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The Rent is Too Damn High -- in praise of Jimmy McMillan

Jimmy McMillan said it: The Rent is Too Damn High [Editor's note: Aren't you still living at home, Alex?].

I'd be hard pressed to disagree with Jimmy McMillan. My college roommate literally lives in a teaspoon, but because that teaspoon is located on the Upper West Side, she has to pay hundreds of dollars a month.

My only personal experience with this dates from the summer I lived in New York City and was trying to find a place to live. I was somewhat limited by my budget, which consisted of polite verbal encouragement from the theatrical organization that employed me.

I found a tiny apartment on the eighth floor of a six-floor walk-up. "Will you mind cohabiting with Ralph?" the landlord asked. "Don't see why not," I said. "Ralph likes to hog the shower," she explained, opening the bathroom door to reveal a cockroach the size of an apartment I had looked at earlier that day. "Hi, Ralph!" I explained that I had managed to cohabit with a centipede for several weeks prior and thought Ralph and I would be able to forge a lasting bond, but it turned out I was too tall to fit in the bedroom, so that was the end of that.

I tried to rent an apartment from a guy named Procrustes. "I'm sure you'll fit in the allocated space," he muttered, revving up a chainsaw. "We'll make it work."

My parents suggested I try to find housing in a convent. "Of course, you won't be able to bring guys home," they noted. "Unless, of course, it's a visitation of some kind." I actually did think about it, but they informed me that the only way I'd be able to afford a room there was if I took orders and became a postulate.

What indicates the magnitude of this problem is that I had to think about it.

Now McMillan has come along with his campaign. Some say that people like him are lowering the level of discourse. Did they not see the Rand Paul/Jack Conway debate on Sunday? I don't think there's anywhere left for the discourse to go. If anything, he's raising the level of discussion. So far, I haven't seen any jibes coming from him about the Aqua Buddha.

Increasingly, the idea of a joke candidate is being stretched to the breaking point. They come in all stripes -- and some of them don't even realize they're joke candidates. Remember Basil Marceaux? Or Alvin Greene? Or that woman in Delaware who had to preface her campaign ads by saying she wasn't a witch?

But even if regular candidacies weren't such jokes, I fully endorse joke candidacies.

"Never be afraid that by raising a laugh you destroy tragedy," Oscar Wilde said. "On the contrary, you intensify it." That's what stunt candidates, for the most part, do -- highlight the ridiculous aspects of something in the hope of drawing concern. And Mr. McMillan does it well.

But he'd better be careful. Remember what happened in Iceland? They took a good hard look at the regular candidates and elected a comedian instead. That would be a problem.

By Alexandra Petri  | October 19, 2010; 11:18 AM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Rent Is Too Damn High  
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Next: Relax, Christine O'Donnell! Nobody knows the First Amendment.

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