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.