Richard Lamm has died. He was 85.
Today, Richard Lamm is a forgotten figure but, for several years, he was a big deal. He served as governor of Colorado from 1975 to 1987 and he was a part of the “New Democat” movement that included Bill Clinton and Gary Hart. Lamm was nicknamed Governor Gloom because he always framed everything in apocalyptic terms. Lamm famously said that he supported euthanasia because the elderly sometimes have a duty to die so as not to overburden the social safety net.
Lamm ran for President in 1996, as a candidate for the Reform Party nomination. As soon as Lamm announced he was running, Ross Perot announced that he would be a candidate as well. It’s been speculated that Perot encouraged Lamm to run specifically so Perot could then beat him at the Reform Convention. In the summer of 1996, I was 13 and already getting into politics. C-Span aired the Reform Party Convention and I’ll never forget the look of shock, horror, and anger on Richard Lamm’s face as he realized that Perot had essentially set him up. Lamm ended up getting 34% of the vote in the Reform Party’s national primary. Perot received the other 66%. While I doubt Lamm would have made much of an impact if he had won the nomination, nominating Lamm probably would have allowed the Reform Party a chance to escape from Perot’s shadow. As it is, the Reform Party went from being a mini-major party to a political joke in the span of just one election cycle.
(It’s always amazed me how the Reform Party could go from nominating Pat Buchanan in 2000 to Ralph Nader in 2004.)
Richard Lamm, R.I.P.