I was oddly into politics as a young child. I actually cried when George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992. I was upset about this loss for a lot of reasons. For one, I thought saxophone playing was unpresidential; little did I know that was the tip of the iceberg of questionable things Bill Clinton has done. I was upset that Bill Clinton’s wife hated cookies! I was 4 and cookies were at the very top of my important issues (still is). Plus, Barbara Bush had a weekly radio show where she read children’s books and I loved it so much.
I was also transfixed by another figure in the 1992 Presidential race and that was Ross Perot. As a 4-year-old, I was probably drawn to his interesting speaking voice and rather large ears. But, as I got older I learned more about Ross Perot and was kind of transfixed. When I learned of his passing Tuesday, it got me thinking about the 1992 election and the way Perot changed our political landscape.
Perot, in a lot of ways, paved the way for our current President. He was not a career politician, was a billionaire, and ran his campaign in an eccentric and almost chaotic way. Much like our current President, Perot vowed to be a “Mr. Fix It” “who would take out the trash and clean the barn.”
But Perot was also a man of vast contradictions and that did his candidacy no favors. Perot made a lot of his money from federal contracts while at the same time he was harshly criticizing the size of government. He complained about the influence of lobbyists in Washington, while he was lobbying for a tax break for himself. Both of his opponents seized on these things and he wasn’t prepared for it. Interestingly enough, he was one of the first people to sound the alarm about the outsourcing of jobs to Mexico and the national debt.
When it came to social issues, he was actually fairly progressive for it being 1992. He supported a woman’s right to abortion, was in favor of gay rights, and was pro-sex education in schools but thought these issues should be left for the states.
In the end, it was probably Perot’s eccentrics that tanked his campaign. He called off his campaign in mid-July saying the Democrat party had fixed itself, only to restart his campaign a month before the election. He was also fixated on conspiracy theories. He claimed the Bush administration knew American POWs had been left in Vietnam and because he knew that he was targeted for assassination by the Black Panthers and the North Vietnamese. He also claimed Republicans had tried to ruin his daughter’s wedding.
He was also eccentric in his personal life and largely did not live a life of excess. He always made his children bring their own popcorn to the movie theaters. He bought his suits at Men’s Warehouse as opposed to fancy stores.
Ross Perot may not have made a good president, but he did definitely leave a legacy in politics that will linger on forever.