19 min read

What’s In a name? Literally Anybody Else launches their candidacy for the Presidency of the USA — an Exclusive Interview

A middle school teacher in Texas changed his name to "Literally Anybody Else" and is running for President against Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
Literally Anybody Else launches their candidacy for the Presidency of the USA
Mr. Else

When reached by phone on Sunday, March 24, 2024, Mr. Else is caught in a moment that’s completely relatable to everyone.

“Sorry it took me a minute to answer,” the 35-year-old says good-naturedly and, seemingly, a bit warily. “I was underneath my truck, working on it.”

This wasn’t the first phone call from a complete stranger this public middle school teacher from the Fort Worth suburb of North Richland Hills, TX. fielded over the past few days, and it won’t be the last. However, in the grand scheme of things, it may be one of the most important to his immediate future. That’s because, over the course of our brief chat and correspondence by text message and email, the married Army veteran, former insurance adjuster, and frustrated American voter would agree to what will go down on record as his first —and so far, only— in-depth interview since announcing his candidacy for the office of President of the United States.

I’d caught him just a little over a day since news of his low-key, longshot campaign began to circulate in regional Texas media outlets but had yet to hit the international news cycle, where it’s now starting to gain a modicum of traction — even if his efforts are being presented by some outlets as little more than an attempt at a brief rush of online celebrity, a novelty gag rather than a serious bid for the job of a world leader.

That inclination to view Mr. Else’s candidacy as a goof was undoubtedly reinforced by his vague, bare-bones official website. “Please understand the website is a complete work-in-progress,” he said early into our first conversation. “I had to get something up there quickly, and it’s going to be evolving over time.” Much, he adds, like himself as a candidate.

No one has really been able to pin Mr. Else down on much of anything specific regarding his views on matters of national import or foreign relations.

Until now, that is.

I'd initially expressed to him that the sooner he laid down some definitive positions on various matters that carry great weight with the electorate, the sooner other media outlets and potential supporters could decide whether to take him seriously as a presidential contender.

it appears he took that suggestion to heart.

“I’ll just be honest with you,” he admits on a subsequent phone conversation a few days after our first chat and a day after receiving my detailed queries. “These questions were hard. And they forced me to really think about a lot of things which I had not up until now.”

“I told you the other day that this whole campaign is evolving as it goes, and answering these questions was a part of that process,” says the graduate of Texas Christian University. “I was up until 5 a.m. working on this.”

Staying up until five in the morning gnashing one’s teeth over important decisions when you have to teach a gaggle of pubescent teenagers just a few hours later is the kind of hard work and dedication citizens expect of someone asking for their vote for the highest position in the land. So, right off the bat, he ticks that column.

“I have turned down or put off some of the other people asking me for interviews so I could complete this one,” he avows. I was flattered. By the time this interview hits the web, most folks and media outlets will still have no idea that he is even running.

But running he is. He filed with the Texas Election Commission and is now trying to gather enough signatures to place him on that state’s November ballot as an independent presidential candidate. As per Texas laws, he has until May 13, 2024, to submit well over 100,000 signatures from petitioners supporting his candidacy. That would be hard enough on its own. However, this tall order is made even taller because all those individuals must also be registered voters. On top of that, those registered voters cannot have already voted in Texas’ presidential primaries for either the Democratic or Republican Parties.

Then again, Texas’ longstanding and almost mythical reputation as being a locus in this nation that’s particularly open to and supportive of the fiercely independent streaks of its citizens might work well for such an outside-the-box approach to the presidency.

Mr. Else is adamant that he understands the needle he must thread to make it onto his home state’s ballots, let alone those of other states. Since those states have their own deadlines and requirements for such an independent presidential run, his most likely path to earning votes come November is to apply to become a write-in candidate in as many states as possible — including his own.

That’s because, in Texas, at least, the secretary of state is obliged by law to accept votes in his name, as long as voters write it in come election time.

In his name. That’s the clencher.

On January 12 of this year, Dustin Ebey, the man I’ve introduced to you, legally changed his full name to “Literally Anybody Else.”

He’s accommodating and happily responds to Mr. Else, Literally, or Anybody. Or, I suppose, any combination of the three.

Literally Anybody Else's drivers license showing his new legal name.
Literally, Literally's current legal ID.

