Former VP candidate Campagna ’72 updates novel from teenage years

Thursday, December 7, 2006

After earning three graduate degrees, running for lieutenant governor of Iowa and then vice president on the Libertarian ticket, Richard Campagna ’72 has revisited his teenage years.

Earlier this month, Campagna re-released his novel, originally titled “We Are All Whores,” which was first published when he was 19. The updated version, now titled “The Optimistic Existentialist,” signifies an “interesting literary and philosophical endeavor” and differs somewhat from the original.

Campagna, now 54, began writing the novel in sections when he was 17. Two years later, “We Are All Whores” was published. Both versions of the novel posit that life cannot be predicted and that people cannot make sense of events until they are already in the past. Despite this somewhat bleak premise, Campagna said his book aims to “construct … a kind of optimistic existentialist philosophy of life.”

While revising the novel, Campagna made some changes to the story. In the new version, the main character benefits from second chances, a twist reflecting the fact that the author has been able to view his life in hindsight. Furthermore, Campagna said he “cleaned it up a little bit” and softened some of the observations the main character makes in the original version.

The fundamental message of the book is Campagna’s idea of “optimistic existentialism,” a philosophy based on the thought that life is not a traditional game with set rules. Instead, Campagna asserts, life is unpredictable.

Campagna concentrated in political science while at Brown and graduated in 1972, soon after “We Are All Whores” was published. He continued on in the world of higher education, earning a master’s degree from New York University, a law degree from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate from Columbia.

During his childhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., Campagna said he was surrounded by politics, as both his parents were politically active. His mother was a Democrat, and his father was a “Rockefeller Republican.” Campagna said his contact with the two main American political parties – which he said left him “not very impressed” – caused him to lose interest in politics.

However, after meeting a Libertarian named Clyde Cleveland at an event in Iowa City, Iowa, Campagna reconsidered his political apathy. Campagna quickly became taken with the Libertarian political mindset, which he said features the “best and most cohesive aspects” of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Campagna ran for lieutenant governor of Iowa in 2002 on the Libertarian ticket. He and Cleveland, the gubernatorial candidate, lost, after garnering just 1.3 percent of the vote. Then, in 2004, Campagna received the vice presidential nomination on the Libertarian ticket, running with presidential nominee Michael Badnarik. Unlike the Democratic and Republican parties, Libertarians choose presidential and vice presidential candidates independently, forcing the candidates to “woo their own delegates.” Badnarik and Campagna came in fourth in the election, receiving more than 400,000 popular votes but no Electoral College votes.

Now, with two political campaigns behind him, Campagna said he does not plan to run for high office again. Instead, he will wait for a candidate with the best combination of ideals, regardless of party affiliation, to come along.

Campagna said he is optimistic that third parties will experience future success. He believes that candidates representing third parties can receive enough name recognition and money, then they have a good shot at winning elections.

Currently, however, third party candidates typically garner a small percentage of the vote in presidential elections – a fact Campagna said is just “the way it is.”

Campagna currently resides in Iowa, where he said he works as a legal consultant, “psychological/philosophical/stress de-briefing counselor,” interpreter, corporate spokesperson and a university instructor in law, ethics and management. He also is working on a new book, to be titled “Existentialism and Personal, Professional and Political Freedom.”

“The Optimistic Existentialist” was released by 1st World Publishers on Sept. 8.