• News/Talk
  • Music
  • Entertainment

Election 2008

Mike Gravel, Still in the Running

John Moe

Full Episode Audio
Larger view
(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Enlarge This Image
Mike Gravel: Rock
(Bilinsi Media Partnership)

Mike Gravel is a former two-term senator from Alaska. He had been out of politics since 1980, but he earned his place in the earlier debates alongside Obama, Clinton and the rest. That gave him an audience to talk to about his one big audacious idea: the "National Initiative." Gravel thinks the American people should vote on new laws.

Mike Gravel: Fire
(Bilinsi Media Partnership)

"I'm saying that it's important to empower the American people so that they can get control of their government," says Gravel. "I'm trying to change the paradigm of human governance."

Gravel: The Oppressive Nature of Religion

It's an idea that consumes Gravel, who believes the future of America depends on it. But neither the initiative nor Gravel really caught on. Now normally, when candidates realize it's just not happening, they give a little speech, smile and act nice, then vanish from public view. Not Gravel.

"And so the Democrats get into cahoots with General Electric and they cut me out of the debates," he explains, remembering the campaign. "And the rest of the networks followed suit -- and so I might as well just leave the party and go where I belong."

The Democrats were done with Gravel, but Gravel wanted to keep going. So he quit the party that had been his home his entire career, and he called up the Libertarians, one of the biggest third-party groups. The Libertarians had not yet picked a nominee.

"I just went down to the offices of the Libertarian Party and I said, 'Look, how do I join the Libertarian Party?' And they were so delighted. They were ecstatic to have me join. I'm probably the biggest fish they ever caught," he says.

Shane Cory, the executive director of the party, remembers the meeting. "He walked in the door fully knowing and wanting to become a member of the Libertarian Party," he says.

But Democrats and Libertarians are pretty different beasts. One calls for an active role for government in peoples' lives, the other wants as little government as possible. "Libertarians can be very protective, I'll be the first to admit that -- protective of our platform, protective about our ideas," says Cory. "And he's been warmly received. Now people may have disagreements on his issues..."

Issues like the fact that Gravel wants to replace the income tax with a so-called "fair tax".

"Replacing a tax is not palatable to most Libertarians," says Libertarian presidential candidate Mary Ruwart. She's one of Gravel's rivals for the nomination. She's met Gravel, likes him, she just doesn't think he's a Libertarian.

"Mike Gravel is also for the carbon tax, which Libertarians are not for. He has also advocated universal health care, which Libertarians are not for," she says.

Ruwart has been a Libertarian Party member for 30 years. She's running for president to promote the cause. "I can support our state and local party candidates by bringing more people into the party and more voters to vote for our lower-echelon candidates," says Ruwart.

For her, it's more about stumping for county commissioners and city council members, and growing the party.

Gravel says he is in it for himself, to promote his idea. And the Libertarians know that. But still, this is a presidential campaign. Isn't the point to actually get elected president?

"Well, I have to admit the chance is probably pretty small," Ruwart admits.

Shane Cory agrees: "We're under no delusion that we're going to win the White House."

Just don't tell that to Mike Gravel. I mean seriously, don't. It gets pretty uncomfortable.

"Wait a second, where do you come off saying that?" Gravel asks. "Please. Why would you say that? If you're an observer of politics -- as I have been since I was 15 -- anything is possible in politics. So let's not start by saying they won't have it. I think I've got a good chance."

OK, suppose it works -- suppose after all this, he gets elected. He would still have to somehow implement this plan, this National Initiative that he's been fighting like crazy for, that he left his party for.

Gravel has that all figured out: "I will spend the first six months of my presidency going around the country to bully the American people to vote for the National Initiative. And if they don't vote to empower themselves as lawmakers, and share power with me, I will quit. I don't want to be their leader."

  • Music Bridge:
    Tony One
    Artist: Sack and Blumm
    CD: Shy Noon (Gefriem)
More stories from our Election 2008 series


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Yuriy M

    From NY, 04/20/2008

    "Gravel thinks we the American people, not Congress, should vote on new laws."

    Thats not true. His national initiative plan does not call for people to vote on every single issue. Congress would still exist and do most of the work. He just wants the people to be able to vote on something in case congress is unwilling or incapable of doing anything.

    By Ross L.

    From PA, 04/20/2008

    Mike Gravel IS an American hero. He ended the draft, released the Pentagon Papers, and started the nuclear critique in this country. And people called him crazy for that when he did it.

    Now he's showing the same kind of bravery and he's mocked for it again. It's a shame.


    And check out the 50-20 plan, an easy donation plan at http://50-20.us

    By Jay Rolland

    From CA, 04/19/2008

    The man's a genius and an American hero. Regardless of the outcome of the election (though I pray its positive for him), we will all be forever indebted to his service and sacrifice for this nation.

  • Post a Comment: Please be civil, brief and relevant.

    Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. All comments are moderated. Weekend America reserves the right to edit any comments on this site and to read them on the air if they are extra-interesting. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting.

      Form is no longer active


    You must be 13 or over to submit information to American Public Media. The information entered into this form will not be used to send unsolicited email and will not be sold to a third party. For more information see Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Download Weekend America

Weekend Weather

From the January 31 broadcast

Support American Public Media with your Amazon.com purchases
Search Amazon.com:
 ©2015 American Public Media