Perot’s Pride

Ross Perot started out delivering newspapers on horseback. Today, he's a self-made billionaire. And he wants to use some of his vast fortune to bankroll an independent campaign for the presidency of the United States. What are we to make of this dark horse candidate? At first sight, Perot looks pretty attractive. He built a successful company, even going head-to-head with IBM. He endowed a foundation that contributes millions to the poor. He led efforts to reform the Texas educational system. And when some of his employees were taken hostage in Iran, he arranged a commando-style rescue. Yes, the man has spirit and style, and he appeals to that streak of rugged independence in many Americans. We see that same independence in the way he picks and chooses his position on issues. On fiscal matters, Perot is conservative. But on social and economic issues, he's liberal. He's for abortion, for gun control, for greater government control of businesses. He was for the Vietnam war but against Desert Storm. When pressed for specific programs Perot would support as president, he doesn't let anyone pin him down. Instead of advocating anything specific, he says he'll use 2-way television to develop electronic town meetings across the nation, and let the people decide. That kind of independence appeals to people who'd like to see Washington shaken up and shaken out. Get rid of the career politicians who have sold out to special interests. But the very thing that makes Perot so attractive also makes his candidacy troubling. Perot is an outsider. He has no party. That means he has no base of support and accountability. Support in Congress is crucial if a president is going to get anything passed. A president without a party would be tied up in constant gridlock. But even more important, a party means accountability. It means there's a structure of committed people who have sifted and scrutinized the candidates--worked for them and raised funds for them. When they help put him in office, they expect him to keep his commitments. The candidate knows he has to keep their support. It's all summed up in the phrase party loyalty. A lone ranger has none of these constraints. He can be a loose cannon on the political deck. Especially one whose campaign was funded with his own money. Ross Perot has essentially said he will buy the presidency for $100 million. The very idea is shockingly crass. Perot's victory speech might well be, "I bought this office fair and square and now no one can tell me what to do." That's exactly the kind of attitude our system of government was designed to prevent. The American system was informed by the biblical teaching that everyone is a sinner--everyone is capable of evil. The best way to prevent abuses is to limit power, to hem in individual office holders by a complex web of checks and balances. A strong-willed maverick could threaten to undo that complex web. So while it's true that an independent candidate won't be captive to special interests, it has other implications that are very troubling. Because there's one thing worse than someone who is beholden to special interests. And that's someone who is beholden to no one at all.


Chuck Colson


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