Why was Ross Perot so popular in 1992?

People went nuts over this guy for a while, but I didn’t understand it then, and don’t now either when looking back on it. His platform was really not all that interesting and he could probably have comfortably fit into either party. Was it just a personality cult? Or was he tapping into some kind of early-90s “both parties suck” fad attitude?

I voted for the Perot/Stockdale ticket, not so much because of Perot but because I watched the VP debate. It was Dan Quayle, Al Gore, and James Stockdale. The former two were smarmy sounding, slick politicians. Almost everything they said was worded in such a way that it was impossible to pin them down on issues.

Stockdale was not like that. He could answer questions short and sweet. For example, on the issue of abortion, Quayle and Gore gave long and involved answers, One was kinda for abortion rights, the other kinda against. Stockdale looked at the debate monitor and said “I believe that what a woman does with her body is her own business, period.” Whether you agreed with him or not you know where Stockdale stood.

Some made fun of his appearance. But whats’ so terrible about a hearing aid? He was a POW for years, and got his eardrums broken. And so what if he “looked uncomfortable” on stage. Try standing for hours on a leg that was broken during that same POW experience.

I figured that if Perot could pick a running mate I could respect, then he wouldn’t be any worse than those that picked Quayle and Gore. Neither of them ever won the Medal of Honor. I wrote to Stockdale to get his autograph and he was gracious enough to reply with a personal, handwritten note.

He came off as a populist, and those will always appeal to the people.

What he said about the future of jobs in this country also helped, because most politicians aren’t honest when it comes to the reality of the economic conditions we’re facing.

I voted Libertarian in 1992. I REALLY didn’t want to be responsible for picking the winner on any level.

Former MTV veejay Kurt Loder was once asked, “What’s the strangest interview you’ve ever done?” Everyone expected him to reply Ozzy, Marilyn Manson, that kind of thing, but he said it was far and away Ross Perot.

:eek: :eek: :eek:

It helped that Bush was hindered by an economy that was mostly good but picked the worst possible time to dip while Clinton was mostly an unknown that came out of one of the weakest Democratic primary fields ever. Bush’s election chances were considered so good that the big name Dems mostly stayed home.

I think it was not only a “both parties suck” attitude but that Perot, with his personal wealth, seemed to be a plausible and viable candidate as opposed to most 3rd party candidates. Most 3rd party people seem like just a protest vote but Perot looked as though he could go the distance with a real campaign that could compare to the major party campaigns.

Part of Perot’s allure is that he was one of the first major candidates (maybe THE first, I’m not sure) who promised to “run the government like a business.” Never mind that government isn’t a business; Perot was so blunt and plain-spoken that he had people believing he could do it. He was going to cut through all the political bullshit and just FIX STUFF. “Workin’ under the hood” was the metaphor he liked to use. Whenever he was reminded that he couldn’t just order Congress to do his bidding or fire legislators who didn’t cooperate, he’d talk about using the “bully pulpit” to persuade them.

I didn’t vote for him, because I thought a Perot presidency would have been a disaster. I don’t think he would have accomplished a single thing. Neither party had any allegiance to him or any incentive to cooperate with him, and Perot showed no sign of having the slightest political savvy.

According to this analysis, the Reform Party was always an unstable coalition of populists and (in the early-20th-Century sense of the term) progressives. Perhaps Perot just happened along and offered both of those minor-yet-major traditions in American politics somebody they could believe spoke for them.

As in comedy, timing is everything in politics.

First, let’s consider the incumbent. The heir to a “successful” (albeit controversial if not downright corrupt) two-term administration, Bush managed to handle a Middle East war well enough despite some opposition at home, but was lackluster on domestic economic issues. Press-wise, he was dull: most of his administration were hang-overs from Reagan, and the reporters were really sick of writing about the same players for over a decade. They were looking for somebody knew to write about.

Now the Democrats… to say they were in a slump sullies the good name of “slump.” Two elections in a row, they managed to nominate the bottom of the barrel. (C’mon, Mondale? Dukakis??). Nobody was holding out much hope during the '92 Democratic primary that somebody was going to come out of nowhere to topple Papa Bush.

