Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Perot's Movement: Far from Forgotten

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Perot's Movement: Far from Forgotten

Article excerpt

DON'T be surprised if the next Webster's Dictionary contains a new word - "Perotism" - which will be defined as, "A new force in American politics which emerged in the 1992 presidential campaign under the leadership of Ross Perot."

How the dictionary will further describe "Perotism," I am not at all certain. But it undoubtedly will cite many of Mr. Perot's goals: ending gridlock in Washington, silencing the special interests, getting rid of the massive federal deficit, and providing jobs.

Certainly Perot's call for sacrifice, and his followers' willingness to accept it, will be mentioned. And also, of course, how he made a most impressive showing, with 19 million voters casting their ballots for this third-party candidate.

History tells us that third-party movements are shortlived. But the vitality of Perotism was demonstrated when he came back from what most people (other than his own hard-core supporters) thought was his political demise: his departure from the race at the time of the Democratic convention.

Now, the "Perotites" will be keeping a close eye on Bill Clinton. They'll watch his new appointees and what they do. They will monitor his efforts to get the country going again. If the results don't please them, they'll be letting Perot know of their displeasure. And he'll probably respond by renewing his candidacy in 1996. He has already promised this.

Perot will undoubtedly give the new president a good deal of time to prove himself. He criticized Mr. Clinton during the final days of the campaign. But his main distaste was clearly for George Bush.

By entering the race, Perot delivered a blow to Mr. Bush from which the president never recovered. He exposed the president's vulnerability by bringing into the open the weakness of Bush's public support. Many of the president's former voters had become faint-hearted, willing to vote for someone else if an alternative to the Democratic nominee could be provided.

Even though polling information on the subject is unclear, my reading of the presidential contest is that Perot attracted many more voters whose second choice was Bush than those voters whose second choice was Clinton. …

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