Observing US:
A column about America,
by Marylaine Block
originally published by
Fox News Online, 1998-2000

#95, July 11, 2000


by Marylaine Block

My home state, Iowa, has given the nation two presidential candidates, Henry Wallace of the Progressive Party, and John Hagelin, of the Natural Law Party. To date American voters have said, "thanks, but no thanks."

Not that there were NO takers, mind you - in 1992 Hagelin got 38,000 votes, and in 1996, 114,000. God knows, the major party candidates don't triple their vote totals each time out - if anything, they repel a few more voters every election. If Hagelin continued to triple his vote each time out, he'd be competitive by 2016 and would win flat out in 2020.

Ain't gonna happen, though. Not to a man who has suggested that presidential candidates should release scans of their brain waves so that voters could "get a look under the hood."

The problem is, he and his party of transcendental meditators have the reputation of being nutcakes. That may be an unfair characterization of TM, which has been shown in numerous studies to measurably reduce stress. But it's one thing to believe TM has personal benefits and another to believe mass meditation can bring world peace.

Hagelin may be a respected Harvard-trained physicist and honored for his "pioneering work in the field of supersymmetric unified quantum field theories," but his publication list includes both "Sparticle Spectroscopy," published in Physical Review, and "Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, D.C.: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July, 1993."

Moreover, he believes US troops could bring peace to the Balkans if they were only trained in yogic flying. In fact, he told a peace conference that "A permanent group of 7,000 yogic flyers on each continent would put an end to all international conflicts." (I have a mental image of Hagelin, on his first day on the job as President, explaining this to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)

On the other hand, transcendental meditators would be lots cheaper than Stealth bombers and nuclear submarines. Just think of the tax refunds we could all get.

And Hagelin does believe in tax reduction - he says proudly "We were flat-taxing before Forbes was." At the same time, he wants to offer the public affordable, prevention-based health care and wants to pay down the national debt.

He sincerely believes he could win, especially if he could get all the third parties to unite behind him (though the Green Party has gone ahead and nominated Ralph Nader). He's campaigning for the Reform Party's nomination, assuring them that he agrees with them on campaign finance reform, trade, and government integrity and accountability.

And why shouldn't they give him the nomination? Like the Reform Party's founder, Ross Perot, he offers "commonsense proven solutions," "scientifically proven" ones at that, for all kinds of problems in our public life: crime, education, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and the environment.

He thinks his platform could "win the support of the 100 million eligible voters who did not vote in the last election" - which is surely the only hope any third party has for doing what he says must be done, "breaking the two-party death grip on our political process."

Now, THERE's an appealing notion for millions of us who can hardly tell the difference between two parties equally beholden to big money contributors. There are millions of us who agree with Jim Hightower that we don't need a third party, we'd be happy just to have a SECOND party.

Of course even if a third party candidate could win the presidency, we have seen that a hostile Congress can block a president's every proposal -- nominations, treaty ratification, and policies alike. I doubt even an army of meditators could overcome the massed resistance and anger of thwarted Democrats and Republicans deprived of the White House. The very thing that makes Hagelin's goal of "conflict-free politics" so appealing is what could be guaranteed to keep it from happening.

So, despite my natural sympathy for a fellow Iowan, however flaky, I won't be voting for John Hagelin. Which may, for the first time, place my political views firmly in the majority.

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