Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, a possible GOP presidential
candidate, is warning that 1999 is a pivotal year for the Republican
Party if it seeks to avoid turning off activists and pushing them into a
new third party.

“I believe you may well have seen the beginnings of a third-party
movement in this country, which will spell the end of the Republican
Party,” Smith told the Washington Times. “If it happens, I’m not
leaving my party — my party is leaving me,” he said.

My question to Sen. Smith is: Third party? What are the other two?

Observing news developments in recent days and the way Republicans
sway back and forth with the slightest political breeze, it is
increasingly clear that America has only one political party — the big
tent party of Republican-Democrats. Or, if you prefer, the

What are some of those developments? Take a look at what’s been
happening in Congress the last couple days on the issue of government
gun-grabbing. Republicans made Democrats very happy once again in the
U.S. Senate as the GOP leadership permitted votes on measures to impose
additional restrictions on gun sales.

The massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., has
produced a frenzy of hand-wringing and political activity in
Washington. There’s the sense among Republican-Democrats and
Democratic-Republicans that something must be done. If they are not
passing new laws in Washington in response to this tragedy, they
believe, they are irresponsible and will pay a price at the polls.

On Tuesday, the one-party U.S. Senate had voted 78-20, to require
safety locks or secure containers to be sold with every handgun. The
amendment also would provide liability protections for a gun owner who
uses a safety lock and whose gun is stolen and used in a crime.

Shortly before the vote, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a rhetorical
foe of gun control legislation, suggested in an interview that the
minimum age for handgun purchases be raised from 18 to 21 for handguns
and that background checks be required for all sales at gun shows — a
position the Senate first rejected and then approved in voting last

“I think there needs to be uniformity in what they do at gun shows
and what they do in a retail business,” Hastert, R-Ill., said in an
interview in his Capitol office.

Of course. Uniformity. That’s an important concept to central
planners — be they in Moscow, Beijing or Washington. And that kind of
thinking is the best argument against any and all gun control
legislation. The process never ends. You always need one more law to
make things right, to bring about uniformity, to close the loopholes.

The fact that the political landscape is changing so fast in
Washington since the shootings at Columbine High illustrates just how
little principle there is in our nation’s capital. If you believe in the
Constitution, you believe in it. Your views don’t change because of
events, news coverage, polls and lobbying pressure.

And it’s not just the gun issues on which the Republican-Democrats
and Democratic-Republicans have been getting along like one big happy
family. Take a look at the support for President Clinton’s war on

Congress appears set to approve a $15 billion spending package
including new support for the waging of the Kosovo conflict. The House
Republican-Democrats have already approved it, 269-158. Sen. Phil Gramm,
once a Democrat, then a Republican and now apparently growing weary of
the merger between the two parties, was considering using a rule that
would force proponents of the spending bill to get votes from 60 of the
100 senators. But passage by the one-party Senate seemed as inevitable
as the signature it would need from President Clinton.

Third party? We don’t need one. What we need is an alternative to the
one-party system into which America has devolved.

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