cj#505> Buchanan and the Third Party opportunity


Richard Moore

        Buchanan and the Third Party opportunity
                   Richard K. Moore
                    18 March 1996

        The success Buchanan has achieved in various primaries
cries out for explanation.  Indeed, many articles have been
published to that end, but none that I've seen so far seem at all
satisfactory.  They mostly point out 1) that he uniquely among
candidates talks about what most voters care about -- the
corporate-governmental campaign to destroy American culture and
undermine American prosperity -- and 2) that his campaign
resembles that of Hitler: employing hypocritical rhetoric that,
if widely believed, could usher in an outright racist, fascist

        These are obvious points, and important as a partial
basis of analysis, but hardly brilliant insights in themselves,
as some commentators have presented them.  In order to more
properly understand what the "Buchanan Thing" is really about,
several more observations need to be brought into the picture.

        The first observation is that Buchanan, unlike Perot, is
_not_ a maverick political outsider.  He's part of the
Establishment, just like Kissinger, Bush, Greenspan, Clinton, or
Dole.  His role, right along, has been to exert a rightward
pressure on public consciousness and on what's perceived as
"mainstream" Republican politics.  I hope it will become clear
that his mock-candidacy for President is simply his latest tactic
in fulfilling that ongoing role, a tactic that succeeds on more
levels than have been identified so far.

        The second observation is that the _Perot_ candidacy is
the obvious precedent, most deserving of comparison and contrast
with that of Buchanan.  Like Buchanan, Perot spoke directly, and
uniquely, to heartfelt citizen concerns.  And like Buchanan, he
seemed to be a lone-voice of popular aspirations among a
business-as-usual media and political establishment.  Further,
any continuation of Buchanan's campaign would obviously need to
be, as with Perot, a third-party affair: Buchanan's positions
make no political or ideological sense to the Republicans nor to
the corporate establishment, and the rallying behind Dole was
entirely to be expected.

        From the outset, Buchanan needs to be recognized as a
third-party phenomenon, and his impact evaluated from that
perspective.  As such, his first impacts are already in evidence.
He provided an excuse for the Republicans to circle their wagons,
he's served to discredit some damned good progressive positions
(anti-NAFTA, anti-corporate-power), and he's created a reason
(the fear of fascism) for voters to once again resign themselves
to status-quo candidates.

        If Buchanan's initiative blossoms into an actual third-
party Presidential campaign, the essential consequences are not
difficult to anticipate.  His effect on both major parties will
be to enhance their legitimacy, servings as a "crazy demon" that
makes them seem sane by comparison.

        His effect on the shaping of campaign issues will be
profound.  By claiming as his own the anti-corporate position, he
essentially removes that position from mainstream consideration.
The major parties can then avoid all discussion of the all-
important corporate-power issue -- whenever it might come up,
they can simply say "Oh, you mean that Buchanan demagogue stuff,
surely that simplistic dribble isn't to be discussed as serious
policy,... you know the guy's a fascist in sheep's clothing...
(subject changes to Buchanan bashing)".  Buchanan's presence
assures that once again we'll have a campaign that avoids the
important issues, but that serves as a circus to distract
audience attention from the real power shifts underway.

        His vote-splitting impact on the election outcome is
unlikely to be decisive.  To be sure, he would steal some votes
from each party.  To put it in rough broad strokes, he'd get the
most right-wing of the Republican votes, and the most staunchly
anti-corporate of the Democrats.  One could speculate about
relative percentages --which major party benefits on balance --
but I don't think such numbers mean very much.  The outcome will
be decided by those who _don't_ vote for Buchanan, and his major
effect on the outcome will be indirect -- he'll shift the
positions taken by the other parties, and he'll help define the
"mandate" the winner will be able to claim title to.

        His effect on the Republican position is entirely
beneficial (from their point of view) -- he makes them seem
reasonable and responsible, he gives them a demon they can
ritually demolish, he enables them to promote the Globalist pro-
corporate agenda with honor (they're standing up to irresponsible
rabble rousing), and he removes the possibility of corporate
power being seriously examined in the mainstream campaign.

        You might say Buchanan's role is to "cover the Republican
flanks" -- enabling them to focus their own cannon in support of
a frontal assault on their feeble primary adversary: the non-
inhaling, Whitewater-besmirched, agenda-in-shambles, liberal-
label-bearing, no-alternative-offered, generic tar-baby scapegoat
-- Mr. Bill Clinton.  The result of course will be a Republican
victory, along with a demon-Buchanan-enabled "mandate" to proceed
apace with the dismantlement of American democracy and the
ongoing transfer of national sovereignty to multinational
corporations, their agencies and commissions (NAFTA, GATT, NATO,
et al).

