What a Swell Party This IsrnThe final presidential election of the millenniumrnis still more than a year away,rnbut by last summer rumblings of discontentrnwith the plastic dashboard figurinesrnv’ho are the leading candidates of the h’0rnmajor plastic dashboard political partiesrnwere already audible. The rumblingsrnfirst attracted national notice when PatrnBuchanan, in the course of his third campaignrnfor the presidency, emitted a fewrnrumbles himself about the possibility ofrnleaving the Republican Party to which hernhas been attached for most of his life.rnThroughout the 1990’s, Mr. Buchananrnhas been among the first voices to definernissues and point future political directionsrnwhile most in his partv and thern(snicker) “conservative movement” havernmerely squealed in dismayed terror at hisrnmaverick positions. His dissent on thernPersian Gulf War in 1990-91 pointed towardrnthe far larger and more generalizedrnopposition to the recent Balkan war, andrnhis support for economic nationalismrncontributed to an increased skepticism ofrnthe “global economy” and free-trade dogmasrnamong congressmen in both partiesrnin the last few years. When Pat startedrnrumbling about leaving the GOP smackrnin the middle of his campaign for itsrnnomination, therefore, pundits were wellrnadvised to pay attention.rnBut Mr. Buchanan soon distancedrnhimself from his own remarks. On Meetrnthe Press a few days after his reportedrnthreat of defection, he confirmed that “ifrnthe Republican Partv walks away fromrnlife [i.e., a pro-life, anti-abortion position],rnit walks away from me.” He mightrnleave the party or refuse to endorse itsrnticket, but he gave no firm indication thatrnhe would .start a new party or accept thernnomination of one, and he did say that byrnthe time the Republicans picked theirrnticket next year, it would probably be toornlate to start a new part}’ anyway.rnNevertheless, the word had been spoken,rnand soon speculation about a thirdrnpart’ was commonplace. Even after Mr.rnBuchanan’s demurrals, columnistrnRobert Novak insisted that he might actuallyrnbolt the GOP and run as an independent,rnwhile the New York Times a fewrndays later carried a major front-page storyrnrecounting in some detail how Mr.rnPrincipalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnBuchanan wasn’t the only Republicanrnthinking of what he had called “a stampedernfor the Metroliner” out of the party.rnIn fact, the prospect of a “third party”rnof the right has been discussed in virtuallyrnevery presidential election in my memory,rnhideed, the very- term “third part)’,”rnif taken literally, is rather grotesquely inaccurate,rnhi addition to such perennialsrnas the Communist Party USA and itsrncheap imitations in World-Peace-and-rnSave-the-Silverfish crusades of the left,rnthere are vehicles on the right that havernbecome institutionalized despite theirrnmarginal political impact—the LibertarianrnParty, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, and,rnof course, the Reform Party, which hasrnactually proved itself capable of electingrnJesse Ventura to the governorship ofrnMinnesota, hi other words, whateverrnhappens to the Republicans or the Democratsrn(speaking of cheap imitations ofrnthe communists), a new party built onrntheir wreckage would not be a “third” butrna fifth or sixth parh’ at least.rnOf comse, that’s not what is meantrnwhen people talk about a “third party.”rnWhat they mean is a political part}’ with arnreal chance of winning national elections,rnand today, with the possible exceptionrnof the Reform Party, there is no suchrnanimal. The Reform Party might be ablernto win a nafional election only because ofrnthe strong and distinctive personalities ofrnits leaders, the indefatigable Ross Perotrnand the refreshingly unconventional Mr.rnVentura, probably the only political candidaternin human history who has openlyrndiscussed his youthfiil visit to a house ofrnill repute and been elected anyway.rnThird parties have historically been successfulrnin American history only becausernof their leaders —William JenningsrnBryan and George Wallace come quicklyrnto mind—or because the rest of the polificalrnestablishment was so fractured thatrneven mediocrities like Abraham Lincolnrncould creep into the White House whilerneveryone else was fighting. When thernpersonalities of the leaders fade and thernestablishment fractures are patched up,rnthird parties usually begin to vanish.rnYet despite the interminable jabberrnabout a new party, there is more reason inrnthis election cycle than ever to take it seriously.rnNot only Mr. Buchanan but alsornNew Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith, almostrnas firmly on the right as the former commentatorrnand an actual elected officeholder,rnspoke openly about bolting thernRepublicans, and what he had to say representedrnprecisely the feelings andrnthoughts of thousands, if not millions, ofrnother Americans who ha’e supported thernGOP in recent years. “Right now wernhave one political party in America,” thernsenator told the New York Times a couplernof weeks before he achially did leave thernRepublicans. “It’s run by moderaternDemocrats and moderate Republicans,rnand conservatives are stuck. If you talk tornconservative activists there’s a lot of frustration.rnI have no desire to see the demisernof the party. But I’m not going to see ourrnviews compromised.”rnAmong the views that rank-and-file Republicansrnbelieve have already beenrncompromised —if not entirely abandonedrn— by the party and its leadership,rnthe Times itself mentioned not only abortionrnbut also “taxes, gun control, militaryrnspending and gay rights.” Yet that’s onlyrnthe icing on the cake. How about thernparty’s support of statehood for Puerto Rico,rna brainchild of the now forgottenrnNewt Gingrich and his “Republican revolutionaries,”rnintended to “lure” the Hispanicrnvote into the party; the abandonnierrtrnof efforts to abolish affirmativernaction (last year, the Republican Housernactually defeated a bill that would havernabolished federal affirmative-action mandatesrnfor educational institutions); andrnthe total sellout of the immigrafion issue,rnboth with respect to reform of existing legalrnimmigration procedures and of anyrnserious attempt to control illegal immigration?rnAs for gun control, the implosionrnof the congressional Republicarrs onrnthis issue in the aftermath of the Littletonrnshootings last spring helped underminernthe support of one of the key constituenciesrnthat gave the party a congressionalrnmajority in 1994. It was a Democrat,rnJohn Dingell of Michigan, who causedrnthe collapse of the gun-control packagernpushed by the Glinton Wliite House andrnswallowed whole by the Republicanrnleadership in both houses.rnThe Republicans no longer even pretendrnto be interested in such matters asrnreducing the size and scope of the federalrnleviathan or abolishing federal programsrnand departments, let alone revers-rn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn