[By Eric M. Appleman -- Posted March 10, 2002] Parity in party strength
defines the political landscape in early 2002. Rough equivalence
in the Republican and Democratic parties is evident in the razor-thin margin
of the 2000 presidential election, in the teetering balance in the U.S.
Senate, in the difference of just six seats in the U.S. House, and in party
control of state legislative chambers and governorships.
|Legislative Chambers||48D||47R||3 tied1|
|Legislative Seats (7,424 total)||3,813D||3,543R||68 other|
As the parties head into the 2002 mid-term elections, four key factors appear likely to affect the political math. First is reapportionment and redistricting following the 2000 Census. Both parties have put considerable resources into ensuring the best possible outcomes as redistricting processes wind through the states. Some states' plans will no doubt be contested in the courts for years to come. Nonetheless, conventional wisdom is that the net outcome of all the boundary shifting, at least at the congressional level, will be to give the edge not to Democrats2 or Republicans but to incumbents of both parties. September 11, the anthrax scare, and the war on terrorism have affected all Americans, in obvious ways such as increased security and the crimp in the economy, and in less obvious ways such as causing individuals to reassess their priorities. How these events will play out in the 2002 mid-term elections is yet to be seen, but Republicans hope that President Bush's popularity will enable them to avoid the losses that typically face an incumbent president. Myriad investigations will continue to keep the Enron scandal in the news. Finally, the economy is always an important factor in elections. Many states now face significant budget difficulties, and the notion of federal budget surpluses extending into the foreseeable future, never credible to begin with, has been shown to be nothing more than pipe dream.
Political debate in America largely occurs within lines set by the Democratic and Republican parties, which stand as mighty oaks in the political ecosystem, towering over and shading out the tiny third parties on the forest floor far below. The two major parties have rich traditions. The Democratic National Committee was founded at the party's 1848 convention, and the DNC claims to be "the longest running political organization in the world." The Republican Party traces its roots to March 1854 when a group opposed to extending slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska territories held an informal meeting in a school house in Ripon, Wisconsin; the national party formed in 1856.
The Democrats and the Republicans have been around for a long time, but have they kept up with the times? In The Radical Center (Doubleday, October 2001) Ted Halstead, founding president and CEO of the New America Foundation, and Michael Lind, senior fellow at the foundation, argue that the parties have become outmoded in today's Information Age. Halstead and Lind write that, "Our nation's politics are dominated by two feuding dinosaurs that have outlived the world in which they evolved."
Whether this is true or not, third parties have been unable to gain
a foothold. Their candidates are underfunded and undermanned, ignored
by the media, often excluded from debates, and hampered by significant
ballot hurdles. Nonetheless, as the Bush-Gore outcome so tellingly
showed, third party candidates can have a major impact even when they attract
relatively few votes. Beyond the spoiler effect, third party candidates
introduce ideas and perspectives into the political discussion that may
be otherwise ignored and overlooked by the major parties.
Republicans: Is Compassionate Conservatism
Just four and a half months into his term, on June 7, 2001 in the East Room of the White House, President Bush signed into law a tax cut bill estimated at $1.35 trillion; by late July the Treasury was sending out advance payment checks. Bush's ability to implement one of his major campaign promises in such a short time stands as a signal accomplishment. On the downside, a couple of weeks earlier, the administration suffered one of its first significant setbacks when, on May 24, Sen. Jim Jeffords (VT) announced he was leaving the Republican party and becoming an Independent; the move, when it took effect, tipped control of the Senate to the Democrats.
Then came September 11. Bush started the day normally enough, pushing his education plan at Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. At 8:48 a.m. began the horrific, surreal events which kept Americans transfixed to their TV sets throughout the day. That evening, Bush reassured the nation. "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America," he said. "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." Several days later Bush spoke movingly at the National Cathedral during a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, vowing "to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." Also from that day came unforgettable images of the President at the World Trade Center site, surrounded by rescue workers and speaking through a bullhorn. In the months that followed America's military successfully prosecuted the war in Afghanistan. Bush stood firm during the crisis, and his presidency had been transformed.
The war on terrorism continues on less visible fronts and in as yet unknown directions. In his State of the Union address, Bush warned against states like North Korea, Iran, and Iraq that he said "constitute an axis of evil."
