John B. Anderson

American politician (1922–2017)

John Bayard Anderson (February 15, 1922 - December 4, 2017) was an American politician and social activist. He served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 16th congressional district of Illinois from 1961 to 1981. In 1980, Anderson was an independent candidate for President of the United States, and received 5.7 million votes, or 6.6%. He was chair of the board of FairVote from 1996 to 2008.

I felt that I had made my mark on the pages of history and laid down some markers for others possibly to follow.

Quotes edit

  • After spending an adult life of unfulfilled dreams and promises, a man has to prove something to himself. Maybe I’m trying to sum it all up to convince myself that everything I’ve been doing makes sense. I guess, I just want to get it all off my chest before I close up the books.
    • As quoted in “Anderson Climbs Uphill Toting Heavyweight Issues” by Dan Balz, in The Washington Post (17 November 1979)
  • The time has come to stop telling the American people only what they want them to hear, and start talking frankly about the sacrifices we must all make.
    • As quoted in “Anderson Offers Barter: Ideas for Votes” by Bernard Weinraub, in The New York Times (12 March 1980)
  • [My position] is not designed to win votes. It is designed to address itself to what I think is a problem of crisis proportions. I believe that when you are facing that kind of emergency, you have to be willing to prescribe some pretty tough action. I think the American people are ready for some straight answers. . . When you are confronted with a genuine emergency, then I think you have to look at the interest of the country first.
  • I had no great sense of failure. I didn’t come out of the campaign with the sense that I’d thrown my career away or thrown my life away on what was a fruitless, feckless endeavor. I felt that I had made my mark on the pages of history and laid down some markers for others possibly to follow.
    • As quoted in No Holding Back : The 1980 John B. Anderson Presidential Campaign (2011) by Jim Mason, p. 412

