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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Thinking Outside the Ballot Box in Campaign 2000

August 11, 2000|MIKE DOWNEY

"So, are you going to be for Gore," a nosy friend just had to know, "or are you going to be for Bush?"

"No," I said.

"No, which?"

"No, neither."

"You mean you're undecided?"

"In a way," I said.

"About what?"

"About whether to vote Reform or Green," I said.

*

My friend stuck a finger in one ear, as if digging out wax.

"Excuse me?"

"I'm a registered Reformer," I said, "but I'm thinking about becoming a crossover Greener."

"You can't be serious."

I said that I was never more serious in my life. That I couldn't wait to get down to the big Reform Party Convention in downtown Long Beach. That I couldn't wait to pick up my Pat Buchanan for President campaign button, or else my John Hagelin for President button, depending which one we pick.

"You'd vote for Pat Buchanan?"

"Well, it's like a giant of American politics once said about Buchanan: 'I respect him. He makes people think.' "

"Which political giant?"

"Jesse Ventura."

My friend asked if I meant the same Minnesota Gov. Ventura who once called organized religion "a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people." Who once referred to a black professional wrestler as "Buckwheat." Who once said that he'd like to be reincarnated as a size 38 double-D bra.

I said Ventura's views did not necessarily represent those of all Reformers, except possibly the bra part.

I said we Reformers can sometimes be a wacky and fun-loving bunch, particularly when we put on our foam-rubber H. Ross Perot ears from the Long Beach souvenir shop.

I said sure, our delegates do have arguments and things get pretty wild, but that's all part of Buchananmania 2000!

"Come on, your man can't win," my friend said. "Who would ever vote for him for president?"

"Let me tell you something, my friend," I said. "In 1996, do you know how many votes Ross Perot got right here in California? I'll tell you how many--697,847. That's more votes than Bill Clinton got in Arkansas. That's more than Bob Dole got in Kansas."

My friend looked impressed.

"And that's nothing," I said. "In 1992, there were 2,296,006 Californians who voted for Perot instead of for Clinton or President Bush."

"Wow," my friend said.

"That plucky little Reform Party rascal of ours got 19,741,065 votes nationwide."

"I just thought he was a nut," my friend said.

"Well, see, that's something you always have to remember about the American people," I said.

"What's that?"

"Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't."

But what qualifies a Reform candidate to be president, my friend demanded to know. After all, the only thing Pat Buchanan ever did was that "Password" show on TV.

" 'Crossfire,' " I said.

And this guy Hagelin, he's a pharmacist.

"Physicist," I said.

People always distort the facts, don't they? I bet they don't even know that 15,403 Californians actually cast their votes for John Hagelin in the 1996 presidential election. Fifteen thousand people in this state felt Hagelin, the candidate of the Natural Law Party, would make a better commander-in-chief than Clinton or Bush.

"Natural Law?" my friend asked.

"Right."

"What's Natural Law mean?"

"I'm not sure," I said. "It's either a law based upon man's innate moral sense, like my dictionary says, or it means we should all be nudists."

"Oh."

"Either way, most of us at the Reform Party Convention would probably be for it."

*

So what about the Green Party? My friend insisted on knowing if I was joking about giving up Reform and turning Green.

"Me, joke?" I asked. "Never. Did you know that the Green Party's candidate, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, got 237,016 votes for president in California in 1996?"

"He did?"

"And he might get mine this time."

"How come?"

"Because I believe that Ralph Nader is the one man in America who could do something about the No. 1 problem in this country today!" I said.

"Poverty?" my friend asked. "Health care? Joblessness? Military defense?"

"Firestone tires," I said.

*

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to: Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. E-mail: mike.downey@latimes.com

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