CAREENING OUT OF CONTROL!!!
as the wheels come off the Reform Party bandwagon
Sunday, February 13, 2000
RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
In an uproarious political meeting probably not seen since the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 at which Nikita Khruschev denounced the policies of the late Josef Stalin, the Reform Party met in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday 12 February to effect a palace coup by ousting their chairman who was, in the eyes of many among the rank-and-file, forced on them by Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. Just the day before, Ventura had turned his back on the Reform Party- calling it "hopelessly dysfunctional"; the Party faithful, not the least bit happy at being so "dis'ed", promptly met and- in a gathering made that much more interesting through the use of shouting matches, hair-pulling and other such elements of erudite and sophisticated political decorum- proved Governor Ventura to have been so correct; this all happening against a backdrop of Donald Trump- who was in an uphill battle to replace party founder Ross Perot as the party's poster child for those who are Wealthy- reportedly planning to drop his threat to run for the Reform Party presidential nomination some time this coming week.
Let's face it, could a party which seems hell bent on nominating Pat Buchanan- an icon of the Hard Right- while still somehow attracting the embers of presidential ambition in a World Federationist like former Congressman and 1980 Independent presidential candidate John Anderson (see the 8 February "Vox Populi" DRAFT JOHN B. ANDERSON, in which "The Green Papers" has also outlined the problems Third Parties face [even when they are functional!] in our two-party system) be anything BUT "dysfunctional"? What the Reform Party has always been has been an amorphous mass of people very VERY ticked off at Government (it doesn't really matter WHICH level of Government) in general and the two major parties in particular without ANY real sense of direction or purpose ("just take a look under the hood and fix it"): born out of the success of Ross Perot's own personal sandbox (1992's United We Stand), the Reform Party would have been more aptly named "United We Stand for... Something: uh... for What?... well, we're not really sure!...yet...oh, yeah- I got it!... electing Ross Perot or someone he likes and is willing to give his money to!!".
The Reform Party (including United We Stand as the real beginning of the party) has , thus, ALWAYS been dysfunctional. Back in the Spring of 1992, Perot encouraged people- of disparate political backgrounds (environmentalists and anti-environmentalists, pro-Life and pro-Choice, etc.) who all had in common a rightful sense of alienation from the two major parties- to organize at the grassroots. Then, when he realized that- when one runs for President for too long a period of time, one might actually be forced to offer something substantive for a change- Mr. Perot dropped out of the race while that year's Democratic National Convention was being held, turning that Convention into the greatest party-run party of the last century, only to return a month before the Election itself (while at the same time quietly ousting those who had toiled organizing United We Stand at the grass roots by replacing them with those who better fit the corporate image of Perot's own business empire). His 19 percent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election reflected a general dissatisfaction with the two major parties but it was gained by offering very little to the electorate in return.
What WAS offered to the electorate in the next election cycle (that for 1996) was a sham of a pre-Convention process, in which former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm was paraded around as a viable challenger to Perot for the presidential nomination of what was now the Reform Party when there was never any question just who the party's nominee was going to be (at least, if they wanted to be able to spend his money!). The 8 1/2 percent of the vote Perot received in 1996 was probably much more indicative of his real support among the paralipomena (yes, it's a REAL word!) of American politics.
Then came the upset victory of Jesse Ventura, running under the Reform Party banner, in his bid for the Governorship of Minnesota in 1998- in which he beat the popular Republican mayor of the state's capital and the son of a Democratic Party icon (former Senator and Vice-President Hubert Horatio Humphrey). It was the Reform Party's greatest triumph (though Governor Ventura suggests- and evidence seems to support him on this- that the Reform Party in general and Ross Perot in particular did little, if anything, to help him get elected: though they were sure quick at taking much of the credit for it!); now, looking back from only some 15 months later, it appears to have been a Pyrrhic one.
In the end, all that the Reform Party (including its lineal ancestor of 1992) has ever stood for- in now these last three presidential election cycles (including this one)- is for nominating a near-extremist who couldn't otherwise have raised enough money to run for President- not because the two major parties have sewn up the money-raising apparatus (even though, of course, they pretty much have) but because the certifiably sane among the citizenry won't bother wasting their money on such drivel! The real problem this year for the party has been that, for the first time since United We Stand days there has been a real danger that the near-extremist nominated by the self-proclaimed Reformers might not be Mr. Perot himself! The concurrent- but coincidental- departures of Governor Ventura and Mr. Trump this month have actually lessened that possibility greatly.
The Reform Party is left in utter disarray, if not outright chaos,
after the events of this month; Ross Perot will once again be called
upon to salvage what was always his personal vehicle for
self-aggrandizement anyway and it is yet quite possible that Pat
Buchanan will merely become the Reform Party's "sacrificial Lamm" for
2000. Ross Perot could very well be running for President for the
third time come November and the party's slogan could once again be, as
it really always has been, "If you want Reform... Pay No Attention to
the Man Behind the Curtain!" But do most Americans really even