From Ancient Greece To Modern America.
Democracy is a complicated process and has only been part of humanity for a few thousand years.
The first rumblings of government came when the age of agriculture began at around 12,000 B.C. with the Paleolithic era. Tribes who had once roamed the land chasing migrations of mammals and better weather now had tools and farming methods with which they would create settlements.
When the Ancient Greeks made official laws to cement shared commonalities, we can see the first semblance of popular decision-making in Europe.
Athenian democracy emerged under the leadership of Cleisthenes around 500 B.C. when he and his leaders posed a question. When considering the future of Greek society: “Who should be part of the dēmos?” The question has thankfully gathered momentum in the 2,500 years since.
Democratic elections are now (on paper) held in most countries worldwide, though these take many forms. While the United States is a full presidential republic, there are semi-presidential republics where the president holds most power but devolves governmental power to a prime minister.
This applies to countries such as France, though it is supposedly shared by others such as Ukraine and Russia. The prime minister has the most executive power in parliamentary republics like Italy, Germany, or Singapore. However, a figurehead president is the face of the nation.
With constitutional monarchies and devolved governments like the U.K. and Spain, it is clear that democracy is alive and well across the free world — albeit in need of a medical check-up.
The World Series of Democracy
This appears to be the case for the world's most famous democracy, which evidently has never been so divided. American politics is in a sad state of decline, with the country split down the middle on many key issues.
And with a U.S. election cycle on a loop from the first year after the president's inauguration, the sheer amount of money involved now means the public can tune into the sideshow whenever they want.
America is famous for its big personalities, unbelievable expenditure, and super-PACs which control much of the outcome. In recent years, the world watched on as voting integrity, perceived outside influence, and partisan divisions warped the world's greatest celebration of freedom.
Across the world of democracy, campaigns verge from the hilarious to the downright cringeworthy. However, it won't be long before the rest of the world catches up with the World Series of Elections in the U.S.A. — some countries already have.
To celebrate the 2022 mid-term election season, here are 22 extreme moments from the free world of democracy.
Jeff Wagner, U.S.A.
In a strange appearance not bringing to mind Ursula Andress emerging from the Caribbean in James Bond‘s Dr. No, Jeff Walker emerges from a lake near a freeway somewhere in Minnesota. It is a short video in which the candidate for mayor of Minneapolis feels an introduction to him dripping wet, supping a coffee, and dressed in compression shorts would gain votes.
Other than the campaign promise that he “Won't even go to strip clubs anymore”, it's unclear if there is any manifesto here other than a surplus of regret.
Rambo de Natal, Brazil.
It's hard to say what this guy's platform is other than dressing like Rambo and brandishing a toy machine gun for the cameras. Rambo de Natal ran in 2014 as a candidate in Brazil for the Social Democrat Christian Party and spent his campaign making a series of short videos explaining how he would clean up the political system.
He didn't win.
Thomas Ravenel, U.S.A.
Former T.V. star Thomas Ravenel decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and made this video, which stars the plain folk of America. There are slow-motion thumbs-up poses and smiles from each citizen, though Ravenel ends with an attempt at humor, jesting whether they even know they are in slow-motion. His monotone voice doesn't lend itself to telling jokes.
Gerson Januário de Almeida, Brazil.
It is mandatory to vote in Brazil's election. Therefore, the number of candidates is out of control, and constituents are spoiled for choice. In the 2016 Belo Horizonte elections for City Councilor, Gerson Januário de Almeida ran under the pseudonym Obama 10011. Due to real Obama's obvious popularity, he was one of the dozens of Obamas that ran for office across Brazil.
He managed 96 votes in the first round — it helped that he is also a dead ringer for the former president.
Sarah Palin, U.S.A.
In one of American politics' biggest curve balls, 2008 saw American political history. Yes, the debut of loose-cannon Alaskan governor Sarah Palin was something to behold as she joined John McCain's run for the U.S. presidency. Palin's greatest faux pas was not her hockey mom anecdotes or her fondness for scatterbrained rhetoric, but it was a visit to a local slaughterhouse.
After pardoning a turkey, she gave an interview on the joys of Thanksgiving, failing to notice another not-so-lucky fowl dispatched on camera — right behind her.
Levi Tillemann, U.S.A.
