Former IPR writer publishes book

Many of our long-time readers will remember the name of former writer, friend of IPR, frequent commenter, and source of wisdom: Peter Orvetti. He has published a book of his memoirs entitled “Reconciliation: A half-life“. Although this book is not strictly concerned with third parties or independent candidates, there are a number of episodes which mention the Reform Party and Libertarian Party.

The following is an excerpt of the book which covers his involvement in the Reform Party convention of 2000.

On Saturday morning, I decided to head over to Long Beach, where the Reform Party was holding its own convention. Because of Ross Perot’s showing in 1996, the party’s presidential nominee would get $12.6 million in federal matching funds to spend, which had led Patrick Buchanan to bolt from the GOP to seek the Reform nomination. The old Perot backers were not pleased, and got behind the only other candidate ? John Hagelin, the two-time nominee of the Natural Law Party.

I came to respect Hagelin a great deal during 2000. In part because of my pushing, Web White and Blue was including all candidates who were on enough ballots to theoretically win the election, which included the Libertarian and Constitution Party candidates, as well as Hagelin. I had also launched my own political news website as a side endeavor, and Hagelin would eventually grant me an interview. I found the Harvard-educated physicist to be a thoughtful and gentle man with some innovative strategies for peaceful change. Jesse Ventura later offered Hagelin his encouragement, though did not make an outright endorsement.

But the fact remained that Hagelin’s Natural Law Party was the political arm of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation movement in the United States. Hagelin taught at the movement’s Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, a town essentially run by TM, and though he won acclaim and respect for his work as a physicist early in his career, his peers criticized his later inclusion of TM ideas, and his notions on the similarities between Vedic theological concepts of consciousness and the unified field theories in physics, as part of his academic work.

During my interview with him, which came two months after my Los Angeles jaunt, Hagelin told me, “I have been and continue to be very open about TM.” He said his party had “easily the most comprehensive platform of any party. TM gets a lot of play because it’s so novel. But fifty million Americans self-report that they meditate, and the National Institutes of Health study meditation’s effectiveness. It’s a cost-effective approach to prevention.”

This man was obviously quite different from Pat Buchanan, and the Reform Party convention was suitably weird for such a strange pair of rivals. When I got to the site in Long Beach, there was little sign of anything going on. I wandered into the building and into the convention area, where no one was checking identification and there was no welcoming area. In fact, there was hardly anything at all. This was a Buchanan-heavy area; the Hagelin folks were set up elsewhere. There were a few tables with right-wing literature and militia periodicals, and lots of tasteless bumper stickers. A few older women in American flag sweatshirts hovered nearby. I browsed for a few minutes, before I noticed the strange sight of about a half-dozen black teenagers in blood-red Buchanan 2000 T-shirts enter and proceed into the convention hall.

Since I was not a party member, much less a delegate, I was not planning to try to go onto the convention floor itself, but again, I noticed no one at the doorway, so I headed on in. (Later at the same convention, Mo Rocca, then of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, would seize the stage uninvited and make a speech.) An elderly woman whom I later discovered to be campaign finance reform activist Doris “Granny D” Haddock was delivering an impassioned address to a room that was about one-third full. I carefully slid into a seat; no one objected, and for a few minutes was a member of the Tennessee delegation. The room was dark and oddly smoky, and the air conditioning seems temperamental at best, so I headed back out.

This convention, unlike the one in Los Angeles, would actually select a nominee, so I was intrigued to see what would happen. There was to be no roll call; the winner would be selected by a mail-in vote, and the winner was to be announced later that day. I checked back later, and asked a ponytailed Hagelin supporter who had won the vote. “They said Buchanan did, but the vote was flawed and they threw it out,” he told me. What had happened was that Buchanan had brought a bunch of supporters in from the Republican Party who had voted for him by mail, and the Perot/Hagelin crowd responded by saying only bona fide party members could vote. The Buchanan crew had won that procedural fight, and the Hagelin team stormed off to hold its own convention in another Long Beach building. For the next few weeks, Buchanan and Hagelin, each claiming to be the Reform Party’s presidential nominee, would fight it out for the $12.6 million in court, with Buchanan finally winning.

Buchanan had a big plan for that money. Having done astoundingly well in his 1996 presidential run, even winning the New Hampshire Republican primary, he felt that with his strength as a debater and the motley assortment of followers attracted to both his socially conservative and economically populist messages, if he could only get into a debate with Bush and Gore he could win over America and squeak into the presidency in a tight and divided race. The $12.6 million would be used to get his poll numbers up high enough to win him a debate invitation. Instead, Buchanan failed to catch on; he ended up with a reactionary typing teacher as a running mate after his first few choices turned him down, and he won four-tenths of one percent of the popular vote ? not getting much closer to the White House than did Hagelin running solely as the Natural Law candidate.

I gathered up some campaign goodies from the Hagelin folks to add to my collection of political memorabilia, and headed back to L.A.

Although I cannot vouch for the book, yet, having not read it as of yet, I can vouch for Orvetti as a wonderful writer and a friend to third parties. He has thrown up in the Dalai Lamas’ bathroom, interviewed a President, and won a significant sum of money on  a popular TV  game show–you don’t want to miss this book.

