About Quizzes

John Anderson

John B. Anderson John B. Anderson, to distinguish between the politician and the country-western singer of the same name, entered the national political arena in 1961, as a junior Congressman from Illinois. He served for 10 terms before tossing his hat into the ring as an independent candidate for President of the United States. He carried the centrist banner for a grassroots movement that appealed to at least six million voters. The early years John Bayard Anderson was born in February 1922, in Rockford, Illinois, and spent his childhood there. He received his undergraduate degree in pre-law and later, his juris doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. His studies were interupted by World War II, in which he served as a staff sergeant in a field artillery unit. After receiving his degree following the war, Anderson was admitted to the Illinois bar and practiced law in Rockford until moving east to attend Harvard Law School, earning his LL.M. degree in 1949. He then broadened his experience by serving on the faculty of Northeastern University School of Law, and was on the staff of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. The public domain Anderson was elected State's Attorney for his home county, Winnebago, in 1956. In 1960, he ran successfully for the 16th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and served as Chairman of the House Republican Committee from 1969 until entering the Republican primary for president, in 1980. He withdrew from that primary to run an independent campaign against Republican nominee and eventual winner of the election, Ronald Reagan, and Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter. Anderson's six million votes translated into about seven percent of the total. The 1980 campaign Anderson, following a spirited debate with Reagan, dropped out of the Republican primary to run an independent campaign. His thoughts on the two parties:

  • Of the Republicans (of which he was a former member): "Too socially conservative and intolerant."
  • Of the Democrats: "Tax-and-spend social welfare agenda ignores economic realities."
  • During the gas shortage of the era, Anderson espoused a 50-cents-a-gallon tax on gas, which, he predicted, would lower demand for petroleum and shore up a sagging Social Security trust fund.
  • Anderson was in favor of liberal social and foreign policies, and conservative domestic economics.
  • His presidential run bogged down when he revealed his plan for opposing the reduction of personal income taxes (drawing criticism from Reagan) and a pro-business tax reduction stance (a Carter no-no).
  • During the campaign, President Carter refused to debate Anderson, calling him a "creation of the media;" hence, Carter and Reagan debated alone.
  • In the ensuing election, Anderson's six million votes constituted a record for third-party candidates at the time.
  • Post-1980 activity

    Anderson remained active in the educational arm of the law, becoming a visiting professor in such prestigious universities as Stanford, Brandeis, and Bryn Mawr College. Anderson's passion since his trial balloon of 1980, however, is to wave the centrist flag for moderate America. He espouses what he calls "a common sense approach to government." His goal is to ensure that other views and opinions, other than those of the major parties in America, are heard. Anderson's main goal has evolved from that third-party try for the presidency in 1980. Now in the twilight of his political career, he has nevertheless continued his crusade for a "one man, one vote" scenario, meaning that the Electoral College, of which as few as 12 votes¹ could elect a president of the United States, needs to be modified in favor of a nationwide popular vote.

    Who is John Anderson?

    To know John Anderson, one must listen to what he has to say, what he stands for. The following are typical thoughts:

    "I was really buoyed by the thought that so many people didn't listen to the internal chant that was ringing in my ears every place I went: 'Don't waste a vote. If you don't vote for a major-party candidate, you are wasting your vote.'"²

    "All elements in our society have got to be listened to; their voices have got to be heard. That means we've got to look at the laws of democracy, and evolve and develop a structure that is more responsive than the current structure."

    "I am now 80 years of age, and I suppose with great age comes great wisdom. I would like to think so. What drives me is the realization that there are a lot of people like me who I can make a common bond with and make common cause. To try to have an influence even though I am not an elected official and never intend to run again. I've still got to do something. I've got to keep thinking. If I don't, I will start to die."

    "I don't want to sound vainglorious because, after all, I failed in the biggest challenge of all when I tried to become president. Let's say I am satisfied that I have had a fairly useful life and that I have accomplished a few things and hopefully they will contribute to a better future."

    What's new in the 21st century

    Anderson has served as chair of the FairVote alliance, teaming with other like-minded politicians Birch Bayh (D-IN) and John Buchanon (R-AL). Together they lead the push for a "National Popular Vote" agenda in which states come together to elect a president wanted by a majority of the nation.

    ¹It is mathmatically possible for one presidential candidate to capture the 12 most populous states by one vote, while losing the other 39 states and the District of Columbia by substantial margins — not capturing a majority of the popular vote — and still be elected president by the Electoral College. Those 12 states have 281 electoral votes between them (270 are needed to elect a president). ² Third-party candidates have had to overcome the specter of the "wasted vote" argument. Anderson, and others, believe that argument can be easily overcome with a system of voting that recognizes more than one choice on a voter's ballot — where a voter can choose his favorite candidate and label that as choice number one. The voter then chooses a second candidate with a label of number two. During the first round of voting, only the number-one preferences are counted. Should the leading vote-getter not receive a majority of the votes, a second round of voting would occur immediately among the the top two vote-getters. This time, the votes from the defeated candidates would be dispersed to one of the leading candidates who had been marked as the number two choice; thus, the voter doesn't "waste" his vote by choosing a third-party candidate on the first ballot.