The business of the nation continues as well. On December 18, 2001 the Senate approved the conference report on the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001," Bush's education bill, by an 87-10 vote. The cooperation of liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) was critical to passage of the bill, and although the legislation bore significant changes from his original proposal, Bush could claim success in achieving another one of his central campaign promises. "It's a great symbol of what is possible in Washington when good people come together to do what's right," Bush said in signing the bill on January 8, 2002.
Bush has put forth a steady stream of domestic initiatives. He announced the USA Freedom Corps in his State of the Union address on January 29, addressed health care in a February 11 speech, presented an initiative to cut power plant emissions and a global climate change initiative on February 14, introduced his welfare reform proposal on February 26, spoke at a National Summit on Retirement Savings on February 28, and launched a quality teacher initiative on March 4. Bush's pledge to "change the tone" has not met with overwhelming success, however, as Democrats have pointed to inadequacies and flaws in most of these proposals.
Bush has also met with opposition on some of his more central initiatives. In the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) blocked consideration of the economic stimulus package in late 2001 and early 2002, arguing that under the Republican plan "wealthy individuals and profitable corporations would qualify for tens of millions of dollars in tax giveaways." (The Senate finally passed a pared down stimulus bill, extending unemployment benefits and providing tax breaks, on March 8). The Bush Administration released its energy plan in May 2001; it passed the House on August 2 by a margin of 240-189, but was stymied in the Senate by leading Democrats opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to release records of the National Energy Policy Development Group, which developed the plan, proved to be an ongoing embarrassment, finally prompting the Government Accounting Office to go to court. The President's Commission on Strengthening Social Security released its final report on December 21, 2001, suggesting three possible models of voluntary personal accounts, but the proposals did not appear to be making headway. Indeed Democratic leaders were so confident the Republican plans would prove unpopular that House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) called for "full and fair debate on their schemes of privatization."
In the House, Republicans are working with a narrow six-seat majority under Speaker Dennis Hastert. Hastert, a former high school teacher who represents a district just west of Chicago, ascended to the position in January 1999. He has not proven as juicy a target for Democrats as his predecessor, the outspoken Newt Gingrich. Meanwhile House Majority Leader Dick Armey (TX-26) announced in December 2001 that he will retire at the end of his term opening the way for Majority Whip Tom DeLay (TX-22) to move up to the number two position in House during the 108th Congress. Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi leads the 49 Republicans in the Senate.
A key element of Bush's "compassionate conservative" message has been an effort to reach out to groups that have not traditionally supported the Republican party. In April 2001, the RNC established a Grassroots Development division to attract support in the Hispanic, African American, and Asian American communities. At the RNC's winter meeting in Austin, TX, in January 2002, the party announced an initiative to provide Spanish lessons to top state party officials. On February 23, the RNC organized a Latino Summit in Los Angeles. The Republican Party is working to improve its standing among women voters. (In the 2000 election 43 percent of women voted for Bush). In July 2001 the RNC announced its "Winning Women" initiative under the direction of co-chair Ann Wagner. Republicans point to key people in the administration such as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ("she's the first person to brief the President most mornings") and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. Republicans even hope to make inroads among African-Americans; for example, Las Vegas city councilwoman Lynette Boggs McDonald, an African-American woman, is running for Congress in Nevada's 1st district. Bush has also reached out to labor. He met with Teamsters president James P. Hoffa and United Brotherhood of Carpenters president Doug McCarron to discuss his energy policy during a visit to Teamsters' headquarters on January 17, 2002. "[T]his energy bill that we're working on is a jobs bill," he stated.
California has only one statewide Republican elected official, Secretary of State Bill Jones, and in 2000 Bush lost the state to Gore by 11.8 percentage points despite spending a sizable chunk of money. The Golden State, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) noted in a recent speech, "is the promised land for a Democrat." Bush is trying to change that. Former state Bush campaign chair Gerald Parsky is overseeing a restructuring intended to "transform the California Republican party into one of the most effective state party organizations in the country." The plan, approved at a state party convention on October 27, 2001, calls for professionalization of the party's operations, including an expanded 20-member Board of Directors and a new Chief Operating Officer position, and an effort to "broaden the base of our party by becoming more inclusive." As part of this effort, Bush talked former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan into running for governor. Businessman Bill Simon defeated Riordan in the March 5, 2002 Republican primary, throwing Parsky's efforts into question.