Quotes about Anderson edit

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
  • Anderson accomplished one of the rarest deeds in Congress . . . [he] actually persuaded some of his Republican colleagues to switch at the last minute from opposition to support of the bill.
    • John Averill, "Illinois Conservative Emerges as Rights Hero in House" in The Washington Post (15 April 1968)
  • Overnight, Anderson has become a hero, not only to the civil rights forces, but also to Republican liberals and moderates who hanker for an attractive new face and a voice of eloquence to assume the lead in offering new solutions to the nation’s great domestic crises.
    • John Averill, "Illinois Conservative Emerges as Rights Hero in House" in The Washington Post (15 April 1968)
  • We would commend any voter who, from principle, casts a ballot for him. The Illinois congressman has demonstrated that directness wins respect from voters, even when they disagree with what they hear.
    • Boston Globe editors, in "Two Sensible Options” in Boston Globe (30 October 1980)
  • What he did was prove, again, that here is a remarkable candidate of courage and integrity, one who refuses to shape his plans and his principles to conform to this or that pressure group. Instead, he values the welfare of all Americans.
    • Chicago Sun-Times in “Anderson’s Budget Prudence” in The Chicago Sun-Times (12 March 1980)
  • Anderson not only is eloquent, he is forthright to the point of bluntness. He has disdained feeding Pablum to the populace. He has pinpointed the nation’s major problems and offered reasonable, if not always palatable, solutions to them.
    • Concord Monitor editors, in “For the GOP: Anderson,” The Concord Monitor (21 February 1980)
  • There is a thread that runs through American presidential politics. It is an urge to find, especially in difficult times, a candidate who is his own man, whose concerns are larger than his party’s, who is a rational moderate in pursuit of what is best for the whole country. In the spring of 1980, John Bayard Anderson of Rockford, Illinois seemed to have seized that thread. He was widely perceived to be good, decent, honest, less partisan, and more intelligent and experienced than the rest of the field.
    • James Deakin, in “John Anderson- Biography” in Political Profiles (Spring 1980), p. 17
  • Within the fraternity of professional public opinion pollsters, Rep. John B. Anderson’s independent presidential campaign is regarded today as a serious challenge that could result in Anderson’s election to the White House next November.
    • Robert G. Kaiser, in “Anderson Could Win, Pollsters Agree” in Washington Post (18 June 1980)
  • Anderson, alone in the Republican field, has been waging a campaign focused on the issues that are bedeviling America. And he has been making uncommonly good sense. The remarkable thing about him is that he combines two qualities this country very much needs today: a conservative approach to fiscal, tax, and business matters, and a tough but sane attitude toward foreign affairs.
    • Keene Sentinel editors, in “Listening to John Anderson” in The Keene Sentinel (20 February 1980)
  • Rep. John Anderson, the Illinois Republican, has so far shown himself to be the candidate most qualified to be president.
    • Joseph Kraft, in “A Switch From Weakness” in The Washington Post (11 December 1979)
  • After losing three consecutive Republican primaries, Anderson admitted that he expected there to be “some reduction in funds” given to his campaign. Usually contributors are less willing to donate to a candidate who has fared poorly at the polls or who might drop out of the race. But there was no significant fall in contributions for him over the first ten days of April. … “The people giving are not affected by these primaries,” aide Tom Mathews explained to a reporter. “They don’t care if he wins or loses as a Republican contestant.”
    Upon reaching home, Anderson continued to put the pieces in place for an independent candidacy. The decision was made in the face of the overwhelming conventional wisdom that stated there were too many hurdles for a candidate without an established party starting this late to win.
    • Jim Mason, in No Holding Back : The 1980 John B. Anderson Presidential Campaign (2011), Ch. 8 : April to June 1980 “A Co-Equal Third Contender”
  • Anderson was the first major mainstream political figure to align himself with the independent movement that still exists today in American politics. While destabilization and fragmentation existed long before Anderson, he was the first candidate to give an established, credible non-party outlet for independent and disenchanted voters. Secondly, he was the first candidate to expose how voters would appreciate a new realism in American politics. In the aftermath of 1980, candidates were expected to speak in a more straight-forward manner to the voter than in past campaigns, rather than basing campaigns upon promises that the candidate often knew he had little chance of keeping. Third, he was the first candidate at the national level to expose the residual interest that exists among voters in candidates who are truly different and run against politics-as-usual. Fourth, he set a new standard of honesty in campaigning, which has forced the media and the public to hold candidates more accountable for their actions in campaigns. And lastly, it was the Anderson campaign that gave hope to voters that politics in the post-Watergate era could be more truthful, pure, and honorable.
    After the election, Anderson kept his promise to retire from public life. Although he did flirt with the idea of forming a permanent centrist third party in 1984, in the end he opted never to seek office again. He has instead moved onto a career in academia, teaching as a guest professor at a series of colleges across the nation.
  • A vote for Anderson holds out the possibility of something better from our politics and tells whoever wins that at least this voter wants something better.
    • Miami Herald editors in “John Anderson Combines the Best of Both Parties” in The Miami Herald (19 October 1980)
  • A first class congressman, a smart man with interesting ideas, and a figure of some moment in the House.
    • Roger Mudd, on CBS Evening News (30 November 1979)
  • Mr. Anderson is seen as one of those rare politicians whose political standards and sense of values seem more important to him than winning the next election. . . looking more and more like the quintessential man of principle.
    • John Oates, “The Anderson Principle” in The New York Times (20 March 1980)
  • Put me down as a believer. John Anderson is the most impressive candidate in the presidential field. . . Reporters are not used to politicians who look you directly in the eye and tell you exactly what they believe. . . He is giving up a safe congressional seat after twenty years. I admire him for not wanting to spend the rest of his life posturing and pretending to leadership. He decided to try to lead.
    • Richard Reeves, in “Anderson’s Great Appeal Influences Only a Few” in The Minneapolis Star (26 February 1980)
  • I have never interviewed a politician so open to argument and so unafraid of being done in by a reporter.
    • Robert Scheer, “Playboy Interview: John Anderson”, in Playboy (June 1980), p. 91
  • [Anderson] is not likely to win, but in a race with such doddering bumblers as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, it is best to not rule anything out.
    • Lawrence Shoup, in “Who's Behind John Anderson?” in Inquiry (4 to 18 August 1980), p. 14

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