Jewish World Review August 4, 1999 /22 Av 5759
Why? Because Weicker, like Ventura, is a liberal on social issues, such as abortion rights. Like Ventura, he will offer the strongest appeal to those younger, hipper, live-and-let-live voters who tend to vote Democratic.
This is the thrust of third-party politics in the coming national campaign. We're not talking about a square, business conservative from Dallas like Ross Perot, but a liberal-leaning moderate from the Northeast backed by a populist wrestler from the midwest.
For a preview of this coming political attraction, check the numbers in Ventura's victory last November.
While mocked by the national media and political professionals as a macho, right-wing screwball, he is a far different cat than that.
As essayist Garry Wills has noted, the pro wrestler-turned radio personality lost the conservative vote to the Republican candidate. while tying the Democratic candidate (Hubert Humphrey's son) among women, and beating him among both college graduates and liberals.
Ventura may be calculating that Weicker, the well-born Yalie, can do the same next year on the national level -- steal that hipper, state-of-the-art electorate that the Democrats take for granted.
What spurs my own belief in this 2000 scenario is a speech '96 vice presidential nominee Pat Choate gave last Saturday night to the Reform Party national convention.
It was not Pat's Fortress America philosophy, his charisma or specific policy prescriptions that stirred me. It was something more important: something he said about the direction this country has taken at century's end.
"Even before the first hall is rented or a single vote is cast we know the winner of the Republican contest. We also know the Democratic ticket will be led by one of two men. Most likely he will be the incumbent vice president.
"Quite simply, rank-and-file Democratic and Republican party members are irrelevant in this selection. The leaders of the two parties and their financial backers have already decided the outcome. All the rest, the primaries, the caucuses, the conventions, are nothing but a campaign show."
With the applause peaking, Choate took his hardest shot against this country's electoral duopoly.
"I doubt that what is happening in the Republican and Democratic parties this year is the Founding Fathers' vision of democracy. This is the politics of family dynasty where power relationships and loyalties are passed down almost by hereditary privilege. It is the politics of special interests in which voters are there to be spun. It is the politics where all that matters is to win office, where the views of the two princelings (George W. Bush and Al Gore) are quite literally indistinguishable on most of the major issues of our times."
Can this assault on the two-party system prevail? Can a Weicker or other Reform Party candidate grab first place in a three-way race next year?
This much we know: Eight years ago, Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote. He did so after a nationally televised display of flakiness -- entering, then quitting, then re-entering the race. Then, having claimed that North Vietnamese troops overran his front lawn, he overran the experts by winning a million-plus votes in New York, in Ohio, in Texas, almost that number in Illinois and in Michigan, and well more than 2 million in California.
Does anyone believe the anger manifested in these numbers against the two parties and their Big Money politics has lessened in the last eight years? Or that liberals are less angry at the corrupt system of campaign finance than