Republicans' failure to hold the governorships in either New Jersey or Virginia on November 6, 2001 suggests that Bush's remarkable popularity may not have much impact on the 2002 elections. Following those disappointing showings, Gov. Jim Gilmore announced his resignation as chair of the Republican National Committee in late November, and on December 6, President Bush named former Montana Governor Mark Racicot as his choice to head the RNC (Racicot was elected unanimously at the RNC winter meeting in Austin, Texas). In his acceptance speech, Racicot pledged to focus budget and resources on the grassroots level and set a goal of "reducing RNC staff and administrative expenses by 20 percent." Also playing an important role in developing Republican strategy is White House senior advisor Karl Rove, who served as chief strategist for the Bush campaign. Rove oversees the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the Office of Strategic Initiatives at the White House.
Republicans are well positioned financially. The RNC began 2002 with about ten times as much cash on hand as the DNC. As leader of the party, Bush has, after a suitable pause following September 11, resumed campaigning and raising money for Republican candidates. He did his first post-9/11 fundraiser on January 9, 2002 at the Washington Hilton, raising money for brother Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election campaign and for the Republican Party of Florida. According to news reports, he is now doing about two political fundraisers a week.
While eschewing direct criticism of the President's war on terrorism,
Democrats continue to paint Republicans as being out of step with working
families. "The Republican Party are extreme right wingers," stated
DNC chair Terry McAuliffe. Similarly in a March 6 press conference,
House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt questioned "whether or not there
is an active, live moderate Republican Party in this country anymore."
Democrats Energized by McAuliffe
When Terry McAuliffe was selected to lead Democratic National Committee (DNC) in February 2001, many observers saw it as sign that President Clinton intended to keep control over the party. "Clinton Pal to be Dem Chief" proclaimed the New York Daily News. The Daily News' Kenneth Bazinet described McAuliffe as "Bill Clinton's hand-picked candidate and longtime moneyman." Republicans had worse things to say.3 Almost a year into the job, however, McAuliffe was widely praised by party members and leaders attending the DNC's winter meeting in Washington, Jan. 17-19, 2002.
McAuliffe brings a boyish enthusiasm to his duties as chair, to the extent that he at times he reminds one of a kid with a new toy. He once wrestled an 8-foot plus alligator to bring in a contribution ("I got three minutes on him," McAuliffe said). During the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles he organized surfing lessons. At a recent meeting of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, McAuliffe even tried to convince an observer from the RNC counsel's office to switch over to the Democrats. "He's quite a cheerleader for the party; his energy is contagious," said Sue Walitsky, a DNC communications staffer. Of his job as Democratic chair, McAuliffe said, "I love doing this."
McAuliffe has undertaken a bevy of initiatives to build the party. One of these is a much-needed technology overhaul encompassing both the DNC and the state parties. (After becoming chair, he surveyed state parties on their top three infrastructure needs). On February 1, 2002 the DNC launched its newly redesigned web page. In addition to this visible aspect, the party has "upgraded basic technology in all 50 state parties; modernized and harmonized state voter files; more than tripled DNC e-mail lists; and updated internal technology contracts, saving $500,000 so far." Further, technology and Internet executive Mark L. Walsh signed on as voluntary chief technology advisor.
In 2001 the party spent at least $1.8 million in non-federal funds on its Redistricting Project, covering both congressional and state legislative redistricting. Under Amy Chapman, former campaign director at the AFL-CIO, the DNC provided technical, legal and communications support to state parties and legislative caucuses. McAuliffe points to the 2001 off year elections in New Jersey as an indicator of the success of this work. "The new state legislative map helped us pull even in the State Senate and to create an 8-seat advantage in the State Assembly," he said.
The DNC has boosted its efforts to attract small donors, which could prove vital if campaign finance reform legislation is signed into law. In 2001 the DNC reported more than doubling the number of direct mail donors over 1999. (The DNC said it raised $24.4 million in small contributions from over 600,000 Americans in 2001; by contrast the RNC reported a record 794,682 donors in 2001, including 219,165 first time contributors. All told the RNC received 1,437,370 donations, with an average contribution of $57.07). The Democrats' fundraising was particularly strong in the first half of 2001 because "the outrage over Florida was so strong" and there was fear over what the Bush administration might bring.
