California politics are about as filthy and weird as at any time on Earth since Nero. Or at least pre-revolution France. We've had laughably bad actors (Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Sacramento. We've had adulterers (Gary Condit) and convicted thieves (Congressman “Duke” Cunningham) representing us in Washington. Here in San Francisco, we've had the option to vote for punk rockers (Jello Biafra) and drag queens (Sister BoomBoom) on the city ballot. And, of course, California was the home of the king douche bag of the American presidency — Richard M. Nixon. How could anybody take this place seriously?
Certainly not Field Marshal Elisha Shapiro of the Nihilist Party. Since 1984, when he presented the Nihilist Olympics, this Los Angeles-based conceptual artist, now 52, has been championing the absurd and pointing out history's little snafus for the enjoyment of us all. He ran for president in 1988; has a monthly cable TV show called The Nihilists' Corner that airs in L.A., S.F., and New York City, which presents various views on religion, politics, and art; and organizes the Nihilist Film Festival every year in Santa Monica.
And for his next act: a gubernatorial campaign! “The main plank of this campaign is secession from the United States,” says Shapiro. “It would add billions to the California budget without raising taxes, and it would get those red-state Bible-thumpers off our ass.” His plan calls for, among other nifty ideas, appointing Angela Davis and Jon Stewart to the California Supreme Court; marriage for gays only (straights will have the same rights, but won't be allowed to kiss in public); friendly relations with Cuba and Venezuela to provide Californians with good cigars, a reliable oil supply, and Caribbean vacations; and the use of eminent domain to turn Wal-Marts into low-cost housing and abortion clinics.
The idea of California secession is nothing new. In 1941, several counties in northwest California and southwest Oregon seceded and formed the State of Jefferson, complete with armed guards on the highways. The act was largely symbolic, but the sentiment was real. Whether in jest or dead seriousness, some folks have wanted independence for California since the Bear Flag Revolt struck Sonoma in 1836. Shapiro might be a dark-horse candidate (smart money puts him with about 550 write-in votes come November), but in this humorless age of bazillion-dollar campaigns, it might be fun to jump on his train and take a little ride. Elisha Shapiro will be on the streets of North Beach, around City Lights, on Aug. 12, and at the Attic in Santa Cruz on the 13th. Make your own campaign signs.