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Ross Perot Has Died (cnbc.com)
407 points by chuckgreenman on July 9, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 209 comments

My dad was a programmer at EDS for a short time before the Iran incident. Dad has a great deal of respect for Perot- Perot was quite the role model and practiced what he preached. He was also very approachable. Dad looks kindly on the times he had short but friendly interactions with Perot on the elevator or wherever around EDS. Dad was slated to join the Iran contract, but he decided being a programmer was not for him(he HATED punchcards). Talking with Dad today, one thing that isn't remembered as well is Perot's support of veterans during the Vietnam War, which was not in vogue then.

That's awesome. I started in Tech in 1990, I remember stories about Perot and EDS. An incredible time in the business. (Also, the 'must wear a suit' era, which I believe Perot was big on.)

None of what I've read today on his passing have mentioned this interesting story of the rescue of his employees from Iran during the revolution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Wings_of_Eagles

A mini-series was produced about it starring Burt Lancaster

I enjoyed the book, never saw the tv program, although I also just found this counter-narrative: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1992-07-09-920302...

Back when the Chicago Tribune thought it was Buzzfeed, I dont think they liked him.



The Chicago Tribune is not a good newspaper.

The Trib is a fantastic newspaper what are you talking about.

Yes, quite remarkable. Ross Perot was described as having organised "the largest jailbreak in history" for this (though I can't find the reference now), as several thousand prisoners escaped in the ensuing chaos.

Slightly different kind of jailbreak, but quite a bit larger than this one over the course of 28 years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_Feld_Carr

Many remember Perot as the goofy rich guy who ran for president in 92, but what many don’t know is that he funded NeXT computer - Steve Jobs’ post-Apple venture that was later acquired by Apple and transformed computing for the next decade. Interface Builder and the NextStep core libraries were arguably one of the biggest catalysts of the iPhone App ecosystem. In many ways iOS exists because of NeXT. So while it was considered by many to be a failed company, behind the scenes its technology has continued to be influential.

Perot deserves credit for seeing the magic there, and staking a significant chunk of change on it.

I was curious enough to play out how much that chunk ended up being worth.

Perot reportedly acquired 16% of NeXT for his $20M investment[1].

I don't know the details of the cash/stock split but Apple ultimately acquired NeXT for $350M after paying off its debts[2]. That's $56M for Perot if he maintained that 16% stake.

If he kept it all in Apple stock (unlikely I know, but fun to play this out) he'd have had about 2.3 million shares of Apple at the time. AAPL has split 28X since then[3], so if he held it, today he'd own 64.4 million shares. Total present-day value, not counting significant dividends in the meantime: $12.9 billion.

Really, it doesn't matter if he kept it. By the uncaring math of Wall Street, that $20M investment ultimately generated $12.9 billion worth of value.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/1987/01/30/business/company-news-per...

[2] https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-acquires-next-jobs/

[3] https://www.fool.com/investing/2016/08/10/apples-stock-split...

That assumes that NeXT did not undergo any dilution post-1987. Not sure this was the case — IIRC, they had to raise several more rounds of investment.

Yes, but even so, the (fictional) RoI on the start money is a few orders of magnitude. Which is not quite ordinary.

It's interesting how much of that happened post-acquisition, though. Holding NeXT from 1987 - 1996 = max 3x return. Holding AAPL from 1996-present = 340x return. This return was available to ordinary people on the public stock markets, too - if you were an average Joe who put $60K into Apple in 1996, you would now have Ross Perot's initial $20M investment sitting in your pocket.

I get your point, but let's take a minute to remind ourselves that the average person does not have 60k lying around to invest.

The average hypothetical alternate history investor seems to have that kinda money.

Sure, but how much was Perot being lucky vs. him being smart? If Apple had gone with acquiring Be instead of NeXT (which I think was a distinct possibility), Perot's investment could quite possibly have ended up a write-off.

He was basically betting on Steve Jobs so for me Perot was being smart.

I'll take a 50% chance of a X1000.

Less flippantly, it was a smart bet to make at the time even though things could have gone differently, since we (now) know there was a possible world (ours!) in which it went X1000.

I remember him as the guy who did everything he could to save employees stuck in Iran, two of whom were imprisoned, during the revolution.

He didnt go rescue them himself, but he funded the rescue and was personally invested in the rescue.

Not many CEOs would do much more than pay some K&R firm to negotiate a ransom/bribe, while simultaneously getting the lawyers to work out how little each life is worth they need to settle with the families.

RIP Mr. Perot

He also flew into Iran during that time to visit the imprisoned employees to assure them he was doing everything in his power to get them out. If he had been spotted, he surely would have been arrested, too.

On Wings Of Eagles https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Wings_of_Eagles

>, but what many don’t know is that he funded NeXT computer - Steve Jobs’ post-Apple venture

Ross Perot also tried to buy an early Microsoft in 1979 when it only had 28 employees: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=199...

Some accounts said one reason Ross Perot's enthusiastic investment in NeXT happened was because he regretted missing out on Microsoft and didn't want to repeat the same mistake.

It really glosses over and ignores the actual history of OSX by going directly from describing NeXT, to iphone stuff. The first releases of OSX were basically NeXT with a weird half baked apple GUI on top of it.



As OSX has evolved as its own product, of course it's been diverging from its roots, but even as recently as v10.4 or v10.5 it was blindingly obvious where it came from, when you started poking around under the hood of the OS.

> it was blindingly obvious where it came from

Why so many APIs in the Apple ecosystem start with NS

Oh man, I hadn't made that connection before but it's so obvious now

Firefox has its own historical code with NS- prefixes inherited from Netscape. The joke now is that NS standards for "namespace". :)

It's still quite obvious where it comes from. Many of Cocoa's controls can trace their way back to NeXTSTEP.

EDS - a large company in the 1990s - should also get a mention: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Data_Systems

And Perot Systems, which was sold for $3.9 billion to Dell. It had 20,000 employees and $2.8 billion in revenue by 2008, before the acquisition.


The Perovians were known to out-IBM IBM in terms of company culture. They all had short hair, no beards or mustaches, and a freshly starched shirt.

From what I heard, they generally did a good job for their customers. Unlike the Big Five accounting firms, who would only run up your laser printer toner bill.

... Wait.

Are we giving investors specific credit for interface builder when their contribution throwing money at the founder of one of the most famous companies in the 20th century?

I have more to do with Interface Builder than Ross Perot does, and I was like 13 at the time I was there doing user testing for it. Shower me with the appropriate praises please.

Nothing you said is wrong except that NeXTSTEP was first ported to Mac hardware and became Mac OS X which in turn led to iOS.

OP didn't say otherwise.

