This morning, we all woke up to very sad news. Ross Perot, the two time Presidential Candidate (and only candidate to be seen on the Nickelodeon show Weinerville), had died.
Perot will certainly have a place in history. He was the last third party candidate to get in the televised debate, and was the last third party candidate to get more than 10% of the popular vote. 19,743,821 Americans (including my father) voted for this man to lead the country in 1992.
Yet, his party, The Reform Party, seems to have suffered the same fate as Socialist Parties from the Progressive Era. It still exists, and some people even vote for it, but instead of the legitimate challenge to the establishment it once was, it is now a shadow only left to a few school board positions here and there.
Here’s how many votes each of there Presidential Candidates have gotten since the Party was founded in 1995:
- 1996: 8,085,294 (8.4%)
- 2000: 448,895 (0.4%)
- 2004: 465,151 (0.4%)
- 2008: 481 (<0.1%)
- 2012: 962 (<0.1%)
- 2016: 33136 (<0.1%)
How did this happen? A party that previously showed a real chance to fight the power, becoming a passing fad? Well, let’s look and the rise and fall of The Reform Party.
The day was 2/20/1992. Businessman and millionaire Ross Perot made what was at the time his fourth appearance on the highly popular CNN show Larry King Live since 1991.
In the interview, Perot talked negatively of the current candidates of both parties. Millions of votes felt the same way. On the Republican side you had Incumbent President George H.W. Bush (who many fiscal conservatives hated to do him breaking his “read my lips, no new taxes” promise), Former Nixon and Reagan aid Pat Buchanan (who will become very important in a little bit), and Former Louisiana State Representative . . . and Klansman David Duke.
President Bush was not popular, even within his own party. In a similar manner to Carter in 1980, many in the Party chose to break tradition and vote for someone other than the sitting President of the United States. Daddy Bush only got 72.8% of the popular vote in the 1992 Republican Primary. A historic low of a sitting President compared to Reagan‘s 99.8%, Clinton’s 89%, Bush Jr.’s 98.1%, and Obama’s 88.9%. Even Al Gore, the incumbent Vice President, did better with 75.4% of the vote in his primary back in 2000.
The Democratic Party was not considered much better. They had Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (the populist at a time where populism was on the way out in favor of neo-liberalism and free markets), Nebraska Senator Bob Kerry (who the voters considered boring), Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas (who seemed to be polling the exact opposite as Bill Clinton), California Governor Jerry Brown (who was mainly dismissed by everyone except his voters), and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton (the man being attacked 24/7 for being a womanizer and draft dodger during the Vietnam war).
Many voters agreed with Perot’s hatred of these two parties. However, during the interview Perot stated he would not run for President as an independent unless there was a movement to draft him in all fifty states.
You know what happened next.
Perot did not officially enter the race until 10/1/1992. He even officially dropped out of the race in the summer 1992, despite never officially entering. But that didn’t matter. Even during the time he was out of the race, Perot was in double digits polling wise against the nominees of Bush and Clinton.
Perot’s campaign was truly independent, combining conservative ideas like balanced budgets, low taxes on income, and a stronger war on drugs with liberal ideas like protectionism, abortion rights,and a higher capital gains tax.
Perot ended with 18.9% of the popular vote, or 19,743,821 total votes. However, that would not be the end of Ross Perot.
Perot also planned to run in 1996, however this time he didn’t want to be an independent. In 1995, Perot founded the Reform Party of the United States of America, which he would run for President under in 1996.
He did not do nearly as strong as he did in 1996, only getting 8,083,294 votes (8.4%), compared to 47,401,185 votes for President Bill Clinton (49.2%) and 39,197,469 votes for Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (40.7%).
Despite that weaker showing, the party was on the rise. They had many seats in State Houses and Senates all across the country. In 1998, Former Wrestler Jesse Vantura ran as a member of the Reform Party for governor of Minnesota, and won.
It seemed like things were looking up, but the end was still in sight.
2000 was the first time Ross Perot declined to run on the ticket of the Party he founded. Vantura also chose not to run, and later left the party due to his dislike with the candidates.
This left three main candidates: Donald Trump, John Hagelin, and Pat Buchanan.
Trump was the first out, leaving 2/14/2000. The most that came out of it was his 1999 book The America We Deserve.
