November 8, 2000


We don't know who the next President of the United States is going to be – and we won't know for at least the next 24 hours, as the Bushies claim victory and the Gore camp refuses to accept defeat. As I write this a 1655-vote margin has Bush ahead by a hair in Florida – a state that was called twice last night by the networks, first for Gore then for Bush – and then put into a state of suspended animation. The remaining absentee and overseas military ballots still have eight more days to arrive, and will be counted provided they are postmarked November 7th: we won't know who won until the end of the week, in all likelihood. If the Gore camp challenges the results in court there could be further delays – and the legitimacy of the entire process could be called into account.


To add a potentially volatile element to the mix, the popular vote as of this writing – 5:20 Wednesday morning, Pacific Standard Time – has Al Gore ahead by some 200,000 votes! The resulting confusion, and the crisis of the system, is a fitting climax to an election that was a farce from the very beginning, no more democratic than similar exercises in Milosevic's Serbia, UN-occupied Kosovo, or Equatorial Africa. With both "major" parties awash in corporate "contributions," conspiring together to co-sponsor phony "debates" from which the other two major candidates were barred – Ralph Nader was kicked out of the room, even though he had a ticket! – the fix was in from the very beginning. Pat Buchanan received $12,000,000 in federal matching funds, but was still deemed not significant enough by the corporate-sponsored "Commission on Presidential Debates" to be included. Al Gore was spared Ralph Nader's withering scorn, and lucky Dubya never had to lock horns with Buchanan – a confrontation the former might not have survived. In a thoroughly controlled and carefully protected environment, like two toddlers in a playpen, the two candidates were allowed to bicker over nuances in their respective approaches to taxes, Medicare, federal education policy, Social Security, and foreign policy. This made it easier for the media to focus voters' attention on style rather than substance, and the political debate was almost entirely bereft of even a hint of ideology. But the two ideologues, Nader and Buchanan, would have their revenge in the end.


Nader polled 3% of the total, racking up some two and a half million votes and making the difference not only in Florida, but also in Wisconsin, Oregon, and New Hampshire: if Bush holds on to his slight edge in Florida (a mere handful of votes), then Nader will have denied Gore a victory in the electoral college. On the other hand, even if Bush wins in terms of electoral votes, if he loses the popular vote – and this appears to be the case as of this writing – his victory may turn out to be a Pyrrhic one. The Republicans were the first to declare that if they lost in the electoral college, but won the popular vote, they would protest the election results and undertake a mass mobilization to keep the Democrats from "stealing" the election, as Milosevic tried to do in the former Yugoslavia. But now that the shoe may very well be on the other foot, do the Republicans still feel the same way? What if the Democrats decide to do exactly that?


On the national level, Buchanan's 450,000-plus votes, in spite of amounting to a little less than 1%, wound up making the difference between a clear victory for Bush and a dubious triumph confined to the mysterious, arcane, and suspiciously elitist institution known as the Electoral College. While the Weekly Standard rushed into print with a sneering piece advising the Buchanan Brigades to "Put Away Your Pitchforks," dismissing Pat's impact on the election as negligible, it turned out that the Bushies did feel Buchanan's sting – one that could prove fatal to their hopes of recapturing the White House. Because he is a gracious man, and also not a sectarian, Pat has indicated that he hopes Bush wins: but that just makes the frustration of the Republicans all the more bitter. For it means that they needn't have lost Buchanan and his followers to begin with, and did so only on account of their blind arrogance.