        The final nail will have been hammered in the coffin of
the woefully-misrepresented liberal cause, and the American
people will need to resign themselves to a continuing spiral
downwards toward third-world economic status, as they come
increasingly to resemble the imperial-era Roman mobs, hypnotized
by bread-and-circuses, thinking of themselves as still being
Lords of the Universe as the exploits of the Invincible Legions
are recounted to them.

        Perhaps the most significant effect of a Buchanan
candidacy would be to discourage and/or undermine any _genuinely_
progressive third-party movement.  Besides stealing (and
tarnishing) the rightful thunder of genuine progressives,
Buchanan has been granted the media spot as THE nominal third-
party candidate.  He'll get all the "alternative" media
attention, and thus provide an excuse (as if one were needed) for
the media to ignore any _real_ popular uprisings that might come

        Instead of the traditional two-party circus, which the
establishment has learned to manage quite nicely over the years,
we'll now have a three-way show -- but one which has already been
rehearsed (in the Bush-Clinton-Perot race), and which poses no
threat to the status-quo.  Buchanan's role is to push the
campaign into this establishment-manageable scenario.

        Viewed from the the perspective of the more general
political possibilities, Buchanan is a pre-emptive surgical
strike into third-party no-man's-land, designed to wreak
confusion in the fertile territory of populist sentiment.  The
fact is that the time is ripe for a genuine popular uprising.
The demonization of liberalism and the destruction of the
Democratic Party have created a situation where nearly everyone
has become disenfranchised, and a well-mounted grass-roots
campaign, with an articulate leadership which exhibits integrity,
could have the establishment shaking in its boots.

        By so utterly vanquishing their Democratic adversaries,
the corporate power-grabbers have killed the goose that laid the
golden egg -- the two-party, one-agenda, smoke-and-mirrors
election system that has served their interests so well and for
so long.  They've now painted themselves into a corner, and the
Buchanan card is a damage-control operation, aimed at befuddling
exploitation of this ideal populist opportunity.

        Any would-be third-party movements out there had better
take note of what Buchanan is really about.  On the one hand he
has done progressives a tremendous favor, by demonstrating so
dramatically the shallowness of the veneer of public "consensus",
and the depth of popular feeling against excessive corporate
influence.  On the other hand, his strategic impact is ample
evidence that the Establishment is playing an aggressive game:
never on the defensive, it has launched a strike which must be
countered head on by any movement which seeks to rise above the
orchestrated confusion.

        Unintentionally, Buchanan has sounded the clarion call to
real progressives, and has laid down the gauntlet to them.  His
brash grandstanding may indeed be just the spark that's needed to
get a genuine progressive movement off its backside, and
encourage it to get busy organizing its immense and motivated
potential constituency.

        Could Ronnie Dugger, and his fledgling organization "The
Alliance", exemplify the first sproutings of a _genuine_ counter-
corporate revolution?  Mr. Dugger subtitled his article "A CALL
TO CITIZENS" (The Nation, August 14-21, 1995) with what looks
like a direct response to Buchanan: "Real Populists Please Stand
Up".  Mr. Dugger -- founding editor of The Texas Observer, and
currently "in residence" at Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the
Press, Politics, and Public Policy -- is a serious political
organizer with a gutsy, no-holds-barred populist agenda.  He
understands consensus building, is thinking in terms of broad-
based coalitions, and has articulated a grasp of
economic/political reality that makes the mainstream debates
sound like the hollow rhetoric they in fact are.  And
significantly, he yields no ground to Buchanan in The Alliance's
populist, anti-corporate-influence agenda

        To clarify, Mr. Dugger is not a candidate, and The
Alliance is not a political party: The Alliance echoes the
Progressive Era in American politics, aiming at a role roughly
similar to that of the Populists.  The Populists forged a
coalition between farmers and industrial workers late in the last
century, and wielded considerable political influence. They can
be credited with forcing significant legislative reforms, but
they were never a political party.  Today, The Alliance -- or
some other similar effort -- could employ many of the same time-
honored organizing tactics used successfully by the original
Populists, and forge an awesome constituency with incredible
voting leverage.

        Buchanan has gotten the third-party game underway, but
once hostilities begin in the seldom-explored jungles of popular
American politics, it's anybody's game, and the territory favors
the guerillas.

    Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
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