John Hagelin was a member of the Transcendental Meditation movement. He was a professor at the Maharishi University of Management, a private Iowa University which teaches “consciousness based education.” Lastly, he was the nomination of the Natural Law party, which he founded, in the 1992 and 1996 Presidential Elections.
With those as him competitors, it’s no surprise Nixon and Reagan aid Pat Buchanan was the nomination.
In 1992 and 1996, Buchanan had ran as a Republican for the nomination, and lost. His main issues were social conservationism (leading to the “culture war speech” at the 1992 RNC that many believe cost Bush the election), free markets, and isolationism. Buchanan’s isolationism was the most notable aspect of his platform, as he was constantly going after military ventures during the Cold War and free trade deals such as NAFTA.
Still, this got much criticism, even from those who agreed with him. Due to his connections to Reagan’s invasion of Granada and the Vietnam War, many felt he was a complete fraud.
As Christopher Hitchens said in his review of his 2000 campaign book, A Republic Not An Empire:
In the opening pages of his new book, “A Republic, Not an Empire,” he speaks easily and positively about George Washington’s Farewell Address and Thomas Jefferson’s warning against “entangling alliances.” I must say that I had no idea, when I watched Buchanan flacking for Nixon in Vietnam and shouting for Reagan in Grenada and positively sobbing with ecstasy over Col. Oliver North (his Lindbergh surrogate) that he had been such a closet stay-at-home all along. It would certainly have been impressive if he’d said so at the time. But his latest effort is not presented as any kind of re-think or self-criticism. Rather, it shows how highly compatible the concepts of expansionism and racism are with the ideas of the parochial and the nativist.
The claim of Buchanan being a racist was something he could never shake off. Even with the black Ezola Foster as his running mate. On infamous ad included the President (rather it was President Clinton or a hypothetical President Bush or Gore, I don’t know) signing an executive order that no longer makes English the national language. Someone forgot to tell Buchanan that English is not the national language as it is, in fact the United States does not have an official language. While this is happening, a man listening to this news on the radio starts chocking on a meatball, causing him to call 911. However, he dies before the operator can get through all the languages. Mind you, even if the operator didn’t do that he still wouldn’t get anywhere by calling 911 since you can’t talk while you’re chocking. Basically, Buchanan was either a racist or an idiot depending on who you ask, although most felt he was some combination of both.
Buchanan’s biggest win, similar to Ralph Nader, was in Florida. During the month long recount controversy, one of the strongest arguments made by those who argued the state was rigged for Bush was the infamous “Butterfly ballot.”
This ballot caused many elderly who intended to vote for Democrat Al Gore to vote for Pat Buchanan.
This was mocked on the cover of the 2001 book Jews For Buchanan: Did You Hear The One About The Theft Of The American Presidency? by John Nichols with a ballot that had a straight line pointing to Bush and utter nonsense pointing to Buchanan, Gore, and Nader.
The biggest hint that this was not on purpose was because of the high Jewish population of Palm Beach, Florida. A population that famously dislikes Buchanan due to him sympathizing with fascists such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco.
That’s not me saying that. That’s vice-chair of the Reform Party of Florida David Goldberg (himself Jewish) saying that. Quipping that if Palm Beach loves Buchanan “Then so does my local synagogue.”
That was the moment the Reform Party died. Tell me, does it matter who they put up after that? If you had never heard of them before this, you’ll always associate them with Buchanan.
Even with there idiotic attempt to regain the left by making Ralph Nader there nomination in 2004, a man who was hated by many of the Left due to the belief he had cost Al Gore the election, it was too little too late and the damage was already done. Nationalism had taken the Reform Party and twisted it.
As I commented when Amash left the Republican Party, nationalism is going to lead to the death of the RNC. Smoot-Hawley kept Republicans from most offices for twenty years. The Great Depression that responded kept Republicans out of Congress for another forty.
Isolationism is a movement that disappears overnight. The America First movement was highly popular in between World War One and World War Two, by the fifties, the only mainstream movement with isolationist aspects was John Birch.
Even in the progressive era loved by Nationalist Populists, imperialism was a beloved idea that was believed by millions of Americans. Don’t believe me, just look at the Panama Canal.
If the Republicans don’t wish to go the way of the Reform Party, they should consider ditching this nationalist nonsense. That is, unless they want to get <0.1% of the vote in the next election.