James Antle on third parties

In a somewhat amusing article spewing conservative venom at John McCain, James Antle provided these descriptions of America’s third parties:

Constitution Party—Formerly the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party, Ballot Access News ranks it the largest third party in terms of registered voters. Yet most of its members belong to the California state affiliate, the American Independent Party, apparently having joined in the mistaken belief that they were registering as independents.

The Constitution Party nominee will be well to the right of McCain. The party’s platform calls for slashing federal spending, abolishing the income tax, ending the Federal Reserve, banning abortion, curbing pornography, and reducing immigration. Rumored 2008 possibilities include “Ten Commandments judge” Roy Moore, former Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, and the irrepressible Alan Keyes. Otherwise, they will have to nominate someone obscure.

Before you sign up, be aware that the party’s rank-and-file includes an unhealthy number of Christian Reconstructionists, who favor stoning gay people to death, treating adulterers similarly, and otherwise instituting a theocracy. That’s not a typo or an Andrew Sullivan blog post; that’s what some of these people actually believe. Unsurprisingly, the Constitution Party has never even broken 190,000 votes in a presidential election.

Libertarian Party—If you prefer keeping government out of your bedroom and boardroom alike, the Libertarian platform might appeal to you. The first Libertarian presidential candidate, John Hospers, got an electoral vote in 1972. The third, Ed Clarke, won just shy of a million votes in 1980.

Libertarians have been hoping for a similar breakthrough ever since. Unless their 2008 nominee is Ron Paul or Bob Barr, this is unlikely. Their presidential vote totals hover between 300,000 and 400,000 whether they nominate media-savvy people like the late Harry Browne or the completely unknown Michael Badnarik. Many conservatives will object to the party’s opposition to the war in Iraq and the war on drugs; others will find it socially libertine. Even in government-cutting, there can be too much of a good thing.

In statewide races, Libertarians tend to take votes from Republican candidates. At the presidential level, they don’t seem to have much effect either way. Other than allowing small-government voters to pull the lever for a pro-drug legalization party that showcases candidates named Firecracker and Stoner on its website.

Reform Party—A creation of Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who arguably helped Bill Clinton win in 1992 and 1996, it was once the best chance for a viable third party. It is now a shell.

Before the 2000 election, Reform activists loyal to Perot decided to drive their only real success story, then Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, out of their party by inviting Pat Buchanan to run for its presidential nomination. Once Ventura was gone, the Perotistas turned on Buchanan (Texas Republican insider Tom Pauken’s account is the most plausible explanation ever advanced for this odd behavior). Buchanan won the nomination, but the Reform Party never recovered. Its remaining members will probably endorse another third-party or independent candidate in 2008 rather than offer one of their own.

America First Party—Founded in 2002 by Buchananites who left the Reform Party but didn’t return to the GOP, it is protectionist on trade and conservative on social issues. Its website is rarely updated and its candidates mostly run for local office. The America First Party endorsed Constitution Party nominee Michael Peroutka in 2004. It probably won’t do better this time.

Natural Law Party—Conservatives have often been intrigued by this party’s name, thinking it is influenced by Summa Theologica rather than Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Natural Law Party has basically levitated itself out of existence, closing its national headquarters. Its former leader, John Hagelin, has launched a new “U.S. peace government” dedicated to bringing “prevention-oriented, problem-free administration to America.” Whatever that means. Might as well vote for Bob Lott.

H/T to E.D..

23 Responses to “James Antle on third parties”

  1. Red Phillips Says:

    I am surprised that Antle, who is normally reasonable, would go alarmist and play the Christian Reconstructionist card. While it is true that there are Reconstructionists in the Constitution Party, there are more charitable ways to describe them than to go straight to the stoning gays line. That is straight from the leftists alarmist play book.

  2. Trent Hill Says:

    “be aware that the party’s rank-and-file includes an unhealthy number of Christian Reconstructionists, who favor stoning gay people to death, treating adulterers similarly, and otherwise instituting a theocracy.”

    Iv never heard ANYONE in my party advocate such things, and if I did I’d shout them down.

  3. Wes Benedict Says:

    Antle says:
    “Other than allowing small-government voters to pull the lever for a pro-drug legalization party that showcases candidates named Firecracker and Stoner on its website.”

    Wes says:
    The guys who did the Ron Paul website were at the recent LP Las Vegas meeting and it sounded like they’ll be working on the LP.org website. Good news.

