I recently attended a homeschool convention in New Hampshire where I had a very entertaining discussion with Lee Button, chairman of the Constitution Party of New Hampshire, and his volunteers. They had a booth at the conference in an effort to interest homeschoolers in joining the party.
I had been active in the party, formerly known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, since the 1980s and voted for Howard Phillips in 1992, the election that brought Clinton to power. It was Ross Perot’s Reform Party that undercut the Republicans, not the Taxpayers’ Party. Since then, Perot’s party has largely disintegrated. But the Constitution Party is still there, alive and kicking, but barely known. It will have its nominating convention in June at Valley Forge, Penn.
The Taxpayers Party had its great moment back in 1996, when there was the chance that Patrick Buchanan would bolt the Republican Party and become the presidential candidate of the Taxpayers Party. In fact, both the conventions of the Republican Party and the Taxpayers Party took place in San Diego at the same time, which made it easy for Buchanan to make his dramatic move and switch parties had he wanted to. But he didn’t. And so the great opportunity to put the Taxpayers Party on the front pages of America came and went. Buchanan didn’t want to be blamed for a Dole defeat. In the end, the lackluster, non-charismatic, erectile-dysfunctional Dole was beaten by the charming, sexy (and erectile-functional) Bill Clinton.
After that debacle, I began to rethink the efficacy of a conservative third party in our present political climate. One of the great problems of the Constitution Party was its inability to raise sufficient funds to wage credible election campaigns. I believe that contributors give to viable political candidates to gain access to the seats of power. The Constitution Party is basically an ideological movement that cannot provide access to the movers and shakers who make policies in the federal government. One gives to the Constitution Party for ideological reasons only.
Indeed, what is the function of an ideological conservative political party in today’s largely two-party system? It is to give voice to those who find the two parties and their candidates unacceptable. But it’s a voice that is barely heard beyond the meeting rooms in which the ideologues discuss their plans.
And so, in the course of our conversation, I came up with a brilliant idea. I told Lee and his associates, “Why don’t you nominate Mel Gibson for president? That will get you on the front pages of every newspaper in the country.” Indeed, Gibson would be an ideal candidate of a party that mentions the name Jesus Christ in the Preamble to its platform.
But, as it turns out, the party already has a potential candidate for president, a dedicated conservative attorney from Maryland by the name of Michael Peroutka. In a brochure promoting his campaign for the party nomination, Peroutka states:
A vote for Michael Anthony Peroutka is a vote to end unconstitutional government. No longer will America waste trillions of dollars on unconstitutional programs. No longer will America murder her own children. No longer will politicians, judges and bureaucrats trample the property rights of Americans. No longer will we encourage the export of American jobs because of burdensome regulations, high taxes, and “most favored” treatment for the products of other countries. No longer will our borders be porous and unprotected. I reject amnesty for illegal aliens. You will be allowed to keep all that you earn, as we replace the income tax with a revenue tariff.
All of that, of course, is music to the ears of true-blue conservatives. But only an overwhelmingly conservative Congress will be able to deliver any part of such a program. As for the present presidential race, the only power the Constitution Party will have is in siphoning off votes from George Bush.
To some people in the Constitution Party, a Kerry victory is actually preferable to a Bush re-election, for they see conservatives hamstrung and neutered under Bush, but being totally liberated in a Kerry administration, mobilized to fight liberalism in both parties.
But there are also many good conservatives who see Bush as the only bulwark against the party and candidates of treason. While it is true that a conservative Congress could prevent the worst from happening in a Kerry administration, a liberal president will have the power to do untold harm to our country, especially by appointing liberals to the Supreme Court. Thus, these conservatives will vote for Bush, who is trying to get conservative judges into the judicial system, and hope that the conservative movement continues to grow stronger so that sometime in the future a true-blue conservative will be able to occupy the White House.
Meanwhile, if the Constitution Party wants to become better known, nominating Mel Gibson for president may be the easiest and fastest way to do it.