Some blamed him for incumbent president Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980. He saw himself as the only reasonable choice when compared to Carter and Reagan.
Former GOP congressman John B. Anderson, who famously left the Republican party to create a third party movement he hoped would sweep the nation, has died at the age of 95.
After failing to get the Republican nomination for president, the U.S. congressman from Illinois tried as an independent to win against President Carter, who he figured was doomed to lose, and Reagan, who he felt was too simple-minded for America, according to the New York Times. Tailoring himself as a rebel to the political party establishments, he regularly drew support from liberals and college students — despite his Republican background — by advocating for liberal issues like abortion and increased gun control.
Many on the left were obviously in love with him.
According to Bloomberg, Time magazine wrote that “The U.S. has rarely seen a presidential candidate like Anderson, who seems more interested in ideas than in power. His speeches, delivered with moralistic fervor that led one colleague to dub him ‘St. John the Righteous,’ are closely reasoned talks devoid of applause lines; audiences usually listen to them in deep attentive silence.”
Sliding further left than Carter, Anderson refused to drop out of the race even when it became apparent he couldn’t win. His insistence on staying in led some people to blame him for Reagan’s win by taking liberal votes away from Carter.
Accused of spoiling the race, Anderson insisted, “What’s to spoil? Spoil the chances of two men at least half the country doesn’t want?”
Anderson ran as a member of the National Unity Party. A debate he held against Reagan — Carter refused to show up — became a huge blow to his campaign after Reagan came out ahead in the voters’ eyes. While the debate spelled doom for Anderson’s chances of winning the presidency, it was a big boost to Reagan, who would later beat Carter soundly.
Anderson is survived by his wife, son, four daughters, and 11 grandchildren. He died Sunday night in Washington, D.C., according to the Chicago Sun-Times. No details have yet been provided for his cause of death.