Another leftfield offering for a campaign ad is Levi Tillemann of Colorado. A clean-energy entrepreneur, he ran on a platform of arming public school teachers with pepper spray to fight gun violence. Such was his conviction in this idea that Tillemann made a campaign ad wherein he sprayed himself in the eyes with said weapon.
It looked quite painful. Maybe he didn't miss his eyes, but he may have missed the mark on this one. Future candidates could learn from this misguided approach: self-injuring will not get you elected.
Jason Kander, U.S.A.
When U.S. Army veteran Jason Kander ran for the Missouri Senate in 2016, his rival for the seat, the incumbent Senator Roy Blunt, mocked his stance on background checks for gun owners. In a move labeled even by rivals as the greatest political campaign ad of the year, Kander assembled and loaded an AR-15 while blindfolded, challenging his rival to try and do the same.
Despite losing to Blunt by 3 percentage points, Kander broke the state record for any Democrat running in Missouri — even beating Hillary Clinton.
Gabriel Boric, Chile
There is a certain sense of joviality in South American political ads, and none ever hit the mark more than Gabriel Boric's presidential campaign ad. In 2020, with Chile's political and economic system in a state of decay, the far-left candidate presented his case to lead the country.
In a video that looks like a commercial for a children's yogurt, we see a virtual Boric dressed in a poncho and chupalla hat in a happy, 3-D meta mountainscape. To the sound of joyous Chilean folk music, he is joined by a group of friendly animals that dance in a curiously spasmodic rhythm. It worked. Gabriel Boric is now the president of Chile.
Herman Cain, U.S.A.
The late Herman Cain was a well-known figure in the world of politics, though sadly for comedians everywhere, he was never elected to office. A former whizz in the restaurant industry famous for rescuing Godfather Pizza (then later buying it with a consortium), Cain was famous for debating Bill Clinton in 1993 on worker health insurance.
He ran for office many times, though he never won an election. In 2011, he released a music video with a song and clips of his constituents waxing lyrical about Hermain Cain.
Screaming Lord Sutch, U.K.
British politics is similar to the U.S.A. in some ways, though far closer to the Canadian system. However, the ballet is still open for any candidate to apply for election status. With a nation of flamboyant idiosyncracies like the U.K., they often see candidates such as Screaming Lord Sutch — the ‘Lord' added by deed poll.
Sutch was a famous rock singer who created the Monster Raving Loony Party and sat in 40 local elections, running on a manifesto of anarchic daftness.
Dean Phillips, U.S.A.
Dean Phillips ran for the 3rd Congressional District of Minnesota (what is it with Minnesota and campaign ads?) and defeated incumbent Erik Paulsen after a smart attack ad in which Bigfoot goes searching for the congressman. By turning the tables on his opponent, Phillips had his Sasquatchian actor ask, “Does Erik Paulsen even exist? If so, where is he?”
Upon winning the vote, Phillips became the first Democrat to hold the seat since 1961, aided by this funny ad. Prosthetics are one thing; an intelligent angle is another.
Mitch McConnell, U.S.A.
Charming, witty, and exuberant: all words one would never use to describe the perennial Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Therefore, when his re-election campaign team tried to make him appear as just those things, it had the opposite effect. The ad in question was clever: parodying tired comedic tropes like talking babies or Mitch being a stuntman — yes, they went there.
Try as they might, the ad didn't hide one fact: Mitch McConnell will always be Mitch McConnell. It didn't matter anyhow: McConnell is part of the furniture in the U.S. Senate.
Lord Buckethead, U.K.
In the most surreal political dynasty since the Kennedys, comedian Jonathan Harvey first appeared as Lord Buckethead in the 2017 general election after rekindling a lo-fi science fiction character from an independent British cult sci-fi movie, Hyperspace. Having not first sought permission, the film's creator forbade Harvey to use the suit again.
In the next election, Harvey changed his alter-ego to Count Binface, a similar character in black but with a longer helmet. The Lord Buckethead suit went instead to another comedian, David Hughes, who famously ran against Count Binface in the 2019 Uxbridge constituency, beating him by almost 100 votes.
Joni Ernst, U.S.A.
There are intros, and there are intros. Joni Ernst wasted no time in her campaign ad for the Iowa Senate in 2014, stating that as she grew up castrating pigs on a farm, she would know how to cut pork in the Senate. Ernst was supported by a dark-money campaign fund, giving her a $14 million spending advantage over her opponent.
