The Consortium

As flaky as he may be, Ross Perot has succeeded in doing something that we haven't seen in America for nearly a century. Not since Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose party has a third party achieved significant sustained support among the voters. With Perot's multi-million-dollar investment, the little Texan again could shake up the Democrats and the Republicans this fall.

For months, the Washington pundit class has been announcing the demise of the Perot phenomenon. Perot is a spent force politically, the pundits said. He peaked in 1992 with his 19 percent of the presidential vote and will surely slide back into single digits.

Many of the same pundits, of course, thought Perot would fade, too, as the 1992 race neared its end. Instead, Perot gained ground on both George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Since Perot's recent announcement that he will seek the Reform Party's nomination in 1996, the first polls have shocked Washington again. They show Perot with 15 percent of the vote, within range of his 1992 performance.

The scandal troubles of President Clinton and the stillborn candidacy of Bob Dole could drive Perot's numbers up even more. Voters have made clear that they are not happy with a straight Clinton-Dole match-up. With his clunky charts and folksy banter, Perot could appeal to voters who are thoroughly sick of slick and snarl.

The voters want alternatives, even though there are legitimate reasons to doubt Perot's fitness for the Presidency. Without doubt, Perot's solutions are often simplistic looks under the nation's hood and his interpretation of fact can lead to paranoid fears about his daughter's wedding. Still, neither Clinton nor Dole is setting such high standards that the idea of President Perot can be dismissed out of hand.

It is certainly no longer unthinkable that Perot might force Clinton and Dole into a tight three-way race. Perot could even give Dole a chance to win, if the loyal Republican voter base holds firm for the former Kansas senator and if the less stable Democratic electorate breaks apart. Or Perot might blow past one of the other candidates -- most likely Dole -- and be the real contender in November.

Whatever the outcome, however, Perot already has proved again that the Washington pundit class is hopelessly out of touch with the American people. The voters appear eager to shake up the process again, and Perot might be the one who benefits the most this time.

Robert Parry, Editor of The Consortium

(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post

Return to Editorial Index Page Return to Main Archive Index

Return to Consortium Main Menu.