The practical joke that could expose the biggest joke of all.
Last week, the nation shared a moment of levity when North Carolina officials reported that Deez Nuts, the satirical electoral creation of a 15-year-old teen from Iowa, received 9% of the vote in a new poll. The number placed him in third place behind Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and ahead of GOP candidates Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker. Earlier polls had shown Deez Nuts garnering 8% in Minnesota and 7% in Iowa.
Most Americans embraced the news as little more than a tongue-in-cheek verification of our collective malaise with the political establishment, an indictment of our deep unease and dissatisfaction with the frontrunners in the 2016 presidential election. Even when The Guardian declared that Deez Nuts was officially “the most successful independent candidate for president in two decades,” few deigned to describe it as anything approximating the start of a populist revolution.
Still, one might argue that the success of 15-year-old Brady Olsen — aka Deez Nuts — from Wallingford, Iowa, embodies more than simply a successful lampooning of the American political system. There are legitimate reasons to view this development as the opening salvo in an upheaval of the way Americans elect presidents. Does this sound hyperbolic? Let me take it a step further: Deez Nuts is actually critically important for the future of the country….and here’s why:
- Politicians may be forced to acknowledge the failed system…and apologize
The fanfare behind Deez Nuts will cause politicians to take a second look at their own campaigns. Why? First, they will be forced to answer questions about Deez Nuts. At first, they will shrug and laugh these questions off. However, it’s important to note that Deez Nuts polled at 9% with virtually no media coverage. Imagine what will happen when these numbers grow — and there’s every reason to believe they will. Faith in government and the two-party system is at an all time low. There is widespread distrust in government agencies, institutions, and politicians’ ability or willingness to represent the people.
Most importantly, on Friday, Public Policy Polling announced it will soon begin to include Deez Nuts in national polls. If his numbers stay steady at a national level, there’s good reason to believe candidates could be asked about him during the debates, especially if Jon Stewart moderates one. This will bring to the surface a readily acknowledged truth: the system has failed and it must be reformed. Such a widespread concession forces a reformist policy angle on every single candidate who wants to have a chance in the general election.
- He provides an outlet for disenfranchised non-voters to make a real statement
American business magnate Russell Simmons recently endorsed Deez Nuts for President, tweeting out, “Ask not what deez nuts [sic] can do for you, instead ask yourself what you can do for deez nuts [sic].”
Similarly, the Rent is Too Damn High Guy, Jimmy McMillan, has come out in support. McMillan explained his position:
“Deez Nuts would be great because the children need to get involved. They need to tell these other candidates, these old men who are taking the country down the hell hole, that something needs to change. The youths are hurting — they can’t get jobs, they can’t buy a home — and these old people are doing nothing for them.”
We may have never seen such popular excitement over a “sham candidate” before. The reason is because Deez Nuts is not a sham candidate. Brady Olsen has an actual agenda that he wants to push, which is primarily targeted at exposing the real sham: the two-party system in American politics. And Olsen has been strategic about his approach. When asked by Rolling Stone about Public Policy Polling’s use of his names in the polls, Olsen said he specifically wanted his name pitted “against low-pollers, like [Deez Nuts] vs Lindsey Graham vs Lincoln Chafee, to see how desperate voters would be in that situation.”
Olsen is just as thoughtful when it comes to political calculations. While the teenager identifies as a libertarian, he admits his ideology falls somewhere between democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and Gary Johnson. This shows that Deez Nuts understands his position as an independent candidate with populist power, a reformist with the heart of a revolutionary.
Disenfranchised voters are nothing new in 2015, but this time around there is a social media-emboldened central rallying cry that seems to be discernible and digestible across a wide platform of demographics and ideologies. The strength of the humor in his satirical foundation also helps to buoy Deez Nuts. Thanks to the Internet, particularly social media, the disillusioned snark of the masses has been catalyzed and, if properly organized and leveraged, could wield unprecedented power on mainstream politics and the heretofore unquestioned media narrative, which more and more people are realizing is crafted in collusion with the corporate-owned political establishment.
- Deez Nuts is a grass roots populist movement against the two-party system
For most of his political career, Bernie Sanders registered as an Independent. In his run for president, he has capitulated to being a Democrat. Despite his revolutionary rhetoric, Sanders still plans to work within the two-party system. While it is telling that Bernie Sanders wasn’t even listed on the North Carolina poll where Deez Nuts received 9%, his success as a galvanizing populist isn’t entirely relevant anyway and certainly does not put him at odds with Deez Nuts. In other words, while it’s important that Sanders continues to rally voters, it is equally important that those same voters understand the importance of Deez Nuts and why Sanders is so restricted in the first place. It’s because, for all intents and purposes, Sanders is still considered a third party candidate, which is exactly the reason why the Deez Nuts is vital. Tellingly, Nuts has inspired a recent wave of similar joke presidential candidates, highlighting just how pervasive disillusionment with the electoral and political system has become.
