by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Tue., Sep 2, 2008
Filed under: Republican National Convention
UPDATE: For a comprehensive explanation of Constitution Party theology from a scholar of right-wing movements, check out Chip Berlet’s excellent article on Talk to Action.
Unless you live in a cave, you probably know that Sarah Palin, the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee, has a pregnant teenage daughter, an ex-brother-in-law whose supervisor she tried to fire, and you may have heard that she once belonged to a political party, the Alaska Independence Party, which sports the occasional mission of establishing Alaska as its own country. (Though McCain camp denies that report by ABC News, the network is sticking by its story about Palin’s affiliation. In addition, voter rolls show, according to TPM Muckraker, that Palin’s husband claimed membership between 1995 - 2002.) More recently, Palin sent the party a video greeting for use at its convention.
Through it all, leaders of the G.O.P. and the religious right have vowed to stick with her. But what if she supported a third party that’s bent on smashing up the Republican Party? Or one with links to militia groups? Would she still look like your garden-variety church lady to the Republican Party pooh-bahs?
Indeed, it does seem to be the case that Sarah Palin is out there on the fringe. Fred Clarkson of Talk To Action today reported the connection between the Alaska Independence Party and the Constitution Party founded and led by Howard Phillips. Basically, the AIP is the Constitution Party — its Alaska state-level party. In 1996, Phillips tried to lure insurgent presidential candidate Pat Buchanan out of the G.O.P. for a run on the slate of his national party (then called the U.S. Taxpayers Party) and nearly succeeded in doing so.
I first became familiar with Howard Phillips in 1995, in the course of reporting a story on the religious right for Mother Jones. In a 45-minute telephone interview, Phillips laid out for me the strategy and rationale behind his party, whose ideological basis is found in the tenets of Christian Reconstructionism, a theology that calls for biblical law to be implemented as the law of the land. (Yes, that means death for adulterers and “homosexuals”.)
But he’s not an impractical man. Here’s how Phillips saw the fortunes of his party taking shape in 1996, per our conversation:
What I think is going to happen is that we’re probably not going to elect an independent president in ‘96, but ‘96 is going to reveal some fissures within support for the major parties, and I think we’ll have an independent president by the end of the decade. The reason I say that is that i see an enormous financial crisis coming. When you have a $5 trillion debt, every time interest rates go up by a single percentage point, the cost of debt service goes up by $15 billion. And we’ve been able to keep interest rates down for a long time — one of the reasons was that people wanted dollars. They don’t want dollars anymore…And that is going to lead, in my view, to an hyper-inflationary depression in the United States which is going to terminally undermine confidence in whomever controls the presidency when it hits — and, to a lesser extent, in the other party, as well. I think the whole purpose of ‘96 is to position for that crisis and to be able to pick up the pieces when it’s over.
The Constitution Party has long been linked to anti-abortion groups that threaten violence, such as Missionaries to the Pre-Born, a sort of militia organization. Randall Terry, the former leader of Operation Rescue, has organized for the party and run for Congress on its ticket. When I interviewed Phillips 13 years ago, I asked him about alleged links between his party and militia groups, which he denied.
“We are not involved in the killing business,” he said. “Planned Parenthood is Murder Incorporated…That’s not our schtick.”
Phillips’ anti-choice rhetoric is often harsh, and his position — which echoes that of the Constitution Party — is uncompromising: No abortions, no exceptions. Here is how he stated it at an Operation Rescue rally in San Diego in 1996: Exceptions for rape and incest, he said, mean it’s “okay to kill some babies if they’re born to the wrong parents — if their dad was a rapist or a close relative.”
If Palin makes it into the West Wing, would she be Howard Phillips’ ringer, awaiting that fateful day?
Okay, so that’s a bit much. But, as Max Blumenthal reports, leaders of the Council for National Policy, the secretive uber-right-wing umbrella group (of which Phillips is a member), went ga-ga for Palin, and may have pushed McCain to pick her in exchange for their support.