Oregon’s political ecosystem is more diverse than many states. A host of parties appear on local and state ballots – the Working Families Party, the Green Party, the Pacific Green Party. On a national scale, some of these parties occasionally field a candidate for the presidency. But one Oregonian presidential candidate, Corvallis microbiologist and artist Alexander Krupkin, is running in 2020 on his own platform – one he believes is universal.
Krupkin has a list of big, long-term goals, including a literal moonshot. He wants to see a total overhaul of our approach to the environment, a revolution of consumers asserting control over industry, and to reignite the dream of space exploration by establishing a moon base.
During our interview, Krupkin offered up a few flat pieces of steel, laser-cut in the shape of a triceratops, the mascot of his new and as-yet-unnamed political party. The triceratops’ three horns, according to his website, “represent the unity of the three branches of government and the [now] three political parties working together.” It also works as a bottle opener.
Krupkin is certainly different than a Ralph Nader or a Howard Schultz. Many of these third-party candidates tend to run traditional campaigns based on their personal wealth, and some like Nader have had long-held political agendas of their own. They tour states, set up campaign offices and try to get their message in front of voters. Krupkin wants to invert this model. His platform is general – he doesn’t have a “ten-point plan,” so much as a vision for what the future should look like. He isn’t actively advertising, in the hopes his campaign goes viral. He doesn’t want to sell himself to people – he just wants people to choose him.
Krupkin doesn’t agree with the traditional model of presidential candidates themselves being a product or a brand that needs to be advertised. He sees himself as a sort of brand manager for the interests of American people. Besides, he doesn’t want to personalize what he sees as a widespread movement waiting to happen, of Americans rising to the occasion, coming to consensus, and acting together to tackle huge issues like climate change and space exploration. He doesn’t think these are partisan issues, but rather “dead center.”
He believes the two-party system is mortally plagued by infighting and ultimately doesn’t deliver enough value back to the American people. More importantly, he thinks that it doesn’t offer voters a real choice. Krupkin thinks giving people a real choice is enough to convince them to take a real chance.
“We exist in this world where we have choices,” Krupkin said, “but we’re not taking them.”
A lot of Krupkin’s ideas hinge on a mass movement of people making better choices. He thinks consumers still have enough power to change industries’ behavior “at the moment.” He thinks corporations are extremely responsive to public changes in consumer demands, and that it would be possible to cut off industries who engage in abusive or neglectful practices through changing what people demand.
He didn’t speak of organizing boycotts, but rather an individual-level change in what consumers are willing to buy. Krupkin said that consumers still use their choices to make decisions in the market, mentioning “the BPA scare,” a reference to the public campaign against the use of Bisphenol A. (BPA), a chemical compound used to make plastics.
This may sound optimistic, but it isn’t unheard of in politics. Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader began his career by pushing for consumers to demand that the automobile industry add basic safety features like seat belts, and mounting public pressure on the deceptive advertising practices of the tobacco industry.
At its core, Krupkin’s message of change can be summarized this way: if you give people real choices, and empower them to believe that those choices matter, they will make better choices.
One of those choices he wants people to make is to buy American. Not only that, he wants potential donors to instead spend their money at American-owned businesses. He commissioned the steel triceratops keychains from a manufacturer in Dallas, OR. He hopes that supporters will independently make or commission similar trinkets from locally-owned businesses and give them away to spread the word of his campaign.
When asked how he plans to get enough attention to his campaign, desired or not, to stage a national campaign, Krupkin said he doesn’t expect to see any major takeoff in his campaign for the better part of the next year, but his intention was to start slow and early. Recognition in Oregon and Washington, “maybe Iowa or Georgia,” might be enough to cross the intangible threshold between “crazy guy running for president,” and an interesting new candidate who gets booked on CNN.
Krupkin is nothing if not confident. He knows that long-term plans for managing the environment, plans that must far outlive his potential presidency, are absolutely necessary. He says a “wholesale change in choices” is necessary, both for the country to succeed, but also for him to be elected. And he was unwavering in his belief that his campaign will succeed.
“I’m going into this campaign expecting to win,” he said, “and expecting two terms.”
By Ian MacRonald