Lyndon LaRouche, 1922–2019
The conspiracist who longed to be president
Born in Rochester, N.Y., to Quaker parents, LaRouche did not have “a happy childhood,” said The New York Times. Bullied at school, he was forbidden from fighting back by his family’s pacifist beliefs. After serving as an Army medic during World War II, LaRouche moved to New York City and became active in Trotskyite groups. His rambling essays—which would abruptly switch from discussions of Plato and Aristotle to bel canto singing—led many on the Left to dismiss him “as a crank,” said The Washington Post. By the time of his first presidential run, LaRouche had moved to the far right. He ordered his disciples to learn karate so they could battle communists and insisted his supporters hand him control of their bank accounts and sex lives.
LaRouche often tricked people into voting for his candidates, said the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “The official-sounding National Democratic Policy Committee, which had no connection to the Democratic Party, was used as a front for LaRouchies running in Democratic primaries.” LaRouche himself won more than 76,000 votes in the 1984 election—a personal best—but four years later “was convicted of income tax evasion, mail fraud, and drawing money from credit card accounts of elderly followers.” He served five years in a federal prison and ran his 1992 presidential campaign from his cell, which he was sure had been bugged. “To say that Lyndon was slightly paranoid,” said his cellmate, the disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, “would be like saying the Titanic had a bit of a leak.”