Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
Those old enough to have taken a typing class remember that drill. Rocky Anderson knows the drill, too. After stepping away from elected office a few years ago, the errant knight felt a call to return to duty. On Nov. 30, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interviewed the former Salt Lake City mayor after he announced the formation of a new political party and his humble desire to be elected our nation's president.
He looked pretty good, too, with a plastered-on smile and a nervous laugh, talking about America’s corrupt political parties and broken system of justice.
“The American people want this option,” Anderson told Maddow. “They need a choice. What they’ve seen from the Democratic and Republican parties—where they’ve brought this country—is absolutely tragic.”
Maddow asked how the Justice Party will differ. “For one thing, we will do everything we can,” he said, “even if it means a constitutional amendment, to get the corrupting influence of corporate and other concentrated wealth out of politics because Congress and the White House have been conducting themselves as if they are on retainer with Wall Street. We are in a new gilded age in this country with the greatest disparity of wealth since the 1920s.”
It’s good to hear a legal crusader like Anderson say these things. Maddow seemed to savor every morsel. For her, the 2012 election just got more interesting, incredibly so. Here is someone who, like Obama four years prior, seems capable of speaking truth to power. If Anderson works his magic, he’ll end up on every political pundit’s speed dial.
Unlike the bombast of most white-collar political operatives, Anderson’s opinions come from a nearly obsessive study of American injustice. “We have a two-tiered system of justice just as we have now a two-tiered economy,” Anderson says, a system that gives rich powerful people immunity from the law while the less fortunate are bound by the law, “sometimes in very vicious ways.”
Without naming names, Anderson contrasted local first-time marijuana dealer Weldon Angelos’ 55-year mandatory-minimum sentence with those who, under the Bush administration, engaged in felonious acts under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “Not one prosecution of these people,” Anderson lamented. Even the telecom companies who allegedly colluded with the Bush administration and knowingly violated the law, he said, simply hired a lobbyist, spent $12 million in three months and got Congress--including then-Senator Obama--to vote for retroactive immunity for these companies.
Since he left elected office in 2008, Anderson never lost his thirst to put his political bent in the limelight. He formed the nonprofit High Road to Human Rights to advocate for human rights on a global scale. Yet, the nonprofit failed to build the critical mass needed to be effective in those goals. He recently notified supporters he was shutting down the nonprofit due to lack of funding.
But if Anderson were to gain traction in his presidential bid, these ebbs and flows may become a sticking point.
When Rocky Anderson left the Salt Lake City mayor’s office, he assured City Weekly readers he was done with elected office. In September 2008, in a Five Spot interview, we asked him if he were just taking a breather from politics, for the time being. He replied, “Not just for ‘the time being.’ I will not run for elected office again. I will devote the rest of my life to organizing people throughout the nation to change U.S. policies as they relate to human rights.”
In fairness, he made those remarks before the country's mood capsized, went the way of Debbie Downer. Anderson could hardly ignore America's recession, ongoing foreign wars, and fidgety Occupying movements.
But the problem is this: He closed his nonprofit, claiming funding for it wasn’t there. In the same breath, he threw in his hat for elected office, the highest office in the land. By all rights, his nonprofit should have carried on. His board could have hired another executive director to lead High Road. Founding an organization that comes "to the aid of the country” is bragging rights for his campaign. Closing one down due to lack of support speaks poorly of his management and fundraising ability but more importantly, it negates all the time that volunteers banked and all donations that were raised.
His supporters simply dismiss the capriciousness, saying, “That’s just Rocky.” They’re happy he’s running. Maybe his employees, benefactors and volunteers are able to redirect their energy toward his campaign. But if so, it creates a blurry line between nonprofit and political activity, and makes it harder for serious nonprofits to scramble for funds.
Anderson making a grandiose statement a few years back about his political ambitions (or lack thereof) isn’t a deal breaker, but I, for one, believed him. And on the basis of City Weekly publishing his remarks, some readers may have been inclined to support High Roads for Human Rights with their money or time. Being used in such a way--as a tool--bothers ink-stained journalists. Alas, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve published a lie told by a politician, and it likely won’t be the last.
Given the odds against third parties--and an underwhelming Dec. 12 party launch in Washington, D.C.--the Justice Party may end up as little more than a blip on the radar. Quixotic Anderson, however, arrives on his steed, rarin’ to tilt at Washington’s windmills.