a platform for his constituents or the chosen party’s financial resources. Perhaps it can be both? If I had to guess, he may run as a Republican. If he does not win that nomination, I would imagine that he would run independently. He could make it work, “We ran a campaign on only $16.91.” He even jokes that he could always start “The Deficit is too DAMN High Party.”
His activist work began shortly after he left the military. Having been exposed to Agent Orange, two of his children were born with disabilities. He took the VA to court, arguing not only the negative effects of exposure to Agent Orange, but also, he claims, nuclear materials. “And I have the documents to prove it,” he says. He eventually qualified for 100% disability from the VA for Agent Orange exposure, broken bones, partial deafness in his right ear, and PTSD.
In the nineties he shifted his focus to poverty – specifically the ever-increasing costs fundamental to existence in this society: housing and food. This was his platform in the 2010 Election, running as a member of The Rent is Too DAMN High Party. And now he plans to try to control the conversation in the 2012 election by starting it. He wants to talk about taxes, hunger, and – of course – rent. Political strategists would agree with Mr. McMillan that the key focus of the 2012 election will be on issues domestic rather than foreign, especially the wars.
“This kinda conversation involving current wars does not belong on the campaign floor.” He asserts. Mr. McMillan believes that the discussion of timetables and strategies for exit, ultimately only increases the burden on the American fighting force by providing the enemy with better intelligence about our plans than we have of theirs. He recounts a story about an ambush mission he was a part of during Vietnam. They were trying to engage a Viet Cong patrol that had been troubling units in the area. He and his unit rappelled into a river and began to follow their trail. The trail turned out to be phony and they were the ones ambushed. He insists they were only able to get the jump on his unit because the tactics they used were being heavily reported in the American media.
However, Jimmy McMillan cares deeply about his brother and sister veterans. In part two of my interview, we will talk more about his time as a veteran, PTSD, and being a karate expert.
Personal Interview with Jimmy McMillan 1/14/2011
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