March 2, 2000
rule, conservatives support the presidential candidate of the
Republican Party, and more often than not with reluctance. To vote for a
smaller, purer conservative party, the saying goes, is to
waste ones vote and help ensure a Democratic
president. Safer to settle for an imperfect Republican president, a Nixon, a
Ford, a Bush, a Dole, who at least has a chance of winning.
But even when such a Republican
wins, conservatives wind up gaining nothing and feeling betrayed when the
president they supported raises taxes, imposes wage and price controls,
and otherwise capitulates to liberal pressures.
The argument for staying within the
two-party system is the old argument for choosing the lesser evil. It may
not be satisfying, but it has the seeming merit of being
realistic, rather than utopian, which is
considered a conservative virtue. After all, its an imperfect world
and is likely to remain so.
This attitude allows Republicans to
take conservative support for granted, since the conservatives, by their
own admission, have nowhere else to go. So Republican
presidents ignore their conservative base and concentrate on appeasing
liberals; and the federal government continues to expand even under
conservative presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W.
In life we sometimes do have to
choose the lesser evil rather than a positive good. This is the basis of
armed robbery. Forced to choose between your money and your life, you
give the mugger your wallet. But though you walk away with relief that
your life was spared, youd be a fool to feel it was a profitable
transaction for you.
For conservatives who vote
Republican, every election is like that. They never really win; that is, they
never advance toward a freer society and a more limited government. They
merely stave off Democrats who would blow their brains out in favor of
Republicans who settle for taking their wallets. Yet they feel victorious
when the Republicans win a truly irrational assessment of their
This year conservatives have a chance
to vote for what they really should want: a full restoration of the
Constitution, limiting the federal government to its few allotted powers
and abolishing the personal income tax. This, in a nutshell, is what the
Constitution Party stands for. Its presidential candidate is Howard
Phillips, founder and leader of the Conservative Caucus; I have the honor
to be his running mate.
Howard has always
been among the most far-seeing American conservative leaders. Among
many other distinctions, he was the only conservative to warn that David
Souter would promote abortion if he was confirmed as a Supreme Court
justice; not even President Bush, who nominated Souter, realized this. But
Souter was being pushed by Senator Warren Rudman, a pro-abortion
Republican who is now John McCains closest advisor. Rudman urged
Souter on Bush precisely because he knew how liberal Souter really was,
as he later admitted in his memoirs.
That episode taught me to listen
carefully when Howard sounded an alarm. He learned long ago that
Republicans cant be trusted; in the end, they differ from Democrats
only in the velocity with which they seek to centralize power. Sometimes
they mean well, but they eventually succumb to, or are simply outsmarted
by, liberal Democrats.
Restoring the Constitution
restoring the original balance between the states and the federal
government is the aspiration that defines true American
conservatism. Most Americans understand the principle of separation of
powers among the three branches of the federal government, but they have
largely forgotten the even more basic division of powers between the
states and Washington, which has been all but destroyed by countless
federal usurpations of power that have made the Constitution a dead
letter since the 1930s.
But does the Constitution Party have a
prayer of winning? Not this year. But we can build for the future,
attracting a few conservatives who know that their votes are
wasted only when they are cast for the feckless and futile
Republican Party the lesser evil that achieves no
lasting good. In time, we trust, more and more conservatives will come to
their senses and realize that the Constitution is not a utopian hope, but an
absolute necessity for a free and healthy America.
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