In 1992, President George HW Bush was hoping for an easy re-election against Governor Bill Clinton. The cold war was over and the United States had just won a quick and decisive war against a brutal middle-east tyrant.
Then out of the blue appeared Ross Perot, an outspoken Texas billionaire who had a clear message: Balance the budget. He recognized the need to reduce the size of our bloated federal government. His ability to finance his own campaign and his numerous television appearances, especially on Larry King’s show, helped him eventually earn 19% of the vote that November. Clearly, this cost the election for the Republican party, allowing Bill Clinton to take the presidency with only 43% of the vote.
The GOP was punished for straying from one of their core principles. President Bush had abandoned one of the major factions of the party. That faction was the fiscal conservatives.
In an earlier post I mentioned that the 2 major parties are each made up of factions. President Reagan defined the Republican party as a “three legged stool“. The three legs being social conservatives, national security conservatives, and fiscal conservatives. When Republican politicians ignore any one of those factions, they lose.
By 1994, the party had learned its lesson. It wanted, moreover needed those Perot voters back. Newt Gingrich and other leaders in Congress formulated the Contract With America. The contract contained 10 major acts:
- The Fiscal Responsibility Act
- The Taking Back Our Streets Act
- The Personal Responsibility Act
- The American Dream Restoration Act
- The National Security Restoration Act
- The “Common Sense” Legal Reform Act
- The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act
- The Citizen Legislature Act
- The Family Reinforcement Act
- The Senior Citizens Fairness Act
Each of these acts appealed to at least one of the party’s major factions. The voters were convinced that they were serious about these reforms. The Republicans won…big time. After over 40 years as a minority party, they were finally in charge of Congress.
Once in office, they went to work and actually passed those bills. Many were vetoed by President Clinton, but when it came to spending, Congress dug in its heels. They would not let Clinton grow government beyond its means. By the end of the decade, the federal budget deficit, which had been $203B in 1994, had been slashed to a $236B surplus!!
So, in 1992 an independent candidate appears on the scene carrying the banner of fiscal conservatism, and loses. But did he really lose? In my opinion, he lost the battle, but won the war.
I am proud to have voted for Ross Perot in 1992. At the time, many people called it a wasted vote. History has proven otherwise.
Bruce Morton and his wife (Lake Stevens, Washington) have four children. A conservative activist, Bruce didn’t give up or go away after 2008. He is an electrical engineer and holds degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Florida. He spent two years as a missionary in Guatemala. He blogs occasionally at Bruce Morton