Now, for those of you reading this who have just written this gentleman off as some sort of prankster or Harlequin doing his best to throw a spanner in the works of the Ticktockman, Mr. Else is quick to disabuse folks of that perfectly understandable notion.

"I'm not delusional,” he told that local ABC-TV affiliate on March 22. “This will be very hard to do, but it's not impossible. My hope is to have ‘Donald Trump,’ ‘Joe Biden,’ and then ‘Literally Anybody Else’ right underneath. I really want there to be an outlet for folks like me who are just so fed up with this constant power grab between two parties that has no benefit for the common person.

"Write that name in — we don't really have a 'neither' option on the ballot, and this fills that role," he said.

“I mean, you have one person who is part of the one percent, wealth-wise. And the other person, who’s part of an even smaller percentage of just politicians. I mean, he’s been a politician for what? 60-something years? Is he still really in touch with people like me? With people like you? You know, if you’re not in it, can you truly understand what the struggles are? We don’t have an outlet to say, ‘We’re done. We’re tired, and we need something fresh.’”

No matter what your views are on the idea of tilting at windmills or the very real dangers of so-called “spoiler candidates,” there is no denying that the former Dustin Ebey is quite sincere in his quest to be a viable option for as many citizens of this country as possible in this election cycle. You can view his official website at: LiterallyAnybodyElse.com

The complete text of my email interview with Literally Anybody Else follows. It has only been extremely lightly edited, and then only for clarity, not for length or subject matter.

Jim Reed: Tell me a bit about how you came to change your name and launch this longshot campaign for the presidency of the United States of America.

Literally Anybody Else: The leaf that broke the camel's back would have to be the Republican Debate in January. I knew I didn't like Biden's policies or what he stands for and had held out hope that the Republicans would put forth a leader worth supporting, but unfortunately, I ended the night more politically dispossessed than I was willing to accept. I had already purchased the domain with the intent to sell t-shirts and other memorabilia and finally decided to go through with what was a very persistent intrusive thought.

When did you first come up with the idea?

It was first a passing idea back in the 2020 election. I had voted third party in 2016, I guess trying to accomplish what I've set out to do today. Trump never seemed like a legitimate candidate. I can get behind several of his policies, but I can say the same for Biden as well. The issues are also exacerbated not only by what they stand for but by what effect they have on the country. I don't remember this kind of childish anger in the '90s, yet today, it is a hallmark of success for Congress to simply come together and sit at the same table, something that should be mundane and common.

How long afterward did you actually legally change your name and then file the paperwork to get on the ballot in your home state of Texas?

The paperwork can't actually be filed yet. Texas requires me, as an independent, to collect 113,151 signatures before May 13th, and I wasn't allowed to start until after the primaries. I did the math one time and if I made a full-time job out of collecting signatures, I would need three to four every minute with a 40-hour schedule. For a true dash for the Oval Office, I'd probably need to focus on the 40 least populated states. Their votes count for more because of the Electoral College. For now, I wish to focus on messaging and rallying the people. It is near impossible to win, but it's a sad truth that it is the least impossible it has ever been for an independent candidate this election cycle… not counting George Washington.

How many people did you run this idea past before doing it, and who were they? Friends, family, co-workers, political consultants? 

My wife, for sure, for months.

What sort of feedback did you receive from them? 

We were —and are— concerned about our lives being on display if this takes off. This isn't really something anyone has ever done, so it's hard to speculate how far the message in the name can go. I know the sentiment resonated with most people I talked to, but no one wants a microscope into their life.

Were they encouraging or discouraging? 

The biggest concern my wife and I have is what happens after November when my name goes back to Dustin. Will I forever be the crazy guy who changed his name to a wild gimmick and made a bid for the presidency? This will likely have a real effect on my hireability. My father-in-law said that I needed to "make sure that the juice was worth the squeeze." If it weren't for my three-year-old daughter, I probably never would have gotten the courage to actually go through with a legal change.

If anyone discouraged you from doing this, what were their reasons for doing so? Did they feel you were opening yourself up to an international spotlight with the potential to be intrusive or annoying? Or another reason entirely?

Yeah, it is such a disquieting thing to do — to open myself up to this level of scrutiny. I do think that it is worth the effort. Not to me alone, but (in) aggregate, to the country.

Has anyone expressed a fear for your safety? This is an unusually dark and volatile world of late.

