Ferment on the Far Right: Alan Keyes Bolts the GOP
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:29:28 PM EST
Yes indeed, the religious right, and other precincts of the right are in an uneasy mix of transition and disarray. But far from being dead, declining, or irrelevant, the far right of the conservative movement may very well determine the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.  

Taken as a whole, the movement is in a period of transition after the myriad disasters of the Bush administration, and the passing of the founding generation of leaders of the religious right (notably the deaths of Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy.)  The movement is certainly down, but far from out (wishful thinking of some, not withstanding) This year, that may work to the advantage of Democrats, particularly in the presidential race.  

There are two main reasons for this. One is that the movement is in a state of profound reorganization and regrouping, and it is not yet clear how all that will shake out. Some of the farther precincts of the religious right are bolting or showing signs of bolting the GOP for the Constitution Party; or alternatively, sitting out the 2008 race altogether.

World magazine (a weekly religious right oriented publication) has a fascinating behind the scenes history of the 2008 GOP presidential candidates and the secretive conservative leadership network the Council for National Policy. Founded by Tim LaHaye, Richard Viguerie, Paul Weyrich and a bevy of leaders of the John Birch Society in the early 1980s, CNP remains an important networking and strategy group.

As Religious Right leaders caucused at a recent CNP meeting in New Orleans and tried to figure out what went wrong (that the widely loathed John McCain ended up as the GOP nominee), there was wistfulness for what might have been:  Mike Huckabee.

Last month at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New Orleans, several dozen leaders of the "Christian right" met to strategize next steps--but the meeting inevitably included discussion of missteps in the GOP presidential campaign. Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, an early supporter of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chided the group for cold-shouldering his candidate until it was too late. Others, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, disagreed. The meeting quickly threatened to dissolve into accusations, rebuttals, and recriminations.

Then, venerable Paul Weyrich--a founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the Council for National Policy (CNP)--raised his hand to speak. Weyrich is a man whose mortality is plain to see. A freak accident several years ago left him with a spinal injury, which ultimately led to both his legs being amputated in 2005. He now gets around in a motorized wheelchair. He is visibly paler and grayer than he was just a few years ago, a fact not lost on many of his friends in the room, some of whom had fought in the political trenches with him since the 1960s.

The room--which had been taken over by argument and side-conversations--became suddenly quiet. Weyrich, a Romney supporter and one of those Farris had chastised for not supporting Huckabee, steered his wheelchair to the front of the room and slowly turned to face his compatriots. In a voice barely above a whisper, he said, "Friends, before all of you and before almighty God, I want to say I was wrong."

In a quiet, brief, but passionate speech, Weyrich essentially confessed that he and the other leaders should have backed Huckabee, a candidate who shared their values more fully than any other candidate in a generation. He agreed with Farris that many conservative leaders had blown it. By chasing other candidates with greater visibility, they failed to see what many of their supporters in the trenches saw clearly: Huckabee was their guy.

No doubt, there will be a show of unity for candidate McCain on the part of most of the leaders of the Religious Right. This will not much mitigate the obvious lack of enthusiasm they have for McCain, although the prospect of no more federal court judges and Supreme Court justices like Scalia, Alito and Roberts (McCain faves) may be sufficiently alarming for them to mobilize for McCain. How widely this attitude will be shared is hard to measure at this point.

James Dobson has famously declared that he will never vote for John McCain, and he seems unlikely to change his mind.  Richard Viguerie is encouraging conservatives to regroup and sit this one out. (And he claims for example, that the failure of the GOP to keep former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's house seat is proof that conservatives are prepared to stay home.)  Rightwing talk show host Bill Cunningham and pundit Ann Coulter have famously said they prefer Hillary Clinton over McCain.

Meanwhile, as he promised earlier, perennial GOP primary candidate Alan Keyes (who made a brief splash but quickly faded this year) is bolting the GOP and will seek the presidential nomination of the Constitution Party.  He will formally announce in Pennsylvania on April 15th.  

Other far right figures, mostly members of the Constitution Party, have established an organization called Save America Summit, which seeks to get all of the far right parties behind a single candidate -- most likely the nominee of the Constitution Party.  In addition to Keyes, the Summit is encouraging the possible candidacies of World Net Daily columnist Jerome Corsi; former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore; and former Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH).

The Constitution Party 2008 Presidential Nominating Convention will be held April 23-26 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Constitution Party has been a tiny but determined band of activists since the early 1990s.  They have never had a candidates with sufficient national notoriety to make much of a difference. Whether this year will be any different, it is too soon to say.  But we may know in a few weeks.

A Republican convert to The Constitution Party is behind a state "human life amendment" being circulated for the November ballot in Montana, one so extreme that the state's Catholic Conference rejects it.  See this story: November Ballots Split Anti-Abortion Strategists.

What you don't let people in ib, Fred, is the platform of The Constitution Party.  I thought I knew it as ultraconservative, but was astonished to read its ultrareligious embrace.  The Premamble:

The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

The Constitution of the United States provides that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The Constitution Party supports the original intent of this language. Therefore, the Constitution Party calls on all those who love liberty and value their inherent rights to join with us in the pursuit of these goals and in the restoration of these founding principles.

The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law, administered by representatives who are constitutionally elected by the citizens. In such a Republic all Life, Liberty and Property are protected because law rules.

We affirm the principles of inherent individual rights upon which these United States of America were founded:

·    That each individual is endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness;
·    That the freedom to own, use, exchange, control, protect, and freely dispose of property is a natural, necessary and inseparable extension of the individual's unalienable rights;
·    That the legitimate function of government is to secure these rights through the preservation of domestic tranquility, the maintenance of a strong national defense, and the promotion of equal justice for all;
·    That history makes clear that left unchecked, it is the nature of government to usurp the liberty of its citizens and eventually become a major violator of the people's rights; and
·    That, therefore, it is essential to bind government with the chains of the Constitution and carefully divide and jealously limit government powers to those assigned by the consent of the governed.

by cyncooper on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 12:35:05 AM EST
yes indeed, in most of my previous writing about CP, I describe CP as theocratic. Infact, many of its founders and leaders are or have been Christian Reconstructionists or in the general Reconstructionist orbit. (I write about this in some detail in Eternal Hostility.)


by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 10:08:38 AM EST

Hard to find fault with the platform, though.

by justintime on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 04:55:11 PM EST

Can they draw much of the vote away from McCain? They come across like hostile sociopaths, political dead enders.

by justintime on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 04:48:35 PM EST
their relative success against McCain, will depend largely on whether they can nominated a candidate with more national standing and notoriety than their past candidates. While Alan Keyes is more famous, and is an experienced and energetic candidate, I really don't know if this will be enough to pull a Nader on McCain.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 11:16:52 AM EST

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