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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Political Career of Josef Ulinov

Winston Churchill once said that history is written by the victors. Often times this means the proverbial losers get the fuzzy end of the lollipop. As far as history is concerned.

Some know that Eugene V. Debs ran for President five times even receiving 6% of the popular vote in 1912. In more recent times, H. Ross Perot ran twice and received 19% of the vote during one of those runs. Ralph Nader has run four times thus far and garnered almost 3% of the vote during his 2000 campaign. All three candidates failed to receive any electoral votes. Due to their valiant, yet futile, bids for the Presidency history knows them all well.

Another perennial candidate who has been all but lost in time is Josef Ulyanov.

Ulinov was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1900. The son of Russian immigrants, Ulinov grew up in a large house due to the affluence of his father. Tassle Ulinov was a cobbler and in 1898 he designed the first pair of loafers with the ornament which bears his first name. Tassle made a killing with his tassled loafers and the money came pouring in.

As young Josef Ulinov grew, he discovered a fascination with politics and government. With his family's money, in 1936 he made his first run for President. Having never held any office before, and having never even been employed, many urged Ulinov to aim a little lower. Like a city councilman or a janitor. But Ulinov had stars in his eyes and fire in his loins. He would settle for nothing less than the Presidency of the United States.

Initially espousing a standard belief in small government, Ulinov's beliefs evolved. While most who supported small government believed in states rights, Ulinov took it further and believed in city rights. His speeches often outlined his firm conviction that the cities should dictate to the states which would then dictate to the federal government.

With a campaign slogan that succinctly declared "For The Win!", Ulinov was crushed in the popular vote, with his best showing being in the state of Idaho where he amassed 4% of the vote.

When Ulinov expressed a desire to run again in four years, his political advisers counseled him to pick one group and go after their votes hard. Having recently read a book about the life of Brigham Young, Ulinov decided to target the Mormon vote.

In 1940, having recently read a book about the life of Brigham Young, Ulinov decided to target the Mormon vote...evidence of which can be seen in his speeches. One such speech from 1940 included the following line:

"In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny...and I say...poligamy today...poligamy tomorrow...poligamy forever."

The plan failed. Ulinov carried Utah...and that's about it. His vote totals were actually down from the previous election.

Ulinov made two more futile efforts in 1944 and 1948. Both campaigns were lackluster with the only interesting bit being an inaccuracy published by a small town newspaper at the end of the 1948 campaign.

The Circleville Times created three front pages for the morning after election day. One had Truman winning, one with Dewey as the victor, and one congratulating Ulinov. For some reason, the Ulinov issue hit the presses early and campaign photos exist of a smiling Ulinov holding a paper which reads "Ulinov beats Dewey!".

After the embarrassment of the newspaper fiasco and dwindling reactions at the polls, Ulinov decided to end his political career and took up haberdashery in his hometown of Hoboken.

Many years later, Ulinov pulled himself out of political retirement and ran one last time. His 1984 campaign was a sad affair marked by inane ramblings and nonsensical political sloganeering. By this point the 84 year old Ulinov was suffering from dementia and his most common slogan was "Applesause now! Naps later!".

Josef Ulinov died in 1989 relatively poor and mostly unknown.

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