A mini-series was produced about it starring Burt Lancaster
"26 REASONS WHY ROSS PEROT DOESN`T DESERVE YOUR VOTE"
Perot deserves credit for seeing the magic there, and staking a significant chunk of change on it.
Perot reportedly acquired 16% of NeXT for his $20M investment.
I don't know the details of the cash/stock split but Apple ultimately acquired NeXT for $350M after paying off its debts. 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, 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.
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.
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
On Wings Of Eagles
Ross Perot also tried to buy an early Microsoft in 1979 when it only had 28 employees:
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.
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.
Why so many APIs in the Apple ecosystem start with NS
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.
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.
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.
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.
is a fun read.
I had no idea he was that interesting!
Pretty much every topic he brings up is still relevant today.
He seemed like a very good man that stuck by his beliefs. Peace be with him.
Read this article from 20 years ago:
"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!"
He was a man who made a tremendous influence, mostly good, some bad.
> 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.
"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."
Perot ultimately lost the election, and 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.
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.
Because those are two different questions with two different answers.
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.
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.
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.
"Go ahead, throw your vote away!"
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.
(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.)
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.
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.
Looking back, and seeing some of the stuff that has come out about the other candidates, I too now believe it was all true.
They were definitely good years for the economy.
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.
Doesn't change your point, really, but for completion, a Clinton also got a non-majority 48.2% in 2016.
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Third parties would greatly benefit from range-voting. 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.
There is a good summary of the properties of different voting systems on wikipedia.
That is a myth. Instant Runoff Voting does not eliminate the lesser evil (spoiler) problem. See this explained by a math PhD.
* 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.
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 don't know, Italy might be chaotic under any system. What do you think of e.g. Germany, Denmark?
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.
* 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.
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.
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" .
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.
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.
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."
Correct me if I’m misreading, but how does this favor majority vote over ranked voting?
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 ??
DOES NOT COMPUTE
See Eric Weinstein discuss this concept in the context of Gauge Theory on Joe Rogan's podcast #1203: https://podscribe.app/feeds/http-joeroganexpjoeroganlibsynpr...
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.
There's no free lunches, but there are better and worse lunches.
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.
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.
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).
You could have RCV within each state, for instance.
There are many alternatives and RCV might not be your first choice, but make no mistake about it: FPTP has to go. Stat.
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.
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.
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 ), and empirically doesn't seem to predict the actual behavior of parties very well at all.
 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.)
There are better single-winner systems that truly fix this problem, of which the clearest example is approval voting.
FPTP is probably here to stay because of pure inertia. The rest of the claims need support.
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.
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.
Don't mix up the American people with the Mainstream media
Edit: genuinely curious as to why my question is being down voted.
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.
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.
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...
Heck, the GOP itself began as an ultimately successful third party challenge.
That time being 1832? Or any other election after which a third party candidate had an influence over the outcome?
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.
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.
Why put this in the hands of the lowest vote getter when we can just ask the voters directly with ranked choice voting?
I think it's very unfortunate how high the bar is for third-party candidates to be competitive.
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.
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 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.
Gary Johnson has campaigned vigorously to try to get this rule changed through the courts, but apparently without much success.
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.
The media conglomerates are not interested in substantive policy discussions.
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.