On Monday, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lined up onstage at Hofstra University for the first presidential debate of the 2016 general election. Clinton apologized for the whole email thing and reminded everyone about the time Trump called a Hispanic Miss USA winner “Miss Housekeeping.” Trump casually suggested China should instigate a nuclear war by invading North Korea, and also had the sniffles.Clinton and Trump were not the only presidential candidates debating on Hofstra's Long Island campus that day. In a parking lot near the debate hall, a man with a boot on his head argued about the state of American democracy against a man in a rainbow leotard who was holding a sign reading, “Fart With Your Heart.”
The man under the boot was Vermin Supreme, a Baltimore-based performance artist who has mounted a satirical campaign for the presidency every election cycle since 2004. His platform has included unconventional planks like mandatory toothbrushing, funding time travel research, and zombie apocalypse preparedness.
Like other third-party candidates shut out of the debate, Vermin Supreme (yes, it's his legal name), was denied entrance to the debate and forced to arrange his own debate against New York City street performer Matthew Silver.“We have to be careful about volume,” moderator Rob Potylo warned the crowed before the debate began in earnest. “We don't want to get arrested for volume or other things we might have on us.”
Potylo's first question was simple: “Ponies or chickens?”
Silver responded by loudly clucking like a chicken. Vermin Supreme pointed out that, “chickens are poultry.”
Potylo's second question was about Trump's plan to build a massive wall stretching the length of the U.S.'s southern border with Mexico. “No wall,” insisted Silver. “Let's come together with one big fart and love.”
“I believe what we're talking about today is not just wall along the southern border of America to keep us safe from people from other places. What I'm discussing here is an actual casino. An actual casino that would extend from sea to shining sea along the entire southern border,” Vermin Supreme charged. “My giant mega casino will not repel the Mexican invaders, it will absorb them. Yes, that's right friends, it's all part of my pathway to citizenship through indentured servitude. That's right, friends. After about three years of learning household chores and playing slot machines with a green card as the ultimate prize, they will be granted citizenship and allowed in our country. I believe that's fair.”
The next question was more personal. “What are your thoughts on vegetarian dining?” Potylo asked.
Silver noted that he drinks cabbage juice and Vermin listed a number of other vegetables that he enjoys—for example, broccoli. Potylo then led the assembled crowd in a chant of, “Broccoli! Broccoli! Broccoli!”
Potylo concluded with a question about their budget priorities. “If you had one billion dollars to spend on this country, how would you spend it?” he asked.
“I'd share it with everybody to do what they please by following their heart fart,” Silver said. “Don't be a part of the machine, do what you love because that's the most important thing of all.”
“I would build us an interstate roller-coaster system,” Vermin Supreme rejoined. “With that kind of money, we would be able to afford lead for all the water.”
Based on a vote of how loud the audience yelled, Vermin Supreme won the debate. He then got down on one knee and asked Silver to be his running mate. Silver said yes. And then they kissed.
The first round of post-debate polls showed that her performance on the main stage netted Clinton a 4-point bump over Trump. It's not clear how Vermin Supreme's antics are resonating with the larger American electorate.