that Perot proposed to shift American foreign policy attention from Europe to Asia. Bill Clinton was the beneficiary of the PerotBush firefight. As Americans learned more about Perot and Clinton was able to recast his own image, the Arkansas Governor moved into a virtual dead heat with the President while Perot lost standing, dropping as much as 18 points over the past months in a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, to 20 percent support. In the afterglow of his Democratic nomination, Clinton opened a lead of more than 20 points over Bush in the polls. However, Perot remained stout in Texas. A statewide poll conducted July 5-9 for the Houston Post and KHOU-TV in Houston showed 34 percent of Texans supported Perot, 27 percent supported Bush and 22 percent backed Clinton. The three-way race might have given the Democrats their best shot at carrying Texas, since Democrats believed their base vote, estimated at 40 percent, could constitute a winning plurality. With Perot out of the race, Bush is expected to regain the lead in Texas, but the Clinton-Gore ticket should be wellplaced to make a pitch for disaffected Perot supporters. Indeed, a Dallas Morning News poll of Perot backers in the Dallas area showed 40 percent moving toward Clinton, while 28 percent favored Bush. Imagine the surprise of Perot’s staffers, who had been working to rally the troops amid the rumors of dissension, when they heard the morning of July 16 that Ross was calling it quits. Announcing his withdrawal, Perot argued that the Democratic Party, which appeared crippled in February, had revitalized itself and he no longer had a chance of winning the election outright; he did not want to throw the election into the House of Representatives, which would start a partisan fight. Still, Perot’s supporters did not expect him to give up this easily and some clung to the hope that he would reconsider. “I was very disappointed because I thought Mr. Perot would stay for the fight, being the Southern person that he is,” said Sam Williams, director of Perot’s Austin phone bank. “Maybe a deal was made I don’t know,” said the 75-year-old former Yellow Dog Democrat. “It would be disruptive for us to continue,” said Perot, who had left himself that escape clause in February when he authorized the petition drive, but many of his supporters thought that disruption of the political status quo was the point; they wanted to shake up the political establishment. His abrupt retreat left quite a few feeling betrayed. “We’ve been Peroted,” an Illinois campaign worker told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as he coined a verb for offering hope and then backing out. One of the thousands Of Perot supporters left in the lurch was Mike Ruppert, 41, who told the Dallas Morning News he recently had quit as a narcotics detective with the Los Angeles Police Department to help investigate connections between drugs, Nicaraguan Contras and the U.S. government. Maybe Perot can still put him to use. On the day Perot withdrew, one of his closest advisers, Morton Meyerson, told the StarTelegram Perot would take his name off the ballots. The following day, Perot was wheeling into the role of power broker in interviews with Larry King and Barbara Walters, saying he would leave to his grassroots organizers the decision of whether to keep his name on the ballot as a way to keep pressure on Presidential and Congressional candidates. “We can provide the swing vote to determine who gets into the House and Senate, and we can provide the swing vote to who gets to be the next President of the United States,” he said July 17 on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” Perot seemed to keep his options open for a possible return to the race if the Democrats and Republicans fail to come around to the Perotista way of thinking, but asked if he was keeping the door open, he said told Walters: “I don’t see a possibility unless I thought it was good for the country.” In 1968, George Wallace bolted the Democratic Party and mounted a third-party candidacy that gained 18.9 percent of the Texas vote. In 1980, former Republican congressman John Anderson got 2.47 percent of the Texas vote as an independent for President. In both cases, the campaigns were based on the personality of the candidate and had little lasting impact. Perot appeared to recognize this when he appealed for his supporters to turn their efforts toward influencing congressional campaigns. Tony Mazzochi, an Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union official, said the groundswell of support for Perot’s abortive independent campaign proved that there is a large mass of people disaffected with the established political parties. Mazzochi is helping to organize Labor Party Advocates to push the established parties to address worker concerns, but he added, “It must be created from the bottom up…. Both [Jesse] Jackson and Perot demonstrate the rise and fall of third movements [based upon an individual].” Austin businessman John Opincar, a Perot volunteer who had become alarmed that Perot was becoming insulated from the people who placed him on the Texas ballot, had announced plans to create a separate Grassroots Continuum to carry on the Perot campaign independent of the Dallas organization. After Perot’s pullout, Opincar said the group will continue as a clearinghouse for volunteers to work in and out of politics. Meanwhile, other “official” state coordinators discussed the possibility of reforming the petition organization as a permanent government reform movement. Although Perot took himself out of the ..race before he released his economic recovery plan, it reportedly would have called for widespread financial pain. It called for balancing the budgetin five years by raising taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and gasoline, imposing steeper defense cuts, eliminating special tax favors, cutting domestic programs across the board by 10 percent and then slicing another 5 percent from administrative costs through more selective cuts. It proposed tax breaks and incentives for start-up businesses. The plan, to be implemented over 12 years, also proposed cuts in Social Security benefits or higher taxes for wealthy recipients and a cap on deductible interest on mortgage loans of $200,000 or more, which would affect upper-income groups. The Mexican stock market welcomed the news that Perot potentially the biggest obstacle to a free trade treaty between the United States, Mexico and Canada had dropped out of the race. The Bolsa de Valores had lost more than 17 percent of its value in June as Perot’s fortunes rose, but the Mexico City market surged 3 percent on news of his withdrawal. Both George Bush and Bill Clinton support removal of most trade barriers among the three North American nations. Perot also had tentatively approved a foreign policy platform that called for using the National Security Council to address internal threats. Perot’s foreign policy adviser, Richard Fisher, told the Dallas Morning News the redirection of the White House agency, which now deals almost exclusively with foreign policy and was central to the Iran-Contra scandal, would have given Perot “a vehicle that was totally at the President’s discretion to use,” to break the Washington gridlock. Michael Ventura, writing .in the June 26 L.A. Weekly, explored Perot’s stance on issues, as far as they could be determined from his record and/or his statements during the campaign. Ventura concluded: “On issues of crime and civil liberties, he’s to the right of Bush; on education and the equalization of education funds, he’s to the left of Clinton; on cutting the defense budget, he and Clinton share the same position; his economics program and abortion stance is solidly Democratic; his attitude toward gays and privacy is stolidly Republican; and his accessibility, his risk-taking technological ideas, and the fact that he’s running at all is the most radical stance for a serious presidential candidate in the 20th century.” Then Perot blinked. When the going got rough, Ross got going out the back door. “Ross has left the building,” his supporters were told. Perhaps Perot can salvage a role in the campaign. Anybody with $3 billion still has a place in the American political process. Maybe he can become the Jesse Jackson of the middle class. But by the end of the weekend Perot reportedly was backpedalling even on his promises to help finance the reform movement. He has reneged on commitments before, and he makes it harder for . other potential leaders to gain the trust needed to build alternative political movements. Regardless of whether Perot decides to take his name off the ballot, a third party will be listed on the Texas ballot and at least 29 other state ballots. The anti-government Libertarians are fielding Andre Marrou, a former Alaska state representative, for President; Nancy Lord, a physician/lawyer, for Vice President; and more than 80 candidates for federal, state and county offices. And other progressive movements, such as the Texas Populist Alliance, Labor Party Advocates and the populist/left New Party, will continue organizing at the grassroots. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
You May Also Like
Texas Professor Leonard N. Moore’s “Teaching Black History to White People” is a memoir, history lesson, and instructional manual.