At this writing, the nomination of Barry Commoner, PhD, as presidential candidate for the newly hatched Citizens Party is not yet official, and it is my said mission to report that his nomination may never become official. The Citizens Party, a splendid goulash of radicals and enthusiasts, has set out to be the pristinely democratic party of the land. Hence, its convention's nominee will not actually be certified until a majority of the party's members, now numbering some 3,500 conscientious Americanoes, has voted on it. Unfortunately, the ballots are being sent by mail.
Better it would be for Dr. Commoner's political career had the votes been sent via the United Parcel Service or a privately owned carrier pigeon service. Truth be known, our U.S. Postal Service, though safely insulated from the capitalist mystery, is an exceedingly uncertain communications channel; and though it grows ever more expensive, it also seems to grow ever less useful.
This phenomenon of ceaselessly rising governmental costs and steadily lowering governmental performance seems to be one of the invincible laws of modern collectivist government. One sees it at work everywhere, in Social Security, in federally aided education, even in the military. It is a wonder that Dr. Commoner, a trained scientist and proud member of the intelligentsia, has yet to trip over it. Yet there seem to be many political realities that Dr. Commoner has failed to note.
For instance, Dr. Commoner apparently has failed to note that there is a considerable difference between the two most probable presidential candidates, for he complains of their sameness indignantly and with dark hints that it is all part of a conspiracy against average Americans like himself. Of course, the differences between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan are easily observable. Reagan stands pretty much for the foreign policy that has governed us since World War II. Jimmy is for McGovernism ineptly executed. Domestically, Reagan is markedly less statist than Jimmy.
The Citizens Party is about as far to the left as the Birch Society is to the right, and to read its party platform is to read the howls of The Nation, The Progressive and Mother Jones simultaneously. Which brings to mind another thing that Dr. Commoner seems to have missed. During this year's primaries, the plain folk of the republic have given the candidates of the left short shrift and few votes.
The miseries of the Massachusetts Messiah are far more the product of his positions than the product of his indiscretions on that infamous isle. When all he had against him was Chappaquiddick, Teddy was as popular as springtime and laughter. When he apprised the citizenry of his positions on the issues, the swoon set in. Beyond the borders of a few college campuses, the Hon. Brown's campaign never could get the wind up. And Parson Anderson is a winner only at Beverly Hills fund-raisers.
And it is not just the American voter who has grown deaf to the sirens and unguents of the American left. Our nation's professional demonstrators also seem to have lost their gung-ho spirit. Last week's "Big Business Day" dawned full of sunshine and balmy breezes, yet very few demonstrators turned out to growl and corporate infamy. The thing flopped everywhere but on National Public Radio, where it was treated as a matter of very great moment. For that matter, every enthusiasm of our bizarre left is treated as a matter of moment on NPR, and perhaps this is the source of Dr. Commoner's belief that, as he puts it, "We are undergoing a sea change in American politics."
Alas, the great white PhD deludes himself here, just as he deludes himself when he claims he wants the average American to have a larger voice in government. Would Dr. Commoner really like to live under a government whose policies accurately reflected the average American's view on busing, capital punishment, prayer in public schools and the Proposition 13 fever?
The left that Dr. Commoner espouses is most comfortable not with the electorate but with the mandarins in academia, in the judiciary and in the bureaucracy. Ah, there is the dirty little secret. The forces of left-wing reform -- that gallimaufry of environmentalists, consumerists, anti-nuclear activists and personal liberationists -- have worked their will not with the American voters, but in spite of them. Their reforms, which have been extensive, have been implemented through America's least democratic institutions, the courts and the bureaucracy.
Save for the travesty of democracy this involves, there really would not be much wrong with this except that most of the policies of the Citizens Party are moonshine. And inasmuch as this moonshine has already been bootlegged into government by the courts and the bureaucracy, it is now a major ingredient contributing to the problems the Citizens Party promises so solemnly to mutilate.