One of McAuliffe's first initiatives upon becoming chair, in the wake of Florida, was to establish a Voting Rights Institute, to ensure citizens are not denied the right to vote. Maynard Jackson headed the effort for the first year, and former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile recently took over as national chair. Just as Republicans established a new Grassroots Development division, Democrats have more fully developed their outreach efforts. In February 2001 McAuliffe expanded Hispanic outreach into an executive level Hispanic Project, now headed by Andres Gonzalez. In March 2001 he founded the Women's Vote Center, now chaired by former White House communications director Ann Lewis.
Mark Brewer, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, says that McAuliffe has "taken advantage of the fact that we don't have a Democratic president" to build the party. "The party can get stronger even though we don't have a Democratic president," Brewer said.
Above all, McAuliffe has dedicated himself to winning elections at all levels. After settling $5 million net debt when he came aboard, the DNC spent, in McAuliffe's words, "every nickel we had on elections in 2001." The strategy seemed to be working. Democrats won both the Virginia and New Jersey governors' races and continued their advantage in big city mayor's offices, winning 39 of 42 targeted races, providing what McAuliffe termed "incredible momentum for the 2002 elections."
Two issues, guns and abortion, have weighed against Democratic candidates in rural areas. "We lose them (rural voters) at the first turn of the corner," Joe Carmichael, chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, observed, adding that it is critical to get past these "gatekeeper issues." Vice President Gore fared poorly among rural voters in the 2000 election; a famous map published in USA Today on November 9, 2000 showed Bush carrying 2,434 counties, in red, to 677 for Gore according to preliminary results. Mark Warner's 2001 campaign for governor of Virginia offers a model for how a Democrat can do well among rural voters. Among other touches, Warner co-sponsored a NASCAR car in the Advance Auto Parts 250 at Martinsville Speedway in April 2001 (it only completed 82 laps, finishing 31st), and he adopted a campaign song played by The Bluegrass Brothers (sample lyric "Mark Warner's a good ole boy from up in NOVAville"). Warner's campaign made overtures to the NRA, which remained neutral in the race, and it built up a 850-person "Sportsmen for Warner" committee.
Women have made significant advances in the leadership of the Democratic party. Rep. Nita M. Lowey (NY-18) chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sen. Patty Murray (WA) chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and, on Oct. 10, 2001, the House Democratic Caucus elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA-8) as Democratic Whip, its number two position. Of 60 women in the U.S. House, 42 are Democrats and 18 Republicans, and of 13 women in the U.S. Senate, 10 are Democrats and 3 Republicans.
In the Senate, with Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota serving as Majority Leader courtesy of Sen. Jeffords' switch, Democrats chair the committees and have been able to set the agenda. Meanwhile on the House side, Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is making his fourth attempt to win back a majority. There are already articles about a possible leadership struggle if Gephardt steps down following the 2002 elections to run for president.
McAuliffe said his biggest challenge as chair is "trying to keep everybody moving in the same direction." With some exceptions, different ideological strands of the party seem to be working from the same page. For example, it was interesting that when Gephardt showed up to give a speech to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council on January 24, 2002, the audience included AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and erstwhile Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile. One notable break occurred on May 23, 2001, when then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle was unable to prevent twelve Democratic Senators from supporting Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut. Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) has also caused Democrats some headaches with his tendency to support President Bush.
During the 2000 campaign, Ralph Nader argued that there is essentially no difference between the major parties. Mike Altern, communications director of Americans for Democratic Action, which describes itself as "the nation's oldest independent liberal political organization" says that this notion is "completely wrong and phony and dangerous." "The Democratic Party is still the party of workers, the party of unions, the party of liberal values," Altern said. Robert Kuttner, founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, recently wrote in a piece on deregulation that the Democratic Party has been "neutered" as a medium of progressive politics. However Altern states, "The story about the DLC and the moderates having taken it [the Democratic Party] over is a little overrated."
Democrats plan on holding a groundbreaking for a new $30 million, 127,451 square-foot headquarters building in Spring 2002, probably in April. The new building will give the party much more space. McAuliffe emphasizes that beyond that, it will be a state-of-the-art facility. The building should be ready to move into in December 2003, in time for the 2004 elections.
Republicans, of course, offer a different view of Democrats' activities.
A recent message to the RNC's e-Leader network deplored Democrats' opposition
to Bush judicial nominee Judge Charles Pickering, proclaiming "Obstructionist
Democrats Are At It Again!" "They lack a message, and they're turning
that into a lot of desperate attacks," said Kevin Sheridan, spokesman for
the Republican National Committee.
