A champion for the disaffected: Ross Perot's 1992 presidential crusade.
AuthorBroussard, James Allen.
KeywordsPresidents -- United States -- Election -- 1992.
Presidential candidates -- United States.
Businessmen -- Political activity -- Texas.
Committee ChairDinnerstein, Leonard
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn 1992, Ross Perot, billionaire entrepreneur from Texas, headed the most powerful independent presidential candidacy of the twentieth century, garnering nearly 19 percent of the popular vote. Perot's rhetoric demanded fundamental reform through a seemingly contradictory message calling for both individual responsibility and collective patriotism and sacrifice: corporate populism, a traditional, albeit profoundly paradoxical ideological appeal. Perot spoke of rekindling the "American Dream" for the next generation, whose prospects appeared bleak because of a post-Cold War credit crisis and withering of the United States' industrial base. He saw linkages between this crisis and a host of social problems, and advocated controversial solutions that made coalition-building difficult. Perot looked to his followers to develop consensuses on many issues of the day. Heading a "grassroots" movement organized from the top down, with disciples from all points on the ideological compass, however, Perot found consensus a rare commodity. As a result, his campaign lacked cohesion. Perot's methods, personality, and wealth raised disturbing questions about the future of representative democracy, but his unfolding campaign also highlighted shortcomings in American electoral institutions and processes. Perot's treatment by the press, for example, provides a case study of the mass-production of political portraits and the impact of those images. That so many citizens voted for a man often portrayed as a suspicious, morally rigid, unscrupulous, vengeful demagogue indicates how widely disaffection with American political institutions had spread. Tapping this discontent, Perot created the potential for a new kind of politics in the United States. He catalyzed discourse on policy issues like foreign trade, welfare reform, military policy, and Executive branch responsibility. He focused attention on chronic problems like the national debt, the annual budget deficit, and the insolvency of "entitlement" programs like Social Security and Medicare. His presence seems to have provoked an unusually high turnout on election day. He helped pioneer a new era of direct dialog between candidates and citizens through the use of interactive and electronic media. Finally, Perot's candidacy symbolizes the emergence of a new centrist political movement--a force which in 1994 began to dramatically reshape the American political landscape.