A Brief Recap of Some Spoiler Controversies

By Jackie Salit

Since Howard Schultz’s announcement, and the sudden surge of spoiler propaganda, much has been made of the 1992 independent presidential campaign of Ross Perot who, it is frequently asserted, “cost” George H.W. Bush his re-election. Take a few minutes to look at the 10 minute mini-documentary created by Five-Thirty-Eight titled “The Perot Myth,” which chronicles the fallacy of that spoiler myth. Perot actually pulled equally from Republican and Democrat voters.

Let us not forget that Perot was under attack from multiple sides as soon as he started showing in the polls. These attacks persisted into his second run in 1996, when the tactic of his candidacy became to promote an all-independents primary and to create a new political party. Opponents went to work dismissing the Perot Movement as a “sham” and “shell game” by an egoistic billionaire. Sound familiar? Here’s a link to a CNBC show I did with GOP strategist John Podhoretz at the time, where we debated the “reality” of the movement.

In 1988, a Black developmental psychologist and radical community organizer, Dr. Lenora Fulani, ran for President as an independent and was the first woman and first African American to access the ballot in all 50 states. Turning the spoiler attack on its head, Fulani appealed to Black voters to use their power to deny Michael Dukakis and the Democratic Party the White House in response to their treatment of Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition.  She found herself in the crosshairs of Democratic wrath when Michael Dukakis advisor Ron Brown called her campaign “ridiculous.” Here are portions of a CBS news clip from 1988 covering the controversy.