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LaRouche Is No Joke

<i> Alice Travis of Los Angeles is a member of the Democratic National Committee executive committee and a veteran of local, state and national campaigns</i>

Pundits are reassuring us that the LaRouche victories in Illinois were an aberration, the result of uninformed voters choosing “American-sounding” names on the ballot. Now that the weirdos have been exposed, politics will return to normal.

I wish that it were so easy to dismiss them. Lyndon LaRouche’s operation is more diabolical than a one-shot surprise; it is a well-financed, carefully conceived plan to infiltrate--and possibly dominate--the Democratic Party by running candidates in hundreds of obscure local races.

Let’s look at the coming California primary. In Orange County the only candidate who filed as a Democrat in the 40th Congressional District is a LaRouche follower named Art Hoffman. The registration in that district is 57.2% Republican, 31.5% Democratic--a very safe Republican seat. Hoffman ran for the neighboring 39th District in 1984, so, aside from a platform, is there a reason for him to move and run again? Yes, there is.

Party nominees--even the losers--make appointments to the State Central Committee, and are themselves members. Among its responsibilities, the committee writes a platform, elects officers and National Committee members, determines the delegate-selection process for presidential conventions and targets voter-registration and get-out-the-vote efforts--all fertile areas for promoting the LaRouche ideology.

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Esoteric party offices are sought for the same reason. LaRouche candidates have filed for numerous seats on county committees, in many cases having researched those that historically do not draw a full slate of traditional party activists.

In the 55th County Committee District (Northeast Los Angeles area) only five candidates filed for the seven available slots, so the LaRouche candidate is sure to win. In the 51st District (South Bay) only three persons filed, two of them LaRouchers.

Each district in Los Angeles County sends two members to the State Committee. Guess who they might be from the 51st.

Little can be done to block this strategy, with California laws barring political parties from pre-primary endorsements. The LaRouche faction can thus quietly take over the Democratic Party, or at least become a controlling wedge; a contested race for the party chair can be decided by only a few votes. And once they take over the party machinery, they get to make the rules and become the rulers.

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The Democratic Party is the target right now because it is less cohesive and homogeneous, offering a fertile ground. When the Republicans looked more vulnerable, LaRouchers filed there, and occasionally still do. About 35% to 40% of their candidates have run as Republicans.

LaRouche knows how to play the system at the presidential level as well, where the complicated nominating and funding processes become another opportunity for manipulation.

In the 1984 presidential primary season LaRouche raised more money than did Sen. Fritz Hollings and former Gov. Reuben Askew, and more than twice as much as George McGovern. LaRouche used the system with finesse (there is some question about his funding procedures) and received federal matching funds--500,000 of your tax dollars and mine.

To qualify for matching funds a campaign must raise $5,000 in each of at least 20 states, in contributions of $250 or less, from individuals only, complete with their names, addresses and employment. It’s a cumbersome process that requires a national support base, good fund-raising skills and administrative backup.

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Askew, Hollings and McGovern and their fellow primary hopefuls, Sens. Alan Cranston and John Glenn, ran out of money and votes early and quit the race. LaRouche marshaled his dollars and went on to buy TV spots, some a half-hour long, challenging Walter Mondale--as well as the Queen of England and Henry Kissinger.

LaRouche has already announced that he is running in 1988. He is building his cadre and filling his coffers, largely by luring the uninformed voter to the eye-catching card-table displays that his followers man at airports and other public places.

The possibility of a LaRouche takeover is real. Only about 50% of the eligible adults register to vote, and often less than 40% of these actually go to the polls. In a primary the party’s nominee could be chosen by only 12.5% of the electorate. So a block of 7% voting for the LaRouche candidate is enough to win.

I know, it can’t happen here. LaRouche’s anti-Semitism, racism, distortion and fear tactics have no place on the American political scene. But he has already proved that he understands the system, and he has used it too effectively to be shrugged off as some aberration.

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As the factories lay off their workers and the family farms fail, as the AIDS epidemic continues unchecked and the drug dealers target 8-year-old children, the LaRouche promise of a quick fix for America’s ills just may find its 7% audience. What then?


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