07 June 2012

The "Constitution" Party in name only

The new American Conservative has an article by W. James Antle III about an independent presidential candidate already in the field. Virgil Goode of Virginia is a former Democrat, erstwhile Independent, and renegade Republican who is now the nominee of the Constitution Party. Goode will appear on the ballot in at least 17 states as of this week, though he's still working on meeting his home state's stringent requirements for ballot access. Like Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, Goode has credibility as an elected official that previous Constitution candidates, including the 2008 nominee, Chuck Baldwin. The party had its best showing ever with Baldwin heading the ticket, but has yet to win even 200,000 popular votes in a presidential election.

The Constitution Party probably comes closest among established parties to the "paleocon" philosophy. That means they have a less warmongering platform than the Republicans, but in Goode they've nominated a candidate who votes to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He now wants to bring the troops home, telling Antle that "we can't stay in Afghanistan and the Middle East forever," but he remains somewhat unrepentant about his past support for war, reaffirming a suspicion that Saddam Hussein did possess weapons of mass destruction. He has repented, however, his votes for the Patriot Act. Goode is an outright Islamophobe who freaked out when the first Muslim congressman swore his oath on a Qur'an. He believes that Islam is out to conquer the U.S., but now seems more suspicious of subversion from within by Muslim immigrants than of any military threat by a Muslim nation. This is most likely the true belief of the Constitution Party as a whole, based on their Christian Right biases. I suppose it's reasonable of them not to fear Muslim countries, but fearing the religion of Islam is just as bad when the fear is based on nothing but religious chauvinism.

If we can infer Goode's priorities from his website, it looks like he intends to run on a platform of homophobia, xenophobia and all-around populism. His plan to stop issuing green cards to anyone, however, is motivated less by fear of foreigners than by a desire to stop them from taking American jobs. Economically speaking his positions are predictably right-wing, with the populist exception of opposition to international "free trade" agreements. He also promises to "preserve and protect" Social Security and seems disinclined, unlike most Republicans, to privatize the system to any extent. His position is actually at odds with the Constitution party platform. Like any right-winger, Goode has to deal with the persistence of Birtherism. He told the Independent Political Report that he reserves further comment on the question of the President's nativity until he can inspect the original birth certificate. That generated a free-for-all of commentary from birthers, conservatives, libertarians, etc. The most telling comment came from one "RedPhillips," who wrote that "Had [Goode] declared himself a convinced anti-birther or brushed off the question he would have alienated a huge portion of the kind of people who might vote for a conservative third party candidate. Had he declared himself a convinced birther he would have created a big distraction. His answer expresses just the right amount of skepticism." That's a matter of perspective, since many people see no middle ground on the subject. For most, there's no good reason to question Obama's birthplace and there's no room for reserving judgment -- but how many of those people will vote against Obama this November? The sad part of it all is the implication that some people might make birtherism a litmus test for their support -- that it's not enough to think that Obama is wrong, not evil. Even sadder is the thought that someone might actually want their votes.

Goode's concern for American jobs is admirable, but unless it comes with a commitment to create jobs by any means, instead of merely waiting for our wonderful entrepreneurs to create them, it does the country little good. His newest party affiliation seems to have had a positive influence on Goode's foreign policy, though the rank and file might well keep an eye on him based on past performance. In any event, the deal breaker that makes the Constitution Party as a whole unacceptable is a Christian ideology that makes the party's very name a lie. When the party can include "Family" as one of its Seven Principles while invoking a "divinely instituted" family structure, and when it acknowledges Jesus Christ as Creator in its Preamble, they have nothing to do with the Constitution of the United States. You would think that, had the Founders meant the U.S. to be as Christian a nation as the Constitution Party believes it to be, they would have included such language in the actual Constitution. They did not, however, and that forces a choice on Goode's party. It can be the Constitution Party, or it can be the Christian Party. It cannot be both.

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