Donald Trump has famously flip-flopped back and forth between liberal and conservative. What many people don’t know is that Trump’s 2016 campaign was not the first time he seriously considered running for office.
Photo: Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash
The first time Trump considered running for office was in 1988. He was a registered democrat at the time, but changed his affiliation to the Republican Party because he felt had better chances of scoring a Republican nomination than a Democratic one. He even bought several pages worth of ads in various newspapers as a signal of his intention. He never formally announced his intention to run, and he lost interest before gaining any momentum.
Trump’s first serious campaign was in 2000. He officially announced the creation of a presidential exploratory committee on Larry King Live in the fall of 1999. Trump credits Governor Ventura of Minnesota, a former professional wrestler, with convincing him to throw his hat in the ring as a third-party candidate for the Reform Party, created by Ross Perot in the 1990s. Perot created the Reform Party out of frustration with the United States’ two-party system. The Reform Party had both liberal and conservative members. Trump fell into the former category. The idea of a liberal Donald Trump is baffling considering his extremely conservative views today.
He eventually released a pamphlet, The America We Deserve, outlining his platform and beliefs. One of his primary goals as a presidential candidate was achieving universal healthcare. He also proposed a special tax on the ultra-rich. Many people believed that the campaign was a sham designed to sell his books; however, Trump assured people of his sincerity in his unique way: “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
He gave impassioned speeches at various campaign events across the country. He received a surprisingly high level of support from voters. If he received the nomination, he said, he would immediately marry his girlfriend, Melania Knoss, so she could hold the prestigious title of First Lady.
He dropped out when paleoconservative Pat Buchanan began pursuing the Reform Party nomination. Buchanan served as the White House Director of Communications under the Reagan administration.
Trump referred to the ultra-conservative Buchanan as a political dinosaur who championed long-outdated policies. Trump predicted a bitter rivalry with a number of casualties; he was reluctant to engage in such a battle, especially since third-party nominations count for very little in the long run.
After Trump dropped out, a physicist named John Hagelin became Buchanan’s rival for the Reform nomination. Hagelin was unique in that his political philosophy was based on transcendental meditation. The ideological gap between Buchanan and Hagelin demonstrates the spectrum of thought represented in the Reform Party.
Though his campaign was short-lived, officially beginning in October and ending the following February, Trump attended campaign events in three states and qualified for two primary elections. He had a serious chance of gaining the Reform nomination, though he would not have gotten far in the race because he was a third-party candidate. His 2016 presidential run was a surprise to many, but in reality, it was a long time coming.
Mary Buschmann majored in Government and Classical History at Hamilton College in upstate New York. She has been involved various news and creative writing publications in both high school and college. She particularly enjoys writing human interest pieces. Mary is an aspiring author working on her first novel, The Swan.