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John Bayard Anderson (born February 15, 1922) is a former United States Congressman and Presidential candidate from Illinoismarker. He was a U.S. Representative from the 16th Congressional District of Illinois and an Independent candidate in the 1980 presidential election. He was previously a member of the Republican Party. He has been a political reform leader, including serving 12 years as chair of the board of FairVote.


Anderson was born to a Swedish-American family in Rockford, Illinoismarker, where he grew up. He then attended the University of Illinoismarker, but his education was interrupted by World War II, when he enlisted in the Army in 1943. He served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Field Artillery until the end of the war. After the war, Anderson returned to complete his education, eventually earning a law degree (J.D.) from the University of Illinois College of Lawmarker in 1946. He was admitted to the Illinois bar the same year, and commenced the practice of law in Rockford.

Soon after, Anderson moved east to attend Harvard Law Schoolmarker, obtaining a Master of Laws degree in 1949. While at Harvard, he served on the faculty of Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. From 1952 to 1955, he served as the Economic Reporting Officer in the Eastern Affairs Division, as an adviser on the staff of the United States High Commissioner for Germany.

Political career

In 1956, Anderson was elected State's Attorney in Winnebago County, Illinoismarker. Four years later, he ran for election to the United States House of Representatives in the solidly Republican 16th District of Illinois. He won the election and went on to serve in Congress for ten terms, from 1961 to 1981.

Initially, Anderson was amongst the most conservative members of the Republican caucus. In his second term as a Congressman, Anderson introduced a constitutional amendment that would have "recognize[d] the law and authority of Jesus Christ" over the United States.

As he continued to serve, Anderson's positions on social issues shifted to the left, though his fiscal philosophy remained largely conservative. In 1969, he became Chairman of the House Republican Conference, the caucus of all Republican members of the House, and by the early 1970s was regarded as one of the most articulate of the Rockefeller Republicans.

Anderson's political drift began to unsettle some of his conservative constituents. In 1978, a fundamentalist minister from Rockford, Donald Lyon, announced that he would challenge Anderson in the Republican primary for the 16th congressional district. Though Anderson was the third-ranking Republican in the House, he managed to win the primary by only a narrow margin.

1980 Presidential campaign

In the 1980 presidential election, Anderson entered the Republican primary for the U.S. Presidential election, in a crowded field that included Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and therefore did not run for reelection to the House. He received little media notice until a Republican debate. Candidates were asked if there were any actions in their past that they had come to regret. Most of them dodged the question, but Anderson took it head-on, telling viewers that, if he could, he would reverse his vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. His popularity increased dramatically overnight.

His best showing was on March 4, finishing a strong second to George H.W. Bush in the Massachusetts primary and Ronald Reagan in the Vermont primary, losing both contests by less than a thousand votes. That spring, following the Wisconsin primary, at which time it was apparent that Reagan would win the nomination, he dropped out of the primary race to run as an independent candidate for the fall general election. His campaign manager was New York media strategist David Garth. Anderson started out very well in the polls — over 25%. But as a top adviser reported, "Instead of rising to something on the order of 30 percent, he fell, steadily, about one percentage point every week and a half, down to 22 percent, then 20 percent, then 18 percent, and progressively worse."

Most of Anderson's original support came from Rockefeller Republicans who were more liberal than Reagan, but it bled away. Many prominent intellectuals, including the author and activist Gore Vidal and the editors of the liberal magazine The New Republic, also endorsed the Anderson campaign. He also had the support of many independents. Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury ran several strips sympathetic to the Anderson campaign. According to the recently published journals of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis voted for Anderson, as did Schlesinger himself. The hope that Anderson would score when the Democrats split in their support of Ted Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter faded when Kennedy endorsed Carter and the Democrats held together. Anderson's choice of little-known Democrat Patrick Joseph Lucey, a former Governor of Wisconsin, as his running mate signaled that Anderson was unable to win over any prominent Democrat. His poll numbers kept falling, attributable in large part to a campaign pledge regarding the cornerstone of his proposed economic policy, which was to enact, if elected, a 50 cent per gallon gasoline tax, and in an era of high gas prices and fuel shortages, this did not resonate very well with voters. He stayed in the race allegedly because he would receive federal election subsidies only if he received 5% of the vote, and millions of unpaid debts had been accumulated. In the end, he received 7% of the vote in the election with a total of about 6 million votes. He did not carry a single precinct in the country. Anderson's finish was still the best showing for a third party candidate since George Wallace's 14% in 1968, and the sixth best for any such candidate in the 20th century (trailing Theodore Roosevelt's 27% in 1912, Robert LaFollette's 17% in 1924, Wallace, and Ross Perot's 19% and 8% in 1992 and 1996, respectively).

During the fall campaign, Reagan and Anderson engaged in a televised debate. Although he was invited, Carter did not participate in this debate. Carter and Reagan debated each other in the penultimate week of the presidential campaign; Anderson was not invited to participate.

His inability to make headway against the de facto two party system as an independent in that election would later lead him to become an advocate for Instant Runoff Voting, helping to found FairVote in 1992.

See Reagan Coalition for vote details.

Later career

By the end, Anderson's support was on college campuses, and he capitalized on that by becoming a visiting professor at a series of universities: Stanford Universitymarker, Duke Universitymarker, University of Illinois College of Lawmarker, Brandeis Universitymarker, Bryn Mawr Collegemarker, Oregon State Universitymarker, University of Massachusetts, and Nova Southeastern University (his most recent post). He was Chair of FairVote from 1996 to 2008 and continues to serve on its board, served as President of the World Federalist Association and on the advisory board of Public Campaign and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and is of counsel to the Washington, DC-based law firm of Greenberg & Lieberman, LLC

In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, he was briefly considered as possible candidate for the Reform Party nomination but instead endorsed Ralph Nader[7197]. In January 2008, Anderson indicated strong support for the candidacy of fellow Illinoisan, Democratic contender Barack Obama.

See also



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