30th October 1967
this is an extra and extra-special letter to you–with Caterpillar in mind. In the past few months both THE NATION and NEW REPUBLIC have chosen NOT to publish brief and pointed letters of mine and I feel their failure to do so points up a fear on their part of possibly endorsing my stance by merely printing the words.
You are in a position not to share their fears, though you may very well disagree with what I have to say—which perfectly fine. All I ask is that the statement be presented so that it may be mulled by others–and hopefully attended to by those who have spirit and imagination still towards a possible common well. (NOT, note, “weal”—we may have enough welts, wealth, and wheels.)
Next year—or the year 1968, the year “hard upon” us—is likely to see an American election pitting LBJ against the likes of Ronald Reagan. It hardly matters, you will admit, who the GOP candidate is; he will be all but another LBJ. In sum, it won’t matter which way the vote goes—
for there is NO CHOICE. This is not new, of course*—but it never has been quite so obvious as now. And in the face of an election that figures to be very close, there IS meaning in having an alternative. The one I propose is extremely radical—in every way–and it is more than “a ticket”.
I propose that those who, like myself, are sick of the politicks of money—which is what politicks is clearly all about these days, if it has ever been otherwise—vote by writing in (or pasting in on the machines) the names of ALLEN GINSBERG and MUHAMMAD ALI.
In hard terms, let me be understood. These votes need no convention, no signatures on petitions, no campaign funds, no more publicity than that which occurs spontaneously. It doesn’t even require the assent of either candidate. They stand for and are the images of our responsibility, of an a-political society. This has nothing to do with oldtime anarchy. It has to do with a profound recognition that neither war nor revolution is needed—but education and a sense that there are values that we all share and that have nothing to do with money as power.
This is not a hoax. And it is over and above any endorsement of psychedelics or boxing or black power. These suggested candidates are NOT power ploys; they have always behaved AS individuals and AS poets. They bring into the open virtually every American prejudice. They are transparently not buddies, not of any “party”.
I feel strongly that a vote of even a million persons would make a tremendous dent in the election—especially where it will weigh the “difference” between the main contenders for the power crown. And even more vitally it will reveal a deeper community between people everywhere, for such elections no longer are imply national phenomena.
But unless this possibility is realised—and at just such extremity—we let a rare opportunity pass without a sign of recognition.
*from Cid Corman to Clayton Eshleman, editor of Caterpillar magazine, 1967. Reproduced in 2012’s F.R.DAVID “This is not new of course” (still not).