Pat Buchanan's Declaration of Independence

Article excerpt

Pat Buchanan has signed his declaration of independence. He did it with an appeal to a new patriotism - fittingly enough, as patriotism and political independence have been linked since the American Revolution. His announcement is big news on the political scene, bad news for both the Republican and Democratic parties, and an opportunity for the Reform Party.

It's big news because Mr. Buchanan is a consummate insider who has defected to the outsiders - to the Reform Party. It has the potential to shake up the old coalitions of both major parties and peel layers of them away to Reform. It offers Reform a contender who has the capacity to make its issue - busting up the two-party monopoly and democratizing American politics - a centerpiece in campaign 2000.

Some say Buchanan is an opportunist looking to grab on to Reform to save his flagging political fortunes. Certainly, politics is all about seizing opportunities. But singling out the newly independent Buchanan seems a mite - shall we say - opportunistic?

In his announcement speech, Pat Buchanan pronounced the two- party system a "fraud" and a "snare" - and pledged his investment in an independent antidote - a new political party focused on reforming the broken system rather than relying on the corrupt two parties to police themselves.

Contrast Buchanan with Bill Bradley, who left the United States Senate in 1995 because, as he said, "Politics is broke." Mr. Bradley then reappears four years later, persisting as a Democrat, but portraying himself as the reformer. Who's the opportunist here?

For its part, the Reform Party has been criticized for "standing for nothing" and thereby creating a vacuum into which ideologues like Buchanan or egologues like Donald Trump can hop. Yet this ignores the actual history of Reform, which deliberately created itself to be nonideological.

The American people seem to feel it's actually the Democratic and Republican Parties that don't stand for anything - other than their own reelection. They're only interested in winning. They have no principled issues. They only have pollsters who tell them what to believe and when to believe it.

The Reform Party, not just a new party but a new kind of party, believes in one thing very deeply: The right to self-governance. …