October 5, 1999
conservative cliché on Pat Buchanan is that he is no longer a
conservative. But the argument behind this proposition is damning to those
who assert it.
The columnist Mona Charen says that by
leaving the Republican Party and running on the Reform Party ticket, as he
obviously means to do, Buchanan, if he took votes from George W. Bush,
could elect Al Gore or Bill Bradley president. Accusing
Buchanan of sacrificing principle to egotism,
she asks: How much does he care about abortion and other social
issues if he is willing to increase the odds that a Democrat will be
appointing judges for the next four years?
Miss Charen assumes that Buchanan would
run expecting to lose. If he really thinks he could win, her argument falls at
once. But even if Buchanan were running as a spoiler, Miss Charen has given
the game away.
If a Democrat is elected president, he will
nominate pro-abortion justices and judges to the federal courts. But they
would still have to be confirmed and Miss Charen implies that the
Republicans would confirm them!
And why not? Shes quite right,
though she doesnt seem to grasp what she is admitting. The allegedly
pro-life Republicans have voted overwhelmingly to confirm Bill
Clintons pro-abortion nominees, including Supreme Court justices
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Mrs. Ginsburg was confirmed by a
Senate vote of 97 to 3, and the Republicans led by Orrin Hatch of
Utah absolutely fawned on her.
Clintons lower-court appointees,
who consistently support late-term abortions, have also enjoyed Republican
support. Meanwhile, such pro-abortion justices as Sandra Day
OConnor and David Souter were appointed by Republican presidents
and Republicans in the Senate voted to confirm them.
This is exactly why so many conservatives
are ready to bolt the Republican Party, and why Buchanan charges that
Washington has a one-party system masquerading as a two-
In crucial respects, the Democrats and
Republicans are partners rather than foes. They join to exclude rival parties
from the ballot. The chief difficulty any new party encounters is
ballot access, because the two major parties, often in the
name of campaign reform, have the legal power to set the
hurdles for entry so high that a new party exhausts its funds and energy just
getting a niche on the ballots of the states. They may spend millions of
dollars collecting signatures, only to have those signatures arbitrarily
In effect, a new party has to apply for a
license to run against the Democrats and Republicans. And the Democrats and
Republicans control the licenses.
In short, the two giant parties absolutely
agree that there should be only two viable parties. Yet if there is one idea
the Founding Fathers would have abhorred, its that the government
should have the power to regulate its own opposition. They agreed that the
people should be free to unseat those in power; thats the whole point
of elections to enable peaceful revolution. And they defined tyranny
as the concentration of all power in a few hands; and a government that can
decide who may oppose it meets that definition, by denying the people the
right to remove their rulers.
In most other areas of life, from religion to
TV channels to food and dress, Americans enjoy a wide range of options. But
not in politics, where they are told that two options constitute
democracy and any more options would create
anarchy though the European democracies (and a few
states in this country) somehow survive with multi-party systems.
In the business world, if two corporations
even try to control an industry and eliminate smaller competitors, they face
stern antitrust action. But not in politics, where the two giant parties
enjoy electoral hegemony and use every device to keep competitors off the
If the Democrats, when they controlled
Congress and the presidency, had passed legislation to keep the Republicans
off the ballot, everyone would have recognized a crime against self-
government. But when both giant parties do the same to smaller parties,
nobody seems to mind.
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