Dora Guo

On Aug. 17 at 2:33 a.m., you would have found me frantically writing lyrics for the national anthem of the world’s smallest and most recently declared nation. I have no star-spangled career in songwriting, but I’ve always wanted to be president of something ever since completing my term as co-president of my kindergarten class with Tessie Connors (who, after we won the election, invited me to my first-ever sleepover birthday party). After discovering Kevin Baugh on a YouTube channel called Yes Theory, I set my sights on head of state.

If you’re like me and have ever wanted to be president of something, you’ll find hope in Baugh. He leads one of the world’s smallest nations, the Republic of Molossia, a dictatorship located in and completely surrounded by U.S. territory 30 miles south of Reno, Nevada.

At 14, Baugh founded his nation after watching “The Mouse That Roared.” The British comedy imagines a 3-by-5-mile fictitious country called Grand Fenwick that battles bankruptcy when California begins to cheaply produce its only export, a wine. Now 57, Baugh has made a name for himself. He’s met Jack Black to inform an unproduced screenplay, given a tour to former NBC News foreign correspondent Lucy Kafanov for a Today Show segment, and stamped thousands of passports of tourists eager to see the 57,000-square-foot property. In June, the Wall Street Journal interviewed him for a frothy article discerning the effects of the pandemic on his economy. Molossia’s currency, the valora, is pegged to the value of a 30-ounce tube of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough.

I had to learn more. So, I contacted his national government’s Ministry of Propaganda through an email on its website. I was surprised to find an enthusiastic email signed by His Excellency President Kevin Baugh himself in my inbox the next day. He told me he was available most afternoons, so we settled on Tuesday at 2 p.m. for a phone call. I guess afternoons are pretty chill for government officials in Molossia.

My midday plans to accompany my friend Adi to her campus bookstore were buried by my excitement. When I got a text at 12 p.m. asking if I had left to pick her up yet, I panicked and hopped in the car, banking on my notorious lead foot for making a swift trip. We ended up bolting from campus when I realized 30 minutes remained before my call. There wasn’t time to drop her off at her house, so she ensconced herself in an armchair in my living room as I simultaneously peed and dialed President Baugh’s number.

The closest I had ever come to talking to a president was when the ex-wife of the president of a major frozen foods brand decided to sing karaoke with me and my brother on a river cruise. So when the president answered my call with a cool “Hey, is this Jacob?” I probably peed a little more.

As I dried my hands, we chatted about the Yes Theory piece — he called it “excellent coverage.” I hoped my article would be as well received. I confirmed his official title: He said I could call him His Excellency President Grand Admiral Doctor Kevin Baugh. Then, he chuckled and admitted it was long and Defender of the People would do.

It was time for me to get advice: How could I, too, get a cool title and build a micronation of my own?

“You’re going to want to go ahead and establish all of your national signals, flags and national anthems,” he said.  “Obviously, pick a name. That’s kind of mandatory.”

He added, “You can give your nation, if you wish, some tangibility by claiming some actual land.”

After expressing concern about the expense of constructing a political entity or purchasing land, President Baugh assured that I could do everything on a shoestring budget. Molossia’s GDP is $1,200 per year, profiting from banknotes, war bonds and the nation’s signature Mad Mustang lip balm. It does not levy taxes on its citizens, and all employment-age individuals work outside the country.

While his autocracy seems outlandish at first glance, it’s the acme of ingenuity in all aspects of governing: He’s imagined a navy, numerous wars with other fake nations and a wealth of national holidays (my favorite is Chocolate Mint Day, celebrated by eating the President’s favorite flavor of ice cream). The Molossian national flag was actually ordered on Amazon for $25 and flipped upside down so the nation could call it its own.

Inspired by my conversation with Baugh, I got to work. I drew a flag using the two stray highlighters sitting on my desk, orange and light blue. I recorded a national anthem to the tune of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry on Voice Memos with my friend Britt and named my nation Côte d’Boat, an anagram of our names. It would occupy the fourth floor of the Yale New Haven Health parking garage.

In 30 minutes, we’d published a free Wix website. It was time to find citizens.

Under President Baugh’s reign live 33 subjects, including a handful of cats and dogs. Hoping to surpass my mentor, I granted citizenship to Adi, my dog Callie and any Instagram follower that wanted dual citizenship. I even extended an offer to President Baugh, who politely declined. As of publication, Cote d’Boat has naturalized seven individuals through an online form on its website.

To make our nation more official, we appended undeserved cognomina to our names — Brittany the Chthonic and Jacob the Cheeky Blighter — and invented a long-standing feud with the host of our favorite ’90s game show, “Legends of the Hidden Temple.” During our 90-minute conversation, President Baugh mentioned he loves McDonald’s, so we decreed any citizen under the age of 270 would receive complimentary Happy Meal toys. Alvin Seville of “Alvin and the Chipmunks” famously ran his 1960 presidential campaign on the promise of “two bicycles in every garage, four Christmases every year.” Helping others choose lovin’ my first day on the job, I’ve never felt closer to an animated rodent.

Unlike our one-and-done early morning tomfoolery, President Baugh has been doing this for a long time. While some people judge, he’s proud of his hobby.

“Forty-three years and it’s just part of me,” he said. “It’s what I do. If someone wants to roll up the driveway and say, ‘You can’t do this anymore,’ it would be devastating. It’s what I’ve always done.”

President Baugh has much more experience as president than I. During a time when many Americans feel discouraged by this administration’s inaction on the climate crisis and response to police brutality, I wondered if he ever thinks he could run our country better.

He said the Oval Office doesn’t appeal to him. Instead, he’s planning his appearance at MicroCon 2021, a biennial summit of micronationalist government representatives to be held in Las Vegas.

I admitted it’s unlikely I’ll be in attendance, but the eupeptic President Baugh didn’t mind and encouraged me to further establish my nation and pursue creative expression.

“Whatever your little nook is, use your imagination, use your creativity, use your mind,” he said. “Don’t just veg and watch TV. See what you can do with your own world, use that imagination and see where you can go with it.”

I’m excited about my new ‘nook’ and title: a writer at the Yale Daily News. But if that’s too long, Mr. President will do.

Jacob Cramer | jacob.cramer@yale.edu

 

JACOB CRAMER
Jacob is a staff writer for WKND. He writes personal narratives that dive deep into pop culture or whatever's on his mind, often with the help of influencers and local experts. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he is a senior in Benjamin Franklin College studying psychology and Spanish.