“The nomination of the boar hog Pigasus for President of the United States by the Yippies had been the most transcendentally lucid political act of the twentieth century…”
– Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy
At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, the Yippies (Youth International Party) nominated a pig for president, with the campaign pledge: “They nominate a president and he eats the people. We nominate a president and the people eat him.” This porcine political maneuver was the brainchild of sixties activists Abbie Hoffman (below left) and Jerry Rubin (below right).
Of course, the fact that for nearly two centuries, western political cartoonists had pictured corrupt politicians and police in the guise of pigs might have influenced the activists, too. But for a generation brought up on the Three Little Pigs and Charlotte’s Web, the easy acceptance of the idea that a pig might resemble a political candidate helped galvanized protestors through six days of riots, violence and bloodshed.
The Yippies had come to Chicago to protest four years of an escalating war in Vietnam, the failure of racial integration and to call for a break from the two war parties, the Republicans and Democrats. What better way to bring home their point than to offer a real pig as an alternative candidate, clearly dramatizing the unwholesome offerings of the likely Democratic nominee, Hubert H. Humphrey, and his Republican opponent, Richard M. Nixon. Pigasus, the Immortal – Yippie Presidential candidate – was born.
“We want to give you a chance to talk to our candidate and to restate our demand that Pigasus be given Secret Service protection and be brought to the White House for his foreign policy briefing.”
– Jerry Rubin
Unfortunately, Pigasus’ candidacy was short-lived. Barely had Jerry Rubin begun the official introductions at Pigasus’ first press conference (at right), when Rubin, Pigasus, folk-singer Phil Ochs, Stew Albert and several others were arrested on the morning of August 23rd, at the Chicago Civic Center. The humans were bailed out later in the day, but Pigasus’ ultimate end remains unknown. He may have been taken to the Humane Society, or he may have ended up as dinner at the home of some Chicago police officers.
The Yippies original idea was to run a pig, have some fun and games, and show people how ineffectual the government could be. Hoffman and Rubin staged the event as guerrilla street theater, designed mainly to attract media attention to their cause. The point was to draw the TV cameras so that Americans would finally see what they’d been refusing to see, or hadn’t been allowed to see: that the country was profoundly polarized, that antagonism and confrontation were the order of the day, and that violence was endemic.
Chicago was under siege on the eve of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. When members of the anti-war movement from all over the country arrived to protest the war in Vietnam, twelve thousand police, 7,500 Army troops and 6,000 National Guardsmen were on hand to greet them. The scene degenerated into such chaos that many Americans watching on television believed they were witnessing the end of the political process as they had known it.
Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, along with David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale were arrested for conspiring to incite violence and crossing state lines with the intent to riot. The group became known as the Chicago Eight until Seale was removed from the proceedings and sentenced to four years in prison for contempt, the group was then known as the Chicago Seven. After a protracted trial and appeals, all charges were dismissed.
Pigasus played only a small part in the incidents summarized above. For more information on Yippies, and the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention Riots check out these sites: