26. ARTHUR BLESSITT FOR PRESIDENT
However this may sound, it is true. From October 8, 1974, through the Florida Presidential Primary on Tuesday, March 9, 1976, I ran for President. President of what you might ask? President of the United States of America!
After almost two years of carrying the cross across the African continent, I returned to the United States for a walk that would prove to be a struggle and humiliation unequal to anything I experienced before. The following is taken from my Diary, which was written before I arrived in the United States and best explains how I felt.
Since 1970, when I was walking across America, I felt we needed a born-again, spirit-filled president. This deep burden led me to New Hampshire in December 1971 and from January to March of 1972, I witnessed to all the presidential candidates in the primary there. I was rejected; treated as if the importance of who the candidate really was is foolishness. Issues, only issues. I wanted to know what they believe as a person.
As I left New Hampshire I was in deep pain, but a day had not gone by that I had not felt the call of God to return to the United States and enter the first primaries as a candidate for president. I wanted to raise spiritual awareness and help call Americans to God. While I was in Africa, I heard the Watergate story on the Voice of America and BBC radio. Now Nixon is gone and Ford is in power, but what has changed?
For me, this seemed an impossibility, but it is in the Father’s hands. He is calling me back for a purpose…to accept this call means peace…to ignore it would destroy me and grieve me to death. I cannot live with the thought, “What if?” With God there is no success or failure, only obedience. I have no choice. I must go on whatever the opinion of others. I may be considered scum or famous, I may receive one vote or ten million, but my concern is simply to live in the steps of Jesus. If I knew the future I would tremble, but since I only know the Lord, I thrill.
I moved my family to Florida. I guess this is stretching the point, because literally, we had nothing to move but us. God would not let me do anything to win. I did not accept any campaign money from anyone; I lived from my preaching contributions only. A 1958 van, which was really a bread truck, was given to me. It looked terrible. Another friend gave us a 1962 Ford which we called ‘the Roach Coach,’ because it had so many bugs in it. My van was named ‘Bugalook.’ The Father would not even allow me to have a driver. I would walk all day, then hitch hike back to the van and then drive back to where I’d left the cross. Can you imagine the depth of humiliation that I faced? I would hide the cross in some bushes beside the road at around 5:00pm. Sometimes it would be raining and I’d be wet and dirty and tired after a 20-mile walk, talking and praying with people along the way. Sometimes I would stand for an hour or two before someone would give me a ride. I’d get in the car dripping wet.
“Where are you going?” I’d be asked.
“Oh, about 20 miles up the road.””What every are you doing out here in this bad weather?”
Now, I had to say some very heavy words and it took a lot of nerve to say it at all. Sometimes I didn’t want to tell about being a candidate for president.
“Lord,” I would pray. “Let me witness to them about you. I don’t mind sharing about the cross, but if I tell them I’m running for president, they’ll think I’m crazy!”
“Tell them,” the Lord would say.
“Oh, Jesus, why do You make me say it? Why do You crush me, humiliate me? You know what they will think. This one vote won’t get me elected and they wouldn’t vote for a wet, poor, cross-carrying hitch hiker anyway. Why do You make me do this? You won’t let me take money or even allow a driver for my van. I can’t win this way. But You make me go on, crushing me, breaking me. But, oh, Lord Jesus I love You. Thy will be done. If I must be a fool, I’m delighted to be Your fool.”
“Sir, I’m carrying a 12-foot cross around the world. I have been walking since 1969 and I’m just back from Africa where God called me to return to the United States and run for president. I walk all day and hitch hike back to my van and then drive home. Jesus loves you and it is such a joy to follow Him.”
“You’re running for…”
“President of what…”
“…the United States! I’m on the ballot. One of twelve candidates in Florida.”
What a thrill for God to work in my heart. He was setting me free, humbling me so He could exalt Himself and make me into a better man.
Kris Kristofferson wrote in the song, Bobby McGee, made famous by Janis Joplin, “Freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose.” How well this applied to me.
My name was on the ballot in the first two presidential primaries, in the states of New Hampshire and Florida. I carried the cross around both states and the reception was powerful. The people loved me, fed me and helped me. I spoke on college campuses, in shopping centers, senior citizens’ homes and in private residences. Local newspapers, radio and television stations were very supportive. The national press was a disaster.
My desire was to face the other candidates. I wanted to force the others to speak about their personal faith or lack of it. I spoke with Jimmy Carter twice and finally he announced that he was a born-again Christian, but it must be remembered that it was only after the first two primaries that he made the announcement.
My main stumbling block was in the debates in Florida and New Hampshire. Not all candidates that qualified for the ballot were asked to appear in the debates. Only those candidates the national news media considered major candidates. In Florida, twelve candidates were on the ballot for the Democratic primary in the race against Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Only one was not allowed to appear in the debates – Arthur Blessitt.
As the public watched the debates, they had to think I was not an important candidate, otherwise I would have participated in the debates. The same held true in the New Hampshire debates. This was total discrimination and effectively eliminated any statewide support for me.
