Vermin Supreme, Fool King of the Occupiers

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 10 2012 9:37 AM

Vermin Supreme, Fool King of the Occupiers

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- I took too long to get to Rick Santorum's final pre-primary rally, a fun-looking shindig at a sports bar called Jillian's. By the time my car pulled up, Occupy protesters had spooked security guards into closing the doors. Around three dozen protesters had shown up with identical songs, first shouting at the doors -- "Bigot! Bigot! Bigot!" -- then placing their signs on the windows.

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Around the corner, I spotted a familiar sight: Vermin Supreme, the anarchist/performance artist/perennial candidate who shows up to every locus of media shouting through a bullhorn and wearing a boot for a hat. For the last time this year, I saw Supreme pull his classic stunt, walking up to a window, placing the bullhorn on it, and yelling things to irritate the people inside.

New Hampshire has extremely lax ballot standards, and all manner of harmless kooks can turn themselves into "presidential candidates." Supreme's schtick, mocking the presidential campaign process with dada stunts and "debate" challenges, isn't new. What was new: The burgeoning Occupy movement sort of adopted him into the fold. After Supreme finished yelling at Santorum, an Occupier next to me thanked him. "I want to be you when I grow up!" he said. The day before, Supreme had joined the Occupy protest outside of Newt Gingrich's astrategic Mexican restaurant stop, amplifying the protests outside, drawing more cheers.

This state's primary has a shrinking effect on political coverage. In five days (as in 2008) or seven days (this year), with more than a thousand reporters parachuting into Manchester, the space for deep policy analysis disappears. Everyone, temporarily, is a sideline reporter, asking how a candidate feels or if he needs to place third or second or if he has a response to the SLAM or ATTACK issued by someone else. There's been a similar shrinking effect on the Occupy movement, which has spent the week interrupting speeches and getting hauled out of them, or banging on drums outside of events. So for one brilliant week, Vermin Supreme had found his place.

 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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