It's not surprising she now sits in the Iowa Senate, then. Spoiler alert: she won re-election in 2020, and her knives are still sharp.
Anthony Albanese, Australia.
Anthony Albanese made his claim to become the Australian Premier by throwing down a rather peculiar-shaped gauntlet in his campaign advert. Albanese is bare-chested, squatting on his haunches and mimicking Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
Weirdly, it is effective: Gollum's dark side talks about raising taxes and gutting the coal industry; his good side discourages these manifesto ideas and offers a better solution. One must applaud Albanese's lack of fear. It was a bold move, and it worked — he is now prime minister of Australia.
Gerald Dougherty, U.S.A.
This is an example of an ironic ad that worked. In 2016, Gerald Dougherty won re-election as commissioner for Travis County, Texas; his campaign ad was simple yet effective. It just showed him boring people with the minutiae of everyday problems he had solved, and you can see their faces drop with the tedium of his rhetoric.
His wife, who tells the neighbors, “He just wants to fix things all the time,” makes another plea to the camera to please re-elect her husband so she can get him out of the house. Dougherty's video helped him win the election, and he served as commissioner until 2021.
Count Binface, U.K.
Another British eccentric who slipped through the net was Count Binface, the creation of British comedian Jonathan Harvey. Binface challenged prime minister-in-waiting Boris Johnson in his home seat of Uxbridge, west London, in the 2019 general election. His manifesto pledges?
There are too many to list them all, but it did include nationalizing the much-loved British singer Adele, renaming London Bridge Pheobe Waller-Bridge, and making T.V. blowhard Piers Morgan emission-free by 2030. He had stiff competition in the election: Boris Johnson, Lord Buckethead (his former character), and Elmo — yes, Elmo.
Dan Helmer, U.S.A.
In the democratic candidate's run for the 10th District of Virginia's congress, Dan Helmer made a mock-up Top Gun skit in which he pulls into his local bar on a superbike à la Tom Cruise's Maverick. In the video titled “The Helmer Zone”, which plays off Kenny Loggins' “The Danger Zone”, Helmer proceeds to sing “You've Lost That Loving Feeling” in a cringe pastiche of the movie and serenades Congresswoman Barbara Comstock's doppelganger who is seated at the bar.
One brutal comment below the YouTube clip says quite simply: “This video just made me want to become a Republican.”
The third fringe politician who shared the stage at the British 2019 general election was an activist named Bobby Smith, who formed the Give Me Back Elmo party in 2015 when he made a bid for the Whitney constituency seat. Elmo was running with a father's rights ethos to send a message of fairness in child custody laws.
With his more serious platform, he can't have been happy about the distraction of his cylinder-headed counterparts, Messrs. Binface and Buckethead.
Linda Paulson, U.S.A.
God loves a trier, and this candidate is nothing if not trying. Linda Paulson stormed the hip-hop world this September with a campaign ad like no other. A Republican lady in her twilight, her manifesto is quite straightforward: free-speech, smaller government, and family values.
However, she delivers her message in what may be the whitest rapping ever attempted in public view. Sadly, someone also told her to dance on camera, which makes it even worse — or better; it's hard to decide.
Rick Perry, U.S.A.
Rick Perry was an entertaining figure in U.S. politics. Assuming the role of Texas governor after George Bush Jr. became president, Perry was the longest-serving governor of Texas in history. His most famous moment was in the 2011 Republican leadership debate.
When the moderator asked which three governmental agencies he would remove, Perry couldn't name the third — instead giving a meager “Oops” in response. Ironically, the third agency was the Department of Energy: the very department he came to lead one day.
In another leftfield move, the Spanish far-left party Podemos (“we can” in English) chose a winning strategy when they used Swedish pine barons Ikea as inspiration for their political manifesto guide. As Ikea's popularity was already large across the country, the party decided to sneak their policies into a mock-Ikea catalog, showing party members in their homes as if modeling contemporary Swedish furniture.
The party capitalized on the Ikea catalog being the most widely-read publication in Spain. However, it did expose the fact that the supposed Marxists running the party all had furniture from Ikea.
More From Wealth of Geeks
- 8 Controversial Comedies That Could Never Get Made Today
- 10 Movies Fans Watched Once and Refused to Watch Again
- Top 5 TV Show Cancellations That Still Frustrate Disappointed Fans
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.