It’s filing week here in my home state of Washington – the week that candidates for public office go to their local courthouse, pay a filing fee and have their name placed on the ballot for the August primary election. This brings up the question of which party banner to file under. My state allows any candidate to associate themselves with the party of their choice. Different states have different laws governing how a person’s name can appear on the ballot and be associated with a given political party. Nevertheless, every candidate in every state has to address the question of which party to associate themselves with, whether Republican, Democrat, Constitution Party, Libertarian, Progressive, or …
As a member of, and officer in the Constitution Party, I have recently been confronted with the phenomenon of conservative Republicans asking my party’s candidates to run under their party’s banner. In the beginning it was not so. At the first we were a non-entity, a non-factor that no one had heard of – “the what party? Is that kind of like political or something?” As our party and its strictly Constitutional views of liberty and limited government became better known, the reaction from conservatives was, “oh yes, we agree with your message, you’re right, but you’re taking votes away from Republicans and it is vital that conservatives win.” I think we were basically being asked to be an educational organization and a clearinghouse for the more conservative Republicans and to continue exerting Constitutional influence, but not to run candidates against any conservatives – which turned out to be anyone with an “R” after their name who was being opposed by someone with a “D” after their name.
But a new phenomenon is emerging – conservatives in the Republican Party are now approaching Constitution Party candidates and asking them to run as Republicans. What? can’t they find any Constitutionists in their own party to run for office? Besides, I was under the impression that our candidates were no-name nothings that can’t win. But now the same people who did not want our candidates to run do want them to run, just on a different party ticket. I guess that’s kind of like the Catholic that wakes up one day, realizes he can’t find a priest to turn to who isn’t totally corrupt and recognizes that the best Christians he can find are protestants, so he decides to go out and start recruiting Baptists to enter the priesthood – what’s with that?
So in light of the fact that Constitutionists are being approached to run as Republicans and that at least one friend recently asked for my thoughts on the matter, I find myself compelled to share my insights on the question of whether Constitutionists should run as Republicans. This is not just a topic for candidates for public office to consider. I believe the factors that need to be considered by the candidates are equally relevant to everyone who votes, supports candidates for office, or associates themselves with a political party.
The main argument that I’ve heard as to why Constitutionists should run as Republicans, is so that they can win. You see, “a third party can’t win” (which is not actually true, but it is the dominant perception) and first and foremost “we have to win.” Now a third party candidate actually can win if people will vote for them, so what we are really saying here is that since Democrats and Republicans have won in the past, therefore they will win in the future, and therefore a third party cannot win, thus it is necessary to give our vote to either a Democrat or Republican in order to win. By following this circular logic, we ensure that a third party or independent candidate will not win and create a self fulfilling prophecy.
While I disagree with this logic, let me take it and run with it for a moment. If the reason to run as a Republican rather than on the Constitution Party ticket is that Republicans are more likely to win, then what about the fact that in recent years Democrats have been winning more often than Republicans? Should we not then encourage conservative candidates to run as Democrats so they will have a greater likelihood of winning?
While that last statement contains a bit of sarcasm, it nevertheless is the extension of this reasoning to its logical conclusion. If candidates are to be encouraged to choose a party affiliation on the basis of securing the greatest likelihood of winning, then there certainly are many localities, Congressional districts and even entire states where it is a waste of time to run as anything other than a Democrat.
Here in my state, I can’t remember the last time a Republican won either the governorship or one of the U.S. Senate seats. Over the last couple of decades, hundreds of thousands of volunteer man-hours and untold millions of dollars in donations from conservative people have been wasted on candidates running as Republicans in races that only Democrats can win.
If we truly believe that Constitutionally-minded candidates should choose a party banner to run under on the basis of what is most likely to produce the votes necessary to win, then we should set up an organization to serve as a clearinghouse for Christian and Constitutional candidates who, once certified by the clearinghouse as being sufficiently Constitutional, would be instructed to run under the banner of whatever political party is shown to be most likely to win in their particular district or locality. For those who urge Constitution Party candidates to run as Republicans in order to win to not follow this strategy would demonstrate rank hypocrisy and show that their reason for requesting Constitutionists to run as Republicans is not born out of a strategy for winning as much as it is the spirit of inordinate party loyalty, as George Washington put it.
Besides the above considerations, we also have the fact that the Republican Party leadership is famous for throwing a ringer into the race whenever they see a real Constitutionist getting any traction, thus ensuring that candidate’s elimination in the primary. This of course means that the real conservatives who supported the Constitutionally minded Republican in the primary now have nowhere to turn in the general election and are faced with a choice between a Democrat and a Republican establishment front-man who will be sure to maintain the status quo.
BEING EFFECTIVE IN OFFICE
Though I haven’t heard the argument made lately, some have contended that to be effective in a legislative office (Congress or a state legislature), you need to belong to a party that hopefully can win a majority of the seats.
