Is going to be his party's presidential...


March 11, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

JERRY BROWN is going to be his party's presidential nominee this year. When he is, remember that you read it here first.

He won't win the Democratic nomination. He'll be nominated to lead a new third party. There are three reasons why I say this. One is that Brown is doing well enough in the Democratic rTC primaries and caucuses to prove he has a true constituency. Two is that his assault on the candidates and very culture of the Democratic Party has been so vicious as to preclude his rejoining the fold after he loses the nomination. And three is that it's time. For a century there has been a rhythm in American politics that produces a legitimate third party movement with regularity -- and it's baaaack.

In 1892, Southern and Western farmers organized the People's Party, better known as "Populists." They nominated James B. Weaver of Iowa for president. Running against Republican President Benjamin Harrison and former Democratic President Grover Cleveland, Weaver carried four states and got 8.5 percent of the popular vote nationwide.

In 1912, former President Teddy Roosevelt bolted the Republican Party and ran against President William Howard Taft and Democrat Woodrow Wilson. He carried six states and got 27 percent of the popular vote -- more in both cases than President Taft.

In 1924 Sen. Robert La Follette of Wisconsin ran as the Progressive Party nominee against Republican President Calvin Coolidge and Democrat John W. Davis. La Follette carried only Wisconsin, but he got 17 percent of the vote, which wasn't that bad, considering that Davis got only 29 percent.

In 1936, Louisiana Sen. Huey Long planned to run as a third party candidate, challenging President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He confirmed his plans to advisers in 1935. He probably would have done well, but he was assassinated.

In 1948, South Carolina's Strom Thurmond ran for president as a States' Rights Democrat, and former Vice President Henry A. Wallace ran as a Progressive against President Harry Truman and Republican Tom Dewey. Wallace and Thurmond got only 5 percent of the vote between them, but Thurmond won four Southern states.

In 1968, Alabama Gov. George Wallace ran as the American Independent Party nominee, winning five states and 13.5 percent of the vote against Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

In 1980, Illinois Rep. John Anderson left his Republican Party to run against Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter. He won no states but got 6.6 percent of the popular vote.

Notice the interludes. Every 12 years except 1892-1912 and 1948-1968; 1980 was 12 years ago.

Jerry Brown has been getting a big vote from environmentalists. Look for a Green Party presidential ticket headed by him after he walks out of the Democratic convention in New York next summer.

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