19 thoughts on “Former IPR writer publishes book

  1. Richard Winger

    This is a very good post, and the book sounds like a great read. The part about the Reform Party presidential nomination isn’t perfectly accurate, though. The Reform Party rules said 4 kinds of people could vote in the party’s mail ballot: people who had signed a petition to put the Reform Party on the ballot automatically received a ballot in the mail; people who were registered members of the Reform Party also received on automatically; people on the party’s mailing list also received a ballot automatically; and anyone else could request a ballot.

    Hagelin’s campaign submitted 25,000 names to the party secretary, so that the secretary could send those people ballots. Hagelin also made those names available to Pat Buchanan’s campaign so that Buchanan could send them campaign literature. Buchanan, on the other hand, submitted 500,000 names to the party secretary and refused to let anyone see them except the party secretary. It soon became apparent that the names Buchanan submitted were not really people who had signed a petition to put the Reform Party on the ballot, because there was no correlation between numbers of petition signers and the number of Buchanan-submitted names. For example, Buchanan submitted 37,270 names from Iowa, but the petition to get the party’s presidential candidate on the ballot only required 1,500 names. Buchanan cheated.

    On the other hand, the party rules said that if the mail ballot was questioned, the convention should pick the nominee. Buchanan really did have more delegates to Long Beach than Hagelin did. That’s why the Hagelin delegates walked out and set up their own convention next door.

    Also Orvetti should not call the Reform Party’s subsidy from the federal election commission “matching funds”. They were general election funds. The amount had nothing to do with matching donations from private individuals. “Matching funds” only exist for primary season. The Reform Party’s share of general election funding was based on the percentage of the vote that Ross Perot had got in 1996.

  2. HumbleTravis

    Good material up there. btw I’ve always thought that the Natural Law Party had one of the best names but the platform wasn’t really my kinda thing.

  3. Catholic Trotskyist

    Congratualations Peter. I doubt there was any mention of the Catholic Trotskyist Party in the book, but I’ll read it anyway, and maybe it will be in the sequel.

  4. richard winger

    I’ve never prevented anyone from commenting at BAN. There must be some technical glitch if anyone tries to post and it doesn’t show up. Try another computer, or just try again.

  5. Darcy G Richardson

    Peter Orvetti is arguably the most insightful political blogger of our time, a true pioneer in the political blogosphere. I wish he was still a regular contributor here. Level-headed, objective and genuinely witty, his comments — rarely stating or repeating the obvious — are always worth reading. Younger readers might be interested in learning that his web site, Orvetti.com, played a major role in the disputed presidential election of 2000. (That’s a fascinating story in and of itself.)

    In any case, I can’t wait to read what will hopefully be the first of many memoirs by the one-time IPR contributor.

  6. Trent Hill Post author

    Darcy,

    I hope that we see IPR breeding authors and journalists. Peter is a great writer and has some fantastic stories.

  7. Red Phillips

    “the old Perot backers were not pleased”

    This has always baffled me. Some of Perot’s backers were committed ideological moderates, but many were just populist anti-establishment types and some were far rightists. The hostility to Buchanan, especially so much so that they would back a TM guy most considered a crank, is crazy. I think they were following Perot who turned against Buchanan after first being friendly to him.

  8. Red Phillips

    Tom Pauken wrote a good article on Perot’s change of heart, but I can’t find it. One link I found was dead. Essentially it suggests that a business associate of Perot prevailed on him to rescind his endorsement of Pat because Pat was allegedly “anti-Semitic.”

    Perhaps Peter, if he is reading this, has some insight.

  9. paulie

    The funniest were those Buchanan backers who felt betrayed by him because he picked Ezola Foster for VP. Some of them called her “ebola”. And to think, they had their best sheets dry cleaned for the occasion!

  10. Trent Hill

    Paulie,

    Only the most ardent white nationalists disliked Buchanan for that. And I think it was a brave choice–and one that should dispel any myth that Buchanan is racist.

  11. Red Phillips

    The problem with Ezola Foster was not that she was black, but that she was a virtual unknown. Her pick was clearly gimmicky, and it was a signal that the campaign was not going to be serious. Meaning bigger names were unwilling to go down with that ship.

  12. Donald Raymond Lake

    paulie and Red Phillips: [from the out side looking in…..]

    Patrick and [fascist Reich Sister] Bay repeatedly said, as early as mid 1999, that they would not bring religion, abortion, homosexual rights into the menu.

    They lied, they lied, they lied!

    Federal funds: they stole, they stole, they stole!

  13. Red Phillips

    DRL, it was always a delusion that there was some mass constituency that was socially moderate, economically populist, and fiscally conservative. Essentially hard headed moderates turned off by the socially conservative and dogmatic free-market allegedly pro-big business ways of the Republicans and the fiscal profligacy of the Democrats. Such people exist, but not in mass numbers. If anything, the unrepresented group in the electorate that a Reformesq party could tap into is the socially conservative and economically populist. When Pat came over of course his socially conservative followers came with him. What was he supposed to do, tell them to go away?

    Perot stabbed Pat in the back as the link shows and embarrassed himself by supporting TM man.

    Thanks for the link HT.

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