1980 Presidential Candidate John Anderson Dies At 95

New York Magazine reports:

John B. Anderson of Illinois, who died today at the age of 95, served in Congress for 20 years. But what gave him national fame was a briefly sensational independent candidacy for president in 1980, running against President Jimmy Carter and soon-to-be-president Ronald Reagan.

By doing so, Anderson represented two milestones in modern political history: He was the most conspicuous of early conscientious objectors to the conservative movement’s takeover of the Republican Party, and he was the prototype for the kind of centrist third-party presidential candidate that so many pundits and billionaires long for in today’s era of partisan polarization.

Anderson was not, of course, the first moderate-to-liberal Republican to oppose the rightward drift of his party. But he was the first to take an unsuccessful presidential primary candidacy right out of the GOP and into an independent ballot line.

He took that fateful step in part because of the low regard he had for Ronald Reagan, his vanquisher in the primaries. But he also realized his brand of socially liberal, fiscally conservative politics had a stronger constituency outside his own party.

More from the New York Times:

For a while he had the national spotlight, a 58-year-old maverick whose white hair, horn-rimmed glasses and clearheaded presentation gave him the air of a genial professor who was not so much above the fray as he was unwilling to play by its rules.

Mr. Anderson refused to pander, telling voters in Iowa that he favored President Jimmy Carter’s embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union after it had invaded Afghanistan. He called for a gasoline tax of 50 cents per gallon — when a gallon cost $1.15 — to save energy.

Early on, when all six of his rivals for the Republican nomination assured the Gun Owners of New Hampshire that they firmly opposed gun control legislation, Mr. Anderson said, “I don’t understand why.”

“When in this country we license people to drive automobiles,” he added, “what is so wrong about proposing that we license guns to make sure that felons and mental incompetents don’t get ahold of them?” He was roundly booed.

Anderson finished with 5.7M votes, 6.6% of the 1980 result.

  • Henry Auvil

    A republican who refused to pander. Those were the days…

    • Steverino

      And a liberal Republican. Boy, is that an oxymoron nowadays.

      • There used to be quite a few of them. And conservative Democrats. Most issues had coalitions that included people from both parties. A good number of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, for example. Now everything is basically a party line vote and where has that gotten us? I keep saying this to the purists, but you can’t sustain a majority without at least a few moderates. I think some people would rather lose than compromise. And that mindset on both the left and the right is destroying our country.

        • Ninja0980

          I don’t have any love for Manchin but he is still miles ahead of any Republican.

          • Berdawn Hutchinson

            unless you need clean drinking water or a job

          • Nax

            (Isn’t that what Republicans are saying about Moore regarding Jones?)

    • Ninja0980

      Richard Hanna (district to the north of me) was one of the only ones left and he finally threw in the towel and retired last year.

  • JoeMyGod

    1980 was my first time voting in a presidential election and I found John Anderson interesting, probably mostly because of how much he upset Republicans who feared he was a spoiler for Reagan. (As it turned out, not even close.) Anyway, I had an Anderson bumper sticker on my ’74 Chevy Impala even though I knew I’d vote for Jimmy Carter. Youth!

    • Joe in PA

      Dare I say this…I DID vote for Anderson. Ok, I was young.

      • johncAtl

        It’s okay. I voted for Ford over Carter. I was 18 and didn’t hate Republicans yet. That changed once Reagan was elected.

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        • Professor Barnhardt

          Same here.

      • PhilBob13

        I voted for Anderson, too. I wanted to support an alternative candidate, liked his style, and as a California voter, I knew my vote would not impact the results, since Reagan had this state tied up with a bow. I voted for Carter in 1976, my first presidential election.

    • safari

      John McCain came to my high school in ’00. The progressive students were going to vote for Gore but registered to be republicans for the primary to piss off W after our governor promised to hand W the state.

    • I wish I cold say I had voted for Anderson. Or Carter. I was an idiot in my teens and early 20s.