    One of them joked about the “water board” or “mosquito board” candidates perpetually on the home page. That was until Aaron Starr, and maybe M Carling and Sean Haugh sneered at him and everyone else proclaiming along the lines of “that’s what we want to emphasize—sneer-sneer-shame-shame-righteousness.”

    A successful web designer felt it worthy to make one specific unsolicited comment, and some LP leaders immediately shot it down.

    I’m all for winning local elections where possible. But LP.org is the National LP website. I can imagine the possibility that Joe Voter from Alabama, interested in investigating a different political party, might not be so impressed by a party that appears to feature as its number 2 candidate, Joe Stoner from Missouri for Macks Creek Mayor.

    I’ve read in detail about Michael Munger from North Carolina, and he sounds like a great candidate. But “Mop Top Munger” is what comes to mind at first glance on LP.org.

    I read in LP News recently the story about Norm “Firecracker” Westwell. Loved it! He’s my new Libertarian Party hero! But I don’t think casual visitors to LP.org will leave with the same impression that I have having read in detail about Munger, the political science professor.

    The presidential candidate “Liberty Decides” program has brought in some measurable revenue to the LP. What’s not measurable is how many potential members and donors have been lost once they read about those top presidential candidates. Insiders like me know that of the candidates listed in “Liberty Decides,” Root is the only one with a chance of winning the nomination, and that unlisted candidates or potential candidates Ruwart, Kubby, Phillies, and Barr are the other most likely winners, but new visitors to the sight don’t know all that. They see Imperato as #2.

    The LP has a website that says Imperato is the #2 candidate for President.

    Despite my occasional differences of opinion with the LP Executive Director, Shane Corey, I know Shane’s no idiot. Shane has incredible flexibility to implement things the way he wants to. I urge him to take a step back from things, try to ignore any personal disagreements with me and ignore nitpicking micromanagement from Aaron Starr and M Carling and others, and urge the new website designers to put aside the advice they may have received from me or others, and come up with a good fresh, inspiring website.

    I’m not against Libertarian Bob Dufus running for and winning an election for Podunk, California dogcatcher. I’d love to have a Libertarian dogcatcher in Podunk, California. I just don’t think Molly Montanan will be inspired by a Libertarian Party website that prominently features Daniel Imperato and Podunk the dog catcher.

  4. Dave Williams Says:

    Wes, well said. Image and professionalism are important.

  5. Eric Dondero Says:

    Notice Antle brought up Ed Clark? After all these years, people still remember his campaign.

    You’d think the LPers would catch on, after the mutltitude of disastrous LP Prez campaigns: Bergland, Marrou, Browne I & II, and Badnarik. You’d think they’d strive for a return to an Ed Clark style campaign.

    But no. The extremists in the Party who control things, still want to run extremist obscure campaigns for President.

    I fear, we may never see another Ed Clark type campaign for President by the Libertarian Party. The LP has a chance this year. But something tells me, they’ll blow it yet again.

  6. Red Phillips Says:

    Trent, Reconstructionists believe theologically that the non-ceremonial aspects of Old Testament law are still binding or at least normative. However, as post-mils they believe that the world will gradually be Christianized as we approach the Millenium. So they see their system being put in place through gradual, natural, nonviolent means.

    I am not a Reconstructionist (I guess you could call me a paleoconservative Christian particularist), but as I have said before, Reconstructionism/Theonomy is a theological belief more than it is a political belief and should be argued against by fellow Christians primarily on a theological basis first. It is not a wrong belief because someone doesn’t like the implications. It is wrong if the theology behind it is wrong.

  7. Gary Odom Says:

    This myth that nobody in the American Independent Party of California knows that they are in a political party is ridiculous. As a 35 year member of the party I will admit that the party got a little lazy over the years, but the idea that all these people think they are really independent is absurd.

    How many registered Democrats or Republicans are intimately familiar with their party’s platform? Does it make them “not really members” if they can’t recite the party platform? The Greens and Libertarians are very active and very idealogical and probably do believe that everyone joining a party should be thoroughly indoctrinated in party dogma. In the end their ceiling is likely to be much lower than the American Independent Party and the Constitution Party. (And by the way, the intolerant religious extremists are long gone from the CP. That brief episode was nothing more than a growing pain endured by a new party. Tell me the others haven’t had their own growing pains as well. Sure, the CP is made up of a high percentage of people of faith, but not of people who can’t live in society with folks of other faiths; and there is certainly no desire whatever to create a theocracy, that’s for sure.)

