Doing a McCain to Buchanan

Is the GOP plotting to derail the Reform Party candidacy of Pat Buchanan? Former Reform Party chairman Pat Choate alerted Chatterbox to an e-mail sent out en masse by Charley Kyd, Webmaster for the Republican Party of Snohomish County in Washington state. The message was written (and previously sent out en masse) by Chuck Muth, chairman of the Nevada branch of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian group affiliated with the Republican Party. At the end of Muth’s message, Kyd appended the comment, “I agree with everything he said. If you agree as well, please hurry.” (To read e-mail in full, click here.) Muth–and Kyd–were urging Republicans do to the Reform Party what Democratic supporters of John McCain were accused last winter of doing to the GOP: Cross over and sabotage the Reform primary vote!

Starting July 4, the Reform Party is holding a national primary to send delegates to its Long Beach, Calif., nominating convention in August. The e-mail urged GOP supporters to go to the Web site of Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin, who is challenging Buchanan for the Reform Party nomination, and to request a mail-in Reform Party ballot. By voting for Hagelin in the Reform Party primary, the message emphasized, the GOP might prevent former Republican Pat Buchanan from siphoning GOP votes from George W. Bush in the fall. (Hagelin would pose no threat to Bush. Although the name “Natural Law Party” connotes the conservative legal doctrines espoused by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, it is actually a leftist party founded in 1992 by followers of the Beatle-friendly Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Here is its platform.) Muth’s language was urgent and blunt:

Loyal Republicans voting in the Reform Party’s national presidential mail-in primary could do to Pat what Pat’s been doing to us. This is hardball politics, folks. I’ve already requested my ballot and I suggest you might want to do the same. And while you’re at it, why not forward this e-mail to everyone on YOUR list as well … ASAP!

Jerauld Miller, chairman of the Snohomish County GOP, told Chatterbox that he did not condone the e-mail forwarded by Kyd, his Webmaster. “It was a mistake,” Miller said. “Charley did not mean to indicate his official party title.” Kyd also expressed regret (“I should not have associated my opinion with the GOP”) and said none of his superiors knew about Muth’s scheme until complaints about Kyd’s e-mail began pouring in. Kyd urged Chatterbox to talk to Muth. “It’s his idea,” he said. “Go do an expose on him.”

Muth was unapologetic. He told Chatterbox he’d sent his message out to 8,000 people, “mostly Republican activists” and “party leaders.” One activist Muth talked to said he was going to download multiple copies of the Reform Party ballot and bring them to next week’s meeting of the Republican Party of Clark County, Nev., in Las Vegas. Muth said he hadn’t discussed his proposal with GOP leaders, but “if other GOP organizations pick up on it and wish to follow it, I think it’s a good thing.”

Although Chatterbox hasn’t mastered the complex rules governing the Reform Party’s presidential-nominee selection (here they are; and here’s a Slate Explainer column written on the subject last year), it appears that Buchanan would need control of two-thirds of the Reform Party delegates to void a primary victory for Hagelin. According to Choate, Buchanan’s got the two-thirds already; a June 21 Gannett News Service story by Carl Weiser says Buchanan has closer to one-third. Chatterbox thinks a more plausible candidate for GOP dirty tricksters to be pushing on the Reform Party is Ralph Nader. Nader ought to have more appeal to Reform Party types than Hagelin; indeed, he ought to have more appeal to Reform Party types than Buchanan. (Like Buchanan, Nader’s an economic nationalist; but unlike him, no one’s ever called him a racist, an anti-Semite, or an abortion foe.) But Nader apparently doesn’t want the Reform Party nod. And besides, Republican troublemakers would probably have a hard time stomaching even a tactical vote for the founder of the modern nanny state.