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2000-08-11

Reform Party Splits in Two

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After two days of warring and confusion, the Reform Party tore itself in two and launched separate conventions next door to each other, one to nominate conservative Pat Buchanan for president and the other supporting physicist John Hagelin. [includes rush transcript]

The bickering between Buchanan’s camp and supporters of Transcendental Mediation advocate Hagelin finally split the party when Hagelin’s followers — who were turned away from the convention floor by security guards — marched noisily down the street to a nearby theater to set up their own meeting.

Two Reform Party conventions then began simultaneously, each claiming to be the real thing, as opposing leaders vowed to walk away with $12.6 million in federal matching funds and put their man on the ballot under the Reform banner.

Tape:

  • Speech of Reform Party Presidential hopeful John Hagelin.
  • Speech of Reform Party Co-Founder Russ Verney.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting, Juan, as we move into our next segment, to note that Patrick Buchanan, who expected to be the Reform Party candidate — and we’ll see what happens as the convention continues — was an aide to Richard Nixon, the man who was in power in supporting Pinochet as he rose to power and helped to overthrow Salvador Allende, the democratically elected leader of Chile.

Well, Patrick Buchanan went to Long Beach for the convention and this is what he had to say.

    PATRICK BUCHANAN: We start building this party up into the teens in the polls, then we get into that debate with Albert & W.

AMY GOODMAN:

But first, Buchanan must win the debate in his own party. Eight years after Ross Perot burst into American politics, his Reform Party has split into separate conventions that will each produce a nominee claiming to be the party’s true presidential candidate and the rightful recipient of $12.6 million in federal campaign money.

Patrick Buchanan, one-time Republican and hard-right political commentator, was urged to join the party late last year by allies of Perot, but they could only stand by as Buchanan went on to take over many of the party’s state organizations, in good part because most of them fell into disarray after Perot dropped out of politics two years ago.

The last few days in Long Beach, California have proved that this party cannot remain together as it is constituted now. It broke into two conventions. And today we’re going to hear from the nominee who is challenging Patrick Buchanan. He is Natural Law Party presidential candidate and physicist, John Hagelin. And he spoke at the Alternative Reform Party Convention yesterday.

    JOHN HAGELIN:

    Our party experienced a catharsis today. Looking around us and seeing who’s left, I see the Reform Party. It would have been naive, I expect, for Pat Buchanan to just go away without grabbing everything he could. And he has grabbed probably ballot access in twenty or thirty states. But what we have left is the stronger half. We have in this room the core Reform Party leadership. We have the grassroots support base. We have the party rank and file who have built this party over six years. We have the strongest states, New York and Florida, New Jersey and North Carolina and Washington State and Colorado and Wisconsin, and all of them, California. The better half!

AMY GOODMAN:

John Hagelin, the Reform Party contender who is challenging Patrick Buchanan, speaking at the Alternative Reform Party Convention yesterday in Long Beach as the Reform Party split in two. We’ll come back to his speech, and then hear from Russ Verney, who’s one the founders of the Reform Party with Ross Perot, here on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!

[break]

AMY GOODMAN:

You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez, as we continue with Reform Party presidential hopeful, John Hagelin, who has also been the presidential candidate of the Natural Law Party, speaking in Long Beach, California at the Alternative Reform Party Convention yesterday.

    JOHN HAGELIN:

    We have, through the powerful coalition of American independence that we’re putting forward, of which we are the core, of which other independent political parties are joining the Natural Law Party with its ballot access in forty-eight or so states. We will have ballot access in fifty states or close to fifty states! So, what can we — what can we in three months realistically expect to accomplish? There are no limits to what we can accomplish.

    The passion that is out there, the yearning. Ralph Nader — same man, same message — ten times ahead of where he was four years ago. Has he changed? Not much. He’s still a good candidate, but the thirst is ten times stronger.

    People look at the party, and they say, “Well, you’ve fallen to one percent in the polls.” We have not; Pat Buchanan fell to one percent in the polls.

