Patrick Buchanan’s Reform Party Begins to Unravel
As the reform party unravels in the wake of a disastrous run for office, right-wing extremists scramble to pick up the pieces
By Martin A. Lee
In June 2000, Fleming delivered a pep talk at a Chicago fundraising banquet for Buchanan, which was attended by representatives of the Council of Conservative Citizens.
When Buchanan went over to the Reform Party, a communiqué from the League of the South's Alabama section rejoiced that "conservatives do have a place to go. The Reform Party is America First on nation-defining issues. ... It is essential that Buchananism lives on after the 2000 election."
Members of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, headed by the late William Pierce (see Facing the Future), were also among the foot soldiers who enlisted in the Buchanan brigades. ("Of all the people who are involved in politics in America, I would give the best rating to Pat Buchanan," Pierce stated in a 1999 interview.)
After he joined the North Carolina chapter of the Reform Party, long-time Alliance activist Will Williams circulated an E-mail to his National Alliance comrades, urging them to participate in the Buchanan campaign.
Waxing euphoric over the prospects of "a much more radicalized, White-friendly Reform Party come November," the E-mail proclaimed: "It's our job to get out there in our areas, to raise consciousness, attract and radicalize 'those very people' — OUR people — then organize them into a majority."
Mark Cotterill, who has visited the Alliance's West Virginia compound on several occasions, also endorsed an "entryist" strategy — an attempt to infiltrate and take over the Reform Party.
Far-right activists hoped that the Reform Party, with Buchanan at the helm, would become an American version of Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National, the neofascist organization that commands close to 20% of the vote in France.
But Buchanan alienated much of his core constituency when he chose Ezola Foster, a black woman who was a member of the John Birch Society, as his vice-presidential running mate.
Shortly thereafter, the Los Angeles Times disclosed that Foster had collected workers' compensation for a mental disorder, which, by her own admission, she never actually had. White nationalists reacted with scorn and derision, even though Foster, an anti-immigration and anti-abortion zealot, embraced their position in favor of displaying the Confederate battle flag.
Declaring that Buchanan was "now part of the problem, and not part of the solution," Mark Cotterill disdainfully referred to Foster as "a Negress." Entryism, the British Cotterill now concluded, was not a strategy that could work in the American context.
The Preacher With a Rap Sheet
Despite the Buchanan debacle, several right-wing extremists with electoral hopes chose to remain with the Reform Party, and some continue to hold high-ranking positions in what's left of the organization.
Jerome E. Heinemann, a devoted Reform Party activist and early Perot supporter, lives in the rolling hills of Pocahontas County, W. Va., not far from the 400-acre National Alliance compound where arch-Nazi William Pierce spent decades plotting the pale-skinned revolution.
In addition to his role as vice-chair of the West Virginia Reform Party, Heinemann is the regional representative of the party's northeast section (which encompasses eight states) and serves on the 11-member national executive committee that sets policy for the entire organization.
Heinemann believes there are unique opportunities for the Reform Party in the sparsely populated Smokey Mountain state, given that about 60% of registered voters are Democrats and the GOP is hardly a factor in many areas.
Several Reform Party candidates are campaigning for local offices in parts of West Virginia that lack a Republican challenger. Heinemann, 57, is running for the Pocahontas County Commission.
But Heinemann is not only a key figure in the Reform Party. He is also a pastor of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology with a rap sheet dating back to the mid-1980s.
Heinemann initially ran afoul of the law while living in New Jersey, where he taught a course on how to fool the IRS by creating a church or some other type of non-profit organization. Arrested and convicted on conspiracy charges related to tax fraud, he served a 33-month prison sentence. Three of his cohorts were also nailed for tax evasion.
"They were trying to make an example of us," Heinemann asserts today. "The IRS was trying to stop the tax rebellion movement."
After he got out of prison, Heinemann moved to rural West Virginia and set up shop as an ordained minister of a local church. Officially known as the New Christian Crusade Church of Appalachia, it is actually an offshoot of a virulent anti-Semitic sect run by pastor James K. Warner.
Heinemann describes his ministry as "an integrated auxiliary of the New Christian Crusade Church of Metarie, Louisiana," which Warner founded in 1971.
In his own mission statement, "The Creed of Christian Nationalism," Warner touts the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as proof of an ongoing, Jewish super-conspiracy "to establish a World Government, which would destroy American sovereignty, the national identity of our people and our racial and religious self-respect."
The Web site of the Christian Defense League, which is the secular arm of Warner's church, offers an array of books for sale with noxious titles such as Chain Ganged by the Jewish Gestapo, Adolf Hitler and the Secrets of the Holy Grail, Christ or the Red Fog, The Six Million Swindle, and The Hitler We Loved and Why.
An avid reader, Heinemann is a big fan of Imperium, the sprawling tome by the late American fascist Francis Parker Yockey.
"It's one tremendous book," says Heinemann, who can talk for hours about arcane subjects like "the science of numerics," which counts how many times certain words appear in the Bible while supposedly revealing the esoteric meaning of arithmetical lore that imbues the Holy Scriptures with mystical significance.