    Larry Breazeale, the CP Veterans Coalition chairman and a long time friend of mine, recently petitioned for County Central Committee in Orange County and his report was that most of the people not only knew what party they were in, but in fact were generally sympathetic to the AIP/CP platform and were glad to be contacted (the area where the party HAD been falling down).

    In California people who don’t want to be in a political party register “decline to state” and it is a clear option on the registration card. There is no designation of “independent” which might cause confusion.

    The Libertarians have been whining about this for years because they lag behind in party registration and since the AIP had not done some of the work that it should have to run candidates and make contact with its constituents, this myth began to gain undeserved credence. Maybe the American Independent Party is a good and marketable name—perhaps something the CP should have considered in 1999 when we did the name change, but that is water under the bridge now.

  8. Red Phillips Says:

    Gary I agree with you that the idea that most of the people registered with the AIP in California did so by mistake is overplayed. At the least it should not just be asserted without proof.

    But what is “an intolerant religious extremists?” That kind of language bugs me because it is language that I should only hear from the radical secularist left. It strikes me as a bit of public self purging. “I’m AIP (or CP) but I’m not one of THOSE AIP members.” See my post above. Christians of good faith can disagree as to what the Bible suggests re. how society should be organized politically. Someone trying to do what they think is right by the Bible is not an “extremist.” They may well be theologically wrong.

    Like it or not, Reconstructionist are part of any anti-liberal, counter-revolutionary coalition. And they supply a disproportionate amount of the brain power and the foot soldiers. Rightist libertarians are part of this coalition as are conspiracy theorist. etc. We should concentrate on defeating the common enemy at least as much as we argue among ourselves. We certainly do not need destructive purges.

  9. johncjackson Says:

    The “radical left” aren’t the only people who aren’t fans of intolerant religious extremists. It’s a trait decent people of all political stripes share.

    Your painting all tolerant people as leftwing radicals is just as “alarmist” as the leftwing radicals who call all CP members religious nuts.

  10. Red Phillips Says:

    John, what the heck is “tolerant?” Does that require leaving your firmly held religious convictions at the door? It is supposed to mean getting along with people DESPITE known differences. Not pretending differences don’t exist or that they are inconsequential when they are not.

    Gary, I have been doing a little research on the Internet and I have seen the use of the term “religious bigots” or something similar several times. Even on official looking (I’m assuming they were official) CP statements. This is GROSSLY inappropriate. Reading between the lines, this obviously has something to do with the Christian vs. Mormon tensions in the Party. Is it “bigoted” for a Christian to believe that Mormonism is heretical? Mormons, as alleged recipients of a latter day revelation, obviously believe orthodox (small o) Christians to be in grave error. It is much more advantageous for the Mormons, as the traditional minority, to embrace the liberal concept of “toleration” and act aggrieved. It is possible for people who believe as the Christians and Mormons do to still work together in the same party, but labeling someone a “bigot” based on their religious beliefs is inappropriate for a Party that is supposed to respect faith.

    Don’t you think a lot of secularists think the CP platform is “intolerant” and “bigoted” because it acknowledges Jesus Christ? Why on earth do we want to play their game?

  11. disinter Says:

    as the leftwing radicals who call all CP members religious nuts.

    I am not a “leftwing” radical, and I am here to tell you that CP members are most definitely religious nuts.

  12. Larry Breazeale,Msgt.(ret.)USAFR Says:

    All this talk about ‘stone-throwing-at gays’ by religious reconstructionists within the C.P. is pure bunk. If you want to know where the Constitution party really stands on ANY issue, it is VERY SIMPLE! Open your eyes and read the PLATFORM of the Constitution party, provided on line.
    That is “if” YOU really want to know where “we” stand.
    While I was recently out in the field, in Orange County California, soliciting my necessary signatures, from registered AIPer’s , to get on the Orange County Central Committee, I met many nice people from all walks of life and backgrounds….doctors, aerospace engineers, contractors, brain surgeons,housewives, many college students,just from my immediate surrounding precincts in Anaheim Hills! I sat down and visited with them and touched on “party news”. Ninety percent knew what the AIP (American Independent Party-aka:Constitution party) was and is!
    I was amazed to meet these people! About 1/4 of my list of Aiper’s actually wanted to get active in the party! Each one I went to, I did a ‘meet and greet’ and left them off AIP material. I would only venture to say, that only ONE PERSON, a lady, told me she thought she registered
    as an ‘independent’, when she registered AIP.
    Because of our beautiful, ‘pro-America First’ Platform and Principles of our outstanding Constitution party…we will continue to attract more fellow
    American voters across the country, in droves. Our PLATFORM is something that the average voter can associate themselves with, with no problem. We and our party are a “breath of fresh air to them” that they can really relate to. No wonder the AIP/CP is growing by leaps and bounds!