I was in high school when Perot ran for President and I was a huge fan. I remember liking how he wasn’t a politician and therefor looked at the problems our country had from a different point of view.

This was the first time I had ever watched political debates; because I wanted to hear him speak. He was so different.

I also was a huge Apple and then Next fan at that time too. I sent him an email asking if he could help me get a Next computer :-)

His books are good reads if you ever get the chance.


> he wasn’t a politician and therefor looked at the problems our country had from a different point of view.

This is what many had desired when they propelled the current 'billionaire' non-politican to President.

Comparing Ross Perot to Trump is like comparing a Neuroscientist to a Snake-Oil Salesman though.

Funny enough, after Ross Perot the reform party's next presidential nominee was Donald Trump, who ran on a Perot-esque platform and was the first major presidential nominee to support gay marriage

He was briefly involved, but the party nomination went to Pat Buchanan.

The fascinating bromance between Steve Jobs and Ross Perot


is a fun read.

That article is a lot of fun and so is this one that it linked to:



I had no idea he was that interesting!

I chanced to be next to him in line for the buffet at the big NeXT unveiling event at SF’s Davies Hall and chatted briefly with him. Nobody seemed to be aware of who / what he was at the time. I wonder how many zillionaire investors are semi-anonymous these days.

I was there too but only saw Woz and some of the original Mac team. Started late as was Steves habit in the early years (and probably flakey computers too). The essence of the demo was multimedia capabilities- uncommon in that era. I was Stanford faculty that time. The computer was aimed ar education, but I did not why it was so much better than others. An OS mostly OOP ground up was nifty.

I believe I was around 18 when I heard of Ross Perot. At the time I had been impressed by the charts and no-nonsense approach, although now I realize I could not have judged their content with any actual knowledge. As I know a lot more about the world now, about debt, fiat currencies, and inflation, etc, and how charts can be constructed to not represent reality but one's agenda, beliefs, or misconceptions, I wonder now the extent to which Ross Perot's charts and message were insightful, or merely propagated myths and value-choices. Were his charts deficit hawk debt clocks and scare tactics, or were there real insights that reflected reality? I do not remember now because I did not understand them then. Anyone on HN have an opinion?

Here's his second infomercial. Complete with flip charts.


Pretty much every topic he brings up is still relevant today.

I remember his run in 92. He got branded as out of touch and cooky by the press with the help of the political parties. It didn't help that he quit the race and gave some strange reason and then jumped back in. He even made light of it by picking Patsy Cline's "Crazy" as his theme song.

He seemed like a very good man that stuck by his beliefs. Peace be with him.

If you are looking for a contrast with a typical tech bro modern day CEO leadership I highly recommend the book "On wings of Eagles." It describes Ross Perots efforts to gather a mix of staff and hired guns to go into Iran and break some of his staff out of prison during the Iranian Revolution. They actually succeeded. Partly crazy, partly courageous...only in America!

I remember reading that book. In the end, I don't think they had to break people out of prison, but they still successfully extracted his staff from Iran

I think I'll add, "Are you willing and able to extract me from a country I'm located in (in the course of our work) while a revolution is actively in progress?" to my list of interview questions.

Are you ready to have your mind blown?

Read this article from 20 years ago:


Jeff Bezos:

"At a certain point I was sort of a professional dater," he explains about his years in New York. His systematic approach to the quest for a permanent relationship was to develop what he labeled "women flow," a play on the "deal flow" [...] "The number-one criterion was that I wanted a woman who could get me out of a Third World prison," he says.

"What I really wanted was someone resourceful. [...] ' If I tell somebody I'm looking for a woman who can get me out of a Third World prison, they start thinking Ross Perot - Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

This is excellent criteria for finding a partner.

Then you might like working for Doctors Without Borders, who can actually answer yes to that.

They're a bit controversial, there's plenty of non-controversial groups doing the same work without the baggage.

To be fair, I work in the NGO space and MSF do outstanding work. Of all NGOs they do some of the hardest (Ebola, Syria etc) work out there. One of the few I happily give money to.

No, the prison kind of broke down which caused quite a bit of chaos itself. Revolutions are not stable environments.

Apparently an Iranian EDS employee helped to lead the mob to break down the prison and helped to shepherd the imprisoned EDS employees to safety.

I always liked the guy. He lived not far from me. Back in the day in an old job I did a service call at his home. Never got to meet him though. He seemed to be a decent, forward thinking gent.

Ross Perot advocated for and greatly influenced the eventual passing of draconian drug laws in Texas.


Not everyone can be right about everything I'd note.

He was a man who made a tremendous influence, mostly good, some bad.

Here's a navy seal telling a story about Perot helping him figure out what was wrong with his son -- turned out to be an incredibly rare genetic disorder.


IIRC he was the only CEO to end equal benefits to gay and lesbian employees (Perot Systems started when he stepped away and ended it when he came back).

For the curious:

> https://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/10/us/perot-ends-benefits-fo...

> In an interview, Mr. Perot, chairman of Perot Systems, said his decision only reflected his fear that heterosexuals would falsely claim committed relationships to win these benefits.

Would be interesting to hear if he has other known slights against LGBT or if he truly hates loopholes.

Remember his famous “Giant Sucking Sound” comment?


I'd say he was right:

"We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It's pretty simple: If you're paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, ... have no health care—that's the most expensive single element in making a car— have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south. ... when [Mexico's] jobs come up from a dollar an hour to six dollars an hour, and ours go down to six dollars an hour, and then it's leveled again. But in the meantime, you've wrecked the country with these kinds of deals.[1]"

Perot ultimately lost the election, and the winner, Bill Clinton, supported NAFTA, which went into effect on January 1, 1994.

> the winner, Bill Clinton, supported NAFTA, which went into effect on January 1, 1994.

Which ultimately ended up damaging Mexican wages, too, because we showered Mexico with heavily subsidized corn (and other agricultural products) forcing rural Mexicans into the cities and the maquiladoras.

I’ve heard it argued that NAFTA set the stage for that increased immigration North as well.

The bill was left for Clinton to sign as a strategic move so that Republicans wouldn't get any blame for the bill that they crafted, enacted, and was supported by their man in the oval office who would have signed it too if he had won.

Clinton campaigned on signing NAFTA. It wasn't just dumped on him.

If you can build a car for cheaper elsewhere, why wouldn't you? If your goal is to keep people gainfully employed, well how about working on improving their skills so that a laborer in a developing country isn't more productive than they are?

The workers in the cheaper country don’t need to be as productive.

If you’re paying them 5x less in total compensation, and they’re half as productive, you’re still better off with the cheaper labor.

No healthcare, no pensions, no environmental laws will save a company lots of money.

Are you asking why a corporation wouldn't build stuff cheaper elsewhere, or why we as a populace might want to prevent it?

