Better of Two Lizards & the Constitution Party

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Badgermum posted a Douglas Adams excerpt about the lizards who control the world and how we continue voting for one lizard simply to avoid the other lizard from being elected. It's pretty funny. As I've said before, I don't think the Republican Party cares a whit for evangelical Christians' concerns except to pander to them to keep getting the vote, just as the Democratic Party cares nothing about black people's interests except to pander to keep getting their vote. Therefore I appreciate what Adams is doing here (though he wasn't thinking as much about American society, I don't think).

I do like President Bush, though he has to some extent allowed the factions in control of the party to push him in those ways. Still, even if I were to grant that he's no different from the Democrats with both on the bad side, I don't think I could agree with Badgermum's conclusion. I just can't see the Constitution Party extremists as the answer, and it's not because they're a third party and can't even get enough votes to be recognized in non-backward states. It's because I'm even more opposed to some of their fundamental views (e.g. pretending we're a theocracy) than I am to the Republican tendencies that I don't like.

Update: I went and read the Constitution Party platform more carefully to explain why I don't like this part at all, and I discovered that they're actually much worse than I thought. I thought it was just a tendency to tolerate white supremacism and nationalism in service of selfishness, but it runs much deeper than just tolerating those extremists at the fringes. Some of those values are at the very heart of their platform.

They think the Constitution established a Republic under God. The Constitution never mentions anything about God, and the only time religion is mentioned there's a limit placed on both government and religion. The founders probably all believed in God (though the vast majority of them didn't believe what Christians believe about God). That doesn't mean the Constitution itself says anything about God.

They also minimize the role of government through portraying government as suspicious, contrary to Romans 13's presentation of even anti-Christian political leaders as God-ordained administrators of justice. Their language of restoring biblical foundations for government borders on advocating theonomistic theocracy, which is in principle good if God has indeed called a nation to be set apart as his people. That did happen in the case of Israel, but the Christian church shouldn't ever confuse itself with a political entity, since the new covenant community defines itself as aliens to the world. I don't think that means it's wrong to vote or belong to a party, but I think it means this party is misguided for thinking that they can turn a secular government into a wing of the church.

Written into their party platform is a statement about AIDS and HIV being used by our government as a civil rights issue and how we need instead to see the disease as a public health threat. That's a false dilemma if I've ever seen one. They also have some baby-with-the-bathwater planks, e.g. removing Congressional pay altogether simply because it's too high as things stand. They want to repeal duly authorized amendments to the Constitution simply because they conflict with the Constitution as originally written. That's no argument. There were reasons these amendments were added. Simply stating that it wasn't that way before says nothing about its morality. The Constitution even contains procedures for doing exactly that sort of thing. The kind of purism at work here assumes the founders were infallible and exhaustive.

They define justice so narrowly that the prophets would be horrified. No government caring for the poor or needy is tolerable to these people (though they would allow the government to do exactly that with veterans, another big government program). I think Isaiah and Amos would have some harsh words, given that many of their addresses were against the government and not just against the people or the religious establishment. The same goes for their opposition to allowing the government to oversee justice with regard to medical practices, including anything the FDA does to prevent those in the know from taking advantage of the average consumer and producing poisons as medicines. If they're oppose to illegal drugs, why do they oppose an agency that can declare drugs illegal?

They're strongly opposed to any real cooperation with other nations in using our God-given power to carry out the God-given responsibilities to the rest of the world that come with such power. They frame such selfishness under the title of self-interest. Brushing my teeth is self-interested. Refusing to help someone in need is selfish. Defining it as merely self-interested doesn't change that. They think we should go back on our contract made over 100 years ago to return the Panama Canal to Panamanian ownership, thus breaking our promise to them.

I think the educational system should be reformed, but these people think it should be abolished. They conflate gun registration with prohibiting ownership. There really is some sort of jingoism at work here with their fear of non-Americans. The language of this part of their isolationism assumes immigrants won't work and won't provide for their own living situation and therefore is at best insensitive and perhaps even bordering on mean-spirited ethnocentrism. Then this statement really says something:

"The Constitution Party demands that the federal government restore immigration policies based on the practice that potential immigrants will be disqualified from admission to the U.S. if, on the grounds of health, criminality, morals, or financial dependence, they would impose an improper burden on the United States, any state, or any citizen of the United States."

