Now here’s the problem, see?

Jude’s post onconnecting with an old friend who had gone a bit crazy made me wonder what happened to an old eccentric friend of mine: H. Ross Perot. For those of you who didn’t lock in on politics until after 1992, the name likely conjures a vision of an insane twerp who wasa great parody subject of Dana Carvey. However, if you were there in 1992 and you had a drop of non-conformist blood in you, Ross Perot was amazing.

Here was a guy who was dumping his own money into a Quixotic presidential campaign. He managed to force his way onto the stage next to Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. He poked the establishment, he ruffled feathers and he gave us a chance to believe that he could pull this off. Long before the “Straight Talk Express” rolled out a line of malarkey that was anything but, Perot gave it to us straightwhen it came to the economy andmade a straightforward pitch for your vote. If you saw the commercials back then, they were magic. If you watch them now, they don’t seem all that different from what we’re hearing from Obama: a different message that gives us hope.

He garnered 19 percent of the popular vote, more than any other “third-party” candidate of our time. He is likely the reason we got Clinton instead of Bush (view that however you’d like). Clinton won the election without a mandate (43 percent of the popular vote), which was due in large part to Perot. While he won, you’ve got imagine that made it clear he’d have to work a little harder, and probably on some of the issues Perot was bringing up. He wasn’t going to win over the hard-core Republicans, but Perot’s block of voters were potential targets and thus gave Clinton something to shoot for. Budget surplus, anyone?

In the years after 1992, Perot fought Al Gore on NAFTA, made a weird attempt to run for president again without running for president and kind of faded into the realm of an antiquated punch line. We never really heard much from him again and to me, that was a shame. Sure, he was like that nuts uncle who has a really good job but shows up at Thanksgiving dinner, eats too much and tells you weird stories about the time he ran naked through the cafeteria in college. He’s a bit crazy, but he’s not an idiot. He knew money, he knew people and he knew reality, even if it seemed at times that reality was more of a summer home than a permanent residence for him.

So whatever happened to the jug-eared wonder? Well, he’sback again calling out the folks who ran up the national debt to the point where they broke the debt clock. He’s also become afellow traveler on the internet. He’s all but said he wouldn’t run for president again, and that’s probably a good thing. He’s far better off being that voice of reason out there, unencumbered by the rigors of political office.

However, as a guy who drank the Kool-Aid, searched my ballot for him amid the other “non-majority party” candidates and then went home to watch CNN in hopes that he’d win at least one state, I have to think maybe we’re a little worse off for that decision. Guess we’ll never know…

9 thoughts on “Now here’s the problem, see?

  1. Doc, back in the day when I was in high school, Perot was the “most evil bastard” to the pep-rally attendees and anyone involved in school-related sports/activities w/his “No Pass No Play” rules here in the TX. I always had good grades in high school, so my drill team dance shoes were never at risk for being worn. I did however resent the pep rally limitations – that was part of the joy of Fridays! Once achieving majority age and paying a bit of attention to some national fundamentals (but I was far from being my liberal self) – I do believe I did vote for Perot that year. He might have been a doofus to the high schoolers of my day, but damn if they guy didn’t know how to run a business and the country had become just that, a business. He had scads of dough that he had earned and worked for and I figured he would be the best candidate to run our national biz. There was something that I couldn’t put my finger on about Clinton (that obviously Monica was all about and did), and I was definitely not a fan of HW. I chose the candidate I thought best for the job.
    I will be clunking my cursor on the Obama box (maybe even next week when early voting starts), but in my heart, I wanted Kucinich, another Patriot dreamer that would have already been fixing things.
    Thanks for mentioning Mr. H. Ross Perot! 🙂

  2. Heck, my libertarian (still a little influenced by Ayn Rand at the time) 19 year old self voted for the man. No regrets, either. Nobody has to love a candidate to elect him, just see what he might do, and he might have done some great things (with the appropriate resistance from an unfriendly congress to keep him in check). Good times.

  3. Good post.
    I liked Perot’s presence in the campaign in 1992, and I like how he stirred things up and brought attention to certain budgetary issues.
    I followed that election very closely, and continually wonder why it has become a widely accepted view that Perot is “likely the reason we got Clinton instead of Bush”.
    My view on that is, it’s aright-wing myth.
    Perot was great in ’92, and exceedingly entertaining. But, in that same year Clinton demonstrated why he is one of the greatest warriors in the history of politics. Yet now it’s widely accepted that he won mainly because of Perot. Liberals and progressives uncritically repeat the claim. But where is the evidence?
    The 1992 exit polls showed that 38 percent of Perot’s supporters would have supported Clinton (had Ross not run) versus 37 percent who said they would have supported Bush.

  4. I think a better question is “Whatever happened to United We Stand, America?”
    Perot (unlike Nader) started a movement that continued after the election. His group had a real shot at sustained influence: a true, honest to god third party: fiscal conservatives who were socially liberal and sick of the Washington insiders who ran off and had affairs with lobbyists while their constituents were home slaving in fron of a hot stove. I always saw it as kind of a “Libertarian Reform” party, really close to “centrist”. I also saw it as one of the main reasons Clinton turned so hard to the right.
    Around the time of the 1996 election, the party ceased to
    exist–pretty suddenly, too. I never got all the details, but from what I read, Pat Buchannan essentially staged a coup, and captured the nomination for President. I remember a bunch of articles and interviews with delegates and party leaders who were furious at the manipulative take-over of their party. Words like “sold us out to the Moral Majority” were thrown around fairly often.
    And then there was silence.

  5. I worked for his company for a few years and departed with a much lower impression of him than when I arrived, and very glad he didn’t become President.
    He talks a good line of patter, but in reality his company is an authoritarian, mediocre-performing incompetent mess. Perhaps like Ross himself they seemed really good at the sales pitch to get new business but very poor at actually managing IT, with a workforce demoralized by a nasty, bullying management culture.
    Despite Ross’ cut-the-crap persona in his speeches it was an environment absolutely choking on top-down bureaucracy and hostile to any spark of individual intitiative or innovation.
    My co-workers used to read his speeches and joke that we’d like to work for that company someday, a place bearing no resemblance to the office environment we experienced.
    I work for a state government now, and the level bureaucracy and obstructionism is far less here — take note all you private-enterprise-is-always-more-efficient-and-less-bureaucratic ideologues.
    As for Perot participating in politics now, word in the company from a few years ago was that he was starting to lose his mental faculties, speeches were becoming erratic, etc. (even more so).

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