The Conspiracy Theorist
Leah Lax is a South Philly native who now lives in Highspire, just outside Harrisburg. The 61-year-old retired accountant and self-described “moderate independent” says politics is filled with “too much hate.”
Lax’s road to the White House began in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2007. Recently widowed, she says a friend invited her to a private grassroots organizing meeting with Obama and about 10 other people. She didn’t like what she heard.
Lax, a hardcore birther who apparently never met any other conspiracy theories she didn’t love, says that Obama, his wife and two children—as well as most Congressional leaders and federal judges—have billions in secret Vatican slush funds, so they’re all corrupt. Worst of all, she insists, Obama is a secret Muslim hell-bent on imposing Sharia law on America and using the Constitution as his own personal roll of toilet paper.
“He’s destroying this country,” she intones.
Lax’s platform includes job creation and lower taxes. But mainly she’s just trying to save the country from Obama’s dastardly plans. And she says she’s paid a price. Just months after filing with the FEC last year, she says black cars began showing up in front of her house. She claims she was scheduled to appear on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show, but that once Obama’s people found out, they pre-emptively had him fired from the network. Beck could not be reached for comment.
“I’ve been told that I better be very careful what I say because I’ll end up like [recently deceased conservative firebrand] Andrew Breitbart,” she whispers. “A sudden heart attack—yeah, right.”
But Lax is pressing forward. In January, she was in Swarthmore for a debate between fringe presidential candidates, though she’s upset that she was lumped in with “a Libertarian, a Nazi and a commie.”
“They’re all whack jobs!” she exclaims. “They don’t want to put me in with the mainstream candidates because I’ll ask the hard questions, like about Vatican funds.”
“I’m a longshot, but so was Truman,” Lax continues. “People are flocking to me, because anyone who truly believes in the Constitution should vote for me.”
“There sure are a lot of characters in the race,” laughs Ed O’Donnell.
A spry, kindly 64-year-old seller of books and maps, O’Donnell—a Philadelphian by way of Delaware, who’s running under the Patriot Party banner—may have the most impressive political credentials of all. He’s run in every presidential campaign since 1984, and unlike the others, he actually appeared on a primary ballot this year: In New Hampshire, where he garnered 222 votes (topping his previous best of 80 votes). He’s also writing a book about some of the more colorful fringe candidates in U.S. history.
“I would say the major candidates are the real crazies and phonies and megalomaniacs,” he says. “The lesser-known candidates tend to be the sincere ones.”
O’Donnell says he’s running a purely positive campaign in which he’s calling for jobs and homes for everyone, the elimination of guns and a national litter removal program. And he sees a clear path to victory.
“If the country collapses, and millions of people think it will, the president and vice-president can resign and appoint a successor,” he explains. O’Donnell says it will be him because God will make it happen.
“If you believe, like I do, the 37th Psalm that says God will give you the desire of your heart, then, you know, the chances are pretty good,” he says.