So if, once their moratorium on all immigration ended once government subsidies were ended, a relative of Sam's in Barbados wanted to come to the U.S. but would be old enough to need family care, would the Constitution Party-controlled government deem the person to be financially dependent on U.S. citizens and therefore ineligible to come here? That's nuts. It's a family member. How heartless can you be? They also think we should oppose Puerto Rican statehood, giving no principle for doing so, which makes me suspicious of outright racism, especially given their stance on immigration.

Other items are just impractical and unwise, such as their advocacy of removing all paper and electronic money (coin only) or their desire to stop keeping covert operations secret by requiring an accounting of every dollar spent on covert ops and national security to be publicly available. They want laws (read: big government) preventing companies from requiring to know your social security number. Can't someone just refrain from doing business with someone who requires a social security number? There's no law requiring anyone to do business with such people. They want anyone who has contributed to social security to be able to withdraw all those funds, as if they're there. That would be disastrous!

There are some things I think the Constitution Party gets right that both Democrats and Republicans get wrong (though I think the Democratic Party gets more of them wrong than the Republican Party does). However, I just can't see evaluating this part as better than the Republican Party. As much as I find tendencies in Republican policies and practices that I would disagree with, I don't have such widespread disagreement with its fundamental principles, especially since the dawn of compassionate conservatism, which I think is much closer to the biblical idea of government-administered justice than either the Democratic Party or the Constitution Party.h

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6 Comments

Jeremy,

I'm no member of the Constitution Party by any means (though after the Specter debacle, it's beginning to look more and more attractive), nor do I support the notion of a theocracy, but I must disagree with you on a couple of issues from a historical standpoint.

First, I think it's fallacious to divide the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as though they had nothing to do with each other. I believe a very strong case can be made that the Founders saw the Constitution as flowing directly from the Declaration, which is very clear about God's role in our nation. The fact that our rights come directly from God was absolutely crucial to their entire argument for independence. It's not divorced from the Constitution--it's assumed in it.

Secondly, the vast majority of the Founders very MUCH believed what Christians believe about God. Modern revisionist history portrays the Founders as a bunch of Deists, but that view is historically indefensible. Granted, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were unorthodox, and they are cited as representative. But Jefferson's heterodoxy didn't begin to show itself until much later in his life, and even Franklin called for prayer for God to intervene at a standstill during the Constitutional Convention!

Aside from those two, the vast majority of Founders were practicing, Trinitarian Christians. The late M.E. Bradford documented that as many as 52 of the 55 signers of the Constitution were orthodox Christians. For the Declaration, the number is about 52 out of 56 (with an overlap of 19 for both). Somewhere between 24 and 27 of them had pursued formal theological education.

In fact, the overwhelming Christianity of America's Founders is part of the reason so much "skeptical" literature these days cites the vehement anti-Christian Thomas Paine--who had no role in the drafting of any of these documents and is not properly a "Founder."

"All men having power ought to be distrusted." -- James Madison, the father of the Constitution.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens." -- George Washington, from his farewell address

Jeremy, thanks for interacting with my post. I will re-read the CP platform this weekend with your main objection in mind - white supremecism - since I've never seen it that way before.

This is an oversimplification of course, but the CP's main goal is to return the Federal government to its Constitutional bounds, therefore allowing more local control. The states are free to be involved in education, social justice, and all those things, if their own constitutions allow it, but the CP believes that this is not the role of the federal government.

White supremacism wasn't my main objection. I'm suspicious that there's more of it than people would want to let on and that it guides why many in the party hold some of these views.

My main objection is just that these are really extreme views in general. Some of them were nice ideas when the Constitution was written, but there's been reason for some of the changes (though not all). I wouldn't want to go back to some of these things, and while I haven't seen any plan for how we would (I assume they have one) it would need to be very well thought out to do it without leading to mass injustice while we wait for private organizations to pick up the slack and serious abuses by states without laws that are now federal laws while we wait for those states to enact them.

Some of my general disagreements are over the notion of a government administering social justice, which they in principle oppose but which I think is endorsed by a view of government found in someone like Amos or Isaiah.

Jeremy, your post is pretty well thot out. As for the white supremacy angle, I would say that these bigots will latch on to any platform that gives them the edge. Byrd with the Dems. Duke with the GOP, etc.

If the Dems were a "christian" party, we'd be in general support. But as it is now, the GOP is regarded the conservative Christian party even tho members sometimes hold diametric views from one issue to another.

