on the Reform Party Meltdown
(Whatís an Outsider to Do? Pt. II)
week the Reform Party held its national convention out at Long Beach,
Calif. While most observers thought the meeting would be acrimonious,
the result was two "Reform Parties," each with its own
candidate for the presidency and a possible court fight over who
is the "real" Reform Party candidate in 2000. Is it Pat
Buchanan, ex-Republican firebrand and culture warrior, or John Hagelin,
physicist and former Natural Law Party standard-bearer?
much as some of us might go on and on about the two dominant parties,
we have in this exhibition one of the most important reasons why
third parties are not working. It is not a media blackout that is
no longer technologically possible. As I observed in a previous
article, the messages of the Pat Buchanans and other third-party
hopefuls are readily available this year (although Web savvy is
very helpful, of course). The Long Beach convention in particular
was reported in major newspapers, usually near the front page. The
entertainment-driven print media would not have missed that show
parties are failing not because of media neglect or direct opposition
from the establishment. They are failing because their members cannot
get along with one another, and because different groups of "outsiders"
are unable to work together. They cannot set aside specific differences
and produce a sensible, consistent vision for the countryís future
that the public can relate to. Therefore they have no united strategy
of opposition to Democrats and Republicans, and only end up leaving
themselves open to ridicule by such journalistic luminaries as Gail
Collins of the New York Times whose most
recent column delivered just that.
the Republican convention, one might not have agreed with all the
speakers. Conservatives, moreover, may have listened for certain
things (repudiation of affirmative action, for example) and simply
not heard them this go around. But without exception, the people
inside the convention hall in Philadelphia conducted themselves
like adult professionals, not rowdy teenagers or amateur enthusiasts.
Christians, for example, may have felt slighted, but they did not
get up, walk out in a huff, and hold their own impromptu "convention"
down the street. With the Reform Party, we got just this, and it
made them look silly and juvenile: if I canít get what I want, Iíll
pick up my toys and go home!
is unfortunate, because Buchananís acceptance speech (available
on the Buchanan organizationís web
site) merits attention. Buchanan is neither an amateur nor a
mere enthusiast, and he does have something to say. For example,
quite unlike George W., he ripped into the Clinton Regimeís nasty
little war in Kosovo, asking pointedly, "Why did we do this? Why
did we bomb this little country for 78 days when it never threatened
or attacked the United States?" I do not think one has to be an
"isolationist" to wonder about such things. It is a common horse
sense kind of question. Buchanan acknowledged the fundamental ugliness
of what had been going on there. He called Milosevic "a thug and
a tyrant." But "look at the disaster we wrought, after Clinton launched
this war. Thousands died, a million Albanians driven out of their
homes; now, a quarter million Serbs ethnically cleansed in KLA counter-terror.
Serbia is smashed. Kosovo is destroyed. Russia has been driven into
the arms of China; and American troops are tied down in a Balkan
peninsula that has nothing to do with the vital interests of the
criticisms of establishment foreign policy continue as he observes
that despite the fundamental wickedness of Saddam Husseinís regime
in Iraq, the ten years of U.S. Sanctions since the ill-advised Gulf
War launched by George W.ís father have harmed the Iraqi people
far more than the Iraqi government. Sanctions, as a general rule,
have a way of doing that.
if Milosevic and Hussein are "thugs and tyrants," is Madeleine Albright
any better? Buchanan served up a number of choice Albright quotes:
when told about 500,000 Iraqi children having starved because of
U.S. sanctions, she replied, "We believe it was worth it?" Buchanan
asked incredulously, "When did the greatest nation on earth start
making war against children?" Albright has also said, "If we have
to use forceÖ it is because we are America. We are the indispensable
nation. We stand tall. We see farther into the future." Buchananís
response: "Talk about the arrogance of power." From Buchanan, author
Republic, Not an Empire, we get the message of, "We are
Americans who say with our fathers: to hell with empire; we want
our country back." What follows is the repudiation of expansive,
intrusive government at home and the push toward global government
coming from the United Nations that we no longer get from Republicans
and shouldnít expect from Democrats. This is significant, since
the U.N. is scheduled to hold a confab of the smoke-filled room
variety the first week of next month on the very theme of global
government Ė or, if you prefer, the New World Order, about which
the "insiders" are completely silent.
none of this is what the Reform Party as a whole is communicating.
While Republicans (even that weasel McCain) united behind George
W. Bush, the Reform Party now looks like a group of nut cases whose
original leader, Ross Perot, has lost interest, and which is now
splintering and fragmenting. Small wonder Gail Collins, in the above-mentioned
column, could call it "an excellent demonstration of why Buchanan
should be kept out" of the upcoming Presidential debates. She
goes on to call the Reform Party a "cheesy fringe operation"
and hopes that Buchanan and Hagelin both will "sink into obscurity
in peace and quiet."
one agrees with Buchanan about everything or not, if he not in those
debates, we will likely hear no mention of the World Trade Organization
or the International Monetary Fund or the steady push toward global
government and erosion of U.S. sovereignty. Rather, we will hear
about Medicaid and Social Security and vouchers all of which will
be trivial if we continue on our present course toward less and
less control over our lives. We might, if we are very lucky, gain
some insight into what George W. means by "compassionate conservatism."
We might also learn that Al isnít likely to step out on Tipper.
We will almost certainly not hear him called onto the carpet about
the extent of his involvement in shady Clinton Regime deals with
agents of the Beijing government.
Reform Party has done this to itself. It has blown its credibility
without help from the establishment. It began as essentially a personality
cult surrounding H. Ross Perot, who turned out to be slightly nutty
in his own right despite obvious business acumen. Its platform became
a few slogans that sounded reasonable but said little. Once Perotís
15 minutes of fame were up, things began to go downhill. We saw
the rise of the libertines following Jesse Ventura, the ex-wrestler
who rode celebrity status into the Minnesota governorís mansion.
We saw meetings degenerate into near brawls that had to be broken
up by police. Things went downhill faster when the libertines found
themselves confronted with the socially conservative Buchanan Brigades
who found the vacuum created by Perotís abdication easy to fill.
The Reform Party "leadership" arranged a nationwide mail-in
"primary" which turned out to be an expensive joke no
one accepts as valid, although Buchanan won hands down in all but
three states. The Reform Party is now hopelessly divided, and may
continue to implode as the two factions fight over who has the right
to $12.5 million in taxpayer-paid federal campaign funding.
one of the most incisive critiques of the warmongering, empire building
and state worshipping of both Democrats and Republicans to come
along during the past year has been lost amidst an atmosphere more
reminiscent of a three-ring circus. This is truly a shame, and the
country will be worse off for it.
Yates has a PhD in philosophy and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (San Francisco:
ICS Press, 1994). A frequent contributor to LewRockwell.com
and The Edgefield Journal, he lives and freelance writes
in Columbia, South Carolina.