Nashville, Tenn. Just when folks thought they had seen the last of the Reform Party, remnants of the beleaguered outsiders met here this weekend to attempt resuscitation as the only "America first" party, focusing on tough new anti-immigration and trade positions.
Looking for a lifeline after a disastrous year of intra-party warfare and dismal showing by presidential nominee Pat Buchanan, members said they want to leave this sparsely attended national convention as a party built on ideology, not personality.
But the ideology is unmistakably Buchanan: closing the borders, opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants, severing international trade alliances. And, for the first time, the party was scheduled to vote to embrace a conservative social agenda, including an anti-abortion platform plank.
After reviewing the signature issues of his 2000 campaign as Reform nominee, Buchanan was swarmed by supporters, and the convention later adopted Buchanan-like planks in a totally rewritten platform. He told the convention:
"We were the only candidate to raise the issue of the defense of America's borders. If we do not get control of America's borders we're going to lose our country. The United States is being divided and polarized and balkanized. We need the United States of America to be Americanized."
He decried the number of trucks coming across the border, which he said average 10,000 a day, ruining American highways, destroying the war on drugs and bringing in illegal immigrants.
Leaders confirmed that the party is remaking itself in more of a Buchanan image and is struggling to restore its membership.
"We're in a rebuilding mode," said National Chairman Gerry Moan of Tucson.
Platform Committee chairman Roger Simmermaker of Florida acknowledged this was the smallest convention in party history only 187 delegates attending of a potential 600 but said the more conservative platform will establish a new foundation and determine "who stays, who goes and who comes into the party."