The Break-Up Begins
Jerome Heinemann acknowledges that he is not the only Reform Party member who subscribes to Christian Identity ideas. In a recent interview, he vented his rage against the "Judeo-fundamentalists," which is how he refers to the Christian Right leaders who support "the Bush regime" and the state of Israel.
"Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell — they're absolutely the worst," says Heinemann.
Heinemann has few kind words for either major party these days, but he aims his sharpest barbs at Republican President George W. Bush.
"In terms of 2004, we have one goal," Heinemann insists, "and that is to defeat Bush. I wouldn't care if Hillary Clinton became president. At least when Bill Clinton was in the White House, the so-called conservatives or constitutionalists or whatever they call themselves did everything they could to obstruct the federal government. Now they do nothing, while Bush acts like a dictator and the government spies on American citizens under the pretense of homeland security."
But Heinemann's bluster cannot conceal the fact that the Reform Party as a whole is in big trouble these days. Locked in a bitter power struggle, he is trying to keep the party together.
Earlier this year, several national executive committee members resigned, along with the leaders of 18 state chapters that decided to disaffiliate from the national organization and launch a new group, the America First Party (AFP). Based in Boulder, Colo., the upstart AFP is headed by Dan Charles, a Jewish right-wing activist previously aligned with the Reform Party.
On nearly every issue, these two establishment-bashing, sovereignty-obsessed mini-parties are identical. ("They let the UN pass judgment on our laws and our people. ... They leave our borders wide open to terrorists," the AFP rails on its Web site.)
But the rump Reform Party and the AFP have parted ways on abortion. Heinemann and his allies on the shrunken Reform Party executive committee argued on strategic grounds against taking a strong stand with respect to abortion in order not to alienate potential third party supporters who were pro-choice or not particularly interested in the issue.
This prompted the right-to-life absolutists to pack up and leave the party. Some enlisted in the AFP, which pandered to anti-abortion militants, while others gravitated toward rival splinter groups.
Ezola Foster recently announced that she was joining the American Independent Party, a remnant of segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace's independent presidential campaign in 1968.
The American Independent Party wants to abolish federal income taxes, pull the United States out of the United Nations, and protect America from an international conspiracy to make it join a "one-world socialist government."
Today the party only exists in California, where it has, remarkably, over 300,000 supporters, or 2% of the state's registered voters. But the American Independent Party does have a national affiliation with an organization called the Constitution Party. ("I'm a Constitutionalist," Foster explained, "and it's the only party that recognizes the kingship of Jesus Christ. I'm 100% for that.")
Formerly known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the cantankerous Constitution Party, led by Howard Phillips, has been a fixture on the far-right margins for some time, catering to tax protesters, gun nuts, militia malcontents, "common-law court" rebels and the like.
Lou Mabon, a conservative Christian crusader against abortion, homosexuality and judicial authority, is currently the Constitution Party nominee for one of Oregon's Senate seats. During the 1980s and '90s, Mabon made a name for himself with a series of statewide and local ballot initiatives targeting gay rights.
Today, the Constitution Party is hoping to scoop up cast-offs from the Reform Party in Oregon, which disintegrated in recent months. But some people, like Claire Heil, erstwhile treasurer of the Reform Party's Oregon chapter, have lost their gusto for third-party politics. Heil was a Perot booster in the 1990s and gung-ho for Buchanan in 2000.
In a letter to the editor of The American's Bulletin, a conspiracist Patriot tabloid published in Medford, Ore., Heil ruminated on the "true" history of Dec. 25, Christmas Day, which, she claims, is actually the birthday of "Nimrod, the first leader of a one-world government ... the black man who introduced human sacrifice and cannibalism to the world."
Heil credited her ideas to Eustace Mullins, an inveterate anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist (see related stories, Mainstreaming Hate and 'Risking Their Freedom'). She has since drifted back to the Republican Party.
Returning to the GOP is not an attractive option for K.C. McAlpin, Peter Gemma and several other Virginia Reform Party holdovers, who have been pondering whether to stick with the rump Reform organization or affiliate with another group.
They would prefer to see all the small, far-right parties unite, but that now seems a remote possibility at best. Indeed, as the rocky saga of the Reform Party illustrates, the likelihood of a right-wing third-party force emerging any time soon to seriously challenge the two major parties on a national level is almost nil.
Even the considerable energies of those hard-liners who did their best to help Pat Buchanan win the presidency failed to boost the party significantly, and now those same men and women are increasingly being scattered to the political winds.
The Reform Party may ultimately dissolve into total insignificance — its poor 2000 showing means, among other things, that it is not eligible for federal campaign funds in the next election — but many of the ideas that it has pushed clearly have resonance among large portions of the public.
One telling indication of that is the remarkable popularity of Buchanan's 2001 book about "the vanishing white race," The Death of the West. The book, which cites neo-Nazi and white supremacist sources, had been on The New York Times bestseller list for 11 weeks at press time, reaching as high as No. 4.
"There are a lot of people in this country who feel like I do," says a disappointed McAlpin. "Unfortunately, no one since Perot has been able to capture the allegiance of the large independent constituency that's out there. We are still hoping and waiting for that third horse to come along."
Martin A. Lee, author of The Beast Reawakens, is a contributing writer for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.