Sobran Column -- Career Change
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Career Change

(Reprinted from The Wanderer, September 16, 1999; “Washington Watch”)

September 8, 1999

For the last decade I’ve devoted countless columns and articles to the central problem, as I see it, of American politics: the nearly total erosion of the U.S. Constitution. Now I’ve suddenly been offered the chance to address this problem in a new way. I am running for the vice presidency. Of the United States. On the ticket of the Constitution Party.

My old friend Howard Phillips, founder of the U.S. Taxpayers Party and its 1992 and 1996 presidential candidate, has asked me to be his running mate next year. I was flattered and astounded by his request; and even amused. Those who know me best have never thought of me as executive material.

But Howard insisted I’d be an asset to his ticket, and maybe it’s time for a midlife change. After thinking it over for a few days, I gratefully accepted. The very fact that he thought I could help was enough; I have boundless respect for Howard, who not only understands the Constitution correctly but knows the nuts and bolts of politics like nobody else I’ve ever met. He’s also a devout Christian and an amazingly energetic leader.

The Taxpayers Party held its convention in St. Louis the first weekend in September, with about 500 delegates in attendance. Howard staved off a challenge from the estimable Herb Titus, a constitutional scholar of wisdom and integrity, and I was accepted as his running mate. These good people welcomed me with a warmth and enthusiasm that overwhelmed me.

The party also formally changed its name to the Constitution Party — a good move, I believe. But the party faces several daunting hurdles. First, the two big parties are determined to use every means to keep other parties off the ballot. You can spend millions gathering signatures, only to see them disqualified on the slightest technicalities (if John Doe signs “Johnny Doe,” his sig is thrown out). Second, of course, the media support the Big Two and rarely notice smaller parties, unless they achieve celebrity, as the Reform Party has done. Even Warren Beatty, toying with the idea of running as a Democrat, gets more coverage than a Howard Phillips, who has spent years building a whole grassroots party.

Most of the “conservative” press, of course, is married to the Republican Party and is even less willing to cover a rival conservative party than the liberal media. Rush Limbaugh thinks of those who lean to third parties as nothing more than renegade Republicans, spitefully willing to help elect Al Gore if they don’t get everything they want.

Rush has it all wrong. The St. Louis delegates weren’t in any sense Republicans. All they wanted was the very thing our rulers take an oath to give us: constitutional government. That should be a minimum for every party, not a partisan matter. At the moment it isn’t even a partisan issue, since neither of the Big Two will even advocate it.

It speaks volumes about the condition of this country that a demand for constitutional government should seem radical, even utopian. Yet most Americans have forgotten what the Constitution means. They don’t realize that Bill Clinton isn’t the only perjurer in Washington: nearly every elected representative, on being sworn in, takes an oath he probably has no serious intention of keeping.

If “constitutional government” sounds vague, I was led to grasp it by something very specific: Roe v. Wade. The shock of that unspeakably perverse and tyrannical ruling drove me to study constitutional history, from the ratification debates to the Civil War, from the New Deal to the present. I concluded that the Civil War had destroyed the vital balance between the states and the federal government, and that the New Deal had destroyed residual restraints on federal power, leaving the states helpless to defend themselves against the bloody usurpation of Roe. This is a view Howard shares. He also favors the abolition of the personal income tax and the Internal Revenue Service, which enable the federal government to control every American citizen and to continue its self- aggrandizement.

Even the term “federal government” has become a misnomer. The proof is that ordinary Americans now think “federal” is a synonym for “centralized,” if not “omnipotent.” The concept of a federation of states, associated only by the delegation of a few specific powers to a “general” government, has been lost, thanks to the politicians, the media, and state-subsidized education. We suffer from a sort of national amnesia.

So a large part of the mission of the Constitution Party is simply to remind our fellow Americans of what their ancestors stood for. Most of them would be elated to learn that the Constitution is on their side. It’s not whatever the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the liberal law schools say it is. The liberals’ “living” and “evolving” Constitution has cost us tens of millions of lives, as well as trillions of dollars.

And the true Constitution will never be restored by equivocating Republicans like George W. Bush. If the GOP has done nothing to reverse Roe since 1973, after four Republican presidents and with both Houses of Congress under Republican control, it never will. I wonder what it would take to make Limbaugh admit that the Republicans are never going to achieve — or even aspire to — what conservatives really want. It’s not just that the Republicans don’t honor their promises; it’s that they make the wrong promises in the first place.

As Howard likes to say, “Before you seek victory, you must define it.” The Constitution Party defines victory as a return to constitutional government, which means nothing more than lawful government, in which legislation is limited to the powers specifically authorized to Congress by the Constitution, and no other powers whatsoever, because whatever isn’t authorized is forbidden.

Is even this minimal principle too much to ask? If so, the American experiment in limited government is a failure, doomed by human greed and power-lust to devolve into a system of what Frédéric Bastiat called “organized plunder,” which can be administered equally well by Democrats and Republicans.

But some of us refuse to give up on either the Constitution or the American people. We have a more important goal than defeating Al Gore. Namely, recovering our God-given freedoms.

During the campaign my syndicate will suspend publication of my newspaper columns for the duration, but they’ll still appear in The Wanderer, on my website, and of course in SOBRAN’S, my monthly newsletter.

Joseph Sobran

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Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 1999 by The Vere Company