Presidential candidates are tearing away at one another on the campaign trail, but all of them have one thing in common: They don’t have Lyndon LaRouche to kick around anymore.
The death this year of the perennial presidential candidate ended a quixotic career. LaRouche set the record for consecutive presidential runs, from 1976 to 2004, and added a ninth bid in 2016 for good measure.
The LaRouche movement, as it styled itself, stuck with him while he mounted his 1992 bid from a prison cell, where he was serving time for a fraud conviction, and was never dissuaded by the small smattering of votes he collected in each race. A breakthrough was always around the corner.
The question his followers face now is whether his movement can survive his death.
Barbara Boyd, treasurer of the Lyndon LaRouche Political Action Committee, finds the question silly. For her, and for others who believe LaRouche’s complicated and quirky philosophies, the answer is an unwavering “yes.”
“LaRouche PAC will be extremely active as we view 2020 as a real turning point in the history of the United States,” she told The Washington Times. “Right now, we are looking at a mix of candidates and independent expenditures, but our primary activity will be on the policy front — namely, getting LaRouche’s ideas implemented in the U.S.”
For many Americans, LaRouche’s seemingly permanent presidential ambition made him a national version of the political gadflies who occupy spots in the politics of city councils and school boards throughout the country.
“LaRouche and his little group practically define crackpot political cultism,” said Sean Wilentz, an American history professor at Princeton University.
“He never had a popular following of any significance,” Mr. Wilentz said while comparing LaRouche with more prominent presidential aspirants. “He was one of the truly minor sideshows in American politics. It never amounted to a third party. That said, I would imagine that, like other charismatic figures, LaRouche could have no successors — not that he groomed them.”
LaRouche died in February at the age of 96, and thousands of people saw him as a visionary. They believed his warnings about financial doom just around the corner and promoted his solutions of a complex restructuring of banking and monetary exchange rates, a system of maglev trains connecting the world’s big economies and a global project to colonize Mars.
Although LaRouche usually ran for president as a Democrat, he and his followers have never fit comfortably into the party divides in American politics.
But as they survey the madhouse presidential race for the 2020 election, they lean toward President Trump for the most part, Ms. Boyd said.
“The present Democratic Party is a nightmare and not recognizable to anyone who seeks a genuine economic recovery of the physical economy of the United States, modern reindustrialization, modern physical infrastructure and space exploration,” she told The Times.
Whether Mr. Trump or any other candidate would welcome the fringe support is unlikely, but Ms. Boyd said he deserves it on balance, especially given the Democrats’ hysteria and orchestration of what she and other LaRouche followers consider a deep state coup attempt.
“President Trump, in our view, has been victimized by illegal intelligence community and law enforcement operations which have threatened the very foundations of our republic,” she said.
LaRouche supporters remain a paranoid lot, and penetrating the organizations he left behind can be tricky. Inquiries inevitably — and quickly — circled back to one person: Ms. Boyd, the PAC treasurer.
Similarly, within minutes of phone calls to top LaRouche PAC contributors — an eclectic group that includes East Coast ice cream magnates, computer software workers, musicians and even a National Park Service ranger — Ms. Boyd was on the phone angrily demanding to know why someone wants to talk with her donors.
Ms. Boyd said LaRouchians do not feel comfortable discussing matters with reporters because they do not think they have been treated fairly. She said she would not permit any of the movement’s members or major donors to speak to The Times.
When asked what she foresees as the PAC’s plans through the 2020 election, Ms. Boyd said that is uncertain.
“I don’t know what we’ll do in the future, but we will probably get into some independent expenditures,” she said. “We’re looking at the whole picture, especially in the Midwest. That’s our homeland; that’s traditionally been our stomping ground.”
It’s not clear how much stomping LaRouche did in the Midwest or other regions.
Despite his perpetual campaign and his voluminous writings, he never emerged as a factor in a presidential race the same way as other third-party candidates, such as John Anderson, Ross Perot or Ralph Nader.
Yet he was hardly a nobody. In 2000, he received more than 20% of the vote in the Democratic primary in Arkansas, although the party, long seeking to distance itself from LaRouche, refused his delegates.
His political efforts were sustained by his network of National Caucus of Labor Committees, an opaque organization that grew out of the left-wing movements in the late 1960s and that is run by a tight circle of LaRouchian insiders.
He described the National Caucus of Labor Committees as “philosophical associations,” but in its early years, the group had a militant wing that battled other left-wing outfits.
The PAC rarely makes blanket endorsements, she said, and in 2018 made zero contributions to candidates or party committees, according to records kept by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The PAC took in $2.1 million last year, but virtually all of it went to administrative costs and a donation to the LaRouche Policy Institute.
“When you see them transferring big amounts of money to entities that are basically another arm of themselves, it really doesn’t give you any clue what the money is being spent on,” said Andrew Mayersohn, a PAC analyst at the Center for Responsive Politics.
While noting that everything is legal and abides by Federal Election Commission regulations, Mr. Mayersohn, who identified the PAC in question without being told, said, “I’m not aware of any other PAC that operates that way.”
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