Ten years ago today, a little known councilman from the village of Minerva (Ohio), Phil Davison, addressed his local Republican Party executive committee to seek its nomination for county treasurer. He did not win the nomination, but his passionate speech went viral, garnering millions of views on YouTube and attaining mainstream media coverage. It had a lasting impact on third party politics as well.
Personally, the speech inspired me to become more involved in politics, specifically third party politics. Earlier in 2010 I joined the Boston Tea Party, a radical liberty-based party organized online that in 2008 ran entrepreneur Charles Jay for president and blogger Thomas Knapp for vice president. Other than joining, I did not interact with the party until I viewed Davison’s speech. In his speech I saw what politics could be. It was energetic, interesting, and radical. I felt that fit in well with the ethos of the Boston Tea Party.
I contacted Davison early in 2011 and convinced him to join the Boston Tea Party and seek its 2012 presidential nomination. At the online convention in December 2011, instead of nominating Davison, the party picked student Tiffany Briscoe. Briscoe lied about her background, claiming to be a member of the board of trustees of a community college where she was merely a student. The party vacated her nomination and decided to select a different presidential candidate. Davison lost interest in the party. It then nominated attorney Jim Duensing. Duensing did not actively campaign or seek ballot access. As a consequence, party chairman Darryl Perry disbanded the party in July 2012.
Later in the 2012 cycle, Davison was rumored as a potential running mate for Justice Party presidential nominee Rocky Anderson. Anderson denied the rumor and did not pick Davison as his running mate.
Despite the bad experience with the Boston Tea Party, Davison wanted to run for president again. With the views he expressed in interviews, particularly his forceful defense of free speech, Davison best fit in with the Libertarian Party. I encouraged him to seek the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, focusing on the free speech issue, which had grown in importance in the social media age. I gave him the nickname “America’s Councilman,” highlighting his political experience. He thought about it but ultimately decided not to run, lamenting on the lack of funds necessary to make a difference in the political process.
Nevertheless, politicians seemed to take note of Davison and his speech. John McAfee enjoyed the speech and both Ralph Beach and Gary Johnson tried to emulate it. James Ogle and American Solidarity Party chairman Skylar Covich were both fans of Davison as well.
For 2016, in a way no other politician could, businessman Donald Trump took the free speech issue, combined it with the passion of Davison, and ran with it; actualizing what I had envisioned for Davison years earlier. Trump railed against political correctness as he staged his own presidential campaign in the summer of 2015. His speeches in large rallies throughout the nation were every bit as energetic, interesting, and radical as Davison’s speech in 2010. Inspired by the reaction to Trump, Davison tried to reenter the race in November 2015 as the candidate who first tapped into the energy that Trump was riding. I sent a press release to all the major media outlets but none picked up the story. Trump had sucked all the energy out of the room and left nothing for Davison. He realized this from the lack of media interest and so did not officially make the run. Trump rode this energy all the way to the White House, and now seeks reelection.
Recently, Davison has kept a low profile. He left the Minerva village council and started hosting a podcast. New episodes of The Phil Davison Show, which covered sports, politics, and wacky news, continued until last year.
At 49, Davison still has plenty of time to make his mark on presidential politics. Everything needs to line up perfectly and perhaps that will occur within the next ten years. Maybe it’s time for another speech.