Prohibition Presidential Candidate in 1976 and 1980
You can't put a roof on a house before you have a foundation, and right now this Party needs a stronger foundation." Ben Bubar's slogan "Back to the Puckerbrush" emphasized the need for better local organization of the Prohibition Party.
Ben was a life-long politician, in the good sense of that word. He was the advance man for his father's gubernatorial campaign in 1936. Nominated by the Republican Party for State Representative at the age of 20, Ben celebrated his 21st birthday on election day in 1938, won the election, and became the youngest person ever to win election to the Maine House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 1940.
Concurrently with serving in the state legislature, Ben was elected First Selectman and Overseer of the Poor in the Township of Weston, Aroostock County in 1939,1941, 1943, and 1945.
Bubar was the last Prohibition Party presidential candidate to have had any experience as an elected public official.
Benjamin Calvin Bubar, Jr. was born on 17 June 1917, in the town of Blaine, Aroostock County, Maine, the eldest son of Benjamin Calvin and Mary Louise Heal Bubar. He was a preacher in a preaching family: His father, his four brothers, and his sister all were preachers. Ben was an ordained Baptist minister, but he preferred not to be addressed as "reverend," considering the term to be pretentious.
He attended public schools in Blaine, Danforth, and Mars Hill, graduated from Aroostock County Institute (high school) at Mars Hill, graduated from Ricker Classical Institute (junior college) at Houlston, and took some courses at Colby College in Waterville but did not complete his degree.
He married Virginia Ireland on 14 February 1946, at the North Vassalboro, Maine Baptist Church. The couple had two sons: Benjamin Calvin, III and Mark Ireland Bubar. They settled in China, Maine in 1952, when Ben began working for the Maine Christian Civic League. He retired as Superintendent of the Christian League in October, 1984. He died, in Waterville of heart failure, on 15 May 1995, after suffering from Parkinson's Disease and is buried in China, Maine.
Before making a career with the Civic League, Ben worked off-and-on as a printer, edited the weekly Mars Hill Review, and for a year was the town manager of Blaine.
The Christian Civic League at that time was a coalition of about 15 denominations, based in Waterville. It published The Civic League Record, a fact-filled and nicely produced monthly which benefited from Ben Œs earlier printing and editing experience. It also did public education work and lobbied the state legislature. Ben once said that he drove 200,000 miles a year on League business, almost all of that in Maine.
Ben Bubar gave heavy emphasis to the alcohol problem which he was Superintendent; he lamented the fact that his successors down-played the issue. He believed with his father that alcoholic beverages were the Devil Let Loose in Maine. "Now, I never tell any group that the use of a little booze is the biggest sin. I have learned from experience that this calls for an argument, and I'm not here to argue. But I can tell you, without any fear of argument, that the sale and use of alcoholic beverages is leading to more sinning; it is leading to more hell-raising; it is causing more heart-ache and more sorrow; it is breaking more hearts and more homes; it is spawning more crime and more violence; it is taking a bigger bite out of your tax collar, today, than most anything (else) you can name.
Ben's first campaign for president, in 1976, was relatively successful. The Prohibition vote had dropped precipitously after 1920, as dry voters concluded that their job had been finished with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment.After Repeal, however, Prohibition gained strength through the 1930s and 1940s, only to decline again in the 1950s and 1960s. The last nationally-known figure to run for president on the Prohibition ticket was the country singer Stuart Hamblen, in 1952. By 1972, the Prohibition vote had fallen to 13,000, and the Party was on the ballot in only four states.
Ben Bubar's first campaign more than doubled the number of states where Prohibition was on the ballot, from four to nine. The total Prohibition vote, however, went up only slightly from 13,000 to 16,000. Ben never criticized anyone publicly, but at one point during the 1976 campaign he complained privately that his vice-presidential running-mate, Prohibition national chairman Earl F. Dodge, had handicapped the campaign by refusing to go along with two of Ben's initiatives: Ben thought he could sell advertising space in the Party's newsletter, The National Statesman, if Dodge would at least double the number of monthly pages (from four to eight); Dodge would not risk trying that. Ben also arranged with a public relations firm to do campaign publicity at an affordable price; again, Dodge wouldn't take the chance, and an opportunity was lost.
One of Ben's most attention-getting campaign devices was a can of Maine Moose Milk. Actually just ordinary condensed milk with the label changed, it was something to be taken home and shown to friends, perhaps even sampled. Dodge's campaign materials, by contrast, were forgettable.
The second Bubar/Dodge ticket, in 1980, saw a resumption of the decline in Prohibition Party support. It gained the ballot in only five states, and it won only 7000 votes.
Ben Bubar's health began to fail shortly thereafter. He played no further role in the Prohibition Party. His sister, Rachel Bubar Kelly, would become the Party's vice-presidential candidate in 1996.
A parallel can be drawn between American elder statesman Benjamin Franklin and Maine civic warrior Benjamin Bubar. Both learned the printing trade while young men, and, though both later turned their attention to politics and public service, both retained life-long personal identities as printers. It was Franklin's desire that the inscription on his tombstone read only Ben Franklin, printer. Ben Bubar, even late in life, would introduce himself as printer by trade, preacher by calling.
And a fine preacher he was, always giving the Devil a hard time.
There's a great interview with Benjamin C. Bubar in the book "The OTHER Parties" by Frank Smallwood, published in 1983. I've read Mr. Bubar's story several times. It is worth your time. It is our party's story. Smallwood did long interviews with the third-party candidates of 1980. As many of you know, Mr. Bubar, of Maine, was our party's presidential candidate in '76 and again in '80. He represented his party and himself well--a solid conservative with values. His interview got me interested in the Prohibition Party. He is a credit to it and the conservative and prohibition causes. As he says, "We're not a one-issue party. We've always had more than one string in our fiddle. We've been around for a long time." What I find most interesting is what he told Smallwood: "We believe in a representative republic, but what we've got right now is a socialist democracy bordering on anarchy." Prophetic words. Look at what is going on today in our country.
-- Randy McNutt