The Man Who Ran For Laughs and Won
Pictured above is a man named Vermin Supreme. He’s wearing a boot on his head during a press conference, which isn’t so weird for him because he’s often wearing a boot on his head. What’s strange is that he was running for President of the United States at the time. The picture was taken during a December 2011 forum in New Hampshire for lesser-known candidates — Mr. Supreme, multiple times, has tried to garner enough votes to earn residency to the White House. He’s never succeeded, of course, but he’s tried. And as a performance artist — that’s his true calling — winning isn’t the goal anyway.
In that sense, Supreme is weird, but he isn’t unique.
Pictured above is a Danish comedian named Jacob Haugaard. Like Supreme, he was a joke candidate of sorts, running for the Danish parliament beginning in 1979. His party, the Union of Conscientiously Work-Shy Elements, had a platform like any other, but the platform wasn’t focused on things like health care, taxes, or national defense. Instead, as Wikipedia summarizes, it was odd. Haugaard’s Union promised to fight for better weather, more whales in local fjords, bread for ducks in Danish parks, tailwinds for anyone on a bicycle, improved Christmas gifts, Nutella in military field rations, and changes to IKEA’s furniture offerings, among other things. No one took him seriously, nor should they have. The 1979 elections came and went without Haugaard making much of an impression — he picked up maybe a couple of hundred votes. The official tallies do not even bother mentioning his name.
But the joke must go on, Haugaard thought, and he ran again in 1981, and lost, and again in 1984, and lost again, and in 1987 again, and lost again, and, well, you get the idea. Haugaard ran in every parliamentary election from 1979 to 1994, inclusive, losing every single time.
Except the last one.
In 1994, Haugaard received a total of 23,253 votes, enough to earn him a seat in parliament in the Danish system. And, as seen above, he decided to serve out his term — the picture above, via here, is of his first time addressing Parliament as one of its members. And, per that site, Haugaard took the role somewhat seriously. In that first time with the floor, Haugaard “offered an explanation for why he was elected: If people do something seemingly stupid, it is usually because they see those in positions of authority doing stupid things.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Haugaard’s four years in office weren’t a total disaster — he managed to deliver on three of his campaign promises. No, he couldn’t rework the world’s wind patterns to ensure easier bicycling, but he did convince his fellow lawmakers to provide bread for the ducks in area parks, test Nutella in rations (which, as of 2007, are gone), and to install public restrooms in a park in Haugaard’s hometown of Aarhus. As the newspaper The Australian joked, by many nations’ standards, this ability to carry through on multiple promises “makes Haugaard an outstandingly reliable representative.”
Despite these successes, the fact remained that Haugaard never intended to win, and the brief taste of power didn’t change that. Haugaard decided against running for re-election in 1998 and hasn’t sought office since.
From the Archives: The Protest Candidate Who Won: Jacob Haugaard isn’t the only successful joke candidate.
Related: A case of surplus U.S. military MREs. Assorted flavors, none containing Nutella as best I can tell.