But wait! Who’s this other guy? The billionaire who decides to form his own party and run for President? Sure, he talks like a jumped-up version of Sam Drucker from Green Acres, but that just makes for great soundbites. So his economic theory and foreign policy sound like something from a late-entry Tom Clancy novel… at least the press has somebody new to write about!

Granted, I’m oversimplifying a lot here, but it all boils down in the end to: Perot was a fresh (if older than dirt) face at the right time.

:dubious:Really? Seems to me that, here in Britain at any rate, we have been hearing that sort of shit from our Conservative Party for decades. I thought it was standard center-right bullshit, designed to appeal to the center-right’s base, i.e., small business owners.

How was Perot treated by the press in 92? I remember almost nothing about the election and looking back at it now maybe I’m shoehorning it into the mold of today’s politics but I would guess that Perot was a media darling hailed as a wise compromise between the partisan extremes.

Considering I wasn’t around back in '92, can anyone please tell me exactly what Perot’s platform was? I thought it was mostly right-wing populist (ie slash the deficit, protectionism etc.) but they seem to have been relatively socially liberal (ie pro-choice).

I don’t remember this phrase ever being uttered by any mainstream British politician.

Three elections. You left out Carter in 1980.

Your poor memory is not evidence of anything. It may not have been in actual official election manifestos, but it was commonplace Tory rhetoric at least as far back as the '70s (and probably earlier). To a large extent, it was what Margaret Thatcher’s appeal was about. I doubt that it wsa uncommon on the American center-right either. No way did Perot invent it.

That’s what I’ve always suspected of Libertarian voters. Thanks for the honest answer.

I think the Perot thing was just personality. Hey, here’s a nutty old man talking about getting under the hood- let’s vote for him! I believe his appeal was with those otherwise disengaged with politics. And as it turned out, he really wasn’t all THAT popular, he didn’t come anywhere near carrying a single state.

Besides the woes of the Republican party and the distrust some folks had of the Democrats, you have to consider what Perot brought. The man was not a cipher. He was a successful businessman, leaving IBM to start Electronic Data Services (EDS), which eventually got the contract for keeping Medicare records, and became a huge success.

in 1979 two EDS employees were jailed by Iran, and Perot sent a paramilitary team in to get them. They were rescued, an the story was turned into a book by novelist Ken Follett, called On Wings of Eagles, which became a bestseller and a TV miniseries in 1986. (That Perot sought out Follett to write the book isn’t always mentioned)

So Perot wasn’t exactly a cipher. He had a reputation as a guy who could make things happen. in particular, he could rescue his people from the Iranians, when it seemed that Carter couldn’t.
Perot had a reputation as a somewhat eccentric, ego-driven doer, but not the reputation as a loon that he would later get.
Add to this his self-financed chart-aided talks on the economy, which were widely parodied at the time (Sesame Street even added a character “Ross Parrot”). One thing he said resonated, I think, with lots of people – his saying that enacting NAFTA would result in “a giant sucking sound” as Mexico vacuumed up all the manufacturing jobs, when the other candidates were going on about how NAFTA meant that Mexico would be able to buy all our American-manufactured goods. I think more people thought it more likely it was the jobs going south than our goods.

The point is, Perot didn’t look like a complete out-of-nowhere third party candidate without a chance, and a lot of folks voted for him. Unfortunately for H G W Bush, more of them were switching from the Republicans than from the Democrats. Perot went the way of many third-party candidates, losing, but siphoning off enough votes from a major party candidate to make a difference.

And the straightforward nature of this answer was emphasised by the long awkward silence that followed, when everyone else on stage expected him to keep waffling on like they did. He actually had to say something like “Period. I’m done” a few seconds later to convince them he really wasn’t going to say anything else!

They may have paused because it’s a terrible answer, unclear to say the least, and they were giving him a chance to rescue himself. :wink:

Some of us would like to see a viable third party in the USofA and Ross looked like he might be able to do that. I don’t think any of us who cast our votes for him believed he would actually get elected as president. Unfortunately, most people can’t imagine any reason to vote for a candidate unless he has a ‘D’ or ‘R’ after his name and thus has a 50/50 chance of winning so these days people think 15% of Americans just really, really wanted Ross Perot, the man, as president.

I want to say that voting for third party candiates sends an important message - “I don’t like the choices you gave me and I want more options” - but these discussions prove me wrong.