Weird Political Science: Reform Party Mitosis

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The Reform party didn't just kick off one unscripted convention on Thursday, but two.

Pat Buchanan and his delegates are in one hotel, the original site, claiming to have credentialed 366 Reform party delegates. John Hagelin and his Perotistas have moved into another one, just down the street; they say they've got 275. There are supposedly only 596 delegates to go around.

Outside, there have been shouting matches, shoving matches and singing matches (the Perot people are partial to "We Shall Overcome"). There have been standoffs with security forces. Each side is claiming to be the one true Reform party. "This is the main theater, this is the Reform party convention," the nuclear physicist Hagelin said as he arrived. "We're going to conduct the Reform party convention. Pat Buchanan is conducting the Buchanan convention."

Inside, Buchanan's henchmen — committee chairman Gerald Moan and head credentialer Frank Reed — are doing just that. And it looks like a city council meeting: old white men, mostly, trying to understand parliamentary procedure, trying to figure out which delegates are still showing up, trying to get to a point when they can actually vote. Everybody's referring to Roger's Rules, but nobody seems to have a copy. But it must be the real convention, because it's on C-SPAN.

There is confusion. There are pleas for explanations. Some of the delegates are wearing red foam-and-mesh "Buchanan" hats that hopefully were given away free.

Sample quote, from Reed: "The question is the amendment to the amendment... Those opposed sit down, and those opposed stand up. OK, that's fairly overwhelming. Thank you. We are making progress." Light applause.

It moves at the pace of dentistry.

The Perot loyalists have already filed an FEC complaint, claiming fraud and hoping to discredit Buchanan, get the dough, and save the party by somehow rallying 5 percent of the vote with it. Buchanan, however, seems to have the inside track. Good thing Hagelin, a nuclear physicist who advocates transcendental meditation, has a fall-back:

He's also running for president with the Natural Law Party.