Because those are two different questions with two different answers.

Because if it is only cheaper because of hidden costs (tragedy of the commons in game theory, environmental disasters in this one), then the game is rigged, and only the wealthy are benefiting while they poison the unwashed masses.

Ah, you confused productive with cheap.

If you're ever in Dallas, TX, the Perot museum is one of the best children's science museums in the world. Highly recommended for both kids and adults.

Was about to post that. Our family always visits the museum when we are in Dallas. Amazing place.

It may not have been preventable, but he was absolutely correct on NAFTA.

> It may not have been preventable, but he was absolutely correct on NAFTA.

He was wrong on NAFTA, pushing the nationalist/mercantilist line that it would divert gains from the US to Mexico when the actual problem was that (as is generally the case for neoliberal “free” trade) that it drove gains to the capitalist class in both the US and Mexico (and internationally, as capital is largely globalized) to the relative disadvantage of the working classes on both sides of the border.

Bill Clinton was largely rhetorically correct on NAFTA, at least in outline (noting that it would be an aggregate boon but would require additional work to avoid adverse impacts on workers), but while he did impose a labor side agreement on NAFTA it was insufficient to change the basic problems.

So companies moved jobs away from the US to the detriment of American workers? How is he wrong then? That's exactly what he said would happen.

The US would have been much better off with Perot as president. Both Bush and Clinton supported NAFTA, and Clinton ushered China into the WTO.

> So companies moved jobs away from the US to the detriment of American workers?

No, the US experienced strong economic growth (stronger than it would have without NAFTA) and likewise strong job growth (maybe stronger than it would have been without NAFTA, that's less clear), but less job (or at least wage) growth than would have been expected with similar economic growth without NAFTA. Insofar as there was a “sucking sound”, it wasn't of jobs or wealth being sucked to Mexico from the US, it was of relative economic position being pulled to capital from labor in both the US and Mexico (also Canada, FWIW.)

> The US would have been much better off with Perot as president.

Not, from any evidence, based on first-order policy impacts from the Administration. Perhaps based on missing the impacts on the partisan alignment from the pinnacle of neoliberal consensus and the subsequent rightward surge of the Republican Party as it sought to distinguish itself from the Clintonian neoliberalism in the Democratic Party that was virtually identical (but for comparatively small differences on some culture war issues, but even there Clinton was mostly a rightward divergence for the Democrats) to the pre-Clinton Republican position, sure. Maybe bases on the partisan realignment that would have resulted from the Perot faction displacing one of the major parties, sure.

Certainly based on Perot not having strong-but-failed bids in 1992 and then against with his Reform Party in 1996 which, by qualifying for matching funds, brought a number of opportunists to seek the 2000 Reform Party nomination, including David Duke and Donald Trump, the latter of which cited the risk of association with the former as a reason for dropping out, but courted the same White Nationalist constituency when he ran again, this time for a major party nomination, after a decade and a half of retooling his political image.

> Both Bush and Clinton supported NAFTA

On trade policy, Bush, Clinton, and Perot all favored the capitalist class.

Bush did so fairly nakedly, and chose policies well-supported by modern economics given that goal.

Perot also did so fairly nakedly, but work mercantilist policies th t both theory and evidence had shown were suboptimal for centuries.

Clinton was like Bush, but with some at least rhetorical recognition that supporting the capitalist class in ways which produced aggregate growth could be counterproductive for the larger working class and that at least modest active interventions were necessary to assure that aggregate growth resulted in general benefit.

If one agreed with his ideological focus, Bush was the least wrong on policy. Clinton was, at least rhetorically, the least wrong on what was necessary for durable broad progress, though in practical first-order policy terms probably not different enough from Bush to make much difference in outcomes, as his mitigation measures were far too modest. Perot was the most wrong.

The NeXT thing is neat. Also of course he made it into the Simpsons.

"Go ahead, throw your vote away!"

You can call him "goofy", but he was anything but. I got to watch him give a speech in Fargo during the 92 campaign and it was amazing. At the time, I got into the habit of reading each candidates "book" they put out during the election. His was short, to the point, and very specific on what needed fixing. He was a serious man that ran into the establishment and got hammered.

Didn't he also "disappear" (from the public eye) during a crucial point in the campaign? My memory of this is hazy as I was only 12 at the time, but I recall my father being interested in his candidacy, but then around July or August he withdrew from the campaign. Then re-entered in September or October, so he came across as "flaky".

He dropped out of the race to get away from bad press, the establishment players kinda forced him out with dirt-digging.

I think he thought it would help, but when he re-entered he was worse off.

I also remember him doing well in the debates, but his VP pick, Admiral Stockdale, badly flubbed the VP debate.

For a long time after that I only remembered Admiral Stockdale as the guy who had his hearing aid shut off during the debate. I didn't realize his history — he was a real intellectual, with a love of Stoic philosophy, but he determined on the active life of a Naval Aviator. He ejected over North Vietnam and was captured and subjected to torture. To avoid being used for propaganda, he disfigured himself by cutting his scalp with a razor and beating his face with a chair. When he gained information that could be used to reveal others' attempts to subvert the North Vietnamese, he slit his wrists to avoid being tortured into a confession. He conducted himself heroically in a war that was anything but, and earned the respect of his fellow-prisoners and his captors, and he gives credit to the philosophy of Epictetus, especially as contained in his Enchiridion.

(And to be fair to Stockdale, he only was informed of the debate one week in advance. He was not a skilled debater, though, to be sure.)

Me too. At the time, the SNL parody was how I remember it. Only later did I learn what an amazing hero, intellectual and person Stockdale was.

Looking back, I guess the buck stops with Perot, he should certainly have given his VP more advance notice, and maybe some coaching in public speaking, TV, PR.

Yeah, he was pretty disconnected. You're not making the grade if even Dan Quayle is chuckling at you.

Perot is a good example of how it is impossible for good, smart, outside-of-the-establishment people to get elected in this media environment.

He talked about a conspiracy by the Republicans to ruin his daughters wedding. I thought he was crazy at the time, but now I believe him.

I remember his hour long presentations with the flip charts of how things were screwed up.

Too bad he didn’t win. Instead we got the scumbag Clintons.

At the time, I thought it was all conspiracies and a really weird publicity stunt. I had no intention of voting for Bush or Clinton, so I went ahead and voted for Perot.

Looking back, and seeing some of the stuff that has come out about the other candidates, I too now believe it was all true.

Bill Clinton left office with a 60+% approval rating, higher than Reagan when he left. Bill won both elections with 370+ electoral votes. I think the American people were mostly pleased.

Public opinion often has very little to do with what is actually good for the country.