    What can we accomplish in three months? Third parties have accomplished everything worth accomplishing in America. Ninety percent of everything we cherish came from third-party movements: the right of women to vote, the abolition of slavery, child labor laws, workers compensation. These ideas and most others came from vibrant third-party movements. Even five million votes will send the Republicans and Democratics scrambling to co-opt our ideas. Ross Perot, not Clinton-Gore, is responsible for the balanced budget.

    Naturally, historically, with certainty, we can say, win or lose seats, and we’re going to win a hundred or hundreds of seats across this country in this election season. Win or lose seats, we will change the face of politics forever, because an idea that is so self-evidently right as a woman’s right to vote is infectious! Once out of the bag, you can never recall an idea whose time has come. They inevitably infect the political process, force their way into the political mainstream. But we’re going to do more than win in the marketplace of ideas.

    What can we do in three months? What did Jesse Ventura do in three weeks? You know, Jesse Ventura was nowhere in the polls three weeks prior to his stunning electoral victory. He had none of the financial resources of the Republican or Democratic machines. But he was swept into office on a grassroots brushfire; young people, internet people, a core, a critical mass, was achieved, and he captured the imagination of the voters, and he was swept forward. That grassroots brushfire is building today.

    It only seems a few months ago I was campaigning with Chuck Collins and with Bob Bowman and our friend Pat, and fifty, sixty people would come. Today I talk to groups of a thousand or twelve hundred or fifteen hundred. A thousand of those sign up as candidates, activists, volunteers. There’s a brushfire in the making.

    And yet, the press asked me today, am I afraid of taking votes from Al Gore? I said, “That’s the point!” I said, “More to the point, I’m afraid he’s going to eat into my support base, and I hope he withdraws from this race.”

    My message to the American people and the key to our success is their realization that this party, and this alone, belongs to you, the people. There are no deep pockets here, unfortunately. There’s no PAC money here to co-opt our platform, to steal our party. This party is of, by and for the people, and I urge the American viewers to take ownership of it. Breathe your life, your inspiration, your volunteerism, your energy into it. Build it. Grow it. If we don’t exercise our democratic rights to associate and to vote, there are others that are eager to exercise those rights for us: the special interests who own or government.

    Together, we can revitalize and rebuild the Reform Party, founded upon core reform ideals, including the highest ethical standards of government. Help me reach out to the twenty million voters who have been driven away by an exclusive message of intolerance. Help me reach out beyond them to the 115 million disenfranchised. It’s time to take back our stolen democracy. It’s time to take our place in history as the party that broke the two-party death grip. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

Physicist John Hagelin speaking yesterday at the Alternative Reform Party Convention in Long Beach, California.

And now to Russ Verney, one of Ross Perot’s close allies and one of the founders of the Reform Party — he goes back to 1992 — also speaking at the Alternative Reform Party Convention.

    RUSS VERNEY: Ross Perot, I think, embodied the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations, the ideals of millions of Americans. We worked hard and long to see if we could condense that down into something that we could give to people to express why you’re sitting in this room today listening to a guy with a funny Texas accent.

    The first and foremost reason, we felt we should set the highest ethical standards for the White House and Congress. Wouldn’t it have been nice over the last eight years if we had any ethics — never mind the highest ethics — in the White House?

    We don’t want our elected officials to accept gifts, we don’t want them to take trips or junkets paid for the special interest. No more free meals. Let ‘em pay for their own lunch like each of you are doing here today.

    Let them pass laws with significant penalties about their conduct, not rules that when they break them there is no penalty for them. And what if we gave Congress, those people who now make $146,000 a year — they gave themselves another $4,000 pay raise out of your pocket this year — what if we gave them the same retirement plan and health plan as you and I, their employer?