I can tell you from conversations that I have had with at least three different Constitutional conservatives who have served as Republicans in the legislatures of three different states, that some of their greatest opposition has come from their own party leadership. Time and again I have heard stories revealing that the efforts that should be expended opposing the forces of liberalism are instead spent contending with the Republican Party leadership. Most of the plans and proposals for liberty, limited government, fiscal accountability and other Constitutional ideals that these Republican legislators sought to put forward were hindered or outright blocked by their own party. From the stories that I’ve heard, it’s hard to imagine that the representative of a third party could be anymore hamstrung and stonewalled than what these Constitutionally minded Republicans have been.
While it has been clearly demonstrated that electing Republican majorities in Congress is not the path to restoring Constitutional governance (and my legislator friends can verify that the same is true at the state level), a small group of independent or third party Constitutionists serving as the swing vote could hold that body hostage and require that one party or the other meet their demands in order to secure their support on any given piece of legislation. Placing into office a dozen or so representatives who would serve as such a swing vote would have far more effect than simply adding another dozen Republicans – an experiment that has already been tried and failed.
BESTOWING OUR REPUTATION
So far I’ve been addressing issues that others have brought up. However, to me those are secondary matters. The primary issues to me are those of principles and in the question at hand the principle that I am most concerned with is that of bestowing one’s name and reputation on a party that has become the enemy of what we know to be right and believe to be necessary, thereby lending credibility to an illegitimate entity.
Over the last two decades, about half of which saw Republican control either in Congress, the White House or both, the Republican Party has not implemented one tenet of conservatism. Abortions have not been stopped, the budget has not been balanced, the borders have not been secured, budget deficits increase, trade deficits increase, spending increases as the number of federal agencies, rules and regulations all continue to increase. No one besides Ron Paul even talks about getting out of the United Nations, instead, George Bush the first gives us the “New World Order,” Newt Gingrich gives us NAFTA and Bush II paves the way for a North American union. Not one gun control law has been repealed. Presidential orders of a Democrat administration are not rescinded by the following Republican administration. The Federal Reserve continues to pump out fiat currency with impunity free from the threat of an audit. Nothing conservative has been implemented and everything unconstitutional has continued and generally increased under Republican control.
I realize that there are many sincere Christians, conservatives and proponents of Constitutional principles who are still trying to work within the Republican Party and I don’t mean this as an attack on them. Unfortunately, an organization is judged by the product it produces, not the good intentions of its supporters and the product that the Republican Party has produced for the last quarter century is nothing less than the wholesale subversion of everything that America’s founders stood for and which conservatives have traditionally espoused.
This is not just a politically motivated diatribe against a particular party. The question is whether to run under the banner of, and thereby become associated with, a certain party. In my considering of the question and the arguments that have been made, the thing that continues to stand out to me is that whatever we choose to publicly associate ourselves with, we unavoidably give legitimacy to as we bestow our reputation on it.
How can we tell people that they need to return to the principles of the Constitution and the ways of America’s founders, then publicly associate ourselves with an organization that has become antithetical to those values? Our actions will speak louder than our words. I’m concerned that this, at least in part, explains why after decades of conservatives telling people that we need to return to the Constitution, we find ourselves farther from its principles than ever. People have followed the political party that conservatives have bestowed their reputation on more than what they have heeded the message that conservatives preach.
What if I moved into your town, declared myself to be Christian, proclaimed Biblical truths to everyone I met and encouraged them follow my theologically sound teaching, but then went out and joined a church that had long ago departed from sound doctrine and was now teaching more heresy than truth and could rightly be categorized as a cult. Now I might offer up some seemingly good reasons for my affiliation with that cult-church. I might point out that it’s the church that you have to belong to in order to get a good job in this town. I might point out that membership in this church gives a person legitimacy in the community and I need that legitimacy in order to get the people of the town to accept me, give me position and power – power which I intend to use for good of course. In fact, I’m even hopeful of being able to infiltrate the board of deacons and maybe even get a few sound doctrines restored to the church.
Meanwhile, those who look to me as an example will likely deem that if that cult-church is good enough for me, then it’s good enough for them (remember, association with a thing bestows our reputation on it). Once those who look to me for an example follow me through the doors of that church, they will be exposed to its heretical teachings. Now they will be confronted with a choice – adhere to what I have told them is right, or begin to assimilate the heresies of the church that I have bestowed my reputation on and lent legitimacy to.
I just can’t find a way around the fact that willful public association with a given political party bestows our reputation on that party and gives it credibility. And I just can’t find a way to lend credibility to an organization one minute, then tell people not to adopt its ways the next, it’s like saying “do as I say, not as I do.”
Please understand that this is not just about ‘preferring’ one party over another. This is about raising a standard – a standard to which the wise and honest can rally, as George Washington put it. If there were not a Constitution Party to associate myself with, I still could not, and would not, lend my reputation to any organization that did not uphold a standard of at least a basic, or minimal, God-honoring Christian worldview, adherence to the Constitution, protection of life, liberty and property, and enough fiscal sanity to at least survive as a nation – all tests that both the Democrat and Republican Parties currently fail.
America’s hope lies not in seizing the reins of some political party that we think has the power to save us, but in a general spiritual awakening that leads to the restoration of “The Fear of The LORD” – first in the church, then in the nation. We don’t need to be running after those who hold the political power, we need to be pursuing the presence of the one who holds the spiritual power, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness.