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Lyndon LaRouche (1922–2019), perennial presidential candidate

by Linnea Crowther

Lyndon LaRouche Jr., a contentious political activist and perennial candidate for U.S. president, died February 12. He was 96. One of the most unusual characters in American politics, LaRouche operated outside the mainstream of political thought, embracing an unorthodox platform of ideas from both the left and right of the political spectrum. With the support of his small but intensely loyal group of followers, he ran for president eight times between 1976 and 2004 — once from prison.

Lyndon LaRouche Jr., a contentious political activist and perennial candidate for U.S. president, died February 12. He was 96. 

One of the most unusual characters in American politics, LaRouche operated outside the mainstream of political thought, embracing an unorthodox platform of ideas from both the left and right of the political spectrum. With the support of his small but intensely loyal group of followers, he ran for president eight times between 1976 and 2004 — once from prison. 

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Born September 8, 1922, in Rochester, New Hampshire, LaRouche was the oldest of three children. A studious child, he became intensely interested in philosophy, reading the great thinkers extensively throughout his teen years. 


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He was brought up as a Quaker and was a conscientious objector during World War II. When he did join the U.S. Army in 1944, he served in a noncombat role with medical units in India and Myanmar. Upon returning to the United States, he joined the Socialists Workers Party.

By the late 1960s, he had organized his supporters into the National Caucus of Labor Committees. They would sometimes clash violently with other labor-related political groups on the left, which attracted the attention of the FBI. 

LaRouche created an intelligence-gathering network, with sources in the government and military to provide him with daily briefings. His organization also published propaganda to promote his views on politics and economics. Critics said his caucus was structured more as a cult of personality than a political organization. 

LaRouche’s views on politics were shaped more by the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato and his belief in absolute truth than adhering to the standard conservative-liberal divide in American politics. This led to an unusual combination of views.  

He supported Reagan’s space-based defense initiative, dubbed “Star Wars,” but was highly critical of the deregulation of the financial sector; he supported reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, which sought to separate investment and commercial banking activities.  He and his supporters pushed for a bill in California to quarantine people diagnosed with AIDS during the 1980s. Decades later, they denounced the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” for failing to do enough to establish a government-run, single-payer health care model. Critics also charged that his messages at times were racist and anti-Semitic, and that his group had ties at various times to both the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam. 

In 1988, LaRouche was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud involving the default on millions of dollars’ worth of loans. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Incarceration didn’t keep him from running for president in 1988; he received over 25,000 votes. He was paroled in 1994. 

He continued to run for president throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, usually for the Democratic nomination, despite official opposition from the party. He also received press attention overseas for his claims that he foresaw the financial collapse of the late 2000s. These were the latest in a long line of gloom-and-doom prophecies he had made throughout his career. He also asserted that he was the target of assassination plots by various world governments and opposing groups. 

Outside of politics, he was an aficionado of classical music.  He led an effort to change the concert pitch — an A above middle C — from 440 Hz to 432 Hz, as the Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi had advocated in the 19th century. He also was a vocal critic of popular music, rock ‘n’ roll in particular, and wrote that the Beatles not only lacked “genuine musical talent,” but also “were a product shaped according to British Psychological Warfare Division specifications.” 

He is survived by his wife, Helga Zepp-LaRouche. 

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