First, just two days before the Reform party convention opens Thursday in Long Beach, some procedural Rashomonics between the party's Perot and Buchanan wings turned into a shoving match that had to be broken up by police. Then the 35-odd Perotistas stormed out of the hotel, went down the street to another one and declared themselves the one true Reform party.
Meanwhile, 115 remaining Buchananites found that the voting mostly certification of delegates for the party convention that starts tomorrow went much more smoothly without the Perot people around, and at the end of a long day Bay Buchanan was declaring "It's over now... We've won fair and square." The Perotistas plan to sue, and may even hold their own convention. It's all very complicated.
The real question, though, is should anyone care?
Party founder Perot is on the shelf, Jesse Ventura quit long ago, and even Lowell Weicker had the good sense not to get involved. Perotista candidate John Hagelin doesn't even register on national polls, and Buchanan, meanwhile, has lost his religious righties to George W. Bush and his labor/protectionists to Ralph Nader, and is stuck at one percent. It's a political truism that there's room for only one third-party candidate in a nation that can hardly be bothered to vote for the other two, and Nader is it.
Still, $12.6 million is a lot of dough. It's why Buchanan, who was having trouble raising money from a very pragmatic Christian right, came to dinner with the Perot crowd in the first place. He roused enough rabble to stack the national committee with allies and the convention with delegates, and by Sunday the nomination will be his, though he's unlikely to close the deal without some fireworks from the Perot people. Lawsuits are promised, but eventually the FEC will probably just wearily write the check to Buchanan and hope to Pat's vengeful God that he polls under 5 percent in 2000. (With $12.6 million and a month or two, however, don't bet against him.)
Oh, the Reform party or is it the Reform parties now? is great fun to watch. But the political screenwriters in Philly and Los Angeles get paid the big bucks for a reason: Political bar brawls are great television, but it doesn't exactly make you want to put that party anywhere near the White House.