1986: Lyndon LaRouche’s Political Peak

POLITICS FROM THE TWILIGHT ZONE Radical candidates hijack Illinois’ Democratic primary; Richard Stengel. Reported by Lee Griggs/Chicago
Time 03-31-1986

Their campaigns cost a grand total of $200. They made few
speeches, avoided appearing on television, and distributed only a
smattering of pamphlets. They kept quiet about their platform, which
proposes mandatory testing of all Americans for AIDS and ”Nuremberg
tribunals” for those suspected of treason. Although the ballot in
the Illinois state primary listed them as Democrats, that designation
cloaked their true affiliation.
The two candidates who won the Illinois Democratic state primary
nominations for Lieutenant Governor and secretary of state in
shocking upsets are actually followers of reclusive,
ultra-right-wing, perennial Presidential Candidate Lyndon LaRouche.
Mark Fairchild and Janice Hart, two travelers from the Twilight Zone
of politics, narrowly defeated the handpicked nominees of Adlai
Stevenson III. Stevenson won the Democratic primary for Governor with
an overwhelming 88% of the vote.
The returns jolted everyone in Illinois politics. ”This is
insane,” said an incredulous Republican Governor James Thompson. ”A
disaster,” exclaimed Democratic Chairman Calvin Sutker. Stevenson
was both angry and adamant. ”I am exploring every legal remedy to
purge these extremists from the Democratic ticket,” said he. ”But
one thing I want to make absolutely clear. I will never serve on a
ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon
LaRouche and the U.S. Labor Party.”
The victory of the LaRouche candidates left the Democratic Party
in agitated disarray and may torpedo Stevenson’s chances. Though
candidates for statewide offices in Illinois are chosen individually,
the Governor and Lieutenant Governor must run in tandem in November.
Stevenson is considering forming a third party, a complicated
maneuver that would require renouncing his Democratic nomination and
organizing a slate of candidates for nine offices. But many
Illinois Democrats, including U.S. Senator Alan Dixon, regard that as
imprudent. Dixon urged Stevenson to run as a Democrat and promise to
eliminate the Lieutenant Governor’s office if elected.
After his victory, Fairchild, 28, an earnest-looking electrical
engineer who won the Lieutenant Governor’s spot, attributed the upset
to ”anger on the part of the public at the regular Democratic
slate.” For his part, Fairchild said, he would like to reach some
kind of agreement with Stevenson. Hart, 31, the new Democratic
nominee for secretary of state, was less gracious. A dark, alarmingly
intense woman who has been a LaRouche disciple since she was 17, she
spoke at her victory press conference in the flat tones of a military
commander: ”We will roll our tanks down State Street, and make sure
every citizen is armed, with reason and beauty. We will hang traitors
and hang people who are responsible for feeding our children drugs .
. .” There was more: ”He (LaRouche) will put the fear of God in
people like Henry Kissinger and the State Department, the biggest
hotbed of treason in this nation since Aaron Burr killed Alexander
The bizarre outcome was skewed, in part, by the Chicago races,
where Mayor Harold Washington campaigned against the regular
Democratic ticket (see box). In the statewide contests, regular
Democrats were too cocky; Stevenson did not bother to campaign for
his running mates, assuming, like everyone else, that they would be
ushered in on his coattails.
Apparently many voters around the state, unfamiliar with the
candidates, cast ballots for Fairchild and Hart because their names
sounded more ) comfortable to them than those of their regular
Democrat opponents, George Sangmeister and Aurelia Pucinski. The fact
that Hart and Fairchild were listed first, alphabetically, gave them
an edge with uninformed voters. A shoe salesman in Taylorville told
the Chicago Tribune he voted for the two LaRouchians ”because they
had smooth-sounding names. I didn’t know anything about any of those
candidates.” Chicago newspapers later sent reporters out to survey
scores of voters; none of them found a single avowed LaRouchian.
That is not surprising, even though LaRouche has run for President
in the past three national elections (garnering nearly 80,000 votes
in 1984) and his followers court attention at airports by displaying
posters such as NUKE JANE FONDA as a come-on for their often virulent
pamphlets. LaRouche, 63, a former Marxist, is now the leader of a
cultlike, worldwide organization that blames international
conspiracies of bankers, Communists and Zionists for the world’s
ills–including those of the farmers, which may have attracted some
votes in struggling rural Illinois. In 1984, LaRouche claimed on a
paid political broadcast that ”Walter Mondale is an agent of
influence of the Soviet secret intelligence services.”
Despite the crackbrained ideas, a former official of the National
Security Council maintains that LaRouche has ”one of the best
private intelligence services in the world.” His lieutenants have
had meetings with U.S. intelligence officials. His international
operation, run from a well-guarded estate in Leesburg, Va., provides
him with daily reports, while his printing company churns out books,
magazines and newspapers that produce both converts and income. With
perhaps 2,000 disciples, LaRouche ran hundreds of candidates for
office in 1984. Nearly 1,000 are expected to run this year. Though
few, if any, are expected to do well. Democrats in Newport Beach,
Calif., last week discovered that a LaRouche follower was the lone
Democrat to meet the filing deadline to contest a Republican
congressional seat.
Whatever the Illinois victories mean for LaRouche’s fanatical
movement, they exposed a dangerous weakness in the state’s electoral
politics. Even Governor Thompson, whose re-election bid for a fourth
term will benefit from the situation, was troubled. ”The bottom
line of all this,” he said, ”is that every politician in the state
of Illinois better sit himself down and say, ‘I’m never going to take
the voters for granted.’ ”
BOX: Destroying the Dinosaur
Ever since he became Chicago’s first black mayor, in 1983, by
successfully challenging the city’s once dominant Democratic machine,
Harold Washington has struggled to gain practical political control
of a sharply divided government. He has been blocked from doing so by
Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak, chairman of Cook County’s Democratic
organization, whose followers have held a 29-to-21 edge over the
mayor’s loyalists on Chicago’s unwieldy 50-member city council. A
special election in seven aldermanic districts last week gave
Washington a rare chance to break the deadlock.
The election was ordered by a federal judge, who ruled last
December that the seven districts had been illegally gerrymandered to
reduce minority representation on the council. That very week
Washington, who had been steadily picking up popular support in
polls, was stung by a scandal over bribes allegedly offered to at
least one city official to influence the awarding of contracts for
collecting unpaid parking tickets. Washington was not accused of any
personal wrongdoing, but his image as a reformist mayor fighting a
corrupt machine was tarnished.
Nevertheless, by election week Washington was campaigning with
typical bombast, terming his own candidates ”the magnificent seven”
and Vrdolyak supporters ”crooks and lowlifes who climb out from
under rocks.” In the voting, the mayor’s candidates won in two
districts, and a third seemed certain to be elected in a runoff.
Vrdolyak’s men captured three districts. The pivotal seventh race, in
Chicago’s 26th ward, was a snarl of legal disputes and charges of
fraud, but Washington’s candidate was ahead by a hair. If the mayor’s
man eventually wins, the council would be evenly split, 25 to 25, and
Washington’s own vote could break any impasse.
”We have destroyed the dinosaur,” the mayor declared
triumphantly after the election. Not just yet. Washington may gain a
narrow majority on the council, but Vrdolyak and his followers long
ago passed a resolution requiring that any change in the powerful
committee chairmanships be approved by a two- thirds vote.

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