|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
The Reform Party in the United States is a political party founded in 1995 by billionaire two-time presidential candidate H. Ross Perot with no discernible ideology other than H. Ross Perot fandom. Perot had already run for president in 1992 as an independent and won 19% of the popular vote, the highest for a third party or independent candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. He parlayed that showing into a new political party. The Reform Party platform consisted entirely of side issues which "could be either liberal or conservative", like term limits, campaign finance reform, ending deficit spending and paying down the national debt, and opposition to NAFTA. Their ideology is sometimes called "producerist".
Since the Reform Party deliberately did not take any position on social issues like abortion and gay rights, nor on any economic theory beyond vague intention to pay down the national debt and save American jobs, they proved to be a magnet for a lot of serious and kook candidates alike using them as as ticket of convenience. Needless to say the incompatible mix this party attracted imploded once you got all these people together in the same room and Perot, the only thing holding them together, left the room. The first split happened when former Democratic governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, challenged Perot for the 1996 presidential nomination. Perot won the primaries leading to charges by Lamm supporters that Perot had manipulated the balloting and wasn't interested in building a new party, just a platform for himself to run for president.
For a time in the late 1990s it appeared the Reform Party had the potential to emerge as a third major party of the center, especially when Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998. Instead, after Ventura's election the party began to fall apart. The Reform Party was, however, in many ways a harbinger of as well as a product of emerging trends in politics: Jesse Ventura's upset election in Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket is often cited as the first political victory driven by grassroots activity on the Internet; Ross Perot's campaigns, driven by talk radio. Part of the reason the Reform Party became irrelevant was the two major parties belatedly learning to use (and manipulate) these new tools to their advantage.
 Faction fights!
The myriad factions and ego-clashes involved are complicated but they go something like this: some former Lamm supporters, already soured on Perot, left in 1997 to start the splinter "American Reform Party". Marxist Social Therapy advocates Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani disbanded their New Alliance Party and joined the Reform Party en masse, effectively giving them control of the New York chapter, meaning anyone seeking Reform Party support or their ballot line in New York would have to appease Newman and Fulani. Jesse Ventura fell out with Perot not long after being elected governor, and the Minnesota branch of the party left to become the Independence Party. Party chair Jack Gargan (of Florida, up to that point a Perot supporter) sided with Ventura and left.
Meanwhile the prospect of $12 million in federal matching funds for the upcoming 2000 presidential contest prompted perennial right-wing candidate Patrick Buchanan to leave the Republican Party and seek the 2000 Reform Party nomination. John Hagelin, perennial candidate of the Transcendental Meditation-promoting Natural Law Party also announced he was seeking the Reform Party nomination. Perot announced he wasn't running, leaving the existing Reform Party members with the choice of two distasteful fringe candidates. At first Perot backed Buchanan. In a bizarre move, the leftist Fulani and Newman backed Buchanan. Large numbers of religious right kooks, anti-abortion nuts and their ilk joined the Reform Party to support Buchanan, and the Reform Party platform took a lurch to the hard right under their influence. Much of the rank and file of the party, seeing the entry of the Buchananites as a hostile takeover, threw their support to "yogic flying" guru John Hagelin as their only realistic chance of stopping Buchanan. Perot fell out with Buchanan at some point, or simply got fed up with the Buchananite takeover, and announced his opposition to Buchanan and his endorsement of Republican candidate George W. Bush, effectively announcing he was finished with the Reform Party. Perot's 1996 running mate, antiglobalization activist Pat Choate, continued to support Buchanan, leading to a Perot-Choate spat. Newman and Fulani switched their allegiance to Hagelin after the inevitable "irreparable differences" with Buchanan emerged over abortion and gay rights (why they didn't see this coming...)
The 2000 convention itself, well let's just say it was a heap big mess with walkouts, lawsuits, charges, countercharges, counterwalkouts, floor fights, fist fights, and 8 by 10 glossy color photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. Anyhow, Pat Buchanan emerged as the Reform Party nominee. Yet when the general election rolled around, Buchanan got 0.43% of the popular vote.
Many most of his right-wing supporters had deserted him to support George W. Bush (cynics suggest a few reasons: one of them was the whole Buchanan debacle may have been engineered by conservative pressure groups whose allegiance was to the Republican Party and wanted to destroy the Reform Party using Buchanan as an unwitting tool; another cynical suspicion is that most of Buchanan's supporters deserted him due to rank racism and sexism after he chose Ezola Foster, an African-American woman, as his running mate.) As for the longtime rank and file members of the party, they mostly gave up in disgust and cast more votes for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000 than for their own party's candidate. Nader's platform - with things like campaign finance reform and antiglobalization - was probably closer to most of their views than Buchanan's anyhow.
In 2004 the Reform Party - all 7 or 8 remaining state chapters at least - endorsed Ralph Nader's independent campaign rather than run their own candidate. For a while in the 2000s the Reform Party split into two factions each claiming to be the "real" Reform Party, while a few of the state Independence Parties tried forming a national Independence Party to no avail. In 2008, the Reform Party nominated Ted Weill, and in 2012 Andre Barnett, as their presidential candidates. No, we've never heard of them either.
In other related news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.[citation NOT needed]
 Notable members (and former members)
- Ex-Governor (MN) Jesse "the body" Ventura
- Ross "the ears" Perot
- Donald "the hairpiece" Trump
- Pat "loved by elderly Boca Raton Jews" Buchanan