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But The Presidential Fringe also takes a look at those who would jest their way into the Oval Office, from comedians such as Will Rogers and Gracie Allen to Pat Paulsen and Stephen Colbert. Along the way, Stein shows how even seemingly zany candidates, such as “Live Forever” Jones, Vegetarian Party candidate John Maxwell, Flying Saucer Party candidate Gabriel Green, or, most recently, Vermin Supreme, provide extraordinary insights of clarity into who we were when they ran for president and how we became who we are today. Ultimately, Stein’s examination reveals that it was often precisely these fringe candidates who planted the seeds from which mainstream candidates later harvested genuine, positive change.
Written in Stein’s direct and witty style, The Presidential Fringe surveys and portrays an American landscape rife with the unlikely, unassuming, unexpected, and (in a few cases) unbalanced presidential hopefuls who, in their own way, have contributed to this nation’s founding quest to form a more perfect Union.
“Mark Stein once again holds a brilliant mirror up to American society and history, this time refracted through the lens of fringe presidential candidates, ranging from the profound to the pathetic. In humorous, incisive, and telling narratives, he shows us that two of our most enduring national traits are optimism and hope.”—Mark Olshaker, coauthor of Mindhunter and Deadliest Enemy
“If ever there was a time to seriously consider the value of candidates who lampoon our electoral system, it is now during the presidency of Donald Trump. Outrageous claims, promises that can never be kept, and shameless, self-serving tactics to win attention at all costs—the candidates described in this book have done it all before. Perhaps if we had understood these candidates’ efforts, we wouldn’t have the current clown in the Oval Office. This book gives us the chance to reexamine our democratic traditions, and nothing could be more timely.”—Gabriel Gomez, professor of education at Chicago State University and co-producer/director of the Drag In for Votes documentary on the presidential campaign of Joan Jett Blakk