Mike Gravel

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Grandpa, or faux pas?
The late Mike Gravel.
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The people must be brought into the operation of government, to make the laws that affect their lives, and thereby become the fourth check in our government’s system of checks and balances.
—Mike Gravel[1]

Maurice Robert "Mike" Gravel (pronounced "Gravelle," not Gra-vel") (1930–2021) was a former Democratic senator from Alaska, and "a Bernie more Bernie than Bernie could be."[2] He briefly ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2008 (doing so again in 2020), then switched his affiliation in March 2008 to unsuccessfully seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. He is otherwise best known for his career in the U.S. Senate during the 1970s. His later political activities included campaigning for a national initiative and referendum to be implemented at the federal level in the United States.[2]


Gravel was born in Massachusetts to French-speaking immigrants from Canada, and he learned English at age seven. He also suffered from dyslexia, which he was bullied over by some teachers. After working in local politics some, he ran counterintelligence for the US Army during the Cold War. About his move to Alaska: he actually claimed that he moved there specifically so he could successfully run for office. He elaborated on this story to one reporter, saying that on his way there he had to pawn his gun to pay for a speeding fine.[2]

Senatorial career[edit]

Gravel served as a Senator from Alaska from 1969 to 1981. His most notable achievements during this time were filibustering the Vietnam draft twice, appealing a case to the Supreme Court to have the Pentagon Papers read into the record,[3] and opposing nuclear testing in Alaska.[4]

He lost his seat in the 1980 election due largely to an anti-incumbent backlash in Alaska over the Alaska Lands Conservation Act, which passed in 1980. That Gravel had opposed the Act and even tried to filibuster it didn't matter; Gravel had earlier opposed and successfully blocked a weaker "compromise" lands bill, and because of this he got the blame for the stronger bill passing. Alaskans were pissed off enough that he lost the Democratic primary.[5] Clark Gruening, the victorious Democrat, then lost the general election to Republican Frank Murkowski, father of current Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.

2008 US presidential election[edit]

The good[edit]

He was pro-choice on everything, ranging from abortion to gay marriage and pot. His pro-gay policy stemmed partly from his experience working in the Army, and one of his aims was to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.[6] While he supported the FairTax initiative, just like Jesus's homeboy, Gravel called his version the "Progressive FairTax," which included a full rebate for necessities like food. Sweet… caviar! He was in favor of a carbon tax and international action on climate change, as well as a new guest worker program. He was also highly against the war in Iraq, as many libertarians were.

Gravel was officially a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church, though he was suspected of being a deep-cover atheist, or at least some kind of non-believer. He communicated support for the Rational Response Squad during his 2008 campaign, supported more funding and rigor in science education, and opposed creationism. Gravel also released a video on YouTube called "The Oppressive Nature of Religion" and dodged questions on his belief in religion at debates, saying that our society should be guided by love and not religion.[7]

The really good[edit]

Gravel supported a constitutional amendment that would allow voter initiatives and referendums on a federal level, similar to the system in Switzerland… but bigger. He supported the impeachment of Curious George. He also supported universal healthcare[8] and for college tuition to be paid by government,[9] both rather contrary to pure libertarianism.

Finally, his 2008 run drew some amused attention through his bizarre, "Dadaist"Wikipedia campaign ads.[10][11] In one ad named "Rock", he stares at the camera for one minute in silence, then tosses a boulder into a lake.[11][12] In another named "Fire", he gathers firewood, then the camera watches a campfire for seven minutes.[13][11][10] He explains that second one as a metaphor, with the fire representing the light of knowledge.[14] He also recorded a vignette with Lady Gaga, which contains a line about "albino transvestites".[15][16] Though, that seems to have been in 2010, a bit after his run.[17]

2020 US presidential election[edit]

Gravel formed an exploratory committee on March 19, 2019,[18] and made his FEC filing the next month.[19] This was thought to have been a trolling attempt after the FEC filing was traced by a Politico reporter back to a New York teenager, but it turned out to be real.[2] Peculiarly, the 2020 run was in fact mostly driven by a couple of random teenagers, from start to finish. The two (who became known as the Gravel Teens) were the ones to initially draft Gravel for another presidential run (after they heard about him from — no kidding — the podcast Chapo Trap House),Wikipedia and they operated his social media. One of the teens, a high school student, complained that he had to go to school and help manage the campaign at the same time.[20][2] Gravel retained a veto power over the campaign's Twitter posts, using it once to prevent the teens from using foul language.[21] Nevertheless, Gravel's Twitter and Instagram accounts became known for their haphazard, meme-oriented posts, essentially becoming socialist Twitter's plaything.[2]

