Broken Contract? Changing Relationships between Americans and Their Government

By Stephen C. Craig | Go to book overview

8
Citizens for Perot: Assessing
Patterns of Alienation and Activism

LONNA R. ATKESON.
JAMES A. MCCANN
RONALD B. RAPOPORT
WALTER J. STONE

In the 1992 presidential election, nearly one out of every five votes cast went to Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot. Never before in America had a political neophyte risen so far so quickly. In a political culture dominated by the Democrats and Republicans for almost a century and a half, and in which third parties still have significant legal and organizational hurdles to overcome, Perot actually led both major-party presidential candidates for a time in the polls. The 19 percent he received on election day surpasses the percentage vote for all third-party (or independent) candidates except popular ex-president Theodore Roosevelt, who ran on the Bull Moose ticket in 1912. Perot received nearly three times the percentage of John Anderson, the former Republican who challenged Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980, and almost half again as much as George Wallace did running as an "American Independent" in 1968 against Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. To put Perot's 19 percent showing into perspective further, only five other third-party or independent candidates have received even 5 percent of the national vote (see Table 8.1), although there have been such candidates in every presidential election this century.

As impressive as the final vote tally was, perhaps the most striking accomplishment of the Perot movement was the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of political activists who lent their efforts to his campaign. Volunteers mobilized virtually overnight to staff state and local campaign headquarters, campaigners mounted petition-signing drives to put Perot on the ballot, and an extensive grassroots electoral movement began to take shape. These volunteer activists were essential to the movement's early success, especially in getting Mr. Perot's name on the ballot in all fifty states, and their involvement supported his claim that he was leading a spontaneous popular crusade.

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