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"The what?" I asked.
The Holt Health Book. They were using this book in classrooms around the country, he explained; it told teenagers that the best way to get to know someone was to have sex with them. And that's not all: In classrooms using the Holt book, instructors actually demonstrated techniques for getting people into bed. I promised him I'd look into it.
* * * * *
I'll say this for the Buchananites: They have a clear point of view. The splinter Reform Party bore no such burden: Never before had I seen such a naked alliance of convenience. There was the Natural Law Party, a group of New Age technocrats whose standard-bearer, John Hagelin, had through a series of flukes and missed chances become the only alternative for delegates opposed to Buchanan. There were the old Perot loyalists, led by Russ Verney, whose address to the rump convention touched on all the hot issues of 1992, from congressional perks to the line-item veto. There was Charles Collins, a perennial presidential candidate of the ultra-right, who threw his hat into the ring at both conventions. There was Lenora Fulani, a black Marxist who some say leads a cult.
What do these people have in common? They accuse the Buchanan forces of stealing the party through illegal political tactics. And they'd like to get their hands on the $12.6 million in federal money that the Reform nominee has coming to him.
I was walking through the alternate convention's lobby when I heard a voice say, "Excuse me--is your name Jesse?"
The man addressing me looked vaguely familiar. "I went to college with you," he explained. "My name's J.B."
Instantly, I remembered him. He was John Opdyke: We'd taken Spanish together, and had both DJed at the campus radio station. Around 1991, he had joined the New Alliance Party, a now-defunct group led by Fulani. I'd assumed it was a passing fancy, but evidently it wasn't: Right after graduation, he told me, he'd driven east to New York and gone to work for Lenora. He was now development director of the Committee for a Unified Political Party--which, according to the last article I'd read on the topic, was somewhere near the heart of the Fulani labyrinth.
We caught up, and, later, he asked me what the theme of my story was going to be. I dunno, I told him; what did he think the story was?
"It's whether third-party politics is going to be a bottom-up, grassroots movement or one of top-down control." The Buchanan Brigades were merely shock troops for a leader, he explained, and would dissolve if the leader ever left. (This was, incidentally, the same thing Fulani's foes say about her faction.) "The other issue is more practical," he added. "We've been trying to push the idea that for third-party politics to grow, you have to build infrastructure at the state level. People here complain about Buchanan taking over their party, but you need infrastructure to fend off takeovers. Politics is about takeovers."
"There's a lot of points of view represented in this room," I commented. "Do you really think they can be weaved together into a party?"
"I don't think the coalition has to be programmatically based," he replied. "It can be based on process--on democracy."
The dissident delegates nominated Hagelin, but it wasn't clear to me that they all planned to vote for him in November. One confessed that he preferred Nader, while another said he'd taken a quiz once that purported to reveal that he was a Libertarian, "so maybe I'll vote for their boy."
But there were some Hagelin loyalists--mostly imported from the Natural Law Party, of course, but not all of them. At least two were actually Republicans, including Anne from Atlanta, who liked Hagelin because he'd called for labeling genetically modified food.
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