The one political party to set up a booth at last weekend's "Great Awakening" in Troy, New York, was the Constitution Party. I remembered this outfit from the 2008 presidential election as an anti-war Christian Right party. With the next presidential vote three years away, I was curious to see what their current priorities are.
First, before I dismiss it, I should acknowledge the CP's answer to the rhetorical question, "Don't We Already Have A Conservative Party?" The answer, as you'd suspect, is "No," because the Republican party doesn't practice absolute zero tolerance on abortion by shunning politicians who don't take the absolutist stand. Republicans as well as Democrats also support international treaties that undermine U.S. sovereignty. It isn't clear if the CP has met an international treaty it liked, but on the other hand it does believe that a conspiracy's afoot in which both major parties are complicit to create a "North American Union." Republicans also fail the CP's conservatism test by voting to fund the allegedly unconstitutional Department of Education and doing little to counteract a perceived erosion of Second Amendment rights.
The CP also addresses the question, "Why Not Reform the GOP Instead of Building a New Party?" Its brochure states bluntly that "the restoration of constitutional government is not on the GOP agenda in Washington." That's because the Republicans aren't as committed as the CP thinks they should be to really reducing the size of government and eliminating departments the CP deems unconstitutional. Those who might be called "movement conservatives" face a "glass ceiling" in the GOP leadership, the CP claims, while the Republicans are "completely unwilling to nominate a constitutionalist for President," i.e., a candidate who endorses the CP's reading of the Constitution. The CP is absolutely correct to blame this on the Republicans' "big tent" philosophy, but takes Lincoln's side against that approach by calling the GOP "a house divided against itself." Of course, when Lincoln used that phrase he meant not that the house would fall, but that it would become all one thing or all another. That ought to mean there's a chance that the GOP could be converted to movement conservatism, but for reasons the CP doesn't discuss it considers that so unlikely that the movement should defect to the CP.
So what does the Constitutional Party offer to the movement. I said this was going to be a Quick Guide, and so it will be, since the first item on their list of principles is a deal breaker. The CP is dedicated to "Restoring America to 'One Nation Under God.'" Just to elaborate a little, the brochure states that "The Constitution Party is the only party that acknowledges the sovereignty of God and believes that our rights come from God not government. We are committed to returning our country to government under the Constitution which is based on Biblical principles."
I suppose I'm no more a believer in "big tent" politics than the Constitution Party, since I reject anyone who contends that political virtue depends on religious belief. I'd equally reject anyone who said it depended on the lack of religious belief, if anyone did. There may be reasons to argue for smaller government, but the chance of government impinging on God's sovereignty is not one of them. The CP's rhetoric about God throws their whole constitutional interpretation into question. Worse, its stance most likely compels partisans to hold suspect anyone who refuses to affirm belief in the God of the Bible. Any party that implicitly reduces atheists or agnostics to second-class citizenship deserves no future in this country. If my choice is between "big government" and theocracy, which is what the Constitution Party seems to preach, give me a big helping of man-made, man-amenable government, please -- only we need new chefs in the kitchen.