      • Chuck in NYC

        I hear you. I’m still finding out things in my sixties. I didn’t realize how much today’s GOP and Dems were the same as they were in the 40s until watching presidential convention acceptance speeches that NBC put up on demand last year at election time. If I’d been 18 in 1948 I might very well have voted Dewey and been ashamed of it 20 years later the same way I can’t believe I voted for Nixon.

      • Professor Barnhardt

        You weren’t the only one.

  • bkmn

    RIP Mr. Anderson. I hope you can still inspire some Republicans to do the right thing.

    • Steverino

      I suspect with his death, the original Republican Party of Lincoln has finally died. It has now become the American Fascist Party, all but in name.

    • jerry

      Hell, when Goldwater, Nixon, or even Reagan would be considered too liberal for their party now, I really doubt it.

  • BillyDee4

    I think he was the guy who wanted to pass a Constitutional Amendment recognizing Jesus as our lord and savior.

    • Todd20036

      Switch Jesus for Priapus, and I’m in!

  • Treant

    Who? NEXT!

    But seriously, not my type of person. It’s probably good to open a third party option, but…

  • DaddyRay

    OT: Heard this on Stephanie Miller this morning and actually choked on my coffee laughing


    • Treant

      Pardon me, I gotta go send that to every single person I know.

    • That is awesome.

  • I was one year shy of foolishly throwing my vote away on Anderson, and would have had I been eligible to vote. I didn’t know then that voting 3rd party ALWAYS results in more electoral support to the candidate most diametrically opposed to a voter’s actual preferences.

    While it’s true Reagan was almost certain to win, given his treason with Iran and what the hostage crisis plus the shitty economy did to Carter’s prospects, he would likely not have had quite the landslide win he had.

    1992: People who would’ve preferred Bush I over B. Clinton but voted Perot helped put Clinton in office.
    2000: Same thing with Nader voters. They helped elect Bush II.
    2016: Same thing with most Stein and Johnson voters…saving only those like Sarandon who still thinks H. Clinton would’ve been worse. They helped put Trump in office.

    • another_steve

      Every Democrat who didn’t vote or who voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton shares part of the blame for what we have today in the White House.

      • Ninja0980

        Yup and the fact they’ve said they’ll do it again on a local/state/national level..URRGHH!

    • jerry

      I was a senior in HS–didn’t turn 18 until 1981–but I was really disappointed when Carter lost. I’ve never voted for a Republican for president, and since around 1988 I don’t think I’ve voted for one for anything else.

    • JackNasty

      As someone who held my nose and voted for Hillary, I ask you to give it a rest. Hillary’s and her dimmest followers’ belief that they owned anyone else’s vote was the basis for her failure to win.

      • gaycuckhubby

        Off Topic… but nice shirt, brah 😉

      • Gee, it’s almost as if you were unaware of Russia’s meddling, including drumming up support for Stein, Johnson and/or Sanders as a protest vote.

        I’m not giving it a rest. I feel nothing but rage and disgust for those who voted 3rd party this last election, even if they were fooled into doing it.

        And the basis of Clinton not trouncing Trump was all of this, plus extreme misogyny. If you need an example, just watch that ‘Commander in Chief’ interview Matt Lauer did on the Intrepid. Trump got soft-ball questions while he constantly interrupted, berated, and talked down to Clinton.

        • Berdawn Hutchinson

          yeah–it has nothing to do with the people who think Clinton’s policies were odious. those pesky Russians convinced me that fracking will make my water undrinkable!

          • Berdawn Hutchinson

            we deserve better. hell, we deserve GOOD. WV and the states who are being destroyed by fracking, the people of Flint, and the people whose water is poisoned who don’t even know it yet deserve better. We deserve better than charter schools and DACA and drone strikes. The US deserves better than whatever crumbs “liberal” corporations will allow Democratic candidates to serve. We need good schools, a good immigration policy, and yes, even a good foreign policy that does more than topple dictators so they can be replaced by our “friends” who do nothing for the countries we despoil. By not accepting that the Democratic party has flaws, we don’t get better.