Yes, it would be nice if there was a strong 3rd party, but politics being politics, negotiations and compromises are a fact of life. Remember the Independent party? I voted for Perot the 1st time because I was upset with Bush's rejection of Reagonomics. But the second time around, when Perot showed up with a tinfoil hat, there was simply no way I could support that. And Jesse, no not that one, "The Body", turned out to be such a buffoon that the Independent party effectively went from coulda to nada within a decade. It all really depends on who and what principles guide the party.

As Kelly pointed out, the real thrust of the Constitutional party is prying the federal claws off from what should be a local matter. If a predominately Christian community wants to have prayer on the school, let em. If a predominately Wiccan community wants to casts spells, although I take a dim view of Satanism, it's their community. In this case, we wouldn't be so bitterly polarized thanks to activists that ramrod their worldview regardless of what the true seat of government thinks.

So at the risk of white supremist gaining an edge in this community or that, I 'd rather see that then the decidely sinful worldview enforced across the board. You also don't give the free market enough credit to take their money and resources elsewheres.

In an agarian or manufacturing economy, it can be hard to pull up stakes and move to a community more in line with one's conscience. But in this day and age, it's almost the exception rather than the case that someone is a lifelong member of one particular community.

As for their view on immigration, that is a farce shaped by the current leadership. We're all immigrants at one time or another, and to me, slamming the door behind us is patently unfair to those outside looking in as well as shortchanging ourselves, since many advances were made by immigrants looking for a new start.

BTW, I like the white on black scheme

The Constitution Party seems to be relying on a particular claim -- principle is better than pragmatics. The reason they, who tend to agree far more with Republicans than Democrats, can in good conscience pull voters from Republicans so that Democrats will win is that they think the things that distinguish them from Republicans are important principles. If it's all about principles and not the best of the two most likely to win, then you have to go with the one you agree with more. There may well be things the Constitution Party gets right that the Republicans get wrong, but on some pretty important things it's the reverse. That's why I can't see principle deciding the issue. A pragmatic consideration has to make the final call.

The party started by Perot was originally called the Independence Party, but it's been the Reform Party for most of its existence.

Wicca doesn't have much to do with Satanism. One is a farcical attempt to reconstruct pagan practices by getting the history and practices of paganism wrong (much like Kwanzaa, as a amtter of fact, except those who follow the religion of Kwazaa act as if there aren't any pagan origins of it), and the other is conscious, deliberate worship of Satan. Some Christians insist that Wicca is non-deliberate worship of Satan, but it's pretty silly to call it Satanism unless you also are going to call every non-Christian religion Satanism. At that point the term loses its distinctiveness in describing a real group of people who intend to worship Satan by that name.

On the white supremist issue, I get the sense that it's not just people latching on to the party. The way the platform is worded seems deliberate in catering to white supremicists, even if it's not written by them (though I wouldn't be surprised if it was).

I have been contemplating voting CP in the upcoming election and was looking for info/feedback/thoughful opinions and must say you all have certainly made some - good food for thought. Just an observation: not just between two or more parties, but in any one given party, you must choose the lesser of evils. To follow a party line in every area is to have no sense of personal involvement in the political process, you just become someone's puppet.

I am uncomfortable with the idea of the CP here in California because it was founded as a party to elect George Wallace (according to their web page). Their lack of non-white people bothers me, as does their stance on immigration, death penalty, other things. But I also think they are closer to wanting, and have a better system for accomplishing, what I would like to see happen for this country. As a Christian, I would love to live in a theocracy, and even believe one day Jesus will come back and we shall. But for now, as an American I have to vote for a group of people who seem to be sincerely committed to a way of life that genuinely could benefit this country and all its people, politically, financially, socially and even spiritually. I have yet to find a party that I believe can do that across the board, and can only choose the group of people that seem to have the best intentions, pragmatic plans and fewest evils as a part of their platform.
Another observation (last one, I promise): while I would not vote for someone I believed to be a racist, it is not possible to legislate morality. We have been trying for 50 years to eliminate it and have yet to truly succeed, because you can outlaw behavior but not bad attitudes and wrong hearts. So what do you do? Elect the people who make the right promises and then watch them like hawks and yank them back out of office if they renege. I know that's simplistic and even naive, but look where cynicism and pragmatism have taken us.

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