GDP and jobs grew more under Clinton than Reagan too.

They were definitely good years for the economy.


Sugar high as we sold out the middle class (look at any wage data)

That's cherry picking numbers somewhat.

Clinton never got a majority of the popular vote. A mere 43% in 1992 and 49.2% in 1996.

Contrast that with Obama's 52.9% in 2008 and 51.1% in 2012.

Or Reagan's 50.4% in 1980 and 58.8% smashing in 1984.

Reagan was obviously a lot more popular with the electorate than Bill Clinton and it shows in the only way that ultimately matters: votes. Approval ratings are at best bullshit, at worst they're aggressive propaganda from the corporate media machine to favor their candidates.

> Clinton never got a majority of the popular vote. A mere 43% in 1992 and 49.2% in 1996.

Doesn't change your point, really, but for completion, a Clinton also got a non-majority 48.2% in 2016.

Votes are not a measure of approval. They are a measure of preference within a highly constrained ballot and FPTP game theory.

Same with my parents.

Perot did better than he should have! Getting 20% is better than any third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt.

He was a nicer Donald Trump.

This isn't true at all, Perot actually succeeded at business.

Couldn't upvote more, but Trump did succeed at show business. Have to give him that. Every platform is a stage for him.

Did Trump not? Or is that up in the air since his records aren’t public?

I might be naive but I do admire what he did to save his employees held hostage in Iran.

Country would be in a better place if he had won in 92.

I like Ross Perot, enough to have voted for him in '92.

A few favorites:

- He used his own money to finance rescue missions for EDS employees caught overseas in unfriendly situations.

- He was sort of a cartoon-ish character,short of stature and with over-sized ears. In one of his presidential debates I remember him making the comment "I'm all ears!", cracking himself up with the rest of us.

RIP, Mr. Perot

Today also former ex-president of Argentina, Fernando de la Rúa died. He was the president that was part of an opposition strike and derived into the big crisis in Argentina in 2001.

Can you expand on this a bit? The connection to Ross Perot isn't clear to someone not well-versed in the history.

I liked Ross Perot and he would have been a terrific president but damn him for not at least trying to primary Bush and allowing the Clintons into the White House.

"Can I finish...?"

independents were always weird, but at least not stupid dicks like you know who.

Heck yeah I know who ;)

He did some good things. He was brave enough to recommend that high school athletes (ie football players) in Texas could not play unless they met some minimal standards of participation in academics.

OTOH, his business career is not atypical. The deal about starting EDS with $1,000 may or may not be true. He was a successful salesperson for IBM. He sold to the insurance companies in Dallas, particularly Southwestern Life, which he talked into buying a huge 70xx (2nd generation) mainframe computer. Supposedly, IBM then had a maximum commission that a salesperson could earn in a year, so he was looking at a large part of a year with no additional income. Coincidentally, Southwestern Life, having acquired an IBM computer very much larger than it could use productively, had around 2 shifts per day that it could easily be persuaded to lease to Perot's $1,000 new company, EDS. How did Perot get customers? He had an associate who was very close to VP-then-president LBJ, and there was this thing called Medicare that LBJ was starting up, and Perot's new little $1,000 company got the contract to process Medicare claims! So, the man who ran against government had been made a huge success by government money.

The government really was a big friend to Perot. The government of Texas built a highway north out of Ft Worth. Perot built an airport out there, but not near the highway, because that land was too expensive. Then he persuaded the great State of Texas to move the highway to serve his airport. The Treasury department started printing money nearby, flying it to Federal Reserve banks through his airport. And Perot systems, the company he started after he exited EDS, early on obtained a very large contract to automate the US Post Office, with IBM System/38 minicomputers everywhere.

As an employer, he did some things that are still a little controversial. New tech employees signed contracts, and if they quit too soon thereafter (one or two years, IIRC), they owed EDS $10,000 for training (this was money 40 years ago). EDS also used mandatory overtime, (often six and sometimes 7-day weeks during crunch time), with armed guards at the door monitoring bathroom breaks.

A couple of things he said during the 1992 campaign were also a bit fishy. David Frost quoted Peter Lesser directly to Perot, “Ross Perot is a good person, and he’d make a great king. But I think he’d be a bad president.” Perot said he had never heard of Peter Lesser, whom he had met and had discussions with, and who had run for both district attorney and mayor of Dallas in the preceding few years. As a CEO who does not know who ran for mayor in the city in which his business is headquartered, he must have been pre-channeling Trump one way or the other, as he likely was with his bogus claim during the campaign about a Black Panther assassination plot against himself broken up by his dog.

> ran into the establishment

What he ran into was the inevitable math of a first past the post electoral system.

You want third parties, you need ranked choice voting or something similar.

Even if you're fine with the main parties, RCV is probably better in terms of electing who most people want.

You could argue that Bush senior might have won with it if the Perot voters ranked 1) Perot 2) Bush. Bush junior might have lost had the Nader voters ranked Gore second. Similar question marks hang over the election of Trump with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson and the extremely thin margin of victory in the electoral college.

> You want third parties, you need ranked choice voting or something similar.

Ranked choice or similar would only give you an occasional third party win here and there, in some small number of electoral districts. It will not give you serious and viable third parties with long living organizations.

What you'd need is, proportional voting for the House. Electoral districts the size of at least 10 House representatives. This would give you third parties that consistently get House representatives in many electoral districts, and thus have a viable and serious party organization, with routine and experience to to run campaigns from elections to elections. This is how European countries work, except UK and France.

If you want out of the two-party system, I don't think anything else works.

Ranked voting actually does enable third party candidate wins (assuming they can garner sufficient public support) with ranked choice voting the stigma of voting third party is removed and people can safely vote primarily for who they want instead of primarily voting strategically.

This is false. See the game theory explained by Andy Jennings, who did his math PhD thesis on voting methods and co-founded the Center for Election Science.


Here's a more technical explanation by Warren Smith, a Princeton math PhD whose work was the centerpiece of the book "Gaming the Vote".


Finally, see real world data from a century of IRV in Australia.


Where does it work?

Australia has single-representative voting districts with instant-runoff voting, and they seem to have something that looks to me being close to a two-party system in practice. I admit, I didn't browse though all possible countries, so perhaps you know a better example?


If you actually work through the game theory, you find that single-winner instant-runoff voting is nearly as vulnerable to Duverger’s Law of two-party domination as plurality voting.


There are much better single-winner systems available: see approval voting, score voting, and Condorcet voting. But if you want a legislature with proportional representation, you really need a system with multi-representative districts.

Nailed it.

As the sibling comment from anderkaseorg says, IRV is one of the worst single-winner voting systems that isn't plurality voting.

