by John Berger,
ITL Staff Writer
Is the American two-party political system simply the best and most representative way to conduct elections, or can third parties shake up an entrenched establishment and increase the influence of the average voter? Up to one third of all US voters describe themselves as neither Republican nor Democrat. Yet by election time, all but one or two percent of these Americans will have cast their support for one of the two major parties. Cynicism toward this trend is palpable and growing in Main Street America, but what can be done about it?
Stifled by the mainstream news networks, which not-so-subtly align themselves with either Republicans or Democrats, third parties rarely get the chance to test their platforms in the arena of public opinion, and face the perennial difficulty of ever getting off the ground financially.
This is the second installment of a four-part series profiling the lesser-known political parties that likely appeared on your presidential ballot last election.
Of the four major third parties, the Constitution Party is the only one which can truly be called conservative across the board. As we will see, however, even this party shares a surprising amount of common ground with the other three, despite deep ideological and demographic contrasts.
Virgil Goode, Jr. is a charismatic lawyer and career politician from Virginia, where he served as a state senator before spending 12 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He has run and won as a Democrat, Independent, and a Republican, yet has recently disavowed all of those affiliations to run as the Constitution Party candidate for the President of the United States. It is unclear whether the 2016 election will see him run again, since he only managed to secure the needed majority for the Constitution Party nomination by one vote, in 2012.
In an amusing mirror image to last weeks profile of Rocky Anderson, who stood alone among mayors in calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush, Virgil Goode proudly voted for the impeachment of Bill Clinton during his administration.
Though he served as a Democrat, Goode has long remained true to his core platform, which of course he shares with his new political party. Consistently pro-life, anti gun-control, anti-drug and in favor of capital punishment, Goode’s conservative credentials are bona fide. With their platform firmly based on strict interpretations of the US Constitution, the Constitution Party only supports wars which have been declared by a congressional vote. The Constitution Party’s fiscal conservatism is strong enough to place them well to the right of any Republican and square in the camp of American Libertarianism. In Goode’s vision of a government vastly reduced in size and power, many programs would be eliminated entirely, such as “The National Endowment for the Arts, No Child Left Behind, etc. Other programs and departments, such as Foreign Aid and Education, will be slashed and trimmed”.
The Constitution Party
Also like the Libertarians, Goode and the Constitution Party support the abolition of the income tax. However, since that tax is codified in the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Goode and his Constitution Party are put in the awkward position of denying the validity of that amendment- claiming alternately that its wording is overly vague and/or that it was not properly ratified. Many tax protestors who view the income tax as unjust have taken this position over the years, yet all court cases have been thrown out.
In place of the income tax, Goode and his Constitution Party plan to make up for the lost tax revenue with excise taxes on the sale of goods and services. Excise taxes are distinguished from a simple sales tax in several ways. They are generally heavier taxes in terms of percentage, and they are focused on specific products like gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol. The government imposing these taxes can choose which products, lifestyle choices, and habits they wish to tax. An environmentally conscious administration, for example, could place an excise on vehicles with high emissions or poor gas mileage, luxury items like private jets, and factory equipment. On the other hand, a morally traditional administration could choose to tax things like pornography, drugs, and gambling. As we can see from these examples, the form such “sin taxes” take is dependent upon just what a particular administration considers a sin.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Constitution Party finds common ground not only with American Libertarianism, but with the other two major third parties as well (the Green Party and Justice Party). All four parties condemn the bank bailouts of the Bush and Obama administrations (the Constitution Party goes further and opposes the bailout of the auto industry as well). All four parties reject the National Defense Authorization Act as a gross violation of civil liberties. Goode claims that as President, he would have vetoed the Act (but then again, so did Barack Obama, before signing it into law). Goode also opposes government subsidies to big oil as well as any plans to increase the budget of the US military, which puts him in opposition to recent Republican players Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Despite these affinities, liberal voters will have a hard time aligning themselves with the Constitution Party’s most conservative positions. Goode and his party support alternative energy but also expanded drilling including Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They support use of US military troops on the Mexican border as well as restrictions on the legal immigration of non-Europeans. They advocate the use of controversial interrogation techniques made famous by the Bush administration, such as waterboarding. Goode has stated that the Tea Party movement is good for America, while the Occupy Wall Street movement is “mostly not”. Finally, on an issue that has gained national attention recently, Goode states, about police, “They should be allowed to profile, but not on the basis of race.”
It seems that all but the most moderate conservatives will find more in common, ideologically, with the Constitution Party than with the Republicans. Yet as of now this fledgling group is relegated to the same political obscurity as their liberal counterparts in the Justice Party.