Hard Times at Rancho LaRouche

November 1, 2007

Since the Republican presidential field already has more flakes than a pastry shop, we can be forgiven for failing to notice one of the more remarkable facts about the 2008 election — this will be the first election in umpteen years in which Lyndon LaRouche is not on the ballot.

Evidently, things are not going well at Rancho LaRouche. The old guy’s getting to be . . . well, a really old guy. His political cult’s finances, always chaotic and constantly being drained to support Fearless Leader’s expensive lifestyle, are in worse shape than ever. And earlier this year, cult member Ken Kronberg, owner of PMR Printing — the firm that published LaRouche’s endless, impenetrable writings — committed suicide, apparently as the result of the endless mind-games inflicted on LaRouche followers.

This article in the Washington Monthly will catch you up on the newest latest. It also offers a few gems of background information:

By the 1990s, most LaRouche members had relocated from New York to Leesburg, Virginia, a bucolic town forty-five minutes northwest of D.C. known for its antique shops and horse farms. LaRouche had moved to the area in the mid-1980s, wanting to be closer to Washington. (Former associates explained that he also wanted plenty of land on which to hide from would-be assassins.) He settled on a 171-acre estate called Ibykus Farms, where he was waited on by cadres; an internal budget from 1995 shows that he ran a weekly tab of $4,500 for security guards. He and his followers, however, didn’t really fit into their new locale. Leesburg’s citizens rebelled when the group deployed its aggressive organizing techniques on the town’s picturesque streets. Later, the local small business association almost shut down after LaRouche cadres flooded its membership rolls and usurped its agenda. LaRouche added the townspeople to his list of enemies, describing Leesburg’s garden club as a “nest” of Soviet agents.

Despite his buffoonery, LaRouche was once a generally scary presence in American politics. His passion for technology and the Strategic Defense Initiative gave his group an entree with the Reagan administration, and in the 1980s there seemed a real chance that the crepuscular crank might actually become influential.

All that is past now. Avi Klein argues, persuasively, that in the end, LaRouche’s operation has added up to little more than an immense vanity press devoted to a single author:

In the almost forty years since its inception, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in operations and annually printing millions of books and magazines, the LaRouche operation has had no significant effect on American politics. It is remarkable in its impotence.

Despite the unrelenting loyalty of his followers, LaRouche has never come remotely close to being elected president. In fact, no LaRouche cadre has been elected to office at any level higher than school board. Nor have his economic theories attained any kind of recognition. The LaRouche-Riemann Method, an economic model that LaRouche calls “the most accurate method of economic forecasting in existence,” has gone unnoticed by the social science indexes. Many former members admit to not understanding it.

In one perverse way, of course, the movement did work. For thirty years, Ken Kronberg printed, and all the other members edited and distributed, everything that LaRouche wrote, whether anybody understood it or not. If, in the late hours of the night, LaRouche determined that 50,000 copies of his latest essay on the Treaty of Westphalia needed to be distributed around the country, his followers did their best to oblige. That model, however, couldn’t be sustained forever.

Two weeks after Ken died, PMR finally ran out of ink and paper. The IRS took action to collect LaRouche’s 2004 campaign debts to the company. Fund-raisers were ordered not to sell any more subscriptions to LaRouche publications, while current subscribers have been directed to unappealing electronic versions. With no ability to get credit and with its publications shuttered, the group now copies one-pagers at Kinko’s. Most humiliating of all, it has been forced to operate on the Internet. On its Web site, LPAC now urges readers to print out and distribute its fliers themselves.

Meanwhile, membership at the Washington, D.C., branch of the LaRouche Youth Movement is said to be disintegrating, and its pamphleteers are seen far less frequently than in previous months. The 2008 election will be the first in thirty-two years in which LaRouche has not sought the presidency. Recently, a senior member published an article that dared to speculate on a topic that once would have been unthinkable: a post-LaRouche world. “What was so upsetting,” said one longtime member and friend of Kronberg’s who is no longer with the group, “was to realize how pointless it all was. How we had no effect at all.”


One Response to “Hard Times at Rancho LaRouche”

  1. Scott Stiefel Says:

    Speaking of cultists, I met my first real live Moonie Thursday afternoon in Bound Brook. She was peddling jewelry and trinkets. I sent her on her way, and explained about the U.C. to the Ecuadorian woman I was talking with (who’d never heard any of it before).

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