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Donald Sauter for President, 1996 - Revisit and Wrap-up

NOTE: This page is provided mostly for completeness and historical purposes. I recommend you read the highlights in my current presidential campaign page instead.

First, the wrap-up . . .

I have mostly embarrassing memories from the 1996 experience. Besides the Washington Post making light of non-major candidates, me in particular, and confusing my thoughts on justice with my presidential platform, they also made the horrible decision to run a photo of me holding my classical guitar. What's that have to do with anything? Not to mention, the article appeared on the bottom of a page that featured an article about a musical group on the top half of the page. Anybody who had his fill of music that morning would hardly give my article a moment's notice. The title, "What makes John Doe run?", was not helpful, only making sense after reading some of the article itself.

Not to mention, the article appeared in the Saturday paper, the worst possible day of the week. It got absolutely zero mileage among government workers around water coolers in the nation's capital that morning, and was surely out of mind by Monday morning. It didn't get any of the Sunday-paper-only readers. It probably didn't spark a single discussion about democracy in the U.S. executive office in the most political-minded city on earth.

The ridiculous guitar photo did get attention, though. A woman from a German news agency wanted a story - and some footage of me playing guitar. She couldn't talk me into it, and there went the German vote out the window.

Les Kinsolving saw the article and asked me to be on his Baltimore talk radio show. Les is a good guy, but the interview never got on track, mainly because he wanted to talk about me - the last thing I want to do - and didn't get around to the presidential thing until the last couple of minutes.


Here's the complete Associated Press article. It was taken from the first half of Washington Post article, "What makes John Doe run?" (Oct 19 1996). [Comments added by me are in brackets.]


Presidential Race Has Room for Unknown, Quixotic Candidate

AP Photo WX117 of Thursday, Oct. 24
By PETER MAASS, The Washington Post
Copyright 1996 by the Associated Press [but it's about my ideas!]

LANHAM, Md. (AP) - If he is elected president, Donald Sauter will spend little time agonizing over life-and-death questions that torment commanders-in-chief.

Instead, he will ask his fellow Americans to call a 1-900 phone line and tell him what to do, whether it's bomb Baghdad or ban abortion. Sauter will do whatever the majority of his callers want, even if he doesn't agree. He calls his approach "pure democracy."

"Every presidential action would reflect majority will - period," said Sauter, age 43. "We could all be co-presidents."

Very few have heard of Donald Sauter, but the Lanham resident has filed an official two-page statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

According to the FEC, at least 272 other people have similar aspirations, including 22 in the metropolitan Washington area.

In many cases, the FEC statement is their first and last hurrah.

Excepting the big three - Clinton, Dole, Perot - and a cluster of national politicians who by now have dropped out, candidates such as Sauter are ordinary folks who have something to say and only ask that we listen.

"When you say 'running for president,' it sounds kind of funny to me," Sauter said. "I'm just a person trying to be heard."

The self-employed musician [amateur guitar player, actually] and former General Electric engineer lives alone in a tidy house just a few miles outside the Capital Beltway.

Other candidates make constant appearances on TV, but Sauter doesn't even own one. "[Generally speaking] I hate to be around a television," Sauter said. "It's like a cesspool." [I had related to Peter the time a friend subjected me to some channel surfing torture and I made the remark, "It's a cesspool out there."] His election might be the death knell for today's photo op/sound bite presidency. [It certainly would! My presidency would have no theatric element. I would not give speeches. I would respond in writing to written questions only.]

Sauter would open a 1-900 line for voting on decisions. The toll call, he said, would make the voting system pay for itself and discourage frivolous callers.

[In the paragraph that follows, there are two levels of confusion. First of all, Maass leads the reader to believe that simplifying the justice system is part of my presidential platform. And about my justice system proposal, the "simplification" is not about the choices of penalties for wrong-doers, but the total replacement of our current justice system with one based on common sense and conscience. See the discussion of unarchy elsewhere on this web site. My thoughts on restitution versus punishment are not an integral part of my proposal. I would like people to see the advantages of restitution over punishment, but the majority vote of the jury decides on the appropriate punishment.]

He would also like to simplify things by having just two penalties for every crime: restitution or death. [Better stated: There would be just one penalty - your choice between restitution and death.] He believes this system would work very well because criminals would prefer to compensate their victims rather than die. And he believes if would-be criminals knew they could die for doing wrong, they would stop doing wrong. [Better stated: If people knew they'd be held fully responsible for their actions, they would stop doing wrong.]

Even with ideas that seem extreme or nutty [or quite sensible], candidates such as Sauter have a role in our political system, said David Mason, a political analyst for the Virginia-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. [With enough time having passed, I have softened and deleted my sarcastic retorts to Mason's comments below.]

"I find it encouraging our system is open enough that it lets someone play who doesn't have any prospect of winning," Mason said.

Mason sees several strata of candidates. They include serious contenders, such as Republican and Democratic nominees, and independent candidates, such as John Anderson in 1980 and Ross Perot in 1992.

There are also standard-bearers for groups such as the Natural Law Party and the U.S. Taxpayers Party, which mount organized campaigns.

Then there are the lone-voice candidates.

"Frankly, they're oddballs, and I mean that with all affection," Mason said. "They have an idea and a few supporters around them, but usually not... They really don't give a darn.

[end article]


Let the record show: I lost.


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