Bicycle Diaries: And now for someting completely different

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And now for someting completely different

Well, I was going to continue yesterday's jag on bike thieves; but then, the latest edition of The Economist came in the mail. There's an article in it's United States section on an independent, Rod Bryan, running in the upcoming Arkansas governor's race.

I'm posting it because it got me wondering why the foreign media sometimes have a better grasp on developments here in the New World than our vaunted national media, especially when it comes to bikes, bike culture, and now ... bike politics!

Cycling, and recycling, for votes
Aug 3rd 2006

An independent's do-it-yourself race to the governor's mansion

IN A rustic seafood restaurant on a warm Saturday night, Rod Bryan mingles with 75 or so supporters. These fans—artists, musicians, waiters, small-business owners—are far from Arkansas's rather posh typical political crowd, often with a night or two in the Lincoln bedroom behind them. But Mr Bryan, aged 37, is the first independent candidate to run for governor since 1940.

He faces stiff competition. The current Republican governor, Mike Huckabee, is standing down after two full terms. The Republican hoping to succeed him is Asa Hutchinson, an ex-congressman and former deputy in the Bush administration's Department of Homeland Security. The Democrat is Mike Beebe, the state's attorney-general and an old crony of Bill Clinton's.

Mr Bryan, who plays bass in Ho-Hum, a popular local band, ran a small record shop called Anthro-Pop until he closed it a few weeks ago to concentrate on politics. To provide for his stay-at-home wife and two children, he works at a bakery. “I'm the only candidate who isn't a career politician,” he says.

He also campaigns in an unusual way, sending out one-page initiatives covering topics that no other candidate discusses. His first was about bicycles. He argues, not unreasonably, that making it easier for people to ride bicycles, as he does, would improve the quality of life, make everyone healthier and lessen Arkansas's obesity rate—one of the highest in the country.

Mr Bryan is gaining support from disenfranchised Generation Xers and “Emo kids” (young people afflicted with melancholia), besides baby-boomers who are disillusioned with the spin and double-talk of politics. His next single-sheet initiative will be on recycling. And he suggests that politicians might give back half their salary to a state programme, as he plans to do if elected.

His approach is do-it-yourself. While the other gubernatorial candidates raise millions, Mr Bryan and his friends gather in a friend's front garden on a Friday night to spray-paint political signs on recycled cardboard and estate agents' signs, and to design campaign T-shirts from donated castoffs. Cereal packets are cut into calling-cards.

Mr Bryan looks for inspiration to Texas, where Kinky Friedman, a musician and mystery-writer, is also running for governor as an independent. Perhaps he is hoping for a hoe-down on the Texas-Arkansas state line, with Mr Friedman and Ho-Hum trying to persuade other indies to run next time. Indie bands and labels have often turned music on its head. Can the same happen to American politics?
Maybe he could run against Daley up here?

Definitely check out his campaign website as well as his bike-related blog.

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Blogger SueJ said...

Welp, I think the foreign media doesn't screen out quite as much as we do, which leads the public to think bike culture is much further "out there" than it really is. IN 1973, the media was full of stories of clever individuals finding ways to get along with less ... now the idea of sacrifice is unamerican (unless it's sacrificing our liberties; that's a sacrifice we're all supposed to willingly yield), but we should all reach into our pocketbooks to fund promising new products so that we can still DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE!

10/8/06 14:44  

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