Third parties would greatly benefit from range-voting[1]. I used to favor Condorcet voting methods as an improvement over plurality, but now I favor range-voting. Mostly for how much more straightforward the vote outcomes are, and the simplicity of explaining it. The no-show paradox inherent in Condorcet systems also bothers me[2].

There is a good summary of the properties of different voting systems on wikipedia[3].

[1] https://www.rangevoting.org/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participation_criterion

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_electoral_system...

agree - voting system is only 1/2 of the pie - the other piece being the actual governmental structure.. when parties not candidates are voted for, and coalitions have to be formed, the need to heavily fund 'magical individuals' is less, and the need to compromise between parties and meet people directly on their own terms increases..

> with ranked choice voting the stigma of voting third party is removed

That is a myth. Instant Runoff Voting does not eliminate the lesser evil (spoiler) problem. See this explained by a math PhD.


I lived in Italy for a number of years and am not enamored of proportional systems for several reasons:

* Small parties sometimes have disproportionate power in coalitions.

* Coalitions tend to not be real stable, leading to unstable governments that can't get much done (ok, for some this is a feature, but for some things, I think it isn't).

* People matter, but with a proportional system, the party picks the candidates, and you vote for the party. In some cases, I think this leads to worse people being elected.

Proportional is different from ranked choice.

Ranked choice means you give your #1, #2, #3 pick etc. Then if your #1 loses, your vote goes to your #2. It prevents these "A vote for [minority candidate] is a vote for [enemy candidate]" situations.

Proportional means each party can elect a number of representatives proportional to the number of votes the party got.

They both empower third party candidates, but in a different way.

I was responding to someone advocating proportional as better than RCV with my opinions about proportional voting.

> I lived in Italy

I don't know, Italy might be chaotic under any system. What do you think of e.g. Germany, Denmark?

There's a certain amount of that in any system. I mean the US doesn't have a great system but still does....ok-ish.

I don't know the details of politics in Germany or Denmark well enough to know whether there were elections, parties, issues or areas where things didn't work out very well and a different electoral system might have been an improvement. There are a lot of "what if's" to consider even in places I know well.

As an American; I'd generally expect 'chaotic' to be a more likely outcome than the U.S. becoming more like Germany or Denmark.

Why not both?

* IRV or approval voting in the Presidency/executive

* Multi-member districts in the House.

MMD in the House, by State, would effectively end gerrymandering - there is no way state borders will change radically enough to affect electoral results. Combine that with breaking the two party duopoly and it's a huge win.

Side note: I know you don't (nor probably anyone in this thread; HN has fewer trolls) have any intention of subverting the idea, but when people online are supporting electoral reform of ANY kind, the first response should be "I agree".

I agree with electoral reform, and my ideas are X, Y, and Z.

If people squabble too early, it kills momentum. Furthermore, perhaps 1% of the population gives a damn about voting systems and its impact on the country. The rest don't know about it, or are part of the private powerhouse organizations known as the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee.

Support electoral reform first, then discuss options.

> What you'd need is, proportional voting for the House. Electoral districts the size of at least 10 House representatives.

Problem: Most states don't have 10 House representatives. And in general it allows candidates to bifurcate voters in the same way that gerrymandering does. If you have a group of aligned people who should by population have their own representative, splitting them between two or three districts means they get no representation at all.

The better solution is range voting:


Then you can use the existing districts without changing anything else, but it immediately makes third parties viable. And it boots out anyone who doesn't represent their entire district when there is anyone running against them who does, which puts a damper on all this line drawing nonsense as well.

> You want third parties, you need ranked choice voting or something similar.

Arrow's Impossibility Theorem : "When voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), no ranked voting electoral system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete and transitive) ranking while also meeting a specified set of criteria: unrestricted domain, non-dictatorship, Pareto efficiency, and independence of irrelevant alternatives" [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow's_impossibility_theorem

Arrow's is one of those theorems that is useful for its own purposes, but completely abused in a pop culture sense. All it proves is that you can't simultaneously meet those particular criteria, but it doesn't establish that those criteria are required in any sense. The IIA criteria is especially problematic.

A lot of vote arguments comes down to a lack of consensus on what we're even trying to solve for. For instance, say that you have a two-candidate race. 50.1% pick A, but their support is lukewarm. 49.9% pick B, but they're extremely passionate. Who should win? We can't really even get a consensus agreement on that question. I think that when it comes to American democracy and one-person-one-vote, the answer should be A, but plenty of others disagree with me.

As for the Perot scenario, you'd need both some form of ranked choice voting (not necessarily IRV), and the elimination of the electoral college. Having RCV with an electoral college doesn't help because if you split the EC, the election still goes to the House.

> but they're extremely passionate. Who should win?

Being angry, even in a constructive fashion, shouldn't merit extra consideration. A vote is a signal of magnitude 1. Anything else means a person who is angrier gets more consideration. Now we have a market incentivizing anger, which is not how things are supposed to work.

My opinion: lack of consensus on that is caused by lack of critical thinking.

I agree that moving away from one-person-one-vote creates a market that incentivizes passion, whether angry or not. Even false passion. The people that disagree tend to talk about "greater social utility". I just don't think there's a way to reliably measure degree of passion without falling into self-worth questions. Like, someone wise might want to avoid confrontation, someone idiotic might have a trumped-up sense of self-importance. (No pun intended honestly.) One-person-one-vote is the best way we've come up with to avoid that, treating every voter as having equal worth.

Certainly - that doesn't mean that we can't have a system that's a bit better than we currently have, though. It just means there's not a perfect system.

No, it just means there is no ranked/ordinal voting system that satisfies Arrows criteria. It says nothing about score/cardinal voting.

Arrow: "I’m a little inclined to think that score systems where you categorize in maybe three or four classes probably (in spite of what I said about manipulation) is probably the best."

Nailed it.

Look at the theorem you linked. What is its point? Its “dictator” exists in majority vote as well, and is merely anyone who has not determined their vote yet in a close election, e.g. the “swing states.”

Correct me if I’m misreading, but how does this favor majority vote over ranked voting?

It just says 2 choices work -- like in binary decision tree, you can always choose the best of two -- but with 3 or more choices, you lose this property -- sort-of like in rock-paper-scissors [1], we can all agree that...

  1. ROCK      is better than scissors
  2. SCISSORS  is better than paper
  3. PAPER     is better than rock 
  ?? PAPER     is better than rock ?? 
  ?? ROCK      is better than rock ??

This in-transitive loop is called Holonomy [2], and it Does Not Compute in the classical sense -- it can put you in a state where it's impossible to win the majority vote -- no one can win the popular vote and so no one agrees who the winner is, ever -- and thus there can be no mandate in an intransitive relation [3].