The Deez Nuts movement is a platform by which a wide variety of both voters and non-voters can critique the system in a way that is not only measurable, but deeply disruptive. However, it’s not particularly time-sensitive — it could continue on for years, even decades, and will only grow with organization and sophistication. Eventually, a voter base that is simultaneously decentralized yet targeted toward one specific issue could present a major challenge to the two-party system, forcing networks to not only regularly allow third parties into all presidential debates, but to give them equal time and fair treatment. Whether Brady Olsen emerges to be a successful spokesman for this movement or not doesn’t even matter at this point. The power of Deez Nuts resides in it being a leaderless movement with one specific purpose: breaking the two-party system.
- Deez Nuts could force major mainstream concessions, such as an overturning of Citizens United
With widespread popular support comes power. There is a very real sense in which a high-polling Nuts will translate into actionable reform to the system. For example, the jestful heart and soul of the movement itself is that the two-party system is broken, primarily because corporate money and crony capitalism have rendered representative democracy dysfunctional. One of the most cloying wrenches clogging our political system right now is the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, by which Super Pacs and corporations have flooded elections with unprecedented amounts of campaign funds.
Could the Deez Nuts candidacy force the establishment to readjust in order to avoid an outright collapse of the political system? If this were the case, the establishment might push a sacrificial concession out to the hungry masses in order to placate their anger. With the proper organization and coaching, Deez Nuts might be able to call for the head of Citizens United, which, incidentally, Bernie Sanders plans to decapitate if elected.
- Deconstruct scripted policy positions as anemic and not representing the people
Perhaps the biggest cause behind the unlikely success of Deez Nuts is how transparent the failings of representative democracy have become in recent decades. Indeed, people are so desperate for honesty from a presidential candidate that herds of misguided voters are willing to tolerate the racist, sexist rants of sociopathic plutocrat Donald Trump — just for a whiff of unscripted candor.
In the current online viral landscape, in which Deez Nuts is in more demand on Google than Hillary Clinton, a 15-year-old teenage boy has tapped into the zeitgeist and now sits poised at the breaking point of an electorate so sick of anemic policy positions over substantive real talk, they would rather vote for a vulgar, nihilistic moniker than a career politician.
Who knows? If the popularity grows to a certain point, perhaps it’s conceivable someone will organize a citizens’ debate at which Deez Nut could actually participate. While a 15-year-old is not going to be elected president any time soon, it’s not too difficult to imagine a push to see an informed, eloquent representative of youth — the future of the country — square off with the very oligarchical despots angling to rob him of his future through climate change inaction, economic collapse, and federally organized student loan theft.
- Even if you don’t vote, you can use Deez Nuts to grease the wheels of a symbolic movement
There is an increasingly large contingent of intelligent American citizens who are philosophically opposed to voting, believing that it lends support to a irredeemably corrupt system that enables perpetual war, taxpayer funding of the military industrial complex, corporatocracy, destructive trade agreements like the TPP, and the racist Drug War that feeds the prison system.
It’s hard to argue that non-voters are wrong in their vitriol against casting a ballot, though this author still retains belabored, agonized faith in an American revolution that will be aided by ushering malleable candidates into compromised positions of power.
That is possibly the greatest asset of Deez Nuts: the character can be leveraged by both voters and non-voters towards the same purpose: exposing the ineptitude of the system and using a cultural meme to create a groundswell of public support against the two-party system, which is sometimes called a polyarchy, or “inverted totalitarianism.”
In other words, even if you don’t vote, support the Deez Nuts campaign. Taken further, is a vote for Deez Nuts really even a vote? There’s an argument to be made that voting for Deez Nuts is actually a vote for non-voting, as the person is trying to elect a straw candidate that can’t possibly hold office and is in fact a satire of the voting system itself.
Am I using doublespeak? Let me rephrase the position: non-voters should champion the cause of Deez Nuts as an open mockery of the very system in which they refuse to vote. It is, in some respects, a vote for anarchy, for non-hierarchal symbols of subversion to authority. Vote or don’t vote, but Deez Nuts is the variable for which many agorists, anarchists, and socialists alike have been waiting: a tool of subversive satire that shows how late capitalist representative democracy does not work when the representatives are bought and sold by corporate auctioneers.
- It is culture jamming at the highest level
A reappropriated billboard that reveals a truth about a corporation, a viral meme that takes a politician’s words and overlays them with a graphic to suggest the real meaning hidden underneath — “culture jamming” is a verdant form of subversive activism.
Rarely has there been an opportunity to culture jam at this level. Sure, you can protest and interrupt a speech, you can make a mashup video of the corporate-funded candidates eating their words, but not in recent history has there been a chance to culture jam an actual election by clogging its polls with an artificial candidate whose mere existence and name lampoons the entire system. Use this opportunity — wisely.
And Deez Nuts, if you find yourself a bit confused or looking for direction, feel free to reach out to Anti Media: we’re good listeners.
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Jake Anderson joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in April of 2015. His topics of interest include social justice, science, corporatocracy, and dystopian science fiction. He currently resides in Escondido, California. Learn more about Anderson here!
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