Jewish World Review July 27, 2000 / 24 Tamuz, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I'VE NEVER thought the Germans had much to teach us about how to run a country, but I'm beginning to change my mind. In Germany, cults are banned from national politics; in America they're given a big shiny political party.
Just look at what is happening in the Reform Party. Before 1992, the Reform Party didn't exist. Ross Perot, a self-made man who worships his creator, founded it from the mailing lists of his fan club "United We Stand." Nothing wrong there. In America you're free to blow $60 million of your own cash on a political party if you want to.
Perot's platform was nobly, yet hysterically, centrist. He stayed away from social issues and promised to transcend partisan politics and ideological squabbles. His pragmatic goal was to "lift up the hood" of the American government and "fix it." His main issues were trade, the deficit and entitlements. In 1992, Perot and his Reform Party received 19 percent of the vote, the best showing since Teddy Roosevelt's run as the Bull Moose candidate in 1912. In 1996, Perot drew almost 9 percent of the vote; still not too shabby.
Indeed, it was good enough for the federal government to promise more than $12 million to the party's 2000 nominee. Right now, that looks to be Pat Buchanan. A former pundit and orthodox movement conservative - whom I used to like a great deal - Buchanan has become the dashboard saint for America's racist and anti-Semitic fringe. The Washington Post's Thomas Edsall reported recently that a coalition of white supremacist, neo-, semi- and all-but-entirely Nazi groups has rallied around Buchanan.
You certainly don't have to be a racist to support Buchanan - I know honorable people who do. But if you are a racist, Buchanan's your guy, and he's OK with that. As one "white rights" group editorial put it, "Our type of people - Nationalists - have been joining the Reform Party all across America and this is going to almost guarantee that Buchanan will be its candidate in November."
Another group, which hosts a Web site called "Stormfront," carries an essay called "The Biological Jew," which offers "proof that the Jews are a race and not just a religion." It contends, "Jewish inherited political traits are left wing." If that's true, I must have a recessive gene.
In fact, as a committed conservative, I offer no remedy for the existence of groups I find distasteful. Diversity should mean a diversity of beliefs, not just a diversity of skin tones. As for the white supremacists, they can have all the trailer park reenactments of Nuremberg rallies they want. Indeed, I believe, for example, that many conservative groups are falsely accused of anti-Semitism, racism, etc. because Northern liberals are bigoted against Christians, Southerners and conservatives.
No, my problem is with the idea that the federal government should be in the business of party building - for any ideological constituency. Indeed, Buchanan's major opponent for the Reform Party nomination is John Hagelin, who's also the head of the Natural Law Party. I don't think I'm testing libel laws when I say he's a fruitcake. During the Kosovo War, Hagelin's suggested solution was to convene thousands of transcendental meditators to send out waves of positive energy to the belligerents.
Oh, there's still an outside chance that Lenora Fulani, Buchanan's erstwhile ally, could steal the show and the $12 million prize. She's a committed Marxist who fronts for a psycho-babble cult lead by a virulent anti-Semitic left-winger. By all means, let's cut them a check.
And that's the point: None of these people would be in the Reform Party if it weren't for the fact that the government is subsidizing their party (and in case you think me inconsistent, I think taxpayers shouldn't be soaked for the Democratic or Republican bills, either). Building real political parties is difficult work, which is why most third parties operate in near total oblivion.
In Germany, cults and fringe groups like neo-Nazis and Scientologists are banned from political participation because Germans know all too well what can happen when zealots grab the reigns. Remember, Hitler was elected.
I don't advocate the same for the United States. But I also don't think we should pick up the tabs for Buchanan, Fulani, Hagelin -- or Bush and Gore --