In a contest that often seemed about as profound as an election for class president pitting George Jock against Al Know-it-All, ideological undercurrents roiled beneath the surface – and were, when push came to shove, the decisive factor. In the battle between the two major party candidates personality seemed to trump substance, and the struggle of opposing ideas was reduced to marginal differences over prescription drug policy. Yet ideology entered into the equation with the emergence of Ralph Nader. Needling and ridiculing Gore as a hypocrite and a coward, undercutting the Democratic base and having a fun time doing it, Nader forced Gore to devote precious resources and energy to defending his left flank. While Buchanan was less of a problem for the Republicans, his hard-hitting last minute ads attacking our bipartisan interventionist foreign policy undoubtedly upped the Reformers' vote totals, notably in Illinois, home to a large Serbian-American population, and also in parts of the Midwest. Even crippled by endless lawsuits, harassed by Perotista disrupters, and practically sidelined by the serious illness of the candidate, in the end the Buchananite rebellion landed a crippling blow – a sucker-punch that has Bushies reeling on the ropes. In addition, there are those many thousands of conservatives who were so turned off by the militant "moderation" of the Philadelphia-ized GOP that they simply sat on their hands and stayed home. No, I don't believe the time has come for the Brigades to put away their pitchforks quite yet: – indeed, they should be sharpening them, and preparing for the next phase of the battle.


It was the night before Election Day 2000, and, all through the house, not a creature was stirring – only my mouse. Relentlessly surfing from poll to poll, I sat at the keyboard, glum at the prospect of what tomorrow had in store. The numbers were depressing: while the CBS/Wall Street Journal poll had Buchanan up to 2 percent, Zogby was showing Pat falling behind Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party candidate. Yikes! – I thought. I'll never live that one down! But then Zogby was calling the election for Gore, by two points: I looked back in their earlier results, and saw that at one juncture they had polled 1% for the completely unknown Dave McReynolds, the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party. Taking comfort in the fact that something must be definitely wrong with Zogby's numbers, I went to, checked to see the next morning's articles about Buchanan – and went into shock.


The headline read: "Buchanan Re-examines 3rd Party Idea." Say what? Isn't it a little late for that? A numbness seemed to coat my consciousness, my mind reflexively protecting itself from the shock of what was to come. Reporting from Michigan, the Associated Press story quoted Buchanan as saying that "a third party may be the wrong way to reach the American people." Pat went on to say:

"I've decided that a presidential campaign is really not a place where great ideas and great issues can be best advanced. . . . You've got to think as to what is the best forum. I've been able to influence, I think, over my career of 35 years ... a lot of policies and a lot of decisions. But this does not appear to be the best format to do it."


To begin with the obvious: is this really the kind of thing to say one day before the election? Pat's supporters, who gave their money and their time – some of whom traveled all the way to Long Beach, California, and tangled with the Perotistas on his behalf – deserved better. What are they – chopped liver? At a Wednesday morning press conference, Buchanan explicitly denied the import of the Associated Press report. That said, Buchanan is, after all, only human: at the end of a long and physically grueling campaign, with less than half a million votes to show for it, it's only natural that a certain level of depression should set in, or that a reporter should mistakenly interpret Buchanan's remarks for terminal despair. The next day, however, as the returns came in, Pat appeared to be taking it all in stride, declaring to his supporters on election night in Arlington, Virginia, that "This is our party and this is our home." He said that the Reform Party will "become the core of a national conservative populist party. It will be the first in America. It's a number of years off, but it will happen." Now that's more like it.


A third party movement is certainly not the best forum: indeed, it was, you remember, a step taken as a last resort. The whole reason for Buchanan's switching to Reform was the complete prostration of conservative Republicans before the party's liberal internationalist wing. A major problem was that, during the GOP primaries, conservatives had hardly presented a united front. While Buchanan's first two campaigns enjoyed the distinction of being the only conservative alternative to a Bush or a Dole, election year 2000 brought a plethora of ostensibly conservative standard-bearers, all of whom contended with Buchanan for hegemony on the Right. Each and every subset and faction put up their own preferred candidate: Alan Keyes for the pro-life crowd, Gary Bauer for the remnants of the Moral Majority, Steve Forbes for the economic conservatives, and Buchanan for the antiwar, anti-globalist contingent. Lost in the crowd, Buchanan never gained momentum, his contributor and volunteer base was severely constricted, and he was forced to drop out of the GOP primary: his bolt to Reform kept the movement alive, though, well after the rest has fizzled out and dropped by the wayside. Buchanan and his following, unlike the other largely single-issue Johnny-one-note candidates, actually represented a new political development: a populism of the right that combined the traditional conservative opposition to the Federal Leviathan with an increasingly sharp critique of the liberal corporate state. Buchanan and his intellectual sympathizers, the "paleo-conservative" writers and publicists associated with Chronicles magazine, had by this time mapped out a fairly coherent and comprehensive program: militant opposition to the three main trends now dominant in American political culture: imperialism, mercantilism, and a super-centralism culminating in "global governance."