          • StudioTodd

            What policies, exactly, were “odious?” And, in comparison, are they worse than Trump’s policies?

            I’m really curious to see what you think is more odious than having Donald Trump as president.

          • Berdawn Hutchinson

            Of course Clinton would have been preferable to Trump. F

            Clinton supports fracking, charter schools, and drone strikes. She opposes bank regulation. Her historic support for welfare reform and mass incarceration are also problematic. The Democratic Party wants my vote only slightly more than the Republicans.

          • StudioTodd

            You’ve laid those out in a completely generic way with absolutely no nuance or detail. To simply state that she “supports” those items without any context or explanation is a play lifted directly from the opposition’s playbook.

            This is why Trump won–because voters who should have supported Hillary were too easily enticed by the right-wing’s representation of Hillary Clinton and either didn’t vote, voted for Trump by-way-of Stein or one of the other spoiler candidates or simply weren’t concerned enough about the consequences of a Trump presidency for our country to advocate strongly for Hillary–who was and is clearly more qualified, competent and suitable for the office.

            Nothing she would have done would have brought the shame and disrepute this country is now enduring. None of her policies would have spelled the end for so many social support programs or left so many minority groups with insecure futures. She wouldn’t be actively seeking to destroy our environment by opening up national park land to the highest bidder or pulling out of climate accords. And the fascist KKK/Nazi bigots would not have been emboldened and revitalized as they are currently, had Trump not been elected.

            Why you would hold your nose to vote against what Trump has wrought is beyond me.

          • Berdawn Hutchinson

            what’s nuanced about fracking or charter schools? Clinton in her role as Sec of State used her position to promote a procedure that threatens my ability to have potable water. It is pretty binary. Charter schools undermine public education and the field of teaching as a profession. To equate disapproving of Clinton’s positions with approving of Trump is disingenuous at best.

  • another_steve

    A dying breed – The Sane Republican – just lost one more of its own.

  • gaycuckhubby

    Off-topic… Does anyone have a good read on what is going on in the house right now? It seems whatever it is,is unexpected

    • Treant

      Showboating would be my initial guess.

    • Steverino

      I hear the Teacritters are making trouble for some reason, but haven’t yet heard why.

  • gaycuckhubby
  • Sam_Handwich

    now a bunch of republicans are changing their no votes to yes

    • gaycuckhubby

      What the actual fuck

    • Treant

      Shocker. But they can always say that, for one shining moment, they were going to vote No but the heads of the party threatened them into a yes. That should save their seats in 2018.

      (Scarily, it probably will save some of them).

    • huh what?

      • DaddyRay

        CSPAN – House-Senate Negotiations on GOP Tax Reform

        • Sorry, finishing up work here. What’re they doing? Trying to accept the Senate bill as passed? Or were they objecting to conference?

          • DaddyRay

            I just came home so I am trying to catch up myself

          • gaycuckhubby

            It was a vote to go to conference but it look like it was failing and they would be stuck with the Senate version. But now votes are being changed

          • Yeah, my take on it is the House would have only two choices: Vote on the Senate version or drop the whole thing until next year.

          • Unless the “Freedom (sic) Caucus” can be persuaded to vote for the conference committee, that is.

          • gaycuckhubby
          • Oh well

          • DaddyRay

            Freedom Caucus are cowards

          • No, it means they got whatever they wanted from Ryan on the continuing resolution (CR). He always caves.

          • Steverino

            Freedumb Caucus.

          • Tomcat

            The voting you see is not to go to committee it was for something else.

          • gaycuckhubby

            Ooops! 😳

    • Lazycrockett

      Ryan and McConnell are the worse Republican leadership that I can remember.

      • BearEyes


    • gaycuckhubby

      I’m going to pull a reverse Michelle Obama. For the first time in my life I am truly embarrassed to be an American

      • I was living in Germany when we started the Iraq War in 2003. So this isn’t my first time at the rodeo.

      • leastyebejudged

        Clearly, you have not been paying attention.