Libertarians: Countering The Drug War
The Libertarian Party celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its founding in December 2001. As of January 2002, it counted 224,713 registered voters compared to 194,873 registered Greens and 302 Libertarian officerholders compared to 130 for the Greens. In 2000, the Libertarian Party ran 1,420 candidates. Although its presidential nominee, Harry Browne, finished a disappointing fifth, behind Pat Buchanan, the party achieved some small successes. In Massachusetts, Carla Howell gained 12% of the vote in the U.S. Senate race, the best showing ever by a Libertarian Senate candidate. A number of state legislative candidates scored in double figures. However, most of the party's wins came in minor races like Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation District (Group Four) in Florida and Lakeside Community Planning Area Board in San Diego County, California. The Libertarian Party is America's third largest party, but it is still tiny and hasn't been able to achieve a breakthrough.
In December 2000, the Libertarian National Committee formed a strategic planning team. The team held seven meetings around the country in the first half of 2001, and on December 20, 2001 released a 202-page report outlining six goals and twenty strategies. Only one of the twenty strategies addresses a specific policy issue. Strategy 18 is "Focus resources to achieve the repeal of drug prohibition at the federal level by 2010 and get substantial credit for it." Not surprisingly then, Ron Crickenberger, political director of the Libertarian Party, says that in the 2002 mid-term elections Libertarians will seek to "take out some of the worst drug warriors in Congress."
Among the interesting 2002 races are the Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign, where Ed Thompson, mayor of Tomah, owner of Mr. Ed's Tee Pee Supper Club, and brother of former governor Tommy Thompson is running and the Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign, where Carla Howell is making her third bid for statewide office with her "small government is beautifulSM" message.
Facing a dearth of media coverage, the Libertarian Party sometimes attempts
to communicate its message in provocative and clever ways. The party's
press releases often have eye-catching headlines such as "President Bush's
USA Freedom Corps is a wasteful 'affront to American ideals'" or "USA's
renewed faith in government is as puzzling as 'renewed faith in Santa Claus.'"
On February 26, 2002, the LNC ran full page ads in USA Today and
the Washington Times (at a total cost of $71,297 for the two ads)
parodying an ongoing Office of National Drug Control Policy ad campaign
linking drugs and terrorism. A tight shot of U.S. Drug Czar John Walter's
face filled the page. The caption read, "This week, I had lunch with
the president, testified before Congress, and helped funnel $40 million
in illegal drug money to groups like the Taliban." The point of the
ads was explained below: "The War on Drugs boosts the price of illegal
drugs by as much as 17,000 percent -- funneling huge profits to terrorist
Greens: Building on 2000
One can argue that Ralph Nader's Green Party candidacy cost Al Gore and the Democrats the presidency in November 2000, but that was not the first time a Green candidate has tipped the balance. In the November 1998 race in New Mexico's 1st congressional district, Green candidate Robert Anderson gained 10% of the vote while Republican Heather Wilson defeated Democrat Phillip J. Maloof by a margin of 48% to 42%. In the April 1997 special election in New Mexico's 3rd congressional district, Green candidate Carol Miller finished a strong third with 17%.
Beyond the "spoiler effect," Green candidates have had successes at the local level, in races for city council, county commissioner, and various local districts. As of December 2001 at least 130 Greens in 20 states held elective office, all at the local level, including 45 in California and 17 in Wisconsin.
Dean Myerson, political coordinator for the Green Party, says he expects Green candidates could have a significant impact in a number of gubernatorial races in 2002. The likely Green nominee in Maine, Jonathan Carter, has better name recognition than the Republican candidates. In Massachusetts, Jill Stein of Lexington, an internist at Simmons College Health Center, is running as a Clean Elections candidate. In California, Peter Camejo, chair and co-founder of Progressive Asset Management Inc., will be the only Hispanic gubernatorial candidate on the November ballot. In Pennsylvania, consumer activist Michael Morrill is running for governor. Among the issues these candidates will likely raise are campaign finance reform--not the McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan variety--but public financing of campaigns; the Bush administration's use of the war on terror to advance a right-wing agenda; universal health care; and global warming.
