Former US Senator Mike Gravel is expected to change the course of the Democratic presidential campaign with a message of anti-imperialism and direct democracy, now that he has acquired the 65,000 unique donations needed to qualify for the presidential debate stage .
Gravel’s campaign received contributions from 65,000 unique donors, reaching the threshold set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) but he has not polled above one percent in three approved polls, the other debate qualification.
“The inclusion of Senator Mike Gravel would fundamentally shift the dialogue of American politics,” said New Jersey Democrat Lisa McCormick. “Gravel is running for president to force candidates to discuss the tough questions about the costs of endless wars. His presence on the presidential debate stage will open doors for Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders, whose foreign policy views are frequently maligned by mainstream media.”
“Most Americans are not the ruthless killers our military-industrial complex makes us look like,” said McCormick, who earned nearly 40 percent of the primary vote against Sen. Bob Menendez last year. “The former senator, who read the Pentagon Papers into the official record, is running for president to push the conversation left, where most of us are. He’s one of us.”
Gravel, who represented Alaska in the Senate from 1968 to 1981, announced that he had reached the donor threshold to appear in the Democratic presidential primary debates later this month in Detroit.
Though he still is below the polling threshold, Gravel’s campaign will launch ad on MSNBC showing former Vice President Joe Biden defending his past positions on reproductive rights, the Iraq War and criminal justice and observers say that it could push the progressive candidate into front place.
“I’m grateful to every one of the 65,000 who donated to our campaign, and the thousands more that have followed and supported us,” said Gravel, who appeared in a live stream with teenage campaign volunteers who helped him reach the threshold. “I will do all I can to ensure their voices not be silenced in this primary.”
The campaign is challenging the polling qualifications, saying it may sue national party leaders unless they allow Gravel on the debate stage.
“The campaign has retained counsel and is currently in talks with the DNC over the validity of the polling method of qualification, given that well over half of DNC’s approved polls methodically and consistently excluded Sen. Gravel despite the campaign’s documented, repeated outreach to both pollsters and the DNC for inclusion,” said David Oks, Gravel’s campaign manager.
“If the DNC were to exclude us, the campaign is also developing contingency plans that would allow us to spread our vital message. We kept our receipts, we have retained legal counsel. Our goal in this campaign has always been to shift the conversation, and we will persist in doing so.”
Twenty candidates in total will take the debate stage over two nights later this month. If more than 20 contenders qualify, the DNC will prioritize those who have met both the donor and polling thresholds.
Oks and Henry Williams launched Gravel’s long-shot campaign in April with the sole intention of appearing on the debate stage rather than actually winning the Democratic nomination. He plans to drop out after the debates and endorse the most progressive candidate.
Regardless of his qualifications, Gravel will face a steep challenge to get on the stage again in September, for which the DNC has doubled qualifications to 130,000 unique donors and polling at two percent in three surveys.
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts to a humble family, Gravel served in the military for three years, achieving the rank of First Lieutenant. After his military service, he graduated from Columbia University, paying his way by working as a cab driver and a bar boy.
After college, he moved to Alaska without a job or money, working on the railroad as a brakeman. Within six years he was a state legislator; two years later, he became Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives.
In 1968, Gravel was elected to represent Alaska in the U.S. Senate. He made a name for himself as a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War, urging the U.S. government to end the conflict immediately and stop the bloodshed.
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg approached U.S. senators with a momentous leaked document revealing high-level malfeasance and systematic lying that had resulted in thousands of deaths in Vietnam; if a senator were to read it into the Congressional Record, it could be published widely and avoid censorship. Only Mike Gravel agreed to read it into the record.
d document revealing high-level malfeasance and systematic lying that had resulted in thousands of deaths in Vietnam; if a senator were to read it into the Congressional Record, it could be published widely and avoid censorship. Only Mike Gravel agreed to read it into the record.
On the night of June 29, 1971, Gravel, despite his severe dyslexia, began reading the 4,100 pages of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record, breaking into sobs.
“The story is a terrible one,” Gravel warned. “It is replete with duplicity, connivance against the public. People, human beings, are being killed as I speak to you. Arms are being severed; metal is crashing through human bodies,” he told the press, before reading for several hours straight, reading the report into the record well after midnight.
In 1981, Sen. Gravel left Washington. In the decades afterward, he worked as an anti-war and pro-direct democracy activist as well as the CEO of several cannabis companies. In 2008, he ran for president, calling for an immediate military withdrawal from foreign countries, recognition of gay marriage, and a Green New Deal. Today, he resides in California with his wife of 35 years, Whitney. He is a proud father and grandfather.
Gravel is running for president to bring a message of anti-imperialism and direct democracy to the Democratic debates, not actually seeking to contest any primaries, but rather to enter the debates to guide the conversation toward sane views on imperialism, the need for fundamental political reform, and an economic system that works for people.
Gravel intends to endorse the most progressive candidate, but he won’t pull punches when it comes to challenging credentials of establishment Democrats, like Biden or mythical Cory Booker.
All of Gravel’s campaign staffers are volunteers, spending money only on campaign expenditures such as web hosting, and promising to donate eleftover funds to get clean water for Flint, Michigan.
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