Buchanan Accepts a Disputed Reform Nomination
By Thomas B. Edsall, The Washington Post,
13 August 2000
LONG BEACH, Calif., Aug. 12 –– Patrick J. Buchanan
accepted one of the Reform Party's two disputed presidential
nominations today with a promise to lead a "party that will defend
America's history, heritage and heroes against the Visigoths and
Vandals of multiculturalism."
"There has to be one party willing to drive the money-changers out
of the temples of our civilization," Buchanan said.
Buchanan, who won both mail-in ballots and the floor vote at the
official party convention while a splinter of the party convened two
blocks away and nominated John Hagelin for president and Silicon
Valley entrepreneur Nat Goldhaber for vice president, is favored to
prevail when the Federal Election Commission decides whether he or
Hagelin will receive the $12.6 million federal subsidy that goes with
But even if Buchanan is awarded the money for his campaign, as one of
the nation's most prominent proponents of hard-edged social
conservatism, he faces a daunting task in his bid to establish
right-wing populism as a continuing force in American politics.
Not only do large pluralities of the electorate hold unfavorable views
of Buchanan, and not only has this onetime challenger of President
George Bush and Robert J. Dole fallen to 1 or 2 percentage points in
public polls, but a prosperous economy and low unemployment create
infertile territory for a politician seeking to mobilize resentment
against immigration, free trade and globalization.
Buchanan and his running mate, black conservative Ezola Foster, see an
opening created by the stances of Republican nominee George W. Bush
and Democratic candidate Al Gore in favor of immigration and free
trade. These shared stands leave anti-immigration, anti-free trade
views largely unrepresented by either major party. In Europe, the
pro-immigration and internationalist stands of the major parties have
created an opening for a surge in right-wing political strength in
several countries, including Austria, Norway and Switzerland.
Buchanan's poor showing in the polls and his inability to gain
traction in the Republican Party during this election cycle before he
quit to join the Reform Party suggest that he will have a harder time
selling his populism of the right than in his past political bids.
And political scientists suggest that the booming U.S. economy is very
different from Europe. There, continued high structural unemployment
has combined with the opening of borders under the European Union to
produce more immigration and to intensify native resentment, a perfect
political climate for populist, anti-immigration appeals.
"There is not going to be much to work with when the unemployment
rate is at 4 percent," said Gary Jacobson of the University of
California at San Diego. In California, which was a hotbed of
anti-immigration sentiment in the early 1990s when its economy was
worse off than the rest of the nation's, has made a huge comeback, he
said. "Buchanan will have a much harder time in this state,"
But Buchanan is undeterred. In a speech to cheering delegates tonight,
Buchanan described the fundamental assumption of his campaign, that
"beneath our surface prosperity, there is a deep anxiety among our
people, a foreboding within our people."
Buchanan's acceptance speech amounted to a probe into the anger and
discontent of his target constituencies, testing a wide range of
themes including abortion, foreign imports, the failure to protect
American borders while troops get shipped to "Kosovo, Kuwait and
Korea," racial preferences and his claim that the United States
"has begun to behave like the haughty British empire our fathers
rose up against."
Buchanan and Foster signaled that they intend to look to the twin
issues that have helped drive European right-wing parties to new
heights of power and political success: immigration and a call to
protect cultural, political and ethnic "sovereignty."
"American sovereignty is extremely important," said Foster,
the nationally unknown Los Angeles civic figure who was a major local
supporter of Proposition 187, the California initiative to bar state
services to illegal immigrants. "What issue will mean anything if
we lose our sovereignty?"
Today, in his acceptance speech, Buchanan declared: "We will
reclaim every lost ounce of American sovereignty. I will lead this
country out of the WTO [World Trade Organization], out of the IMF
[International Monetary Fund], and I will tell Kofi Annan: 'Your
U.N. lease, sir, has run out; you will be moving out of the United
States, Mr. Kofi. I want to be polite, but if you are not gone by
year's end, I will send a few thousand Marines to help you pack your
To block illegal immigration, Buchanan declared: "When I become
president, all U.S. troops will come home from Kosovo, Kuwait and
Korea; and I will put them on the borders of Arizona, Texas and
California; and we will start putting America first."
Buchanan intends to stress that the Republican Party, which four years
ago approved a platform that had an anti-immigration tilt, is now
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) denounced "those who want to reform
immigration laws by saying that walls are for cowards," Buchanan
said, countering with the story of Teresa Murray, an arthritic
82-year-old who lives in McCain's state in the town of Douglas on the
"She was confined to her home. Around her small house is a
chain-link fence. On top of that fence are rolls of razor wire. Every
door and window of that little home had bars on it, and Ms. Murray's
two pet dogs are dead, killed by thugs who threw meat over the fence
with cut glass in it. This lady sleeps with a gun on her bed table
because she has been burglarized 30 times. Senator McCain, go down to
Douglas and tell Teresa Murray that fences are for cowards,"
On free trade and sovereignty, Buchanan is seeking to capitalize on
exactly the same opening left by the Democrats and
Republicans. "What are we fighting for? To save our country from
being sold down the river into some godless new world order," he
said in his speech. "There has to be one party that will stand up
for our sovereignty and stand by our workers and stand by those folks
who are being sacrificed on the altar of the global economy."
© 2000 The Washington Post Company