Well, the unconventionality of it and the potential to make life VERY public makes my wife, understandably… hesitant. She does support the message in general, and she values that it is important to me to be active in sharing it. There was worry about me being targeted by assassins — and that was not brought up in jest. 

Have you ever run for any office before (no matter how small or local)? City Council? School Board? County Assessor? Board of Elections? Student Council President? If so, for what position(s), and how did that turn out?

When I was studying nutrition at TCU (I was not a nutrition major, by the way), I applied to fill a vacant seat on the dietetics board in Texas. I thought it was sketchy that they didn't reach out to me, and the seat (ultimately) remained vacant.

I did try to give this name a test run, though. The school district I work for elects Trustees every year, and all three up for reelection were running unopposed. I have several problems with how students are getting educated, so I thought I'd see how well the name would be received. I did some research and decided (at the) last second not to run, as it would have cost the district $80,000, and I couldn't justify to myself costing the district the price of a veteran teacher's salary. The issues I have with the education system are above the district level, anyway. 

Oh, wait. Back around 2008 or so, I was on the board of a non-profit called Sacred Hope. We sheltered homeless people for one bitterly cold winter. I learned a lot about managing people then, as a 19-to-20-year-old. I can't remember if we ever got the 501c(3) status or not.

For many, who they vote for is deeply private, while others are comfortable discussing that publicly. Do you mind telling me if you have ever been a registered member of any major political party? Also, do you mind telling me who you have voted for in the past five presidential elections?

(Laughs) I've only been eligible to vote in the last four. Yes, I was registered as a Republican and typically voted red until 2016. I grew up Christian and just blindly accepted that Republicans are the party that most closely aligns with Christian values. I started getting a feeling of dissonance about it as I got older and exercised more independence with my political views and thoughts. I started evaluating my own beliefs and the party with the same level of scrutiny as I did other religions and their dogma. I fell onto the sad truth that most major religions got their foothold through violence. I am still a Christian, but that's primarily through reinforcement of a belief that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and Christianity highlights the personal responsibility of the individual rather than of collective punishment, aka identity politics.

To answer your question, I don’t remember having the freedom to vote when I was in college or the military. I mean, yeah, I could physically go, but I was so concerned with just making ends meet that I just didn't have the time to make any kind of informed decision(s). I did vote once in the military, but I think that was for a mid-term. I voted Gary Johnson in '16, and then —reluctantly— Trump in '20. (I'm) not proud of it, but here's to honesty.

Based on your answer to that last question, are there any votes for specific candidates in the last five presidential election cycles that you now regret? If so, what year, for whom did you cast your ballot, and why do you regret that decision?

I do regret not participating in my younger years, but I've grown since then. My own views are much more independent now than back then. I appreciated Obama's charisma as a president. I didn't pay attention enough at the time to care about his policies aside from what affected me as a service member. In the infantry you are just trying to make it to the next meal. Especially in an organization that drinks as much Kool-Aid as the 82nd.

To answer your question, January 6th did turn my reluctance into regret. I should have voted (for) whoever the Libertarian candidate was. Had there been a Literally Anybody Else candidate then, I'd have voted for 'em. 

I know this has all just been put in motion, and your website is still under construction. However, your listed policy positions are, generally speaking, fairly vague. Do you expect you will add details to those positions soon, or are you comfortable with holding vague positions as long as they reflect your genuine feelings?

Yeah, that’s my inexperience showing. I am looking for experienced individuals who are at least slightly expert in the field to bounce some ideas that I have off of. I tend to come up with ideas that neither (party) has considered, so I don't have a basis for evaluating them. A work-based tax plan —instead of one that is income-based— is one example that is hard to explain. I'd like to sit with thought leaders and (just) citizens in general to hash out its strengths and weaknesses. 

I'm of the opinion that representatives should represent what their constituents believe when it comes to making decisions on their behalf. Politicians should keep their personal beliefs in check. Not abandon them, but to put (their constituents) first.

I noticed that seven of the most hotly contested and divisive topics currently at the forefront of the minds of American voters and their elected leaders were completely absent from your website’s policies page. Would you mind giving me a basic understanding of your positions on those topics? That will help the general public to know if they feel comfortable casting their ballot for you in November. Those topics are:

1. What is your stance on abortion rights? Specifically, whether or not a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body should only be up to herself and her doctor or whether the state or the federal government should have any say in such matters.

