Lyndon LaRouche Will Get You If You Don’t Watch Out
Lyndon LaRouche is dead. There’s a sentence his followers would’ve hoped to keep from the media, but at age 96, the myths, manipulation, paranoia, smoke and mirrors about the man have finally faded. LaRouche, this bizarre firebrand who never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, was able to build a career by melding social conflict into opportunistic fundraising. The New York Times’ obit called LaRouche “the quixotic, apocalyptic leader of a cultlike political organization” and acknowledged his anti-Semitism, insults against Native Americans, and hatred of the environmentalist movement and British royals. Jacobin magazine cited LaRouche’s “aimless and contorted reign” in its description of the man. But that’s just a start.
Widely acknowledged as a neo-fascist, LaRouche’s early interest in Marxism turned horribly astern by the 1970s. In the decades since, he partnered with the KKK, engaged in racist dogma, denounced the Holocaust as a Jewish hoax, preached nuclear war against the Soviet Union and blamed the global drug trade and international Satanism on a secret UK monarchy plan. LaRouche cast a practice of homemade psych-ops to maintain a frightening control of leaders in his organization. He also railed against rock music and as late as 1978 cited the Beatles as an untalented arm of the British government he so despised, and during the height of the AIDS crisis called for those living with the illness to be condemned and segregated. Later, his organization was threaded through the Tea Party and he spent some years stating that Barack Obama was Hitler. Somehow, he sought the Democratic Party line for his droning political pursuits and carefully used words like “labor” in his outreach. Though patently fruitless, the ‘LaRouche for President’ campaigns were as tenacious as was the candidate’s delusional platform. To most, it seemed that Lyndon LaRouche would never go away and had always been there.
One cold December afternoon in 1999, I was disturbed to find a LaRouche campaign table in my own Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. While the neighborhood was at that time known for its older Republican voter base, a younger, more professional population had already begun moving in, turning the tide. The area’s then-City Councilman was a notorious conservative who’d sought to name the pier after Ronald Reagan, but his lack of success in this venture offered increasing hope to ethnically diverse Bay Ridge progressives. The increased tolerance may have been missed by the LaRouche camp as it sought attract allies to his schizophrenic political plane.
As I strolled the Bay Ridge busy shopping district of 86th Street near 5th Avenue, the holiday lights sparkled in many colors overheard and each store’s sound system jingled and swooned. And somehow in the midst of this, sitting tall above the crowd, there lingered LaRouche. As he stared beadily at the conspiracy theory literature laid out before him, a blank-looking disciple engaged passersby with the question: “Are you a Democrat?”, seeking signatures toward the ballot line. I was drawn to this like a roadside accident.
After approaching the table and answering affirmatively, I had a question of my own. Pointing to LaRouche, I loudly asked the follower “How is it possible that this fascist and racist can call himself a ‘Democrat’?” Within scant seconds, LaRouche was on his feet and seemed to keep on standing as all 6’7” of him was suddenly millimeters from my face. Wearing the rapid-fire fury of a junkyard guard dog, LaRouche shouted, hurling profanities and accusations that spoke volumes of his brand of governance. His teeth gnashed, the candidate’s face remained threateningly close to my own, the rage only increasing as I refused to step back or even blink. His eyes of Aryan blue burnt intently through the square lenses of his glasses, the gnarled, greying brow unified in senseless umbrage.
“LaRouche, are you going to hit me?!”, I asked loudly, assuring the attention of confused holiday shoppers. “You’re in my space. Are you going to hit me?!” The throngs began slowing down, the crowd of interest he’d hoped for now awaiting his response to my pointed questions. I looked at the people behind me and then shouted my question again, asking if an actual presidential candidate has ever acted in this fashion (this being well before Trump). He scanned the growing crowd, looking into my eyes with utter hate, as his disciple grabbed the tall man’s arm, encouraging him to calm down. “He’s no one. No one!”, she repeatedly told LaRouche. “No one at all!”
Through the madness, I kept my own voice calm, recognizing how insane my opponent in the struggle already appeared. He became only more incensed when I clarified that I never raised my voice, never used profanities in this exchange—this was all him. “You called me a fucking fascist, you FUCKING BASTARD!”, LaRouche screamed above the traffic noise, ignoring the pleas of the disciple. “WHO SENT YOU? WHO SENT YOU HERE?!”, he paranoically asked again and again. My answer only roiled him further. “No one sent me here. I live here. I believe in the First Amendment, but why are you here?”
LaRouche’s next statement was particularly shocking; already drowning in a sea of irrationality, he asked: “Why are you calling me a fascist?”, defiantly stating “I’m not Italian!”. I angrily asked what ethnicity has to do with this, adding “Are you trying to put down Italians in a neighborhood where many Italian Americans live?!” He couldn’t have known my heritage, but just imagine anyone engaging in this kind of argument while trying to gain signatures and spread charm? Ultimately, to avoid the entire exchange, LaRouche slid back down behind his makeshift grandstand, a street corner soap-box befitting of a withered, desperate bigot, angry, delusional and violent. There sat a man whose political convictions lurked in the weakest links of any ideology.
His seething simmered to mere acid reflux, LaRouche grumbled and stared down again at his lit. As he hissed quietly, the wide-eyed, plainly-dressed apostle stared on with indignation before breaking into a new automated smile for the next passerby, “Oh hello, ma’am, are you a Democrat?”