I found him repellent, so I didn’t know much about him, except that I’d occasionally encounter one of his rabid pamphleteers, he’d sometimes appear on the news during election years, and I had a relative who was a fanatical LaRouchie. A lot of things in his obit don’t jibe well with my experience of the man.
In the late 1960s, he attracted well-educated Vietnam-era liberals who found enlightenment in his stream-of-consciousness blend of philosophy, economics and science and his purported belief that the working class was endangered by a conspiracy between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Within a few years, his vision shifted far rightward and became ultraconservative and apocalyptic, and he presented himself as the moral savior of mankind.
Mr. LaRouche denounced those he deemed a danger to his cause — a rotating list of alleged villains that included prosecutors, politicians, bankers and Zionists. LaRouche followers could be confrontational with those they viewed as dangers to society.
Through that relative, I got exposed to earfuls of LaRouche in the mid-60s and 70s, and I never got a hint of anything liberal or enlightening — but then, I was getting it filtered through that relative. Mainly what I heard was strident xenophobia, a lot of America First rhetoric, and Old Time Religion and traditional roles for everyone. The most depressing thing is that, at the time, he was considered the lunatic fringe, someone so dishonest and bizarre that he wouldn’t stand a chance in any election, yet now…he’d be a mainstream Republican. That’s how far American politics has drifted into toxic dementia during my lifetime.