      • Treant

        Fortunately for Ryan, bribing House members is cheaper and there’s billions in slush funds left even after the Senate pigged their fill.

  • Phil

    A local son. He grew up here in Rockford, IL and represented us in congress for many years. I supported him in 1980, but the folly of voting for a third party candidate became apparent and I ended up voting for another IL native son (initials RR) in that election. One of only two times I voted for an R in my entire life.

  • gaycuckhubby
  • BearEyes

    He would not survive today’s extremism. Too bad as he had some good ideas.

  • edrex

    he was the only non democrat my mother ever voted for.

  • gaycuckhubby

    I’ve got a soft spot for moderate Independents Who challenged the right wing… Hence my crush on Evan McMullin

  • MikeBx2
    • Tomcat

      It’s a great country.

      • JCF

        It’s nice to be reminded of that, isn’t it? [It’s just a verkakte Electoral College!]

    • BearEyes

      that warms my cockles.

  • DaddyRay

    New Thread

  • olandp

    I considered voting for Anderson in the first election in which I voted (I wasn’t old enough to vote in the primary), but I feared Reagan* so I voted for Carter, the most moral and principled man to ever hold the office.

    *I chuckle that we feared he was a fascist. He may not have been, but he ushered them in.

  • Scott_Lumry

    I hate to admit my faults, but I was a supporter and worked in my high school Young American Republicans to elect Reagan, a “get out of our bedroom” Republican.

    Being a closeted gay male, I so wanted the government out of my bedroom, however, it was the fact that Mr. Anderson ran third party that lost Jimmy Carter that election. Mr. Anderson pulled many of the southern democrats away from Mr. Carter, that it cost him that election.

    In so doing, Mr. Anderson put my sorry ass candidate into office and my candidate turned around and stabbed the brother of a very good band brother, the brother himself and older band brother, in the back.

    Clinton’s brother was my first experience with the AIDS epidemic, an epidemic with so much social stigma that the diagnosis, then “gay cancer,” that tore his parents apart and severely conflicted my class peer.

    I visited Clinton’s brother and mom at the hospital. The man I had pushed for office was allowing this to happen, and I still blame Mr. Anderson for that result. I never voted for a Republican again.

    I send my sincerest apologies to all my LGBTQ brothers, sisters, and others. I work tirelessly to keep that from happening again.

    • JCF

      “Clinton’s brother was my first experience with the AIDS epidemic”


      You don’t mean Bill, do you?

      • Scott_Lumry

        Sorry, JCF, I did not contemplate the implication of that original post. No, Clinton was my buddy’s first name. He was not of the political dynasty.

    • MaryJOGrady

      I am so sorry. I think that similar very sad experiences happened to many who had been conned into supporting President Nancy and her spouse Ronnie.
      When the epidemic was getting bad, I really was fooled by their Hollywood connections into assuming that they would do something. It fell to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, an intellectually honest old surgeon who was appointed Surgeon General because of his anti-abortion credentials, to step up and fight HIV, not people with HIV. (I accepted a temporary assignment as the world’s oldest ensign-equivalent in the Public Health Service mainly because I wanted to have him as my commanding officer. It was hilarious on the streets of Cincinnati, where I worked at NIOSH, whenever I passed anyone who could read badges of rank when I was in uniform– an ensign my age was bound to be either criminal or incompetent.)

    • marshlc

      Even if all the Anderson votes had gone to Carter, Reagan would still have won. And it’s by no means a sure thing that they all would have gone to Carter.

    • Gay Fordham Prep Grad

      It wasn’t that. You and I are the same age, and the election that year was the one year anniversary of the start of the Iranian hostage crisis. That was wall to wall news coverage. Carter was so reviled it is hard to imagine anyone losing to him that year.

      • infmom

        Reagan went behind everyone’s back to get the Iranians to not release the hostages. That was his first act of treason but not his last.