Unlike the other candidates, Gravel clarified he was not running to actually win the nomination, but to bring left-wing ideas to the Democratic primary debate stage.[22][20] In such a crowded field including other progressives like Bernie Sanders, Marianne Williamson, and Elizabeth Warren, he never distinguished himself well enough to get on the debate stage, and dropped out early on.

His official platform included the following positions:

  • Enacting Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All and eliminating private health insurance.[23]
  • Enacting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal.[23]
  • Creating a free public tax preparation and tax filing program.[23]
  • Abolishing the NSA, ICE and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.[23]
  • Abolishing the electoral college, instilling a ranked choice voting system, and establishing automatic voter registration.[23]
  • Banning the death penalty, cash bail, solitary confinement, mandatory minimum sentences and private prisons.[23]
  • Repealing the USA PATRIOT Act.[23]
  • Closing all offshore military bases, cutting military aid to Saudi Arabia and Israel, withdrawing all abroad soldiers back to the United States, ending the use of drones, and renaming the Department of Defense to the "Department of War".[23]
  • Investing $1.5 trillion in infrastructure.[23]

The bad[edit]

Gravel was a 9/11 "truther" and supported a new investigation into the attacks.[24] In 2016, he said "there's no question in my mind that 9/11 was an inside job":[25][2]

Kevin Barrett: You've been involved with the 9/11 truth movement I believe in part because you recognise that this kind of issue has such profound psychological consequences in terms of possibly undermining people's attachment to the current form of government. In the event that we learn, for example, that our own leaders were complicit in the events of 9/11…
Mike Gravel: They were. I think there's no question in my mind that 9/11 was an inside job. And why is it so unusual? My God, they kill millions and millions of people. Is it a big deal for them to kill three thousand? Here, we killed 58 thousand American servicemen in the Vietnam War and all they did was die in vain. So what's so unusual about killing three thousand more in order to develop the grist for the mill to empower into infinity the funding of the military–industrial complex?[26]

Gravel: What happened on 9/11 is not what the government told us in their report. It's a lot more complex than that. I personally think that it was an inside job.[27]

In April 2019, Gravel said "there had to be somebody that was planting the explosives in these buildings which came down by controlled demolition":

Evan McMorris-Santoro: There has been some question about your feelings about 9/11. Can you just help to clarify what your position is on that?
Gravel: I'm very clear. I think that there's elements it was an inside job. Now there had to be somebody that was planting the explosives in these buildings which came down by controlled demolition. We know from science and physics that it wasn't the airplanes that brought it down.[28]

Later in April, he discussed 9/11 with David Pakman:[29]

Gravel: So now we get to what did the committee produce, the commission. Well, first off, and this is what makes you suspicious, they said no mention was mentioned in the commission about Building 7. Building 7 came down at 5:30 on the same day as the others came down in the morning, the Twin Towers, and Building 7 had never been hit by an airplane. You have modest fires but the person who owned the lease on the Twin Towers also owned Building 7 and he then gave the order to bring the building down. If you look at the way the building came down you'll see that it was a controlled demolition, no question about that. And so now you see architects and engineers,Wikipedia thousands, coming out and saying that, hey, this element of physics didn't fit, this element didn't fit and then the testimony you have of people hearing "bop bop bop" as the floors came down in the Twin Towers, indicating that hereto this was an interior controlled demolition.
Gravel: I think it's very important because I've not had a chance to defend myself that when I say it's an inside job, I don't know who the insiders are.
Pakman: What would convince you that the government was not involved in the 9/11 attacks. What would you need to see?
Gravel: I don't know if the government was involved or not involved. I think, from my point of view in reading this very carefully and studying a lot of the reports that came out including the official government report and the article in Popular Mechanics, that right now there's a consensus in the American public nurtured by the military–industrial complex and mainstream media that there's no need to have another commission study.
Pakman: Your position is not that you believe the government was involved in 9/11, it's that so far you're not satisfied that any investigation has disproven it. Senator?
Gravel: Accurate, yes. You're quite right but my position hasn't changed. I still use the terminology "inside job". Who is on the inside I don't know but a commission could help probably discover what that is. Right now all we do is say these were a group of Saudis, young Saudis, that were out there doing their thing to damage America. Well, this group of Saudis, interestingly enough, had a lot of help from somebody. From somebody, I don't know, I don't say it's the Vice President.