See Eric Weinstein discuss this concept in the context of Gauge Theory on Joe Rogan's podcast #1203: https://podscribe.app/feeds/http-joeroganexpjoeroganlibsynpr...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock–paper–scissors

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holonomy

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitive_relation#Intransiti...

1. Arrow's Theorem only applies to ranked methods, not rated methods like Score Voting and Approval Voting. http://scorevoting.net/ArrowThm

2. Arrow's Theorem really has nothing to do with escaping duopoly.

3. If you want to escape duopoly, you need Score Voting or Approval Voting.


Still doesn't disadvantage third parties, and is usually at least fairly close to public desires.

Nor can you exactly know an object's momentum and position, nor construct a non-trivial wholly sound type system, nor create an ML algorithm that learns all data sets.

There's no free lunches, but there are better and worse lunches.

Agree with all the other comments - no voting system can be "perfect", defined by a sufficient number of sometimes contradictory desirable attributes of the system.

Literally anything would be better than FPTP voting for single member districts than what we have now. And, the very act of fixing the system would be a political action, showing that systems can be changed when they are damaged or outdated.

Sure, approval voting might be better than IRV. But as I said elsewhere, the first thing to do when disagreeing with particulars of electoral reform is to agree loudly with the general motion - electoral reform.

Perfect is the enemy of better.

The single-winner form of ranked choice voting (a.k.a. instant runoff voting) doesn’t help third parties as much as you think!

It makes it safe for you to give your first choice to a third party candidate who has no chance of winning, because they’ll have no effect on the result after being eliminated in the first round. But as soon as your third party candidate becomes a serious challenger, you’ll risk instead eliminating your second choice, whose redistributed votes are much more likely to favor your last choice.


So IRV is great for stopping weak third parties from upsetting the balance of the two-party duopoly, but not so great for helping strong third parties get a real chance at winning. If you want real change, there are much better systems available: take a look at approval voting, score voting, or Condorcet voting.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20393390.

No, the United States has an Electoral College for very specific reasons that are just as true today and they were when the Constitution was written. It is a shame that political parties formed in the first place, but George Washington couldn't have his way all the time.

It has nothing to do with the voting. It had a lot to do with the who controlled information. I get the feeling with the internet of today he would have fared quite a bit better (92 was 2 years before Netscape was founded).

The EC and ranked choice voting are two different, and compatible things.

You could have RCV within each state, for instance.

Fine for state and house/state elections, but doesn't work for presidential elections. Splitting the EC below a strict majority of EVs sends the election to the House.

Ranked choice might work for parliaments, but it would just create unwelcome surprises in the US. I cannot help but think what happened in a sport (NASCAR) with its switch from winner take all to a series of rankings would mean if it were something as important as voting. You might find sports is not a serious argument, but this is the US and the reaction shows some tendencies towards other aspects of life.

FPTP is one of the most efficient and fundamental enemies of democracy, plaguing the USA. Everyone agrees partisanship is bad, people looooove a “bipartisan” bill, but FPTP mathematically converges on a two party system, always. It fuels tribalism and us-vs-them mentality like nothing else and perpetuates a political aristocracy through perverse incentives and hamstrung competition. To see this in effect, consider that a major party is incentivised to fund fringe opposition parties which will steal votes from the main rival. Ask yourself how healthy that democracy can be.

There are many alternatives and RCV might not be your first choice, but make no mistake about it: FPTP has to go. Stat.

> Everyone agrees partisanship is bad,

Partisanship is generally good,or at least not bad, in democracies.

Having two big-tent parties that shift platforms in search of a minimal winning coalition renders partisanship into empty tribalism, which is bad.

> people looooove a “bipartisan” bill

Bipartisan bills are the worst because they typically represent consensus of the (otherwise fragmented) elites against the people.

> but FPTP mathematically converges on a two party system, always.

FPTP creates structural incentives toward a two-party system, but voting behavior and party membership is not mathematically-determined behavior and thus no vote counting system “mathematically converges on” any party arrangement.

> To see this in effect, consider that a major party is incentivised to fund fringe opposition parties which will steal votes from the main rival.

And yet they rarely do; more often, and mor perniciously in practical effect, is that they are incentivized to negative campaigning since getting someone who would otherwise vote for the opposition to not vote is just as good as getting someone who is undecided to vote for you.

> There are many alternatives and RCV might not be your first choice, but make no mistake about it

IRV is very nearly the worst even semi-seriously advocated method that isn't FPTP (I won't call it RCV, since there are many ranked choice methods and IRV is worse than virtually all the rest.)

It is so little of an improvement over FPTP that I suspect the harm it would do to the entire idea of electoral reform through the disappointment it would produce in failing to fix the problems motivating a change in voting system would outweigh the very slight improvements it would produce.

Approval voting eliminates the reduction of politics to the boardwalk ice cream vendor problem.

What's more, I'm tired of driving 7.5 hours to the boardwalk every time I want ice cream, and then not being able to find any parking spaces around the exact center of it, where the vendors tend to cluster.

Since FPTP mathematically converges on two parties, the two parties also mathematically converge on the perceived political center, and then advertise in opposite directions from the same spot. When the voting is structured to prioritize how far customers are willing to walk for the flavors they like, rather than going the shortest distance to the only flavor available (vanilla), we all get more choices.

> the two parties also mathematically converge on the perceived political center

There is a mathematical theory about this, but it assumes a number of things that aren't true about real political behavior (basically, it ignores that political engagement that matters isn't limited to voting, and that voting behavior isn't simply “every eligible voter will vote, and will vote for the candidate nearest to them by some political distance function”; it may also ignore that distribution of political views is neither uniform nor unimodal with a central peak, but instead has peaks away from the center [0]), and empirically doesn't seem to predict the actual behavior of parties very well at all.

[0] it's not clear if it ignores this or just doesn't consider distribution because distribution wouldn't matter if the things it does ignore were true; certainly some of it's defenders seem to think that political views are unimodal and centrally-peaked and that that mitigates any problems from the other oversights, which it might, if it were true.)

RCV is better than FPTP, but it still mathematically converges on a two party system.



There are better single-winner systems that truly fix this problem, of which the clearest example is approval voting.

The US is not, and has never been, a democracy. The US is a republic where there is a balance between the people, states, and federal. Tribalism is the nature of humans, its how we got this far. Heck, we pack bond with non-humans and even mechanical things. Fancy voting will not change that. FPTP is here in the US to stay, because there would be chaos with the other voting systems and the accusations of rigging would be rampant.

> FPTP is here in the US to stay, because there would be chaos with the other voting systems and the accusations of rigging would be rampant.

FPTP is probably here to stay because of pure inertia. The rest of the claims need support.

