Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Ross Perot Myth

The video above is a 10-minute documentary from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films* that explains why it’s a myth that Ross Perot cost George H.W. Bush re-election in 1992—a myth that even Donald repeated. No matter who says it, it’s not true, as the data clearly shows.

There are many things about the 1992 election and Perot’s campaign that are fascinating and even extraordinary, but the myth that Perot was a spoiler is not one of them. After all, just because a falsehood is repeated endlessly, it doesn’t suddenly become a fact.

However, this explains why the Republican Party and their rightwing base believed that the Clinton presidency was illegitimate: They really thought they were going to win, and that Perot cost their man the White House. So, believing they’d been “robbed”, they set about trying to destroy the Clintons, an effort they continue to this very day. This isn’t political disagreement, argument over policy, or even mere partisanship, it’s bloodlust, a personal and entirely irrational hatred built upon a myth.

When Bill Clinton won, I was aware of the Republican obsession with destroying him and his presidency, but, at the time, I couldn’t work out why Republicans were gripped by their peculiar disease. It was many years later when I finally got the connection between Bush’s loss, the Perot candidacy, and Republicans’ irrational hatred of the Clintons.

This obsession, and the scorched earth politics of Newt Gingrich, set the stage for both the Republicans’ bellicose arrogance in the years of the Bush/Cheney regime, and also their visceral hatred and partisan obstruction of President Obama: It wasn’t all about racism (though much of it was and is), it’s also because of Republicans’ magical thinking that they alone are “meant” to win every election. This is also part of the reason why Karl Rove was so shocked in 2012 when Mitt Romney went down to defeat.

So, Republicans’ irrational delusion that they’re born to rule, and would do so were it not for cheating, fraud, and other nefarious deeds, is a disease they caught in 1992, one that’s only become worse in the decades since. This year, it may even prove fatal for the party.

Even so, regardless of who is elected president next month, the delusions of Republican and conservative politicians are unlikely to go away anytime soon, and that, too, is a legacy of 1992 and the Perot Myth. Unlike the myth, though, that delusion is sadly real.

*If the embed code for this video doesn't work properly, go to the Five Thiry Eight site to view it in a normal browser window.

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