    We believe that the country should be fiscally responsible, and I think the nineteen million votes Ross Perot got in 1992 caused politicians in Washington to balance the budget and start to pay down the national debt. We want them to develop a detailed blueprint to balance the budget and keep it in balance; eliminate the practice of keeping programs off budget; pass the balanced budget amendments so that they stay with a balanced budget; create an annual financial report in plain language so that you and I can understand it and know whether or not they’re living up to our priorities and their spending limits; and give the President the line item veto and make him finally responsible for the waste and fraud and abuse in our budget.

    We’d like to see campaigns shortened. We have been numbed by a year and a half already of a presidential election between two boring people. Who could care less which one of them wins? It’s only the difference of which special interests have immediate access to the Oval Office. Shorten the campaign and election cycles. Make voting friendly to the voters. Open up the polls on Saturdays and Sundays, not on Tuesdays when people are working.

    How many of you heard about battleground states? Nobody wants to be President of the United States. They want to be president of battleground states, because it wins the Electoral College for them. Abolish the College! There’s no tuition to it.

    Nothing more distorting than polls. The question asked today, “If the election were held today...” There’s no election being held today, why are you asking the question? But exit polls on Election Day, they announce them before people have even voted in parts of the country. Prohibit them from announcing those, and let’s let everybody go cast an informed vote.

    The most corrupting influence in American politics is, without a doubt, money. George Bush raised over $90 million. And he did it the hard way, in regulated money. Al Gore raised some $30 million, got public funding. But in addition to that, they’re raising hundreds of millions of dollars of soft money. The Republicans astonished me, I think, in April. They held a one-night fundraiser, and I can’t think of any meal they can serve worth $21.5 million. But the party allegedly of the people the next month in one night raised $26.5 million. Where does this race end? The very basic, simple campaign finance reform. Raise the money from the people who can vote for you. If you can’t vote, can’t contribute.

    In 1994, many of us were witness to perhaps the first use of the internet in an electoral campaign in the United States. There were a group of people on the internet that were disturbed over then-Speaker Tom Foley running for reelection up in Washington State, who had sued the voters of the State of Washington. He thought they were brilliant when they elected him to Congress, but they were dumber than dirt when they imposed term limits on their elected officials. So he sued the voters. And in that case, the internet was used, I thought, very effectively. It was long before this World Wide Web; it was back when Archie and Veronica and Gopher were in style back then.

    The issue was term limits. A de-Foley-ate campaign was run on the internet, and a gentleman by the name of George Nethercutt came forward, and he railed against Tom Foley for breaking with the public’s trust up there and suing them over imposing term limits. And he said, “If you elect me, I’ll serve three terms and go home. I’ll be a citizen legislator.” Well, folks, this is the end of his third term, and guess what Mr. Nethercutt has concluded. His knowledge, experience and wisdom is indispensable in Washington; he must run for another office. Charles de Gaulle once said that the graveyards are full of indispensable people. Let’s have term limits.

    And how about a new fair, simpler tax system? Is that so hard to do? And if Congress wants to raise your taxes, after they have passed the legislation, put it on the next general election ballot when they’re running for reelection, and let’s see if it’s really worth the cause. Let’s let you vote for it for when you’re voting for them.

    I think a lot of what you folks have done over the last eight years have taken the electricity out of the third rail in American politics, allowing politicians to at least talk about Social Security reform, Medicare reform. They haven’t done anything about it, but they’re at least willing to talk about it for once. We need to put together careful detailed plans on how we’re going to reform those systems.

    People under age twenty-eight today have more belief that Elvis Presley is alive than they’re ever going to see a benefit out of Social Security. That’s a broken trust with an entire generation. We’re passing on a huge debt, $5.7 trillion, and a broken Social Security system that they’re going to bleed paying for. What have they got to look forward to?

AMY GOODMAN:

One of the founders of the Reform Party and close Ross Perot ally, Russ Verney, who has broken Patrick Buchanan and is supporting John Hagelin, the Natural Law Party candidate. He hopes to be the Reform Party candidate for president.

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