The US is a democracy, it is not a direct democracy. No democracy that currently exists is a direct democracy. You're splitting hairs.

Also, 'Republic' is a meaningless description of a country, because it conveys no practical information about its form of government. Norway is not a republic. North Korea is a republic. Canada is not a republic. Russia is a republic.

> RCV might not be your first choice


It's not that its not a serious argument its that it is not yet made. Please expand on that.

The Electoral College was supposed to be chosen by their community to go meet and discuss the candidates. When they get appointed anonymously because they've pledged obedience to a political party, they've rejected their responsibility.

I'd argue that even the option to reject that responsibility was removed when the political parties put their presidential candidates' names on the ballot, instead of all the names of their electors.

It seems fundamentally fraudulent to do that. It makes it look like the popular vote actually matters in a presidential election. It's really a bunch of people you have never heard of, voting the way they were told to vote, while under threat of party excommunication if they reneg. There's more democracy to it whenever the Catholic cardinals elect a new monarch-for-life.

The original idea, to send representatives of the community in good standing to make their own decisions in the best interests of those communities, was well-intentioned. It isn't the modern elector's fault that their role has been nullified and obviated by political undermining.

What a quaint time when the oddball outsider candidate was a mentally stable human being calmly explaining ideas in a way anybody could understand.

"Mentally stable" does not really capture the American electorate's impression of Perot's candidacy in 1992. He was significantly damaged by his choice to drop out for a few weeks in the middle of the summer—while leading in the polls!—blaming shadowy Republican operatives for threatening his daughter's wedding.

IIRC the news outlets at the time weren't painting an especially flattering picture of him either. I have a vague memory of stories where the implication was that he was a nutjob with no chance of winning. My local newspaper was pretty conservative leaning though.

That doesn't sound wholly unbelievable, from a 2019 point of view.

>"Mentally stable" does not really capture the American electorate's impression of Perot's candidacy in 1992.

Don't mix up the American people with the Mainstream media

Are you implying he was lying or hallucinating?

Edit: genuinely curious as to why my question is being down voted.

Something about your comment makes me compare and contrast with the oddball outsider who did make it into the White House - the current occupant.

At the time there were many people who cursed Perot for splitting the two party vote, however he did get 18.9% and that is pretty incredible considering how entrenched attitudes were at the time for voting Democrat to make sure the Republican didn't win and vice-versa.

I have watched Perot's political adverts from the era and I thought he was a breath of fresh air. If I was American and of voting age at the time I like to think I would have voted for him and not succumbed to the peer pressure to vote Democrat.

Even the idea of a third party candidate was ahead of its time. Ralph Nader must have been informed by the success of Perot.

The one ad I remember mocked our government for "wasting" money studying "gas emissions" from cows. Of course, the question of agricultural methane production is quite important from the standpoint of total greenhouse gas emissions, and there has been interesting research towards reducing methane emissions while maintaining production. It's also a negligible part of the budget, like almost all scientific spending. I was 13 years old and thinking, how stupid, is this guy saying he's going to go through picking and choosing these tiny little line items in the budget based on how they sound?

From a larger perspective, it shows that even sophisticated businessmen fall victim to the usual fallacies about government spending, thinking that there's a lot more waste that can be easily trimmed than there is, that you can cut a few unpopular programs and make a reduction in taxes or balance the budget, or that a national government should be run like a household, putting off spending when revenue is low and cranking it up while it is high.

That's not a fallacy he fell victim to, that was campaigning and electioneering. It was hot on the tail of a big news expose about $600+ toilet seats and $40 bolts that the pentagon was buying. Plus America was starting to accelerate the the transformation in to a services and information based economy and we not just knew but were planning on sending manufacturing to Latin America. That waste had real resonance with workers and a lot of other folks at the time. "They're sending car manufacturing jobs to Mexico and the eggheads are studying cow farts.. (with some giant sounding number of dollars)" They still do this, you don't have to google far to find criticism over how much it cost for the Obamas to vacation in Hawaii or what the secret service spends at Mar-a-Lago.

Now there was no way Ross was going to go through the budget and pick out the crappy wasteful things, but that message had legs. Enough such that congress doesn't do a budget anymore...

Hmm? America has had nominally serious third party candidates for the presidency regularly since the emergence of today’s two major parties 150 years ago.

Heck, the GOP itself began as an ultimately successful third party challenge.

Even the idea of a third party candidate was ahead of its time.

That time being 1832? Or any other election after which a third party candidate had an influence over the outcome?

The current incumbent isn't really Republican, he was a Democrat supporter until recently, has never held elected office and ran on the Republican ticket just because he had the money to do so. He is a genuine outsider.

Doesn't this basically describe Bernie Sanders?

They were bad ideas that were ill-founded and have done far more harm than good, but he explained them with charts, so all good I guess.

Unfortunately the media establishment discredited Ross Perot by painting him as "nutty" and focusing on his mannerisms, rather than what he was saying. Seeing Bush's and Clinton's smirks during the debates are embarrassing, and did nothing but baselessly discredit the man and his ideas.

The media did the same to Ron Paul by framing him as a loon and someone to laugh at.

This same strategy by the mainstream media backfired miserably, and quite hilariously with the unfortunate election of Trump.

why "unfortunate"? maybe it is about time the fourth pillar finally gets what it deserves.

> why "unfortunate"?

I mean, the kids in cages might find it unfortunate. The farmers being hurt by tariff fights are also finding it somewhat unfortunate. I'm pretty sure the LGBTQ community, too.

(I could go on - there's a long list of groups this POTUS is hurting.)

i hate doing that, so i will be brief. --- cages - started with Obama. farmers are hurt, other businesses benefit from production returning from China. to early to tell. LGBT - news to me. btw, you forgot to mention that he hates Jews too. sort of. --- peace

Really glad he's dead. He was just another cheerleader for the unfettered greed and capitalism that is destroying the Earth. Good Riddance!

Perot's Presidential candidacy is a good example of why we need the Electoral College and cannot simply go with the "winner" of the popular vote. Clinton had 370 Electoral College votes, Bush had 168, and Perot had 0. Not only did Clinton win easily, he had a majority of ALL the Electoral College votes.

In the popular vote, it was 44,909,889 for Clinton, 39,104,545 for Bush, and 19,743,821 for Perot. While Clinton still had the majority, more than half the votes cast for President were not for him -- in other words, the majority of voters did not want Clinton to be elected President.

Some sort of system which uses "rounds" to narrow the field down to two candidates could work; but, it's hard enough to get people to vote once, much less several times.

I feel a bit like a broken record on this, but the topic deserves discussion.

Electoral college is a valuable part of US elections but gerrymandering and winner-take-all states destroy the institutions usefulness.


