If the presidency of Donald Trump has proven one thing, it’s that you don’t have to be a political genius to run America, or at least the government parts of America. All you have to do is get elected.
Emboldened by this new normal, the 2020 presidential field will be a robust one, with everyone from mayors, billionaires, and billionaire mayors thinking about throwing their politics hats into the politics ring. Will any of these people win? No. Will they suffer any material damages to their careers by running anyway? Also no. In fact, they will all probably become more successful after their failed presidential bids, because in addition to wasting everyone’s time and probably somehow contributing to a bad centrist candidate becoming the nominee, running for president lets you be on the TV for free.
With all of this in mind, I decided it would be fun to sign my friend and Outline coworker Jeremy Gordon up to run for president. Jeremy edits the “Culture” section of this website, and truly, what is a presidency other than editing the culture of the entire nation? Jeremy has bold stances on issues such as the second season of True Detective (for), corporations acting horny on Twitter (against), and Mark Wahlberg (also against). He once wrote an article about how it was cool that NFL player Vonte Davis retired halfway through a game, so I think it’s safe to say that he believes in socialized medicine, raising the minimum wage, eradicating the carceral state, and more.
As the viral candidacy of Deez Nuts proved in 2016, it is extremely easy to run for president. All you have to do is fill out a form on the Federal Election Committee’s website and you’re technically in the running. The agency even has a web portal containing all of the basic forms a candidate would need, including the one that Candidate Gordon needed, a “Statement of Candidacy.”
And with a couple clicks, I had hacked into the mainframe.
It turns out you have to provide basically no information when you run for president, other than your name, an address, a committee name, and an email. I filled the entire thing out in maybe 10 minutes. But then, I ran into this page which I, as someone who is terrified of breaking the law, interpreted as telling me that if I didn’t have Jeremy’s permission to run him for president I would end up going to jail.
Struck by this affront to democracy, I did a quick round of Googling to see if I was actually about to get myself in trouble. According to a blog post from the Center for Public Integrity concerning l’affair Deez Nuts, it’s technically illegal to file documents containing false information to the FEC, but as the post notes, the FEC really only cares about fake candidates who use the FEC as a smokescreen for various forms of financial malfeasance. Given that Jeremy is a real candidate who will raise no money through his campaign committee, “Friends for Jeremy Gordon,” he (and I) are safe. On the other hand, I’d put down the committee’s official headquarters as The Outline’s office address, so I decided that it would be better for Jeremy to find out about his soon-to-be-historic run from me than the FEC.
Though Jeremy’s initial response to the idea of running for president was “please no,” after some negotiation, as well as my assurance that he wouldn’t actually have to do anything once he was an official candidate, he agreed. I think we all remember that famous saying about democracy: “You can’t spell ‘democracy is mop’ without ‘compromise.’”
So, there you go. Our Culture Editor is technically running for president. When reached for comment, Jeremy had this to say: “Drew, please leave me alone.”