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Plugging Myself

March 9, 2000

Though many papers are not carrying my column — for the duration of my campaign for vice president on the Constitution Party ticket — and most subscribers receive it by e-mail, a few newspapers still run it. And one well-disposed editor has raised a point that has probably occurred to other readers.

The question is whether I should use this column to plug my own candidacy or that of my estimable running mate, Howard Phillips. As a rule I’d agree that I shouldn’t, and I usually avoid doing so. But on a few recent occasions I’ve mentioned it in passing, and I should explain why.

[Breaker quote: Why I 
should be king]First, let me acknowledge the obvious: Howard and I have about as much chance of winning as I have of pitching in this year’s World Series. The party has almost no money, name recognition, or television access. It’s all we can do to get on the ballot: the two major parties maintain tight control over the rules, which they use to prevent competing parties from threatening their duopoly. Antitrust legislation doesn’t apply to politics, where it is most needed. This is an area where politicians forget to demand “campaign reform.”

Occasionally I feel duty-bound to remind the world that we exist. In a better world — a Frank Capra world — my little peeps might lead to a word-of-mouth brushfire that would sweep the nation, as ordinary Americans realized that they’re living under a lawless government in the most literal sense: a government that disregards the fundamental law of the Constitution. And they would rise up, in a fine populist fury, and cast it off.

Alas, the world we live in doesn’t work that way. Political “folk heroes” like John McCain always turn out to have a lot of powerful connections — and money.

I didn’t enter this campaign with the expectation of winning — chilling thought! Becoming vice president would be an intolerably tedious interruption of my writing career. It’s the other way around: I regard the campaign as an extension of my mission as a writer — to evangelize for the forgotten principles of the Constitution. If we win, wonderful! If not, we’ve at least offered our country a chance to return to its roots.

So I have no wish to bore my readers with campaign propaganda. I don’t want my columns to sound like stump speeches; in fact, I’m afraid my stump speech sounds a little too much like my columns, more analytical than inspirational. The Tenth Amendment, my favorite topic, doesn’t seem to fire anyone’s blood but my own. So far I’ve been unable to start a riot by quoting it verbatim. As a demagogue I’m an utter failure.

Whatever it takes to make a successful politician, I just don’t seem to have it. I can’t pretend I feel everyone’s pain. I don’t have solutions for all their problems. I don’t feel generous pledging to spend other people’s money on them. I hate to insult their intelligence with extravagant promises. I don’t even feel that their lives are necessarily empty without me.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I believe I’d actually make a rather good king. After all, the best kings were a lot like me. They knew they hadn’t done anything to deserve their power, so they used it sparingly. They didn’t have big dreams, didn’t try to remake their societies from top to bottom, didn’t promise their subjects the moon. Even their wars were mostly skirmishes, by modern standards.

Unlike Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and others I could name, kings didn’t talk a lot of utopian rot; in a democracy, you hear nothing else. And compared with modern governments, most kings kept taxes low. Americans paid far less under George III than under today’s government. Blasphemous as it may seem to say so, they were freer than we are. King George didn’t care a hoot whether you smoked or how much water your toilet tank held. That’s how I would try to be.

All this may seem irrelevant, since I’m seeking the vice presidency, not (at this point, anyway) the monarchy. But I want to assure my readers and editors that if a crown were ever offered to me, they’d have no cause for alarm.

Joseph Sobran

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