Dear Pat Buchanan: You and I have been friends for some time. You are a model of conviction and personal integrity. So far as I know, you have never allowed a focus group or opinion poll to help you form your convictions. You are now flirting with the Reform Party, whose chief contribution to American political history is that it kept a Republican from winning the White House the last two election cycles and elected a man for whom a minority of Americans voted. This man, Bill Clinton, has named two liberal justices to the Supreme Court and contemptuously treated the highest office Americans can bestow on a fellow countryman. You are absolutely correct when you say, as you did on Meet the Press recently, that the Republican Party "at the national level has become a Xerox copy basically of the Democratic Party.... I think what we have is a one-party system in Washington that is masquerading as a two-party system, and I think what we need is a real opposition party." And you make a point worthy of consideration when you write in your new book, A Republic, Not an Empire: "I sought to persuade my party that the course on which America had embarked was replicating, with alarming exactitude, the course that brought the British Empire to ruin.... What was most frustrating was to discover in my own party a reflexive hostility to any dissent on foreign policy." The Republican Party needs the debate you bring to it, Pat. Flee and it won't happen. My concern is that you will surely go the way of Ross Perot, should you decide to run as the Reform Party's presidential candidate. Time magazine carries a Frank Luntz poll this week that indicates you will get about 6 percent of the vote, not enough to win but possibly enough to keep the Republican nominee from winning and handing the election to the Democratic nominee. A Democratic president will name enough justices to the Supreme Court to guarantee liberal political and social dominance in this country for another four decades. Would you like that to be your legacy? I think you love your country too much to contribute to that nightmare. Here's a suggestion. Stay in the Republican Party for one more election. If your party holds its congressional majority while winning the White House, you can and should expect it to make good on its promises of significantly lowering taxes, substantially reducing the size and reach of government, offering school choice, seriously addressing the social issues, and articulating a foreign policy that considers American interests first. If the GOP fails to follow through when it has government under its political control, then you should make for the door, and I will be among those cheering you on. I agree with you that America is over-extended around the world, fighting and paying for other people's battles while ignoring jobs lost when corporations take them overseas. But not enough Americans are where you are on this. Going the third-party route will mean you won't persuade sufficient numbers to come with you in next year's election, but you will take enough votes away from the Republican nominee to possibly thwart his election chances. Do you think any Republican president would be worse than Al Gore or Bill Bradley? Gov. George W. Bush says he believes he'll take most of the conservatives with him, but he could be underestimating your threat and the growing fed-upness of the Republican letdown in Congress. Pat, if you go third party and follow the debacle of Ross Perot's two candidacies, you will marginalize yourself into insignificance, as Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire has done with his withdrawal into independent status. Stay in the party and perhaps you can bring it home to the beliefs of Ronald Reagan. Leave it and you create a vacuum that few others can fill. C'mon, Pat. One more time, not just for the Gipper, but for the republic.
-© 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate