Tag: 1992 Presidential Election

Remembering the Ross Perot Moment

 

Establishment politicians and those invested in business as usual use “Ross Perot” as a bogeyman, a warning not to stray from whatever candidate they shovel up and tell us we must give money, time, and our vote. Except that it was Perot who was the most electable candidate until the skulduggery or head fake or whatever rattled him around his daughter’s personal life. He had taken the lead in the polls but never recovered after showing weakness or indecision for that week or so.

He was a successful entrepreneur who criticized the self-licking ice cream cone of American CEOs, who (with their think tank and pundit platoons) insisted that American workers absorb the hit of global wage and employment competition while not subjecting their own gilded packages to critical comparison with the then ascendant Japanese executives. “If you want to make a million dollars, become a rock (music) star!” Ross Perot was not engaging in class warfare. Rather, he was using the contradictory narratives of wage competition and executive compensation to point to larger misaligned priorities in U.S. corporate policy, underwritten by U.S. government policy and muscle. Hence his early criticism of NAFTA as it was being negotiated.

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The Clintons of 2016 Will Not Be The Clintons of 1992

 

In 1992, Bill Clinton ran as a “new kind of Democrat,” one who would “end welfare as we know it” and craft a society that would reward those who “work hard and play by the rules.” Clinton knew that he could not win as a traditional liberal, so he crafted the now-famous “Third Way” approach, and campaigned and governed under a Third Way banner.

Of course, the Third Way was reinforced by the disastrous (from the Democrats’ perspective) 1994 Midterm Elections. Clinton accepted a Republican welfare reform bill (after two vetoes), balanced the budget (after much Republican prodding) and expanded free trade. At the same time, he proposed a bevy of micro-reforms that won bipartisan approval, in part because they were cleverly crafted so that Republicans could not vote against them. Through a combination of circumstance, accident, and design, Clinton became the Third Way president he had promised.

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