  • CottonBlimp

    The thing about these centrist third-way types is that they don’t have any actual voter base. They don’t appeal to populist liberalism that wants to protect the New Deal, and they don’t appeal to populist conservatism that is pretty much just racism. Their only real constituency is the corporate class, which is why these people will never, ever, ever go away no matter how little support they have. It’s also why our media, reporting from a corporate culture bubble, keeps acting flabbergasted as to why we don’t all think this crap is the bee’s knees.

  • As I recall, John Anderson was hugely popular among my friends and classmates. If 12 year-olds had been able to vote in 1980, things might have turned out very differently.

  • MaryJOGrady

    He helped give us Reagan.

  • BeaverTales

    Too bad Anderson lost and Reagan won. Anderson might have saved the country from the clusterfuck it is now. Carter was my choice, but I was too young to vote in 1980

    With all the BDS (Bernie derangement syndrome) on this site, and all the bitching that he isn’t a real enough Democrat, I wonder if people ever considered if he had run as an Independent, what would have happened?… Anderson, in retrospect, did the unthinkable.

    Perhaps the outcome would have still been exactly the same. Perhaps Trump would have lost, or Hillary would have won. Or in my personal opinion, Bernie would have won enough voters disgusted with both sides to have created a Sanders presidency.

    I did the thought experiment of a 3way tie.in the electoral college.

    If there was not a plurality of 269 votes from a 3 way tie, then the election would have gone to the Senate and the House. Since the GOP controls both houses of Congress and most of the states, it’s likely Trump still would have won.

  • thatotherjean

    RIP, Mr. Anderson. You would have made a far better President than Ronald Reagan. In order to vote in my state’s primary, I had to change my registration to Republican–for the only time in my life. I was disappointed when Reagan won, but not sorry to have voted for you.

    NB: Jimmy Carter’s post-Presidential career has been as an outstanding human being and an elder statesman. Nonetheless, he wasn’t much as President: his heart may have been in the right place, but his follow-through was miserable. Like Obama, he wanted consensus; and like Obama, he didn’t get it.

  • Manny Espinola

    Way ahead of his time. Bon voyage, Good Ship John B. Anderson.

  • Avenger280

    I liked John Anderson, but at the end of the day he wound up splitting the vote and clearing the way for Reagan. JMO 😛

  • Ben in Oakland

    Aside from Milton marks, he was the last Republican I’ve ever voted for.

    Or will.

  • Ore Carmi

    Sounds like he was a brave and good man! Progressive. Republicans like that are practically non-existent these days.

  • mark99k

    The brief time Anderson was in the spotlight was the only time in my life I re-registered Republican — or at least I thought I did, finding out *on the day of the primary* that doing so at one of those tables in the gayborhood was the expressway to the political club’s wastebasket (and thus began a lifelong distrust of said clubs and their screechy members). But I digress.

    Anderson came to my (extremely liberal) city for a rally and spoke to a large outdoor crowd. When he finished, he was overwhelmed by people clamoring to shake his hand. Normally I’d shun such a throng, but on that day I just couldn’t forgo, and I noticed nobody else seemed to be giving up either. Poor guy must’ve had internal bruising up & down his forearm, such was the exuberant fever of the crowd. When I finally got my turn, his handshake — probably his 200th that day — was warm and firm and just exactly what you want in a leader.

    For honesty and sincerity there’s no parallel to Anderson in current American politics and probably never will be.

  • OCW

    I campaigned for him

  • The 1980 election was the first Presidential Election I was old enough to vote in. I didn’t want to throw my vote away on either Reagan or Carter, so instead I threw it away on John Anderson with no regrets. 6.6% of the popular vote was pretty respectable. And I found his policy positions pretty sensible. RIP

  • Pluto Animus

    “A vote for Anderson is a vote for Reagan.”

    Good God, I’m so old.

  • DesertSun59

    1980 was the first time I could legally vote. Mine was one of John Anderson’s 5.7 M votes.

  • infmom

    I had to register as a Republican to vote for John Anderson in the Kansas primary in 1980. It is the only time I ever registered with any political party and I changed it back to “no party” at the speed of light as soon as I could.

    I also voted for him in the general election. I do not consider either vote to have been wasted.