Editorial: Perot paved political pathways
Ross Perot wasn’t a guy who did things first. He was a guy who saw a way to do them a little bit better.
Perot, who died Tuesday, wasn’t the first person to make money in Texas. He was one of the first to drill into technology instead of oil.
“Anybody can cut prices, but it takes brains to produce a better article.”
He wasn’t the first rich man to run for president.
Most of the men who have sat in the Oval Office had money, whether they came from wealth or built it from scratch. He tried to do it not by pretending to be the common man but by being open about his money and how it shaped his political decisions.
“If someone is blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?”
He wasn’t the first man to run as an independent.
By the time Perot ran for president in 1992, America had become accustomed to an occasional high-profile third man — George Wallace did it in 1968 and John Anderson in 1980. Perot could have given money to a candidate, but he had his own ideas.
“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, the public debt should be reduced and the arrogance of public officials should be controlled.”
And he wasn’t the first man to lose. Or to get up and try again, and lose again. But he seemed to believe the trying was the important part — the thing that has to be done come hell or high water.
“Failures are like skinned knees, painful but superficial.”
A Republican for decades, Perot walked away from his party to do what he believed was right. He did it as an independent in 1992, and again when he created the Reform Party in 1995 and ran on that ticket in 1996.
His run has become synonymous with the dangers of a third-party candidate to a major nominee — a spoiler that can “steal” votes from a favorite.
Maybe George H.W. Bush would have won re-election if it weren’t for Perot’s 18.9% of the vote. But with no electoral votes in Perot’s column, maybe not.
Maybe the danger was more that he opened a two-party race to a dark horse that could bring up ideas that weren’t in either the Democratic or Republican lanes.
“War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules.”
A run like Perot’s paved the road for another billionaire with populist support to dive into politics and become president. It also cleared the path for the mass candidacy in the Democratic hunt for 2020.
His idea was simple: If you have an idea, and you have a voice, speak your mind. That’s never bad, whether you are running for office or not.
“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”