POLEBRIDGE – As the United States suffers from ongoing wars and a wheezing economy, the nation’s political establishment remains transfixed by such trivial presidential issues as proper tire inflation, John McCain’s $520 Italian loafers and whether Barack Obama is too skinny. It’s enough to make Peter Moore’s campaign for the presidency look downright serious.
“I’m your apolitical presidential candidate,” Moore said on a recent morning, sipping coffee on the front porch of his cabin, looking out at Glacier Park’s Livingston Range. “We give people an option to the mainstream thing.”
An artist and bartender at the Northern Lights Saloon, Moore, 59, is running an extremely relaxed, tongue-in-cheek presidential campaign in this tiny community along the North Fork of the Flathead River with his running mate and nephew, Colin Moore.
“We have nothing to hide,” Moore said. “We’re proud of everything we’ve ever done.”
Moore hasn’t ponied up the fee to actually put his name on the ballot. He’s simply hoping word-of-mouth will circulate from the people he serves behind the bar, and he’ll miraculously receive enough write-in votes to topple Obama, McCain, Ron Paul, Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, among other dark-horse hopefuls.
“People from all over the world come up to Polebridge, so I have an opportunity to put my name out there,” Moore said. “We’ll see if there’s a groundswell of support.”
During Polebridge’s July 4 festivities, Moore could be seen glad-handing in his presidential attire: red high-top Converse All-Stars and a denim vest with a pin reading: “I Agree With You.” Many of the trees and bulletin boards around town are festooned with campaign posters bearing his face – long shaggy hair, octagonal-framed tinted glasses and a goatee – with such slogans as “This Country Needs Moore and Moore.” Another poster has Moore’s face dwarfing cartoon images of McCain and Obama, and poses the question, “Moore or Less? You Decide.”
But the best slogan Moore and the circle of friends comprising his “future cabinet” have come up with so far pokes fun at what has become the buzzword of the 2008 presidential election: “Keep The Change, We Want Moore.”
“This campaign is more about slogans than anything else,” Moore said. “Aren’t they all?”
Moore is no rookie when it comes to presidential politics. He challenged George H.W. Bush in 1988 because, as Moore said, “he was a creep; he was spooky.” Moore received five write-in votes, one from Montana and four from Massachusetts – which, Colin notes, was a bit of a coup since Massachusetts was the home state of then-Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis.
But Polebridge’s presidential contenders aren’t necessarily political junkies either. Moore has only voted twice in his life, in 1972 and 2004 for Democrats George McGovern and John Kerry (“It didn’t help,” Moore said). Colin, who lives in Portland, Ore., and visits his uncle during the summer, admits he will probably vote for Obama, but opted against attending a May rally there for the Democrats’ presumptive nominee attended by an estimated 75,000 people.
“I had a softball game I had to play in that day,” Colin said, whose main qualification as running mate is that he shares Peter’s last name. “And it was hot.”
Moore takes no offense at his running mate’s choice to vote for someone else.
“I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, vote for myself,” Moore said, however much he finds himself unimpressed with the two main parties’ presumptive nominees.
“Obama thinks he can smile his way through the world’s problems,” Moore said, while McCain isn’t much better: “He’s got old attitudes, he’s got old thoughts – this country doesn’t need another 70-year-old president going for it.”
But a mildly unnerving kernel of truth persists in Moore’s satirical campaign-as-performance-art: the idea that he tells voters he absolutely agrees with anything they do; that he has mounted a campaign based on catchy slogans and advertising but little substance; that his unpolished, soft-spoken demeanor contrasts so severely with the robotic, focus-grouped candidates who seem to be the only kind capable of surviving modern presidential elections.
“The way politics are run, to me, it’s kind of silly – anybody can say the easy things,” Moore said. “One reason I don’t like politics is because there are no options; there is no choice.”
“It’s kind of fun to poke fun at it,” he added.
Moore disputes the notion that the presidential election has little effect on the isolated everyday lives of North Fork residents. Gas prices have forced nearly everyone to drastically curtail the number of trips they take down into the Flathead for supplies. And the intervention of the next president may play a key role in proposed Canadian gas drilling and coal mining projects north of the border.
“This is such a pristine and fragile environment up here,” Moore said. “Politics definitely affects a place like this.”
As for what a Moore and Moore administration would look like, Peter hasn’t gotten that far. “What’s our platform?” he asked Colin, vexed by a reporter’s question. Colin paused for a moment, thinking.
“I’d like every citizen to live the life that I live; I love my life,” Colin said, then sipped his creek-cooled beer and took a drag on his American Spirit cigarette. It was 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. “This country would be a lot more fun.”
Further complicating a Moore administration would be the new president’s refusal to move to Washington, D.C.
“I think we’re going to have to ditch the whole idea of living in the White House,” Moore said, though he and Colin agreed that they would enjoy hosting the Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn. The fringe benefits of the presidency clearly seemed more appealing to the Moore candidates than budget reform and foreign policy. As vice president, Colin said he planned to travel the world as a kind of “goodwill ambassador.” It was suggested that the Moore administration head first to Tuscany, then on to Hawaii, before it was pointed out that Hawaii was, in fact, part of the U.S.
“If I was elected, I would make a point of golfing,” Moore said. “Too bad Gerald Ford died – I could golf with him.”
Moore is more serious about his art than his politics. His paintings are on display in galleries in Minnesota, Whitefish and Scottsdale, Ariz. He’s contemplating holding a kind of mock inauguration at the open house he is having at his Hawk Creek Gallery and Studio in October.
His paintings also hang on the walls of the Northern Lights Saloon. He points them out later in the day from behind the bar, where he has worked for 24 years. Moore lives on land his grandfather homesteaded in 1918, and an old receipt from supplies he purchased from the mercantile is laminated into the surface of the bar.
It’s 4 p.m., and a couple from Texas come in out of the sun and dust of an August afternoon for a few jars of beer. The woman notices a reporter talking to Moore, and asks him why. He tells them he’s running for president. She looks at her beer and shakes her head, then says, “Can you imagine if just regular people ran for president?”
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