In addition to being a 9/11 truther, Gravel believed that the government covered up the existence of UFOs. In 2013, he attended a "citizens hearing" on the subject.[30]

In 2013, Gravel attended the "International Conference on Hollywoodism"Wikipedia in Iran, a conference promoting Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories which was attended by several Holocaust deniers and other unsavoury figures. At the conference, he was photographed alongside E. Michael Jones.[31]

According to LaRouche PAC, Gravel signed a motion in 2019 to "exonerate" Lyndon LaRouche.[32] Previously, Gravel had spoken at LaRouche-sponsored events, though his teenage spokesperson informs us:

...when we brought them up to him, he had forgotten about some of these people. And we really dug into it, he didn't know about their associations. [For him it was] always about, 'Well, I got a speaking invitation, this is an issue that matters to me, and nobody is willing to let me talk about this, and because they are, and I want to be on their stage, and I want to say something,' ... There was no part of him that associated with the ideas of these people."[33]

In a 2006/2007 interview, Gravel stated:

"What's his name, Lyndon LaRouche. I dismissed him, never gave him any credibility. Well I went to hear him speak at the urging of some friends. He does shoot himself in the foot but some of his ideas are great. His transportation idea is awesome. He’s talking about a Maglev system for us. I was talking about that in 1968 when I was running for office. But he’s got it all worked out."[34]

Why the switch?[edit]

Gravel switched to the Libertarian Party because of his opposition to war, not because he was a right-winger. He felt that the DNC was being unfair to him and too friendly to Obama and Bill Clinton (sound familiar?). Gravel also decided that he owed his libertarian friends a favor, and seemed really enthusiastic about the libertarians — until he found out what freedom the Libertarians were really for: the "free" market. Gravel went back to the Democrats with his tail between his legs after the convention — a reminder to everyone to steer away from peer pressure.

The Gravel Institute[edit]

In 2020, he used some of the leftover money from his presidential candidacy to found the Gravel Institute, which aims to counter right wing misinformation. The videos use a similar format to PragerU, which the institute intends to counter, by featuring well known speakers (such as Richard D. WolffWikipedia and Brianna Joy Grey,Wikipedia with planned appearances from Bernie Sanders and Chelsea Manning) in five to ten minute videos. The day to day operation of the channel was originally handled mostly by the same two teenagers who ran his 2020 campaign,[35] but in 2022 they revealed a new board of directors which includes New York state senator Jabari Brisport,Wikipedia law professor Veena Dubal,Wikipedia EnigmaWikipedia CEO Hicham Oudghiri, and former Ohio state senator and House candidate Nina Turner.Wikipedia[36] They have over 387k followers on Twitter[37] and over 395K subscribers on YouTube as of August 2022.[38]

The institute has featured such dubious lefty luminaries as Slavoj Žižek, Bhaskar Sunkara (Jacobin magazine) and David Cross.[39]

The institute has been known to sometimes promote apologia for ruthless dictators with false assertions, even dead ones, like Muammar al-Gaddafi in a post that was subsequently deleted.[39] The institute falsely claimed and later apologized for claiming that the Wagner Group did not express Nazi ideology.[39]

In the days preceding the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, The Gravel Institute was promoting claims eerily similar to Russian propaganda amid increasing threats of military intervention by Russia and pleas for Western military aid by Ukraine.[39] After the actual invasion, the institute suddenly became embarrassed by the obsequious attachment to Putin and began deleting the posts, in addition to changing a video's title and description about Ukraine, and later deleting/privating said video.[39] The video in question could still be viewed on their Facebook page as recently as late April 2022, but this has also been removed.[40]

External links[edit]


