Reform Party must

The battle is on for location control of the Reform Party’s 2000 national convention. This conflict comes at a bad time, as the party is already splitting into factions.
The Reform Party convention has traditionally been held in Long Beach, Calif. The party’s 11 member executive committee decided in September to hold the 2000 convention in California. However, a recent vote taken by more party members overturned the executive committee’s decision. The new vote was 45.5 for an unspecified Minnesota location, 17 votes for California and 12 uncommitted. The current plan is to move the convention to St. Paul.
As the vote reveals, the Reform Party appears to be splitting into two branches. On the stronger side are Gov. Jesse Ventura, the party’s highest elected officeholder, McCluhan and chairman-elect Jack Gargan, who will take over Jan. 1. On the weaker side are current chairman Russ Verney, Ross Perot loyalists and eight of the 11 members of the party’s executive committee.
Those who advocate holding the convention in Minnesota cite its central location. Minnesota would benefit from the national and international attention it would bring. Minnesota Reform Party Chairman Rick McCluhan said, “It’s obviously good for the economy, good for the party, and I guarantee you, Minnesota knows how to welcome convention business.”
This debate over the location of the convention has become a power struggle within the party. Verney is trying to use his influence as much as possible on his way out to ensure Perot’s role in the party. He pushed for the original executive committee vote and called the new vote “a farce.” His opposition stems from fears that moving the convention to Minnesota would give Ventura’s supporters an even greater say in how the party is run.
Although his concerns might be well-founded, his reaction will only hurt the Reform Party. While the leaders are caught up playing petty games, voters might turn to other more established parties that keep their squabbles more contained.
The Reform Party was first established out of a frustration with the federal government’s failures and arrogance. It aimed to give individual citizens a stronger voice in governance while recognizing the diversity of the United States. This position could prove to be a major strength of the party in coming years, but the current debacle suggests the party is losing control.
The party needs to get back to its original ideals and find a way to work as one political party while celebrating its diversity. The conflict over the location of the convention should never have become such a source of tension. Verney should accept that Perot’s political life has ended and work to support the Reform Party as it grows, rather than attempting to kill it off in its infancy.