When the Irish patriot, Bobby Sands, began his hunger strike for recognition of political prisoners on March 1, 1981, no one could have predicted that six weeks into his fast he would become an elected member of the British Parliament. After all, he was a prisoner in the notorious Long Kesh prison—officially Her Majesty’s Prison Maze—and a member of the “outlawed” (by her majesty) Irish Republican Army. With nine other prisoners, Bobby Sands led the most courageous political hunger strike in history. Outside the prison, the Sinn Fein Party mobilized a grueling grassroots campaign which united all of the anti-imperialist parties behind Sand’s candidacy. The result was not only in an electoral upset, but also a stunning political coup in that the campaign brought the issues of political prisoners directly into the public discourse.
Bradley Manning, the whistleblower for the covered-up horrors of an America foreign policy that routinely hides its crimes and abuses from public scrutiny, languishes in prison awaiting a “trial” not dissimilar to the “trials” given to Bobby Sands and his comrades. Last week, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed President Obama in stating that Manning “did break the law,” thereby pronouncing him guilty before the “trial” is concluded. It reminds me of that old saw, “military justice is to justice as military music is to music.”
Taking a page from the Sinn Fein playbook, Bradley Manning could run for the House of Representatives representing a district in Maryland. Is Manning qualified to run for office?
Regarding the qualifications for someone to become a member of the House of Representatives, in the often obtuse language of the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 2 states, “No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty-five years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.” In plain English, one needs to live in the state (not necessarily the district) and be 25 years old.
Manning lived with his aunt in Potomac, Maryland and attended Montgomery College before joining the Army in 2007. It can be said that he now lives at Fort Meade, Maryland. When it comes to Congress, the term “Inhabitant” has been loosely defined. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) has lived with his family in a home in Virginia since 1980, but rents an apartment in New Jersey for voting and residence purposes. Former congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) claimed his home in Maryland as his primary residence for tax purposes, but listed his mother’s retirement community in Florida for political residency. There are definitely no hard and fast rules here.
Does it matter that Manning will not be “the Age of twenty-five years” on Election Day in November, 2012? Judging from historical precedence of the age requirement for the Senate chamber, it does not. In 1934, Rush Holt of West Virginia had to wait six months into the Senate’s session for his 30th birthday and then be sworn in. More recently, Joe Biden was 29 when he was elected to the Senate in 1972 and turned 30 before he took office. In filling House requirements, Manning will be 25 on December 17, 2012.
From this corner it seems that Bradley Manning meets all the constitutional requirements to run for Congress. However, it’s extremely unlikely that either party of the world’s only two-party system will nominate him for office. Therefore, running as an Independent, Manning has his choice of incumbents to run against. There are several likely incumbents, real beauts all. For starters, there’s Andy Harris, the doctor who would deny healthcare for all Americans while publicly whining about having to wait one month for his own Congressional tax-payer-funded free healthcare to take effect. Or how about Roscoe Bartlett, who supports the Klan-like Arizona Minutemen, underreported his property sales by $1 million on his disclosure forms, and was named an “Ambassador of Peace” by Reverend Sun Myung Moon?
Perhaps the most appropriate electoral target would be Steny Hoyer, the classic chicken hawk who avoided military service but has no problem sending young people off to kill and be maimed and killed in the numerous wars Hoyer has enthusically encouraged and supported for the past thirty years. He is also one of Wall Street’s best friends in Congress with an open-24-hours-a-day policy for lobbyists.
If the supporters of a Bradley Manning for Congress campaign are unable to get him on the ballot, he can still run as a write-in candidate. In 1920, Eugene V. Debs received over 900,000 write-in votes running for President on the Socialist Party ticket…while he was in prison for protesting the draft and America’s entry into the horrors of World War One. If Manning runs in Maryland, voters would finally be given a genuine opportunity to express their opinion on the current run-amuck foreign policy of the United States.
Don Santina is a cultural historian who received a Superior Scribing award for his Counterpunch article, “Reparations for the Blues.” He can be reached at email@example.com.