  1. Senator Mike Gravel Live Discussion | Talks at Google (Oct 11, 2007) YouTube.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Jamie Lauren Keiles (June 6, 2019). "Are These Teenagers Really Running a Presidential Campaign? Yes. (Maybe.)" The New York Times Magazine.
  3. Mike Gravel, former U.S. senator for Alaska who objected to wars, dies at 91, Tampa Bay News, June 27, 2021
  4. Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, who speeded construction of Trans Alaska oil pipeline, dead at 91, Frontiersman, June 28, 2021
  5. Maverick Gravel Is Defeated, New York Times, August 28, 1980
  6. Andrew Belonsky (June 8, 2007). "Exclusive: Gravel on The Gays". Queerty.
  7. RRS on Gravel, Gravel: "Oppressive Nature of Religion, Gravel debate
  8. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/28278-mike-gravel-wants-universal-health-care
  9. http://www.pewforum.org/2008/11/04/religion-and-politics-08-mike-gravel/
  10. 10.0 10.1 Radley Balko (July 5, 2007). "Mike Gravel: Dadaist Performance Guru". Reason.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Crispin Sartwell (July 5, 2007). "Mike Gravel's ripple effect". The Los Angeles Times.
  12. (May 27, 2007). "Mike Gravel - Rock". YouTube.
  13. (May 28, 2007). "Mike Gravel - Fire". YouTube.
  14. (2007). "Senator Mike Gravel: Fundraising in Boulder". Fox31 News (KDVR), clipped via YouTube.
  15. Matt Stieb (June 28, 2021). "Remembering Mike Gravel With the Kids Who Ran His Campaign". New York.
  16. "Gravel Goes Gaga!". YouTube.
  17. "Gravel Goes Gaga!". IMDb.
  18. Mike Gravel for President Exploratory Committee Federal Election Commission. 03/19/2019.
  19. STATEMENT OF CANDIDACY Federal Election Commission. 04/02/19.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Zach Montellaro (March 20, 2019). "'Do you know how old I am?': Teens draft Gravel to run for president". Politico.
  21. Camilo Montoya-Galvez (June 10, 2019). "'It's been their show': Mike Gravel credits pair of teens for running 2020 campaign". CBS News.
  22. Mike Gravel announces run for president to get into debates, not to win The Hill. 04/04/19.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 23.7 23.8 Gravel 2020 Platform
  24. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/09/09/senator-engineers-911-controlled-demolitions/
  25. Cheadle, Harry. "Mike Gravel, the Online Left-Wing Sensation, Is Also a 9/11 Truther". Vice. March 22, 2019.
  26. "Senator Mike Gravel: 9/11 was an inside job, US is not a democracy_ on Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad Radio". June 22, 2016. (quote begins at 31:30)
  27. Network Radio: "Senator Mike Gravel Says 9/11 Inside Job". YouTube. September 11, 2016.
  28. VICE News: "The Teens Running Former Sen. Mike Gravel's Presidential Campaign (HBO)". YouTube. April 18, 2019.
  29. David Pakman Show: "David & Senator Mike Gravel Debate 9/11 Conspiracies". YouTube. April 25, 2019. https://www.adn.com/commentary/article/former-senators-crazy-ideas-turn-out-be-mainstream/2016/04/26/
  30. Some of this former Alaska Senators ideas weren't so crazy after all April 2019/.
  31. Kareem Rifai: "Mike Gravel at a Holocaust denial conference in Iran". Twitter. April 14 2021.
  32. (April 10, 2019). "VIPs Calling for Lyndon LaRouche's Exoneration". LaRouche PAC.
  33. (April 11, 2019). "Mike Gravel's Staff Explain His Improbable Campaign". Current Affairs.
  34. (2006/2007). "Interview with Mike Gravel". CitizenPowerMagazine.net.
  35. https://www.mic.com/p/can-the-gravel-institute-compete-with-the-right-wing-youtube-machine-48130839
  36. About, The Gravel Institute
  37. Gravel Institute Twitter
  38. The Gravel Institute Social Blade
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 Deleted Tweets Reveal a Progressive Group’s Ukraine Meltdown by William Bredderman (Published Feb. 25, 2022 9:32PM ET; Updated Feb. 26, 2022 3:12AM ET) The Daily Beast.
  40. The Gravel Institute - How Ukraine (Actually) Fell Apart