Reform Party struggles for identity

David Frost

The party made famous by 1996 presidential candidate Ross Perot has split into two different factions with two separate slates for the presidential ticket. One faction is led by Reform candidate Pat Buchanan and his vice presidential candidate Ezola Foster. The other is led by presidential hopeful John Hagelin and his vice presidential candidate Nat Goldhaber, who are now running on the Natural Law Party ticket. Hagelin, who is from Fairfield, and Buchanan each held their own convention and claim to be the true Reform Party candidate. In recent weeks, the Hagelin camp has experienced some devastating setbacks. The Federal Election Committee has awarded all the money allotted to the Reform Party – $12.6 million in federal funding – to Buchanan. A California Superior Court judge also ruled last week that Hagelin would not be allowed to use the Reform Party name. Hagelin is appealing both the Federal Election Committee decision and the court decision. Steffen Schmidt, professor of political science, said that while he likes the diversity third parties add to the elections, he doubts Bush and Hagelin will have much effect on the polls. “Americans support third-party candidates but they almost never vote for them because it’s so hard for a third-party candidate to ever win anything,” he said. “With Hageland and Buchanan, people might like the candidates and the position they take on issues, so they support them for awhile, but when they go into a voting booth, they don’t vote for them, unless it is an exception, like Ross Perot was. It has to be a really exceptional candidate to get actual voters in states around the country.” Hagelin, a quantum physicist, supports a reformist tax plan to eliminate the Internal Revenue System. He also supports raising teacher salaries across the country by $10,000 per year through a program of block grants to the states. In addition, Hagelin wants to shift the focus of health care from treatment to prevention. “Over 70 percent of disease is preventable, yet we spend less than 1 percent on prevention,” Hagelin wrote in an article posted on his Web site. “We support cost-effective, prevention-oriented health care, proven to prevent disease and save money in the best possible way – by keeping people healthy.” His stance on health care sets Hagelin apart from his competition, said Aaron Fister, president and producer of Politics Unlimited, an ISU-9 show. “I think Hagelin has some really good stances on health care,” he said. “He’ll try to prevent more disease instead of curing them after the fact. That’s one thing that separates him.” Although he is from Iowa, Hagelin has surprisingly little support from his native state, Fister said. “It’s kind of unfortunate that he’s not getting more exposure here,” he said. “He’s from Iowa, but he’s not advertising that by any means.” Hagelin’s views are a combination of liberal and conservative, Fister said. “He’s conservative on some issues and liberal on others,” he said. “He is conservative when it comes to spending overall.” However, Fister added, Hagelin is liberal on issues such as decriminalizing non-violent drug offenses to ease the crowding in jails. Buchanan has reformist plans for the country’s education system, which include eliminating the Department of Education to return its functions and funding to the state and local levels. He also supports passing a constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in school. Although his stances on the issues may be controversial, Fister said, Buchanan is direct in his approach. “If Buchanan says something, you can believe it,” Fister said. “You may not agree with everything he says – I don’t agree with everything he says – but at least you know what you’re getting with Buchanan.” The third-party candidates, including Buchanan and Hagelin, likely will not be eligible to participate in the national debates, because a candidate is required to have 15 percent support in a variety of polls in order to take part. Fister said this shuts out valid third-party candidates. “Unless one of them has a lot of funding, there’s no way a third-party candidate can get 15 percent,” he said. Schmidt said he doesn’t think Hagelin and Buchanan will be able to garner the votes necessary to win the election. “I think neither of them is on the radar screen at all, and I don’t think Perot’s voters have the same policy interests that Buchanan has. . I think most of the Reform Party people will not go and vote for him. “With Hagelin, nobody’s sure exactly what his position is because no one understands the Natural Law Party very well,” Schmidt said. “They have a complicated philosophy, based on quantum physics and the order of the universe. It’s very metaphysical and very mystical, and people have trouble with it.” Want to find out where Pat Buchannan and John Hagelin stand on issues like abortion, civil rights, and education? Click here to learn more about presidential candidates.