Ross Perot, who ran for President in 1992 and 1996, has died at the age of 89.
My father voted for Ross Perot twice. I was too young to really pay attention to the election of 1992 but, by the time 1996 had rolled around, I had started to get into following politics and elections. I can still remember watching Ross Perot accepting the first Reform Party nomination while former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm and Ed Zschau (the Congressman who would have Lamm’s pick for his running mate if Lamm had won the Reform nomination) stood in the background and tried to figure out what had just happened.
Perot was one of the first presidential candidates to campaign on the idea that he was so rich that he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests and his success undoubtedly led to many other nontraditional candidates looking at the presidential race and thinking, “Why not me?” Perot was big into fiscal responsibility and he didn’t have any of Donald Trump’s personal baggage but it’s still easy to draw a line from the national anger that propelled Perot’s 1992 campaign to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. Perot and Trump’s voters both felt they were being screwed by the system and that Washington D.C. had no interest in the lives of regular Americans.
(Donald Trump’s first official foray into elective politics was when he briefly ran for the Reform Party presidential nomination in 2000.)
On the same day that Perot died, billionaire Tom Steyer announced that he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Steyer may not have wide name recognition or a base of support. He may be entering the crowded race late and he’s already missed the first debate and it’s doubtful he’ll be invited to the second. But what Steyer does have is two very important things: a belief that, despite having no political experience, he can do a better job than the people who do and a personal fortune to spend on his campaign. Ross Perot may be gone but the legacy of his campaign lives on.