Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who shook up multiple presidential elections in the 90s, has passed away at age 89. Perot hasn’t been active in politics for some time. However, his legacy still sets an example that we should remember and discuss.
Once In A Lifetime Success
Perot is most famous for being one of the most successful third-party presidential candidates of all time. Running with the Reform Party, he never won an election. However, he claimed almost 20% of the vote in 1992’s presidential race. He was the first third-party candidate to receive this large a share of the vote since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.
Disappointed in George H. W. Bush and politicians in general, Perot positioned himself as an outsider. He wrote his thoughts on rebuilding America in his book United We Stand: How We Can Take Back Our Country. He also sunk large sums of money into running infomercials across the country to spread his ideas.
Great for sound bytes, Perot once said: “You implement NAFTA, the Mexican trade agreement, where they pay people a dollar an hour and you’re going to hear a giant sucking sound of jobs being pulled out of this country.” On this issue, Perot was ahead of his time. NAFTA is now disliked by many, and may be dissolved and replaced by President Trump.
He also put a strong emphasis on the country’s deficit, something that was well overdue. “It’s like a crazy aunt you keep down in the basement,” he described the deficit in his 60 Minutes interview in 1992. “All the neighbors know she’s there, but nobody talks about her.”
Reaching The Disenchanted
Paul Burka, a Texas journalist, called Perot “the candidate of the disaffected, the disenchanted.” He represented disillusionment very similar to what Trump did in 2016. James Carville, the chief strategist of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, has said that “if Trump is the Jesus of blue-collar populism, then Ross Perot was its John the Baptist.”
“His can-do answers cut through all the rehearsed rhetoric like a breeze through morning mist,” Newsweek said of Perot’s 1992 debate performance. “When he was challenged on his lack of experience in government, he knocked that one out of the park, too. ‘I don’t have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt,’ he said, but he did have some at getting things done.”
His fiscal conservatism was pure. This is lost on many Republicans who claim to want spending cuts, except when it comes to the military, foreign aid, and so much more. Perot wanted to trim the military and charge the Germans and Japanese for their defense. Today, he would likely want to charge many more countries for whom we foot the bill. He also wanted to put all tax increases to a national vote.
An Ongoing Legacy
In a 2012 interview with USAToday, Perot expressed his fear as our country plunges further and further into debt with no credible plan to solve it. “The last thing I ever want to see is our country taken over because we’re so financially weak, we can’t do anything,” he said.
There’s something politically attractive about the authenticity of an outsider like Perot or Trump. Someone without the stench of a long stay in Washington is refreshing. His focus awakened many Americans, and his core beliefs echo into the modern political era.
Ross Perot lives on in this way.