The Green Party has made significant organizational progress since November 2000. The Green Party of the United States (GPUS) formed in July 2001, succeeding the Association of State Green Parties. In a November 8, 2001 opinion, the Federal Election Committee recognized the GPUS as the national committee of the Green Party. The party has recently (February 20, 2002) opened a national office in Washington, DC. GPUS has a full time fundraiser in South Carolina, and is raising money through direct mail and events. In terms of direct mail, the party is sending out about 13,000 pieces a month. Ralph Nader did an event for the party in December 2001 and has committed to do six more. The money raised is typically shared by GPUS and state parties. The progress of individual state Green Parties is clearly visible on the Internet; many state parties now have well-designed, up-to-date sites that are vastly ahead of what was up before the 2000 campaign.
Myerson said the toughest challenge for the Green Party is maintaining
ballot lines for state parties. He cited the case of Texas, where
a party nominee must obtain at least five percent of the vote in a race
for statewide office in order for party candidates to appear on the ballot
in the subsequent election (§
181.005). In November 2000 Democrats did not contest two Railroad
Commissioner seats, and the Green candidates were able to get around seven
percent of the vote, thereby meeting this requirement. However in
2002, for the first time in decades, Democrats are contesting all statewide
races, which will make it more difficult to achieve the five percent level.
A second challenge is "coverage by the mainstream media." Myerson
said that with the new DC office, he will be reaching out national media
outlets such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.
"We're going to be putting a lot more energy into this now," he said.
Natural Law Party: All Quiet on the
The Natural Law Party, founded in April 2002, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year on a decidedly quiet note. In 2002 the party is running some candidates in states such as California and Colorado, but a more telling example is seen in its home state of Iowa, where, rather than running a Natural Law candidate for governor, the party is backing Libertarian candidate Clyde Cleveland's campaign. The party currently has ballot access in 14 states--CA, CO, DE, FL, HI, ID, MT, MS, NV, OR, SC, UT and VT, and, pending, in LA. Valerie Barnard, director of party building, stated,
The NLP has always stood for "all party politics." By that we mean that we will endorse any candidate from any party who is the best person to spread our ideas. Our platform contains solutions to problems in many areas which have been scientifically verified and proven to work. In fact, the NLP will implement almost any solution which has been proven to work. If a candidate from, say, the Democratic (or any) Party, embraces these solutions and would try to implement them if he or she won, then we would endorse him or her. Our solutions are more important than the NLP title and that is where our focus is.Looking to 2004, the party's three-time presidential nominee, Dr. John Hagelin, has spoken about the "crucial need for a strong, independent political movement," but it is not clear whether he will make a fourth presidential run.
In the wake of September 11, Hagelin has advanced a proposal to prevent
terrorism based on "Invincible Defense Technology." Another key issue
for the party is its opposition to genetically engineered foods.
The Mothers for Natural Law section of the party's website states, "Genetic
engineering is the largest food experiment in the history of the world.
We are all the guinea pigs."
Reform Party: A Spent Force?
It is now a little more than ten years since Ross Perot's appearance on "Larry King Live" back on February 20, 1992. As an independent candidate, the quirky Texas billionaire garnered 19.7 million votes (18.91 percent of the vote) in November 1992. In September 1995 Perot set in motion the formation of the Reform Party, and as its candidate in November 1996 he won 8.1 million votes (8.40 percent of the vote). Reformers scored a major triumph in 1998, electing Jesse Ventura governor of Minnesota. The party split asunder in 2000 amid leadership struggles and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan's candidacy for the presidency under the Reform Party banner. Ultimately Buchanan gained the $12.6 million pot of federal funds that went with the nomination, but he managed just 448,892 votes (0.42 percent of the vote) in the general election. The Reform Party is now headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. It held its convention in Nashville from July 26-29, 2001. As of March 2002, its website shows it is running 17 candidates in 7 states. Cherilyn Bacon, chair of the party's public relations committee disputed the notion that the Reform Party is a spent force. "The party has a core group of dedicated workers who are building up the infrastructure and planning for future development," she stated.
Constitution Party: Biblical Roots but
Not Many Votes
Conservative activist Howard Phillips has led the Constitution Party, founded in 1992 as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, into three presidential elections. The Preamble to the Constitution Party's 2000 platform states, "We solemnly declare that the foundation of our political position and moving principle of our political activity is our full submission and unshakable faith in our Savior and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ." The party takes strong positions against abortion, the "New World Order" and the current tax system.
