With his history as a stand-up comedian, mercilessly mocking game show host, and designated day-drinking companion to the Today Show’s Kathie Lee and Hoda, Ben Gleib’s presence among the slew of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president has many wondering if his campaign is some sort of elaborate joke. But he insists that’s not the reason he’s running for the highest office in the land.
“If being funny was my goal, you would be laughing a lot more,” Gleib deadpans in a telephone interview with High Times. “But we have a lot of serious things to tackle.”
Those important issues include ending corruption and the influence of big money in politics, healthcare for everyone (“because obviously,” proclaims his campaign website), legalizing cannabis, and prison reform. And while some of those topics have been familiar themes for many of his contenders, too, Ben Gleib says that he doesn’t believe the group of politicians leading the pack have what it takes to succeed in 2020.
“I’m running because I don’t think that any of the current candidates running for the Democratic nomination are offering a sure-fire way to beat Trump. I’m not convinced that any of them has a strategy that can take down the anomaly that is the orange monster who’s trying to erode everything that we hold dear in this country. He’s not a politician and so trying to beat him with politics makes no sense. It’s like trying to bring policy papers to a wrestling match.”
Take Him Down with Comedy
But if Gleib were to get the nod from the party, his experience on the comedy club circuit would help him take the president down.
“Trump is the biggest heckler in political history,” he says. “The way you take down a heckler every time is with a comedian. And that’s what I plan to do.”
Gleib says that he wants his campaign to be about giving a voice to marginalized communities, prompting his campaign trail to run not only through Iowa and New Hampshire but Puerto Rico as well, where he visited recently to view the continuing recovery from Hurricane Maria, two years after the storm battered the Carribbean island.
“I’m the only candidate in the race who is a working person and the only union member the race,” says Gleib. “I’m the only one who’s not a career politician or multimillionaire. I’m tired of continually electing the same types of people into office and then being surprised when we don’t get change.”
Ben Gleib: Pro-Cannabis Candidate
One of the changes he would like to see is an overhaul of federal marijuana policy, saying that the fact that so many people are in jail for something so many of us do in our private lives is the height of hypocrisy.
“We must legalize [cannabis] nationwide and expunge the records of people who are in jail for it,” Ben Gleib maintains.
He’s been a recreational user of cannabis and supporter of legalization his whole adult life, a difference from the other candidates he’s keen to make clear. So much so that he says he made history in September by becoming the first candidate for president to publicly smoke a joint, a feat he accomplished on the YouTube show “Getting Doug with High.”
“We talked a lot of trash and got to talk some policy and about the campaign,” Gleib says of his appearance on the show with friend and fellow comedian Justin Martindale. “I got to share some of why I think it’s important for us to end the hypocrisy, not just with respect to cannabis but in every aspect of our lives.”
Drain the Swamp (For Real This Time)
Ben Gleib is also passionate about getting corruption and money from lobbyists out of politics, so much so that he joined activist Renaldo Pearson on the last mile of his Democracy 911 protest march from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. At the conclusion of the trek, the two were arrested when they failed to comply with police demands to end their sit-in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life because I’m sick of government being full of shit,” Gleib exclaims. “And I’m sick of being paid lip service by these politicians who don’t actually change anything.”
“It was not lost on me that I was arrested for protesting corruption,” he adds, “at the same exact time that Trump was having impeachment proceedings begun against him for corruption on a phone call with the Ukrainian president, who was a comedian just five months ago.”
Gleib is also making criminal justice reform a part of his platform, saying he wants to end the mass incarceration of African Americans and hold corporate criminals accountable for their crimes, two goals that can be accomplished with one innovative change.
“We have to stop the school to prison pipeline and we have to cut corporate crime,’ he says. “So I came up with an idea to do all of that in one. You combine white collar prisons with regular prisons. Because I don’t understand why we would have a class system in our prisons. Is there not enough of a class divide in our country? We now also have to have different classes of criminals? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Ben Gleib says his bold ideas can make it hard for him to get his message out, noting that “the DNC and the mainstream media do not want somebody who’s going to shake up the status quo. And that’s what I’m here to do.”
So in order to get his ideas in front of the American people, Gleib is on a push for supporters to donate to his campaign online and help him qualify for the remaining Democratic debates. He also has another pitch for those voters who are looking for a president they can drink a beer with.
“I’ve already had beers with thousands of you after my comedy shows around the country. Sometimes even Fireball shots,” he boasts. “And I’ve definitely smoked more than one or two joints around back of the comedy club with the staff after the show.”