These shows of a funny little Southerner in a suit talking by himself in front of pie charts for a half hour straight outdrew baseball games and primetime network entertainment programs. They won big ratings because of their hokey style and B-movie production values. This was the beginning of the collapse in trust in the news business and in traditional politicians, who were increasingly seen as having more style than substance…

Perot ran before it became historical fact that both parties supported NAFTA – Bill Clinton hedged a lot in that race, saying things like “on balance it does more good than harm” – but the Texan routinely hammered the theme that the two parties coddled financial interests above ordinary people. In one of the debates, he accused both Clinton and Bush of having “people representing foreign countries” working on their campaigns.

If Perot’s infomercial ratings were a harbinger of future anger toward the “fake news” media, the success of this campaign against NAFTA foretold the anti-globalism movement. Much as Perot in his business life capitalized on inefficiencies he’d spotted in corporate bureaucracies like that of IBM (where he’d worked as a salesman in his youth), he rose in public life because he was early to see cracks in our political foundation that later burst wide open.