Buddy Roemer, the former Louisiana governor who unexpectedly jumped into the GOP presidential primary, and subsequently jumped out of that race to unsuccessfully be a part of whatever it was Americans Elect imagined itself to be doing, announced Thursday that he is suspending his presidential campaign. He cited ballot access, which is sort of a critical ingredient to running for president, as his main reason for quitting the race.
In a statement received via email Thursday morning, Roemer writes:
Today, I am no longer a candidate for President of the United States.
After 17 months of a wonderful campaign, the lack of ballot access in all 50 states makes the quest impossible for now.
After thanking everyone associated with his long-shot campaign, Roemer continues on, restating his reason for running -- his desire to raise awareness of the toxic effect of money in politics -- before touching on the some of consequences one faces for running a campaign against entrenched corporate interests. For example: those entrenched corporate interests make sure you're never allowed to participate in the debates, even as Rick Perry, bumbling through his attempts to form sentences in English, is allowed to participate. (Roemer's campaign spokesman, Carlos Sierra, is best remembered for when he angrily, and accurately, referred to the constantly shifting requirements for participating in the primary debates as "bullshit rules.")
From Roemer's press release:
We ran like we would serve – Free to Lead. To protect that freedom, we fully disclosed every contribution. We accepted no contributions above $100. We accepted no PAC money, no Super PAC money, no corporate money, and no lobbyist money.
We assumed no debt and we end this campaign with money in the bank. Once again, we ran like we intended to serve. We received contributions averaging less than $50 each from thousands and thousands of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in all 50 states.
We were not included in a single one of the 23 nationally televised GOP debates, and yet received 7% of the popular vote in a national poll conducted just a few weeks ago. My team was amazing and I thank you.
America is a nation at risk. Job prospects are inadequate. Trade is neither smart nor fair. The tax code is unreadable and, I say, un-American. The budget is unsustainable. Small business must be re-vitalized. Energy has no strategy. Healthcare is not healthy. Banks are still too big to fail, and comprehensive immigration reform is a fantasy.
We can turn all these problems into opportunities, but we must begin our battle with the special interests who are content with the status quo. They don’t want change. They spend billions to keep their control. They own our political system. They bought it with their fundraisers for incumbents, and with jobs for the already powerful. They bought it with special favors and inside information for those who can return the gesture in amendments and legislation and earmarks. They finance the elections. They hire the politicians upon their retirement. And they own the two major political parties. It’s un-democratic and it’s simply un-American.
Look at the facts. 98% of the electorate does not give a penny to presidential or congressional campaigns. The money comes from Wall Street banks, corporate PACs, the labor union coffers, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Big Oil, military defense contractors, miscellaneous PACs, Super PACs and the lobbyists. The money comes from all of these special interests, and what do they get in return? “Too big to fail” and the death of Glass-Steagall, insurance monopolies, pharmaceutical profit protection, no-bid contracts, $675 hammers for the military, earmarks, $5.1 billion in profits and pay no federal income taxes, subsidies for the wealthiest corporations, and all of the big givers first in line for any perks or favors.
The special interests give the money and they get a stacked deck in return. And what do we get? We get gridlock, corruption, a do-nothing Washington, and a Congress almost certain to be re-elected year after year.
Roemer's clarion call got little traction in major media outlets, who treated this entire cause as strange and unwanted. He did manage to find a few platforms from which to get his message out, however. His appearances on the late-night political comedy circuit brought out the best in Roemer, who despite being aggrieved by the current state of our politics, carried himself with warmth and a good sense of humor. He was especially great when he teamed up with Stephen Colbert in his efforts to ridicule super PACs.
Roemer was also pretty terrific on Twitter, frequently taking to the social media service to comment on the debates to which he wasn't invited, and keeping up his fight against the corporate influence in Washington in a generally snarky manner.
Back in December of 2011, Roemer announced that he was going to pursue the presidency with Americans Elect while continuing to compete in the GOP primary. It was an odd fit from the beginning, as Roemer's candidacy as a self-styled reformer clashed with Americans Elect's creators, who were precisely the sort of moneyed elites that Roemer wanted to chase out of the civic square. Roemer never took very well to AE's lack of overall transparency, but the organization's ability to secure ballot access was something he could not afford to pass up.
In February of this year, Roemer ditched the GOP primary entirely, pressing ahead in the hopes that either AE or the Reform Party could get him on the ballot. But Americans Elect was not, ultimately, up to the task of generating sufficient interest -- by mid-May, it was pretty clear that so few people wanted to participate in its weird online nomination process that no candidate on offer had managed to secure the level of support needed to move on to its online "caucus" process. (Though of all the declared candidates, Roemer garnered the most support.) Thursday, we learned that the Reform Party could not achieve the one thing AE was successful at -- securing ballot lines.
In his announcement, Roemer hints that he will continue to fight for reform by building a movement from the remains of his campaign:
As I am no longer a candidate for president, I am free to pledge a good portion of the rest of my life to enacting campaign reform in the halls of Congress and the corridors of the White House. Instead of using my right to the floor of Congress to lobby for corporate clients, I will lobby for the American people who want reform.
It might require a new organization to get this done, but regardless, we will highlight corruption and its effects on policy and public perception, suggest solutions, build coalitions, and support the advocates of our ideas or those who have better ones.
This struggle will not be easy. The enemies of reform are powerful and entrenched, but this is a struggle that America must win. The key is to realize that I cannot beat them alone. This will take a team effort. We must work together, setting aside inevitable differences on other issues in order to build a reform team. We must dare to look at a total reform package including contribution reform, reapportionment reform, and term-limit reform. I cannot do this alone. True and thorough reform will not occur solely as a “me” effort. This must be a “we” effort.
This sort of movement-building is arduous, of course, but Roemer can look to the example of Ron Paul, whose own failed runs for the White House have nevertheless led to an impressive grassroots movement, which is getting footsoldiers trained in the peculiarities of the primary process and helping like-minded candidates get nominated and elected.
At any rate, with Roemer out of the running, the field is reduced to a couple of servants to larger corporate interests and, you know, Gary Johnson.
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