It is strange that as I ran for president I received more news coverage overseas and in Canada than I did in the United States. I still believe I had the best domestic and foreign policies. An example: a mandatory balanced budget except in time of war; a guaranteed minimum national income on a cash basis requiring the recipient to work four days a week in order to receive the minimum income and the recipient is free to seek any other employment on the fifth or subsequent days; all citizens must be gainfully employed except for handicapped, the elderly or single women with children; a national health insurance program; a flat percentage tax of 10 to 15 percent on income over a set amount with basically no deductions (including those for religious and charitable purposes). This would eliminate the need for tax attorneys, tax consultants, tax problems would no longer be an issue and tax loopholes wouldn’t exist. Depending upon income, the set percentage would be paid and the remainder used as the person pleased.
Foreign policy: We should give aid to foreign countries in the form of U. S. made products; no cash or grants to corrupt foreign governments, but material things like fertilizer, tractors, feed, malaria tablets, hospital supplies, etc. I had walked in Western Europe and the countries are collectively as strong as the United States, so I favored withdrawal of our troops to encourage them to provide for themselves. Any time American troops are committed to active combat overseas, Congress must on a rotating basis, send one-quarter of its members to serve in front-line combat. The same would apply to the president and vice-president, on a rotating basis, and at least once a year. This would eliminate political wars since those sending troops would also be required to go with them. What is worth voting for is worth dying for.
As you can tell, I have political views, too. The death note to my campaign was signaled by the national news media. By ignoring me in the first two primaries, the public that wanted to vote for me was discouraged as my candidacy wasn’t mentioned at all. In Concord, New Hampshire, shortly before the election I was walking the streets with my children, Gina and Joel. We were passing out campaign material and I was carrying the cross. I was arrested by two policemen in a patrol car, ‘for soliciting money.’ I have never solicited money in my life; had no campaign fund and they could not find one person that I had solicited money from. However, all the other candidates did solicit funds and they were not bothered.
The police threw my cross on the street and took me in, but left my two small children on the street alone. I was in jail for three days because it was Friday and I couldn’t appear in court until Monday. Of course, the judge threw the case out of court…the arrest was invalid and the arresting officers were lectured by the judge for their stupidity.
Nevertheless, this shows how I was constantly attacked. No mention of my false arrest was mentioned by the national news media.
I rented a large banquet hall at the New Hampshire Highway Motel where about 400 of my supporters gathered to hear the election returns. As the vote began to be counted, the nation was watching for the tally. Who did the people like? Which candidate will win? Which candidate is on the rise? What is the surprise?
As time passed the candidates’ votes were shown on television except the votes for Arthur Blessitt. What happened next is almost impossible to believe. It’s more like what you’d expect in a non-democratic country, never in the United States, but it is true. If you think my being excluded from the debates was discriminatory, this is even more so. While my name was on the ballot, the media did not report my votes in the New Hampshire primary on election night.
This is a fact. We are not in Russia, but the United States! Those hundreds of people with me were crushed. Many were crying as their votes were not counted. In New Hampshire there is a central place where all the votes come in and are counted. Each news service used this as the pool for their vote count. Jim McPheeters, my dearest friend and assistant, and I went there.
We were not allowed in but were told by the workers and by representatives from the networks that they are only showing the votes of the major candidates. The minor ones are not even being tallied for public distribution until later. The results that were on television not once mentioned that I ran or received on vote.
However, votes cast for Kennedy were reported even though he wasn’t on the ballot. I was never mentioned even though I was on the ballot and received 2% of the votes!
The votes of my supporters were disenfranchised, the impact was lost and all those in Florida who were voting in two weeks and who watched the New Hampshire primary had no way of knowing the results. It looked as if I had no votes and no support in New Hampshire. Florida voters thought their votes would be a total write-off especially in view of the fact that I was not included in the debates.
But, it was too late. There are a few things more I can tell you. In Mississippi College I majored in history and minored in Political Science. I thought the United States was free and equal. That is a myth. There is no equal access to the office of president, even if you qualify for the ballot. The presidency is fully in the hands of the national news media, controlled by a few people at ABC, NBC, CBS, AP, UPI, New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Time magazines. The party hierarchy and the League of Women Voters (which controls the debates) finish out the system of control.
I did what God called me to do. What I was saying in 1974, 1975 and 1976 was that I believed in separation of Church and State, but not in separation of God and Country. Most religious leaders thought it strange. Four years later, in 1980 and then again in 1984, what I had brought up as an issue was now a household issue in America. But what I had done to raise the issue was forgotten and it is as it should be, I suppose. I came to this final conclusion after talking to the candidates in 1972 and becoming a candidate myself in 1976 – there is no true freedom in presidential campaigns and I do believe that in order to become president of the United States, a person must sell his soul. No truly free person…honest and unowned…could be nominated or elected to this office. I believe it with all my heart.
Jimmy Carter became the Democratic Party nominee. Gerald Ford was the Republican nominee. Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976. I continued carrying the cross.
Results of the Florida Democratic Primary
Miami News–March 10, 1976
Jimmy Carter 439,870
Henry Jackson 306,120
Milton Shapp 31,024
Birch Bayh 8,552
Arthur Blessitt 8,171
Ellen McCormack 7,48121
Sargent Shriver 6,871
Fred Harris 5,666
Frank Church 5,456
Robert Byrd 5,010