Exactly one week ago, the GOP field for the 2016 presidential nomination expanded to 18 -- maybe. In fact, we don't know much about this possible 18th GOP contender beyond his name, a few unconfirmed biographical details, and the several policy positions he outlined in a lengthy but surprisingly focused YouTube video.
So who is "Esteban Oliverez," and what do we really know about him?
According to his press release and website, Oliverez is a "centrist entrepreneur" from Austin. His platform calls for taking the best policy ideas from both the Democratic and Republican parties and avoiding any unnecessary partisanship in Washington.
"I'm running because there are more than two viewpoints in this country, but most of them are never heard," says Oliverez in his introductory video.
There are good ideas on the left and good ideas on the right. There are some awful ideas on both sides. You shouldn't have to take the good with the bad just because we're one of the few countries in the world that believes there are only two ways of doing things.
As of this writing, around 620,000 YouTube users have watched Oliverez's campaign kick-off -- a striking figure, given that not a single media outlet, per Google News, has so much as mentioned the businessman's name since he announced his Quixotic candidacy on July 17th.
While Oliverez's YouTube video acknowledges that "many of you don't know me," in fact the far more surprising fact is that even the Internet seems unfamiliar with the Southern Republican. A Google search for "Esteban Oliverez" returns -- besides the aforementioned press release, YouTube video and campaign website -- only one additional result clearly related to an Esteban Oliverez from Austin: a Facebook page for the candidate with just over 200 supporters. The only other hits for the name are discussions on sites such as Reddit, Bungie, and SpaceBattles about whether Oliverez is a serious candidate and the viability of his centrist positions in such a polarized political atmosphere.
According to one SpaceBattles commenter, "As it stands now, I have a favorable first impression [of] him and I'd like to know more. But I have nothing beyond that." Another wrote, "[He's a] nobody. If the fourth Google result on your name is this SpaceBattles thread, your announcement to run for U.S. President is nothing but a joke. And not a particularly good one." Others took the announcement seriously but questioned the viability of Oliverez's tax proposal (a variation of the so-called "flat tax" conservative Republicans have floated for years) and spending priorities (which include a focus on infrastructure similar to that often favored by veteran Democrats).
So is the purported candidacy of this "Esteban Oliverez" merely a hoax, or is Oliverez another well-heeled GOP businessman with a platform commingling Democratic and Republican ideas? The GOP field already has one of those, and he's currently leading the pack nationally. So can Oliverez turn 620,000 YouTube views (and counting) into national media coverage and a viable presidential campaign? The odds are against it, but only time will tell -- and certainly, stranger things have already happened in the Republican race for the 2016 presidential nomination.
Seth Abramson is an Assistant Professor of English at University of New Hampshire and the Series Co-Editor of Best American Experimental Writing, whose next edition will be published by Wesleyan University Press in late 2015. His most recent book of metamodern verse is Metamericana (BlazeVOX, 2015).