So, my mom was actually 17 when she had me. She told me that her friends had encouraged her to get an abortion. It's a scary thought to know that my existence could depend on the whim of a teenager. I'm thankful my mom is a God-fearing, conscientious woman, or else I wouldn't be here.

My daughter was stillborn this past November. At 32 weeks, the umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck six times, killing her. I held her in my arms, and no one can tell me that she did not have a right to live despite her passing.

Non-spontaneous abortions can have medical necessity, and I believe every one of those should be allowed. At no point should a mother be at risk of losing permanent damage to life, limb, or eyesight. I would classify rape pregnancies in this category as a significant mental health detriment.

I'll lose people on both sides for this, but my honest view of everything else is that it depends on society's capacity to care for the child. Not willingness but capacity.

If a mother is neither willing nor society capable, then yeah, she should be allowed to terminate (I'm not clear on the latest term). If the mother is willing but not capable, you can't force a mother to murder her child. If the mother or society is capable but not willing, then pregnancy should be compelled to carry to term if it reaches past ten to13 weeks.

I'll say on this topic that I am fully aware of my status as a man and [that] my stance is likely to evolve [over time] through honest discourse. This is my stance; ultimately, as a representative, I would reflect the country's beliefs as a representative should. It is best as a state-level issue, where representation is closer to those affected. 

2. What is your stance on gun control regarding the availability of assault-style/military-style weapons to the general public, as well as universal background checks and the legality of both bump stocks and ghost guns?

This question has always bugged me. To Republicans, this has always (in my mind) been an issue of whether we trust the government enough to give it a true monopoly on violence. To Democrats, this is an issue of how deadly should a stranger be allowed to be? 

I think it's Finland that has similar gun ownership rates as the U.S., with far less gun crime. While I wouldn't take away guns from Americans, I would definitely take away any firearm from any individual who doesn't respect it. Any use of it as non-self-defensive intimidation or "flexing," take it and lock it up. If anybody can't have the wherewithal to respect and safely operate [a gun], then that person does not have the right to own a gun. It's a public safety issue.

Bump stocks are already illegal. Ghost guns are scary, not because of their ability to be manufactured in secret, but because they can be applied to unmanned vehicles. I dread the thought that one day, a sociopathic criminal is going to rig a lethal drone together and initiate an attack with complete anonymity.

It is more a problem of interpersonal relationships than an actual problem with firearms. We need a policy that helps people avoid self-isolation. 

3. Should the U.S. continue to support Ukraine's defense against Russia's war and invasion, both financially and through weapons systems and training?

I hate that this sounds avoidant, but the truth is that I don't trust propaganda from either side. Just like I did with my religion, it would be foolish to laugh at the Russian news propaganda and not give my news the same level of scrutiny. I could answer this more specifically if I knew I could trust the information available to me.

Depending on the truth of the conflict, adopt a tit-for-tat strategy in providing support for Ukraine. If everyday Russians truly are the demons the media say, then yeah. Defend allies and support them as a buffer to stave off WW3. If the Russians are like us and just do what they are told is right, then adapt the strategy. 

Support Ukraine in a way that brings both parties to the peace table. It always ends there, anyway. I'd choose the option that first and foremost prioritizes the lives of Americans (in the long term) and then prioritizes the preservation of life for everyone else. I know I'll lose some (support) by weighing American lives greater than those of other countries, but as a president, I would never regret doing so when faced with that ultimatum. 

4. Should the U.S. insist that Israel institute a meaningful cease-fire in Gaza and then work towards a two-state solution to try and ensure a lasting peace with the Palestinians and, if they are unwilling to agree to those requests, should the U.S. cajole them into doing so by significantly reducing the amount of military aid we give Israel?

As with the Russia situation, I don't know enough about the real situation to have an opinion. With Israel, I understand there are far more nuances. The analogy given to me was the school bully finally got the weak kid to snap and brought a gun to school. Now, the world is divided between calling out the bully and telling the weak kid to put his gun away. I don't like this analogy, but I haven't met anyone who claims a true understanding of the real situation over there.

5. Should the U.S. Supreme Court be expanded to include additional judges and/or adopt anti-corruption policies for itself that are at least as tough as those that already exist for lower courts?

