Members of the media refer to him as a “stunt candidate.” He didn’t appear on stage in South Carolina last week for the Republican presidential debate because he failed to hit the required support threshold– 1 percent in five national polls. He won’t pull down financial backing from the conservative oil billionaire Koch brothers, nor win over the far-right readers at the RedState blog. Yet, set against the uninspiring candidacies likely to be waged by the men so far lined up to challenge Barack Obama for the White House, Fred Karger’s candidacy could be the most influential, if he stays with it. A moderate conservative former Reagan aide, longtime political consultant and civil rights activist, he is also unabashedly gay– the first ever openly gay GOP candidate for president.
“I want to open up the flaps of the tent and let everyone in,” he told curious New Hampshire Republicans during an exploratory stumping tour last fall.
He put out a new video this week, “Demon Frisbee,” which asks Republican voters in a consciously ridiculous way not to be afraid of the darkhorse nature of his candidacy and the fact that he’s a gay Republican.
Think about it, the ad argues. It’s just a Frisbee, people!
Karger has also barnstormed Iowa, of course, but he has made his own way there. That is to say, he hasn’t yet been invited on one of the Christian-right primary-voter tours led for GOP presidential hopefuls there by anti-gay politician Bob Vander Plaats. Indeed, the fact that Karger is the only GOP candidate, including libertarian Ron Paul, who won’t be shepherded around by Vander Plaats underlines the value of his candidacy. Perhaps more than any of the others running, Karger will make room outside of the tight political circles that have narrowed the Republican field at a time when the country and the world keeps growing wider.
“I’m concerned that the partisan rancor is only going to continue and get in the way of our nation’s progress,” Karger says in one of his Iowa videos, red tractors and farm silos in the background. “I learned from my mentor Ronald Reagan the importance of getting along. I spent a lifetime working with and supporting Republicans and Democrats, a value that has only been reinforced in my fight for civil rights.”
Karger won’t win even one state, maybe not even a district , in the GOP primary race, but he may push open a few flaps of the GOP tent just long enough to let in some air.