Every nominating process needs someone to cover their party’s extreme flank, someone to take the outermost positions on key issues. For the Democrats, former Alaskan Senator Mike Gravel does just that. In an election cycle where the key issue for the Democrats will be ending the war in Iraq, Gravel is the man most vocally and vehemently opposed to continuing military operations in that country. He has the credentials for speaking out against a war: in 1971, he used various parliamentary tactics to delay passage of a bill to renew the draft for nearly 5 months, until congressional Republicans just let it die. Gravel has no chance of winning the nomination (he has yet to break out of single digits in any significant polls), but his role as the ranting old man should help keep the Democratic candidates focused on the issue they’ll need to take back the White House in 2008.
Gravel was born in 1930, making him far and away the oldest of the Democratic candidates. He served in the Alaskan House of Representatives for three years in the 1960s, including as the Speaker in 1965. He rose to the U.S. Senate in 1968, and retired in 1981. During his famed five-month filibuster of an extension of the draft, Gravel read more than half of the Pentagon Papers onto the record of the Senate. Since his retirement from the Senate, he has founded several non-profits that promote democracy and civic service.