When the Democrats hold their next Presidential debates on Tuesday and Wednesday, one candidate who won't be there is Mike Gravel. He’s a former Senator from Alaska who now lives in Seaside. Gravel did not make the cut for this round of debates, though the whole point of his candidacy was to get on that stage and shift the conversation further to the left.
Mike Gravel’s home office in Seaside serves as his campaign headquarters. But there are no ringing phones, no campaign signs and no staff running around. There is just a small desk, a computer and monitor and, in a corner, an old wood and leather chair. He used to sit in it while on the Senate Floor back in the late 60s and early 80s. Gravel served two terms before losing his run for a third.
“That’s a Senate chair. When I lost, I didn't focus on it, but what my staff did is they bought the chair and they gave it to me as a gift. And my name was on the back of it. Let me show it to you,” says Gravel.
He spins the chair around to reveal his name engraved on the back.
“And of course, that's how you know that you got the right chair,” he says.
Gravel ran for President in 2008. He wasn’t planning to do so again, but two New York City college students changed his mind. The teens are essentially running his campaign. The idea that drew them to Gravel was one he’s been working on for 25 years. His proposal is to add a national initiative system, as an additional way to make laws; it’s similar to California’s Proposition system.
“Right now, representatives have a monopoly on lawmaking. And law is the center and the core of civilization, and the center core of governments. So if the people are going to be involved in questioning, requesting and protesting for policy changes, then what we need to do is to equip them so that they can make laws that suit their interests. Give the citizens the right to make laws and they'll deal with all the issues that need to be addressed in the course of their governance,” Gravel says.
More from my interview with Mike Gravel
Doug McKnight (DM): So how does it, how does your running for president promote that?
Mike Gravel (MG): Well, I'm able to articulate it just as we're doing, right. But what we need to do is to educate the people as to the possibilities of what they can do. They are the solution.
DM: So in order to do this though, you have to get on the debate stage?
MG: Well no, you know, I keep telling the teens, they say well we're gonna get on the debate stage. Here, I'll get what six minutes maybe on a debate stage, seven minutes at best. How long did it take me to just explain to you? So there's no way I can use this as a, I can just mention it that people should be able to make laws. But no, I'll take one of the issues like the fact that we sanctioned 20 countries and cause many thousands of deaths, thousands of deaths. It's essentially murder and we're doing this wantedly on 20 countries. So those are the things I'll probably address in the six minutes that I get. But what really is the dynamic of what's going on in being interviewed, I’m interviewed, yesterday I was interviewed by two groups, and now yourself and I think there's another one on the horizon. So this is communicating with the electorate.
DM: Do you really want to be president?
MG: (Laughs) At 89, you can answer that question yourself. I would take Vice President or roving ambassador. But no, what I would take would be that the President and the Vice President would endorse creating a legislature of the people, and let me act as the emeritus chairman of that organization. That's what I would really desire.
DM: Of the people that are the other candidates, who would you like to see as President and Vice President?
MG: Berney and Tulsi Gabbard and as...
MG: Well because I think he's really got the agenda; the heart. So take your pick. Who would you want to be president. A Republican leaning Joe Biden or would you rather have Bernie Sanders. But of course, by having Tulsi Gabbard as his Vice President and, you know, she's already 38-years-old. Of all the politicians I've ever seen, she's the one I considered the most gravitas, the most ability I've ever seen in a political person.
DM: In what way?
MG: Well gravitas. She's unflappable.
That’s Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Gravel. He has received enough donor support to technically qualify for next week’s debates, the threshold is 65,000 donations. However, he doesn’t appear in enough polls, so he didn’t make the cut. An online petition is aiming to change that by encouraging one of his opponents, John Delaney, to drop out.