    -Larry Breazeale, Msgt. (ret.) USAFR
    NATIONAL VETERANS COALITION
    Constitution party…www.nvets.org

  13. fred Says:

    Wes is right that the voters will not be impressed, and certainly Daniel Imperato does not reflect the average Libertarian.
    When we let money be the deciding factor in politics we get results that we are not happy about.

  14. Red Phillips Says:

    disinter, look at my discussion of left and right libertarians near the bottom of this thread.

    http://thirdpartywatch.com/2008/03/10/root-straw-poll-results-and-article-in-todays-roll-call/#comments

    Historically speaking you are left wing. Think of the origin of the terms in the French Revolution. Your hostility to religion identifies you as such.

  15. Andy Says:

    “Gary Odom Says:

    March 14th, 2008 at 8:21 am
    This myth that nobody in the American Independent Party of California knows that they are in a political party is ridiculous. As a 35 year member of the party I will admit that the party got a little lazy over the years, but the idea that all these people think they are really independent is absurd.”

    SOME people who are registered with the American Independent Party do know what it is, like maybe 10% of them.

  16. joe murphy Says:

    Hey disinter,

    What do you have against the CP?

    “I am not a “leftwing” radical, and I am here to tell you that CP members are most definitely religious nuts”.

    Why should I believe what you say? What is your basis for this statement and is it still true?

  17. Andy Says:

    “In California people who don’t want to be in a political party register ‘decline to state’ and it is a clear option on the registration card. There is no designation of ‘independent’ which might cause confusion.”

    I’ve registered THOUSANDS of people to vote in California. I NEVER had one person register as American Independent Party on purpose. I had plenty of people who registered as Democrat and Republican on purpose, and I even had people register as Libertarians or Greens on purpose, but NOT ONE PERSON EVER REGISTERED AMERICAN INDEPENDENT PARTY ON PURPOSE.

    People who checked the American Independent Party box all did so after seeing the word “Independent” and thinking, “Hey, I’m an independent so I’ll check this box.” After I’d inform them that that is an actual party and that if they want to register as independents in California they were supposed to check the Decline To State A Political Party box they either requested another voter registration form or they said something like, “Screw it, I’m in a hurry.” and just left it as is.

    These people are not deep thinkers. They just went through the form really quick and checked the American Independent Party box because it had the word independent in it.

    A true measue of how big the party is would be how many of these people are actually dues paying members of the party and how many people have they elected to office. The AIP falls WAY short in both of these more important aspects of how big they are.

  18. Paulie Says:

    Andy and Wes are both absolutely correct.

    BTW I have also personally registered tens of thousands of voters in California, and I have in fact had a small number register AIP on purpose.

    But I had WAAAAY, WAAAY more register AIP by mistake. Of the ones I caught in time and asked whether they meant to register AIP or Decline to state, the VAST, OVERWHELMING majority said they meant Decline to State.

    Some took the time to do over. Some didn’t.

  19. Jeff Wartman Says:

    I’m all for winning local elections where possible. But LP.org is the National LP website. I can imagine the possibility that Joe Voter from Alabama, interested in investigating a different political party, might not be so impressed by a party that appears to feature as its number 2 candidate, Joe Stoner from Missouri for Macks Creek Mayor.

    It’s not often that I agree with Wes, but hey, gotta give credit where credit is due. Good point Wes.

  20. Jeff Wartman Says:

    You’d think the LPers would catch on, after the mutltitude of disastrous LP Prez campaigns: Bergland, Marrou, Browne I & II, and Badnarik. You’d think they’d strive for a return to an Ed Clark style campaign.

    Eric Dondero wants a candidate who will call for peace and refer to himself on TV as a “low-tax liberal” . Wow!

  21. Cody Quirk Says:

    There used to be CR’s that were nutjobs and tained the Party horribly. But after the IAP debacle, they left for good. Any remaining have no power or voice in the party at all.

  22. Allen Nuely Says:

    The CP has its problems because they want to legislate social issues. Reminds me of the liberals who want to abolish property rights on the smoking issue while the CP want to do basically the same thing on other legal businesses. I believe in Liberty, I might not like what some people choose to do but if it’s peaceful and doesn’t infringe on the rights of others then so be it. We don’t need more laws designed to control people.

  23. Paulie Says:

    Amen!

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