Ross Perot: why did the chicken cross the road? To criticize Bill Clinton’s record as Arkansas Governor.
I had planned to NOT write anything this week about a certain Republican Presidential candidate who’s vying to be the first insult comedian elected Oval One. I didn’t think I could top A’s brilliant post yesterday but it *is* the silly season and I *am* a member of the silly blogger party, after all.
The thing that has been bugging me is how the fog of history has descended on the campaign coverage, leading many people to compare Trump to Ross Perot. Some, mostly GOPers, think Perot cost Poppy Bush the 1992 election by taking Republican votes from him. The evidence suggests otherwise: that year’s exit polls showed the tiny Texas tech tycoon (I nearly called him a tiny titan but thought better of it) taking 38% of his vote from both Bush and Clinton. The other 24% would have stayed at home and watched Cheers reruns.
Perot didn’t cost Bush the election even though, as a real Texan, he visibly despised the faux Texan. It seems to have been forgotten is some quarters that, while Poppy Bush is a popular former President, he was unpopular when it mattered. As I’ve said many times before, it’s good to be ex-King. Furthering this misguided narrative has been a lot of lazy MSM chatter about the chance of a third-party billionaire helping another Clinton defeat another Bush.
What really happened with third-party candidacies is frequently lost in the fog of history. Looking back, one might think that George Wallace’s 13% of the vote in 1968 came exclusively from Tricky Dick. In fact, Wallace took millions of blue collar union votes (there were lots of them then) from Hubert Humphrey. HHH’s comeback in that race was based on bringing blue collar voters back into the Democratic fold. It nearly worked but Tricky won anyway. The fact that Wallace took votes from both big parties is one reason Nixon cherry picked some liberal domestic policies in his first term. Additionally, Tricky was an opportunist who gave even less of a shit about domestic issues than Poppy Bush. But he knew how to fake it. Poppy did not.
Back to the Trump-Perot comparison. The *main* reason I object to it is that Ross Perot ran a substantive campaign as opposed to implying that his latest media foil is on the rag. Perot went old school and bought 30 minute teevee slots, pulled out charts, graphs, and other (even then) low tech techniques to show how he believed the deficit was choking the country. Deficit hawkery was big in the post-Reagan era: Paul Tsongas did quite well on the Democratic side running as one. He even won the New Hampshire primary, which was rightly discounted at the time since he was a New Englander.
Perot also took rather liberal positions on many issues:
He supported abortion rights; Trump used to be pro-choice, but is now pro-life. He promoted higher taxes, specifically on wealthy Americans, as part of his ambitious plan to reduce the deficit. He emphasized the need for more education funding; Trump emphasizes school choice. He argued against the right to own machine guns; Trump has supported some gun control in the past, but now does not. Perot also made a striking plea for stricter environmental regulation (Trump’s disdain for the environment is one of the only constants in his long public career) and proposed large cuts in defense spending (Trump proposes the opposite).
That was a contrast to Trump that works since it’s based on the facts as opposed to lazy journalism, group-think and the whole “they’re both eccentric rich dudes” meme. It’s true that Perot was eccentric but he wasn’t a shallow blowhard whose public persona was based on picking fights and pulling media stunts.
I didn’t vote for Perot, but I know Democrats who did before coming home in 1996. People also forget that Bill Clinton was viewed as a fatally flawed candidate until a successful convention and Perot’s temporary exit from the race. Viewed through the prism of the present, many see Bill Clinton as a charismatic charmer with high approval ratings. Once again, it’s good to be ex-King. One reason that Clinton was elected in 1992 was that he was a fighter who was at his best with his back to the wall. True Grit will help you every time. I think, however, Bill is more like Jeff Bridges in the Cohen Brothers version than the Duke. Bill *might* be able to pull off the Dude. Oops, I forgot about the whole “I didn’t inhale” thing.
I am resigned to the fact that we’ll have the Donald to kick around for awhile even after he broke up with Nixon tattoo wearing, veteran GOP ratfucker Roger Stone. Trump is good for the satire business but enough already with the Perot comparisons. Trump will never run as a 3rd party candidate. Why? Because he’d be a LOSER.
Donald Trump will NOT be the first insult comedian elected President.