On the left, a very different but parallel critique of these three trends took shape in the form of the Nader campaign: Nader, like Buchanan, criticized the two party system as a "duopoly" and pointed to the bipartisan collusion that ensured a regime of corruption, corporate welfare, and cronyism. Both took up themes of sovereignty as a principle worth defending, and both denounced our interventionist foreign policy, calling for an end to NATO and a more evenhanded approach to the problems of the Middle East. Acting separately, but marching together, both the left and right-populist movements, represented by the Greens and the Reformers respectively, effectively denied victory to either of the two "major" parties. For months, Nader and Buchanan have spent a lot of their time and effort trying to deny the legitimacy of the electoral process – and in the end they succeeded in making their point rather forcefully.


What is the solution to this looming constitutional crisis? It is urgently necessary to re-legitimize a process that seems more dubious by the hour: what is needed is not a recount but a rerun, In short, a second round of voting. This time, however, let's do it right: we need one last debate – this time opening it up to the top four vote-getters – followed by another round of voting. The closeness of the vote, and the need to resolve the national crisis, will increase voter turnout, which was only about 52%. This is up from 1996, but less than came out in 1992, when they let Perot into the debates. The only way to solve this otherwise insoluble dilemma is to subject both Dubya and Gore to some ordeal – say, forcing them to get in the arena with two of the most skilled polemicists in the country. Let's see what these guys are really made of – and then put the fate of the country up for a vote.


The choice is clear: either we open up the system, or else the system will collapse, as it did in Yugoslavia, when the people took to the streets to defend the integrity of the electoral process. As Republicans claim their hollow Electoral College "victory," and the Gore camp digs in its heels, insisting on the validity of their popular plurality, a second round is the only way out. Besides clarifying the real views of the voting public, this would give the Gore camp a few more weeks to come up with the real dirt on Ralph Nader, or else try to make a rational appeal to Green voters; it would also give Dubya a chance at claiming a true national mandate by winning over Buchanan voters with, say, a pledge to get our troops out of Kosovo by a date certain, as congressional Republicans have proposed. The present crisis of American democracy is a direct consequence of excluding the so-called "extremes" of left and right from the national debate, and locking them out of the process: the result has been the failure to generate any meaningful consensus, and the virtual breakdown of the electoral system. The alleged "extremists," Nader and Buchanan, have had their revenge – and made their point: they have had the last laugh and are the real victors in this election.

Text-only printable version of this article

An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard
Available NOW!
$10 off!

“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.


Past Columns

The Real Victors: Nader & Buchanan

Buchanan's "Hail Mary" Pass May Work

Doubletalkin' Dubya: Bush Backtracks on Kosovo

The Nader Moment

The Smearing of Ralph Nader

Nader Sells Out

America's Fifth Column

Bush, the Balkans, and the Bipartisan "Division of Labor"

Hilary, the War Goddess

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love

The Middle East: War Without End

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters

Revolt of the Little Guys

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisted

Curtains for Milosevic

Dubya's Kosovo Deception

The Return of Pat Buchanan


The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones

Colombia – The Deja Vu War

Passage to Cartagena: An Inauspicious Visit

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers

Blowback: Read This Book!

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

Sign up for our Mailing List


Please Support

A contribution of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send contributions to
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form


Have an e-gold account?
Contribute to via e-gold.
Our account number is 130325

Your Contributions are now Tax-Deductible

Back to Home Page | Contact Us