An Alternative Timeline Question: What If GHW Bush Had Made Ross Perot His VP In 1992?
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In early 1992, Texas businessman Ross Perot entered the presidential race as an independent and soon began polling very well on a platform of deficit reduction and anti–North American Free Trade Agreement. By the late spring, in some polls Perot led both President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton.

Perot wound up winning almost 19% of the national vote, the most since the Civil War for a third- party candidate who isn’t on Mt. Rushmore.

Here’s a question: Bush’s VP in both the 1988 and 1992 elections was Dan Quayle, who wasn’t as terrible as his media reputation, but who didn’t add much to the ticket.

What if Bush had dumped Quayle in favor of Perot?

Offhand, I’d say that, if the combination could have been made to work, a Bush-Perot ticket would have been a juggernaut in 1992.

This would have set up VP Perot to be the GOP frontrunner in 1996 rather than eventual nominee Bob Dole (a man I always liked for his wit but a less than compelling candidate).

Of course, this fantasy wouldn’t have worked because Perot and Bush hated each other. One reason Perot launched his longshot run was precisely because he didn’t like GHW Bush. Bush didn’t like Perot either and thought he was a flake. And indeed perhaps Perot was a flake. I’ve always suspected manic-depression—Perot suddenly suspended his campaign in the summer of 1992, complaining that Bush was sabotaging his daughter’s wedding, but then came back like a ball of fire in the fall and did well in the debates.

On a policy level, NAFTA was likely a deal-breaker. I’ve long argued that one of the subterranean central features of U.S. politics over the last third of a century was the Bush Dynasty’s strategy to integrate the U.S. and Mexican economies and, down the road, their workforces and populations.

Almost nobody else has paid any attention to the evidence of a multigenerational strategy by this Texas oil family to lower the importance of the 1,950-mile U.S.-Mexico border. For example, the word “Mexico” does not appear in the index of the Matthew Continetti’s history of conservative opinion journalism The Right.

So this may sound like a crazy conspiracy theory. But, let me point out, the Bush Dynasty’s plan made a lot of sense. Mexico is a big country with a lot of resources, it’s an economic underachiever, and it’s right next door. American businesses could make a lot more money off Mexico. But Mexican elites have tended to be self-destructively anti-American to keep from being reduced to a banana republic.

The U.S.-led economic development of Mexico during the long dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz around the turn of the 20th  century had been a major success story for Republican elites. But as El Presidente once said with proto–Yogi Berra insight, “Nothing ever happens in Mexico, until it happens.”

The Mexican revolution (in which Mitt Romney’s dad George lost his farm in Mexico) was a major setback for U.S. business interests. Then the election of a Leftist Mexican president, Cardenas, led to Mexico nationalizing foreign oil interests (with compensation, by the way, even paying the Romneys for their lost farm) in 1938, much to the distress of Texas oilman William F. Buckley Sr.

In the 1950s, George H.W. Bush founded Zapata Oil and got into offshore oil drilling in Mexican waters using a Mexican frontman to covertly get around the ban on foreign oil companies. George W. Bush likewise named his oil company Arbusto (Bush in Spanish). Then Jeb Bush fell in love with a Mexican girl (not an elite, by the way), married and had three children. At the 1988 Republican National Convention, Bush had his 10-year-old mestizo grandson George P. Bush (his “little brown one”) lead the delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance.

NAFTA was a first step. Then, during Jeb’s presidency, amnesty and a sizable opening of the borders with Mexico would have been the next step for the next generation (unluckily, Jeb lost his 1994 race for governor of Florida, but, luckily, George W. won his race for governor of Texas).

And, who knows, in the mid–21st century, perhaps George P. Bush could be elected President as the obvious natural leader of a now substantially mestizoized population.

It all made a certain amount of sense.

Perhaps the problem was that the victory of NAFTA was classified as a win for “globalism” rather than for, say, “neighborism.” If there had existed a term for the common sense idea that we should be nicer to our two neighbors, neither of whom could ever be a military threat, than to distant potential rivals (such as, oh, China), maybe we would have stopped there.

(But the logic of globalism said it was a no-brainer for Congress in 2000 to give permanent most favored national trade status to China. Before then, China’s status came up for review each year, which tended to deter American CEOs from shutting down factories in America and offshoring everything to China. But the 2000 move served as a green light that shutting American factories in favor of Chinese manufacturing was a safe bet for the long term, apparently greatly speeding up the hollowing out of the American economy.

Also, NAFTA would have been much better if the U.S. had not insisted on Mexico getting rid of its traditional high tariffs on corn, which served to keep down on the farm peasants whose ancestors had been growing corn for thousands of years. The minor boost to the profits of Nebraska corn farmers, who were much more efficient than Mexican peasants, helped drive millions of peasants to illegally immigrate to the U.S. But increasing illegal immigration was more of a feature than a bug from the point of view of the Bush Dynasty.)

But thus NAFTA was non-negotiable and Ross Perot as Bush’s VP was a non-starter.

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