That is a highly contextual decision. I would add justices if I believed in their net benefit to the country – regardless of the current count. But the higher the count, the higher the bar they would have to meet, and I doubt anyone could be that perfect and want to do that job. I believe that transparency in the courts should be held in high value. From there, Congress should exercise the power to impeach.

6. Did Donald Trump win or lose the 2020 presidential election? If he won, did he win fair and square? If he lost, was that only because he was somehow cheated out of it, making Joe Biden an illegitimate president who was not fairly elected?

He lost. That said, I remember thinking it was SUPER sketchy that we had the highest voter turnout ever during a pandemic. I personally actually received two mail-in ballots. I only filled out one and threw the other away. But yeah, I wasn't even trying and could have committed voter fraud. So, when I say he lost, I can, at best, say he lost with 90% confidence. 

7. Was the January 6th riot in fact a violent, attempted insurrection and overthrow of the U.S. government, even if it was poorly organized, and did not in the end succeed? Or was it just an unruly crowd that meant no real harm and did no real damage?

I never felt that it met the definition of an insurrection. Many people there did mean harm and did real damage and should be prosecuted. But the majority of people from what I remember seeing that day, were just stupid [folks] doing stupid things. The security for the next time better be flawless, though. Honestly, in 2024, do the politicians even need to do it in person?

Many people consider choosing between "two evils" a very depressing choice. However, are you concerned that by mounting a protest campaign of this sort, you may instead siphon just enough votes away from both establishment candidates, act as a spoiler, and wind up virtually guaranteeing that one will handily beat the other? That might wind up being the greater of two evils. Would it not be better for the country to have the lesser of two evils win rather than the greater of two evils?

This has been a major concern for a majority of people and is the ultimate trap for any third party entering the arena. As an independent candidate, even if that did happen, I would hope it would be a wake-up call for the losing party and teach them that they need to stay more centrist than extreme. [The] winning party, too. I'm sure everyone feels the same way — that if I can take the Oval Office, either my leadership skills are phenomenal, or it really did get that bad with the two parties. Again, my candidacy is a call to challenge the status quo. To break the norms of political parties and demand better. 

At the end of this candidacy, if you do not win the election, do you plan on changing your name back to what you have gone by for the rest of your life, or will you keep the new name to more easily run in future presidential races?

One thousand percent. I like my name, Dustin. Even if I won, I would change my name back to Dustin before the inauguration. It's embarrassing that I even took this step to send the message I wanted to send. If it didn't have the utility it has, then I never would have done it. I mean hey, you called me, and here we are doing an interview. I am a seventh-grade math teacher! Would you have called Dustin Ebey, the seventh-grade math teacher, for an interview?

This name is a beacon for everyone who resonates with the meaning of the name. Ironically enough, Dustin means "valiant fighter," so I guess it wasn't far off in predicting my journey through adversity. [I'm] still trying to earn the "valiant" part of my name, though.

I don't really have any intention of running after this election. I can't really say that I won't. It all depends on the support I receive this election. I pray with all my heart that it can't be worse than this to necessitate me putting myself out there like this again. 

You served for several years in the Army. How did that experience play a role in your outlook on U.S. politics, and how do you feel your military experience will make you the best person for the job in a world with increasing global conflicts and horrific terrorism?

The Army is very structured and hierarchical. I learned what good and bad leadership looked like. I was not a perfect person in the military. I had a chaotic blend of resentment and entitlement that came from not fulfilling my original contract to become Special Forces. 

Folks always like to get to know their presidential candidates on a fun, personal level. Please name three movies you don't think you will ever tire of seeing, five record albums you will always enjoy listening to, and three books you feel every person should read.

Movies would be Big Man on Campus, maybe Emperor's New Groove and Instinct, with Cuba Gooding Jr.

For record albums, my mom recently showed me a song called "Do Something" by Mathew West. I've always taken an odd comfort in many Roger Miller songs. I am having trouble coming up with more off-the-cuff music choices... Third Day was always an easy listen for those who grew up Christian. For me, my last two choices would be (just about) anything country or dubstep.

What is one thing you can promise the American public they could always count on you to do as President, no matter what?

Prioritize representation. That and balance the budget. Trump added $7 trillion, while Biden added $2 trillion to the national debt. That comes out to about $21,212 of debt from Trump and $6,060 from Biden (estimated) that every American is on the hook for — including my three-year-old daughter and 86-year-old grandfather. $6,060.