1. End "winner-take-all" allocations of electoral votes

2. Any party that gains the minimum population/electoral vote (Wyoming puts that at ~200k) in any state is guaranteed at least one electoral vote in that state

3. All remaining electoral votes are allocated proportionally based on general election votes

4. If no majority winner exists, the party with the least number of electoral votes casts their vote to other party/ies and this repeats until a winner obtains 270. If a rather obstinate third party refuses to proxy their votes, those votes are dropped when calculating majority.

This should remove the spoiler effect, function within the current voting system, and off-set any perceived difficulty in rank voting to the actual parties. It would also provide a strong leverage point for third parties to have a say in government policies which is probably why it would never be adopted willingly.

> 4. If no majority winner exists, the party with the least number of electoral votes casts their vote to other party/ies and this repeats until a winner obtains 270. If a rather obstinate third party refuses to proxy their votes, those votes are dropped when calculating majority.

Why put this in the hands of the lowest vote getter when we can just ask the voters directly with ranked choice voting?

I'm very confused by your rationale. Many systems are fine with calling the plurality the winner--I don't see why the EC gives any more weight to the results. Other systems have runoffs instead.

I think it's very unfortunate how high the bar is for third-party candidates to be competitive.

Have people vote once by ranking candidates. Then the computer can do the rounds.

yeah, a ranked ballot solves this problem. The concept of a condorcet winner, is that the winner would win head to head against all non-winners and various ranked ballot schemes pass this condorcet criterion.

I really don't understand your argument FOR the electoral college. Yes, more than half did not vote for Clinton, but there were more than 2 options. The majority still voted for Clinton, and he had a fairly large lead over the next place (44.9M vs 39.1M). In which way does this make a case for electoral college vs popular vote?

In my estimation, the ONLY thing the electoral college vote is good for, is allowing for dishonest tactics like gerrymandering to impact the politics, propaganda, and ultimately the outcome of voting, while completely discarding what the majority of people vote for. I'm happy to be enlightened in this area if you have any other insights.

France does two rounds, first round all the candidates, second round top 2.

Abolish the electoral college, institute national ranked-choice.

Or in a way that would be less constitutionally difficult do national ranked choice and proportional electoral college. Most of the benefit without, probably, having to change the constitution. To completely remove the electoral college you'd have to amend the constitution because the constitution spells that out as the method for choosing the president.

Lots of people on here probably don't even remember the presidential bid, or maybe saw it in a textbook. Strange days.

RIP, Ross Perot. Inventor of the iPhone.

Ross Perot was way ahead of his time. We are finally getting an idea of how terrible some of these deals have been.


This debate footage is so remarkable to watch in 2019, for several reasons. 1: They allowed a third party candidate in a general debate 2: The candidate is able to take breaths & even pause without someone cutting jumping in, allowing him to make an complete point 3: No one is talking over him while he talks.

Sure the candidates are tougher to manage in 2019 (especially after Trump changed the game in '16), but the debate moderation we've seen so far is truly pathetic, and I blame the moderators for robbing voters of the more meaningful discourse that might be possible if moderators did their jobs by actually enforcing time limits & forbidding interruptions (by cutting mics).

Ross Perot was a very significant third party candidate, which makes his appearance on the debates much more understandable.

Ross got 19% of the popular vote in '92, which was just shy of half of what Clinton and Bush got. Pretty remarkable showing honestly. Most 3rd party candidates never get more than a few percent.

It takes 15% of the vote in the polling to be eligible to debate as a third party candidate, but it's hard to get to 15% if you're not allowed to debate. A catch-22. These rules are decided by a commission that includes democrats and republicans, but not independents.

Gary Johnson has campaigned vigorously to try to get this rule changed through the courts, but apparently without much success.

They’d allow a third party candidate now if they did as well. To qualify, a third party candidate need to poll at 15% or above and be on enough state ballots to have at least a possibility of winning. Nobody has even come close to that since Perot.

Gary Johnson reached 12% in August 2016. Clinton started running ads against Johnson around this time as well, to prevent him from getting to the 15% mark. Then the Aleppo gaffe happened in September, which effectively killed his remaining chances.

My dad voted for Perot, as did I in my school's mock election at the time. He regretted it in the end, attributing his own vote to doing nothing more than causing Bush to lose, but there's never shame in voting for who you think is the best candidate for the job.

In a nation of 300+ million people, having two realistic choices isn't remotely enough to cover everyone's viewpoint. Two parties is much easier for people with money to bribe. It's a good setup for average folks to lose in class warfare (and those of us who work, have indeed lost). Even the convenience store has more than just Pepsi and Coke.

I no longer watch debates because I've realized that the broadcasters prefer the format you mentioned. They prefer it because it's more entertaining and that drives ratings which drives revenue.

The media conglomerates are not interested in substantive policy discussions.

Ross Perot was also mad at that even with the access he had. So he did 30-minute commercial blocks [1] and used them as campaign ads/media/airtime during primetime to make up for time on the debates and how the two party system blocks out other parties and candidates.

[1] https://www.c-span.org/video/?34277-1/perot-campaign-commerc...

I don't think the personal political opinions of candidates matter anyway; the money that they represent or the obligations they have to entities of power are more important.

it’s proof positive imo that profit motive doesn’t always work to the best result... perot’s warning about nafta (among other things) was completely ignored and instead just treated him like a clown because of his accent and looks... makes one wonder what we are doing to candidates today in the media...

> They allowed a third party candidate in a general debate

I was only eight years old at the time, but I remember watching that debate specifically because it was a big deal that he was on the stage. To eight-year-old me, that was history in the making.

Thinking back, I was a pretty weird kid. I also vividly remember pretending I was asleep until my grandparents went to bed, then sneaking back to the living room and turning on the TV to watch the news during the Operation Desert Storm (Jan 1991) and the Ruby Ridge standoff (March 1993). I was seven and nine years old for those events, respectively. We didn't even have cable, so I was flipping between infomercials on the three channels we got over the air and trying to catch reruns of the news.

Similar childhood here: at a little under 5 I watched the 1980 election, rooting for the third-party candidate[0] because I thought he was Orville Redenbacher[1].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Anderson [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orville_Redenbacher

I would probably have voted for Orville Redenbacher without even knowing what his politic leanings are.

When I was 7 at the time I had a killer Ross Perot impression that my family thought was hilarious. But yeah, I remember those times well and I remember my grand parents actually really liked him as a candidate.

There's no way to think that the terrible questions, the lack of follow up, and the lightweight Today Show-type moderators are not an intentional choice by network owners who don't want the candidates' direct address to the audience to affect the outcome in a serious way.

Watch the first televised debate, Kennedy/Nixon. It’s an hour of substantive policy discussion.

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