BATTLING THE DUOPOLY: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE REFORM PARTY'S STRUGGLE TO SAVE AMERICA'S MIDDLE CLASS
A short history of the Reform Party, a determined political insurgency that for a brief yet spectacularly exhilarating moment in the 1990s emerged as the most viable political alternative to the duopoly since the short-lived Populist movement a century earlier. A powerful narrative, this is the story of the heroic citizens who spontaneously rallied to Ross Perot's independent presidential candidacy in 1992, a year when the mercurial Dallas billionaire captured a staggering 19 percent of the vote nationally after re-entering the race with barely a month remaining in the campaign.
Perot's citizens' army kept the fledgling movement alive after that extraordinary campaign, initially as the United We Stand America organization and then later by founding the Reform Party, a potentially robust force in American politics that hundreds of thousands of middle-class and blue-collar voters -- many of whom had completely given up on the political process -- believed was capable of legitimately challenging the corrupt twin parties responsible for the nation's sharp economic decline.
Championing America's reindustrialization while boldly criticizing the nation's lax immigration practices, misguided policies resulting in a surplus of "cheap labor" in the United States, the newly-organized Reform Party steadfastly opposed unfair trade agreements with China and Mexico in an attempt to stymie the famous "giant sucking sound" Perot had presciently warned against during the '92 campaign.
At first blush, the Reform Party appeared perfectly positioned to effectively challenge the financial oligarchy's deliberate dismantling of the country's productive economy.
In short, the party seemed poised to offer the American electorate precisely the kind of "political revolution" that Vermont's Bernie Sanders is now calling for in his insurgent bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, as well as offering dispirited middle-income and working-class voters an opportunity to "Make America Great Again," as currently espoused by flamboyant Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump.
From its inception, the Reform Party, shrewdly eschewing the cultural wedge issues that traditionally divided the electorate while focusing almost exclusively on the economy, the growing national debt, and the pocketbook concerns of ordinary Americans, had been the political establishment's worst nightmare, as evidenced by the more than eight million votes garnered by Perot during the relatively sleepy race for the White House in 1996 -- an election in which the plainspoken Texan was arbitrarily excluded from the presidential debates. The dramatic and electrifying come-from-behind victory of the Reform Party's Jesse Ventura in Minnesota's hotly-contested gubernatorial campaign two years later erased any doubts about the party's long-term viability. Anything was possible, or so it seemed.
Having appeared on the ballot in all fifty states four years earlier while qualifying for $12.6 million in federal funding, the Reform Party showed tremendous promise heading into the razor-thin presidential campaign of 2000 -- a year when the upstart populist movement attracted a bumper crop of provocative and colorful presidential possibilities, including real estate mogul Donald Trump and pugnacious conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, the latter of whom made a beeline for the party's multimillion dollar treasure trove following a disastrous showing in the GOP's Iowa Straw Poll -- before internecine warfare ripped the party asunder.
While the Reform Party continues to proudly soldier on more than twenty years after its founding, Battling the Duopoly is the remarkable and, at times, bitter and frustrating tale of those who fought valiantly to stop the country's steady Wall Street-driven descent that eventually reduced the United States -- a manufacturing marvel that was once the envy of virtually every nation on Earth -- to what the late Eugene McCarthy poignantly described as a "colony to the world."
Sevierville Publishing (Jan. 30, 2017)
OTHERS: THIRD PARTIES DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION
The fifth installment in a planned seven-volume series, this sweeping narrative chronicles the extraordinarily difficult years facing Americans following the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, a period marked by a renewed, if somewhat limited, interest in socialism and third-party politics.
For the country's minor parties, it was both the worst of times and the best of times. Coupled with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, the largely-eviscerated Prohibition Party — the nation's oldest minor party — began its steady decline during these turbulent years. Louisiana's Huey P. Long, the colorfully ambitious "Kingfish," planned to run for president on a populist "Share-Our-Wealth" third-party ticket in 1936, but was tragically silenced by an assassin's bullet. The short-lived Union Party, a creation of controversial radio priest Charles E. Coughlin, then emerged on the scene like a Category 5 hurricane, threatening to sweep away millions of FDR's New Deal supporters, only to peter out like an extremely mild tropical depression before Election Day
The Socialist Party, on the other hand, made great strides during the Great Depression, symbolized by the remarkable 884,000-vote showing of the urbane and dignified Norman M. Thomas in the 1932 presidential election. The Communist Party USA, whose membership swelled from 18,000 at the beginning of the seemingly never-ending depression to more than 85,000 a decade later, also did remarkably well during this period, attracting a number of notable intellectuals, actors, musicians and graphic artists to its cause before falling victim to a hostile wave of anti-communism, orchestrated by Cold War liberals, right-wing groups and government agencies, in the 1940s.
In addition to the remarkably successful Progressive Party in Wisconsin, the Great Depression also saw the dramatic resurgence of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, the most successful statewide third-party in American history. Focusing almost exclusively on domestic issues while displacing the moribund Democratic Party as the chief rival to the entrenched Republicans in the Gopher State, the FLP flourished during this period, easily winning four straight gubernatorial elections while electing two U.S. Senators and winning no fewer than eighteen congressional contests between 1930 and 1942, shortly before the party merged with the Democrats.
Sevierville Publishing (Dec. 6, 2016)
BOY WONDER: HAROLD STASSEN'S LIFELONG PURSUIT OF THE ELUSIVE BRASS RING
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for? — Robert Browning
Earning an early reputation as the “boy wonder” of American politics after capturing the Minnesota governorship at the remarkably young age of thirty-one, Harold E. Stassen spent a lifetime pursuing the presidency — a seemingly never-ending quest that made him something of a national laughingstock while diminishing his considerable accomplishments and public usefulness.
Stassen’s record of public service was nothing short of spectacular. Success came early — and often — beginning with his election as county attorney at the age of 23.Eight years later he swept past the Farmer-Labor Party’s Elmer A. Benson in winning the first of three consecutive terms as governor of the Gopher State. He was easily re-elected in 1940 — the same year he delivered the keynote address at the “miraculous” Republican national convention in Philadelphia — and again in 1942.
Believing that the United States and its allies could prevail in the Second World War “only if every citizen does his full part,” Stassen — proclaiming he had an obligation to fight for his country — resigned early in his third term and became an active duty Naval officer, serving capably as an aide to Admiral William Halsey in the Pacific. President Franklin D. Roosevelt later appointed the former Minnesota governor to the U.S. delegation to the first United Nations Conference in San Francisco, where he helped write the UN Charter. International peacekeeping became his life’s mission.
Stassen made his most promising bid for the presidency in 1948, winning four primaries before falling short in the crucial Oregon primary and eventually losing a triangular struggle with Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York and Ohio’s Robert Taft for the Republican nomination. In 1952, Stassen was again widely regarded as a serious GOP contender, but his candidacy quickly faded when General Dwight Eisenhower entered the fray.
Eisenhower subsequently named Stassen, who was then serving as president of the University of Pennsylvania, as director of the short-lived Foreign Operations Administration — a Cabinet-level position. He also served as Ike’s special assistant on disarmament.
Subjected to ridicule and derision, the undaunted long-distance runner for world peace continued to seek the presidency like clockwork, waging particularly spirited campaigns against increasingly impossible odds in 1964, 1968 and 1980.
Sevierville Publishing (December, 2017)