1991: the year Frank Zappa considered running for president

Frank Zappa

Despite the comedic nature of much of his best-known work, Frank Zappa was always political. He made several memorable if not surreal, social commentaries in his time and gained a large following as a result. He also considered running for president near the end of his life, which provided much food for thought.

Interestingly, Zappa’s discussion about a presidential run came in 1991. It was only five years after the infamous 1986 debate in which he openly described himself as “conservative.” According to the Mothers of Invention leader, he first considered running for President in 1990 after watching a C-Span TV symposium.

It was moderated by Leslie Stahl and featured several prominent political strategists from both the Democrats and Republicans. They discussed how the 1992 presidential campaign might unfold.

According to Zappa, when speaking to the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1991, veteran Democrat consultant Raymond Strother stated that nothing would change in the country’s politics until an outsider entered the race. Unfortunately for the legendary musician, Strother’s remarks did not herald the arrival of Frank Zappa, the US President.

Zappa would even admit that he contacted Strother to discuss the viability of his potential campaign. The veteran appeared interested until he began working as a publicist for Tennessee’s Albert Gore. He insisted that he had not contacted them. But stated that he would have preferred famed Texas industrialist H. Ross Perot as his running mate. The music legend also stated that if elected, he would appoint a controversial celebrity lawyer. He would also appoint Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz as his Attorney General.

My main qualifications,” Zappa said of his appeal at the time, “are that I don’t play golf. I don’t take vacations. I do think the US Constitution is one hell of a document. And this country would work better if people adhered to it more closely.”

People appear to have voted for Zappa as well. Disney’s KCAL Channel 9 prematurely identified him as a candidate in the race. Following an interview with him, the channel conducted a poll to see if the audience would vote for the musician. A spokeswoman for the station revealed that 86% of those who responded said they would vote for him if he made an official bid.

So, what were Zappa’s goals if he ran for president? He stated that he would focus on eliminating federal income taxes. He would raise most state taxes except those on staple food items. And would “get the government out of people’s faces.” He also had an interest in the US military. He explained, “The only thing the military should be used for is protecting the country, not bad foreign policy.”

Zappa even claimed to have received numerous phone calls from supporters. He also received a CV from a Republican policy writer seeking a paid position on his potential staff. On the other hand, he conceded: “But it doesn’t matter. Because that’s not enough to convince me to go through the BS of a campaign.”

Zappa was diagnosed with Cancer.  He tragically died at the age of 52 in 1993. He left only his talk of running for president. Despite this, his political life is an important part of his story.

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