Money: The Mother's Milk of Politics
The three national committees of the Democratic Party still trail significantly behind the three national committees of the Republican Party in receipts. Activity by labor and other groups aligned with the Democrats somewhat equalizes the playing field, however it is clear that regardless of how the money is counted, there is a significant disparity in receipts.
|Democrats (DNC, DCCC, DSCC)||$ 59,682,448||$ 68,631,339||$128,313,787||$25,729,648|
|DNC||$ 28,457,128 (49%)||$ 29,774,238 (51%)||$ 58,231,366|
|DCCC||$ 16,680,305 (48%)||$ 18,129,728 (52%)||$ 34,810,033|
|DSCC||$ 14,545,015 (41%)||$ 20,727,373 (59%)||$ 35,272,388|
|Republicans (RNC, NRCC, NRSC)||$133,947,603||$100,103,681||$234,051,284||$42,641,676|
|RNC||$ 67,280,993 (58%)||$ 48,149,055 (42%)||$ 115,430,048|
|NRCC||$ 41,641,676 (60%)||$ 28,156,325 (40%)||$ 69,798,001|
|NRSC||$ 25,024,934 (51%)||$ 23,798,301 (49%)||$ 48,823,235|
The numbers in Table 1, above, differ a bit from those cited by the
party committees, shown in Table 2, below. Accounting explains the
differences. Take an example where a party committee sets up a phone
bank. The company running the phone bank may require a deposit.
Later, when the contract is completed, the company returns the deposit
to the party. The FEC would include this in receipts whereas the
party might not.
|Democrats (DNC, DCCC, DSCC)||$ 54.6||$ 63.1||$117.7|
|DNC||$ 24. (51.2%)||$ 22.9 (48.8%)||$ 46.9|
|DCCC||$ 16.4 (48.5%)||$ 17.4 (51.5%)||$ 33.8|
|DSCC||$ 14.2 (38.4%)||$ 22.8 (61.6%)||$ 37.0|
|Republicans (RNC, NRCC, NRSC)||$132.2||$ 71.8||$204.1|
|RNC||$ 63. (77%)||$ 19. (23%)||$ 82.0|
|NRCC||$ 39.7 (57.9%)||$ 28.9 (42.1%)||$ 68.6|
|NRSC||$ 29.5 (55.2%)||$ 23.9 (44.7%)||$ 53.5|
Campaign finance reform presents a big question mark for both parties
in early 2002. The legislation appears to be finally making headway
in part because of the environment created by the Enron scandal.
On February 14 the House passed Shays-Meehan (H.R.
2356, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001) by a vote of 240-189.
There was much discussion about whether the legislation would benefit one
or the other of the parties, but it still has to get through the Senate
and pass muster with President Bush. Commentators have pointed out
that one winner under the legislation could be Bush himself. Bush,
the supposition goes, may forego all federal funding in 2004, and would
need simply need to charge up his network of Pioneers. In the meantime
Democrats could face a bruising primary, but the survivor would not be
able to rely on Democratic soft money spending to bridge the period between
the end of the primaries and the convention.
1. The Maine State Senate is one of the tied chambers. A special election was held in District 27 on March 5. The Democrat came out narrowly ahead, but a recount was in the works. Should the Democrat hold on, Democrats would pick up that chamber. [The Senate affirmed Democrat Michael Brennan's election on March 22, putting the balance at 18D, 16R, 1I and giving Democrats a 49th chamber nationwide.]
2. In a March 5, 2002 press conference, Democrats made the case that, "For the Republicans, redistricting has to be called a failure" in a March 5, 2002 press conference. With seven states still to finalize their districts, Rep. Martin Frost, chair of IMPAC 2000, identified more than a dozen opportunities for Democratic pick-ups and noted that Democrats are keeping retirements well below the 41 that occurred in 1992, following the last redistricting. Meanwhile Republicans predicted a net gain of eight seats.
3. Both major party chairs have their critics. McAuliffe's business dealings have drawn attention; he had turned a $100,000 investment in the now-bankrupt firm Global Crossing into about $18 million. Meanwhile, Racicot was forced to back away from his original design of continuing his lobbying work with the Bracewell & Patterson law firm, but he continues to draw a salary from the firm.
4. Does not include internal transfers.
1... Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS)
2... House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-MO)
Copyright © 2002 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.