The friendly nihilist
Governor hopeful: Jon Stewart for chief justice, a ban on straight marriage, and killer weed
Write-in gubernatorial candidate Elisha Shapiro may at first seem prickly and hard to swallow, but the “friendly” nihilist’s plans for California aim to refresh the politically apathetic palate. This Saturday at the Delta of Venus cafe in Davis, the “National Nihilist Party’s” only candidate will try to convince Sacramentans that California should be its own nation.
“Secession Now! What do we need them for?” reads Shapiro’s campaign pamphlet, arguing in favor of a Golden Nation-State. “It would add billions to the California budget without raising taxes and get those red-state Bible-thumpers off our ass.”
Other plans include: using would-be federal tax dollars for “something fun” for California instead of “virginity classes in Texas”; legalizing marijuana to provide a “high quality product to the world”; “marriage for gays only, straight couples have the same legal rights if they register, but no kissing in public”; and Angela Davis and Jon Stewart for Supreme Court justices.
Shapiro argues that the California government “would be kind of like the way the U.S. government used to be … where there’d be a separation between church and state, people have privacy and stuff like that.”
Edward Noonan, the American Independent Party gubernatorial candidate, countered, “I finally found someone crazier than I am!”
Comparing Shapiro to Kurt Vonnegut’s famous nihilist, the “National Chairman of Poets and Painters for Immediate Nuclear War” in Cat’s Cradle—who trashed the protagonist’s apartment by running up the phone bill; setting the couch on fire in five places; killing the cat, hanging a sign around its neck that said “Meow”—makes the 53-year-old community-college teacher seem mild.
Shapiro has taught English at Santa Monica College for about 25 years. He studied at UC Berkeley and earned master’s degrees at CSU Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. On Nihilism, Shapiro explained, “It’s when you don’t believe in anything. To some people, that’s a little confusing. It’s misused—some people say it’s destruction or violence, but it’s really just saying, ‘All the accepted beliefs: I don’t buy it.’”
For example, “I would rather have a state where the DEA isn’t breaking down doors and hauling people off to jail for medical marijuana, just because I don’t like that—not because it’s wrong. It’s because it doesn’t sound very nice.”
If Shapiro gets the nod from Californians, Sacramento would be crowned capital of the nation, and he promises more money for the levee systems. “One of the little secret benefits to secession is that California sends $200 billion to Washington in federal taxes, and we get three-quarters of it back, so that’s really a big boost in our budget,” he said. “We’d be able to pay for a lot of important things with an extra $50 billion a year.
“Pretty much anything that I’d spend money on here would be more fun than the war on Iraq,” Shapiro said. “My plan is to send a boat over there and get the California National Guard back.”
Another piece of Shapiro’s foreign policy includes “making friends with Cuba and Venezuela. We want to keep getting that great Venezuelan oil, and Hugo Chavez seems like a cool dude to me.” He added, “And Castro, I’m down with him, too, and Havana is a swell place for vacations, and they have great cigars.”
Opponent Noonan replied, “Do you really expect that Cuba and Venezuela could provide Californians with enough good cigars? I hardly think so!”
Green Party gubernatorial hopeful Peter Camejo was unable to comment, but Rachel Odes, a campaign representative, said, “He would be against secession.”
“The Green Party is just swell,” said Shapiro, “but their mindset is still within the normal. I think I’m offering solutions that they have not thought about.”
Shapiro doesn’t want to pit red states against blue states, but in case secession comes to blows, he said, “The first responsible thing that I would have to do as governor is to annex Nevada because it’s better to fight them there than here in the streets of Sacramento.” He explained, “It’d be kind of like a buffer zone with gambling and hookers and nuclear waste. The U.S. Army has a hard time with things like that—it’ll slow ’em down.”
Immigration is a touchy subject, said Shapiro. “I am in favor of building a wall along the border between California and Arizona to keep the Republicans from sneaking over here.” An increased speed limit of 180 mph is also on the agenda, but Shapiro said, “I’m a little nervous about that one policy, but what can you do? The people want what the people want. That’s not my responsibility.”
Shapiro concedes he may not win the election.
But he wants to send a shot across the bow to “the conservatives who feel like they can impose their will, morality and religion on the majority of the country. Whether I get a thousand votes or multiple thousands of votes, either way, I think it’s a good message to send—there is a limit to what people will put up with.”
“I think Elisha’s platform is hilarious but also has a lot of pertinence—it’s comical, but it’s not just a joke,” said Lee Walthall, owner of Davis’ Delta of Venus.
Shapiro said he had trouble finding a place to speak in Sacramento. “I went to one gallery, and they were scared to have the event there because they thought it might offend some of their clientele.” He added, “This is what I have to put up with as a nihilist, a friendly nihilist.”