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The Constitution Party was founded in 1992 as the U.S. Taxpayers Party. The man who was most responsible for establishing the party was Howard Phillips, a veteran conservative political activist who had left the Republican Party in 1974 after feeling that the party was insufficiently conservative. Phillips has been the dominant figure in the party since its founding, running as its presidential candidate in 1992, 1996, and 2000.
Phillips had been involved in the Republican Party since his early teens, when he decided to chart a different course. He had served as chairman of the Boston Republican Party, as a staff member at the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C., and finally as the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity under President richard nixon, with an explicit mandate to dismantle the program. When, because of political constraints, he was not allowed to do this, he quit the administration and established the Conservative Caucus, a Lobbying group that became somewhat influential during the presidency of ronald reagan.
Phillips decided that the next step was to form a political party, according to his web site, with "the common goal of limiting the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries and restoring the foundations of civil government back to the fundamental principles our country was founded upon." The party that he formed in 1992 was named the U.S. Taxpayers Party, and befitting its name, it committed itself to stopping all federal expenditures that were not specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution, and to "restore to the states those powers, programs, and sources of revenue that the federal government has usurped."
Though the original party that Phillips formed had a primarily fiscal purpose, it also took strong conservative stands on social issues, advocating making Abortion illegal in all instances, supporting a Moratorium on immigration into the United States, and calling for the Abolition of all Welfare programs. Taking this platform nationwide, Phillips and his running mate, Albion Knight, managed to get on the presidential ballot in 21 states and garnered approximately 40,000 votes in the 1992 presidential campaign. In 1996, Phillips and running mate, Herb Titus, managed to get on the ballot in 39 states and won 182,000 votes.
In 1999, the U.S. Taxpayer Party renamed itself the Constitution Party. With Phillips once again its presidential candidate, this time running with Dr. J. Curtis Frazier, the party was able to gain access to the ballot in 42 states. However, the totals for Phillips this time were lower than he had received in 1996—approximately 98,000 votes. For the 2004 election, the Constitution Party has as its goal to get its presidential ticket on all 50 states.
The Constitution Party does not only run presidential candidates. For the 2002 election, at least 20 states had candidates affiliated with the Constitution Party running for office, for positions ranging from governor and U.S. Senate down to city council and state house. In Nevada alone, the party had affiliated candidates for 30 offices for the 2002 election. In Wisconsin, the party has two affiliated elected officials: an alderman and a county supervisor.
The Constitution Party takes strongly conservative stands on a variety of issues. The party's preamble to its 2000 National Platform views the American political system with a strongly religious bent. "The U.S. Constitution established a Republic under God, rather than a democracy," it states. "Our Republic is a nation governed by a Constitution that is rooted in Biblical law, administered by representatives who are Constitutionally elected by the citizens."
On abortion, the Constitution Party's 2000 platform stated that "Roe v. Wade is illegitimate, contrary to the law of the nation's Charter and Constitution. It must be resisted by all civil government officials, federal, state, and local, and by all branches of the government—legislative, executive, and judicial." It argues that abortion should be illegal nationwide.
Regarding the prevention of AIDS, the Constitution Party states in its platform, "Under no circumstances should the federal government continue to subsidize activities which have the effect of encouraging perverted or promiscuous sexual conduct. Criminal penalties should apply to those whose willful acts of omission or commission place members of the public at risk of contracting AIDS or HIV."
For members of Congress, the Constitution Party suggests abolishing federal pay for members of Congress, and abolishing Congressional pensions. It also advocates abolishing the direct election of Senators and returning that function to the state legislatures. It supports repealing all laws that delegate legislative powers to regulatory agencies, bureaucracies, private organizations, the Federal Reserve Board, international agencies, the president, and the judiciary.
On national defense, the Constitution Party platform advocates "maintenance of a strong, state-of-the-art military on land, sea, in the air, and in space." It opposes allowing U.S. forces to serve under any foreign flag or command. However, it also opposes "the Presidential assumption of authority to deploy American troops into combat without the consent of Congress."
The Constitution Party would like to see the department of education abolished, and it also supports the elimination of the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Reserve Board, the National Security Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service. It supports voluntary Social Security and would change the tax system to offer an apportioned "state-rate tax" in which the responsibility for covering the cost of federal obligations unmet by a tariff on foreign products will be divided among the several states in accordance with their proportion of the total population of the United States, excluding the District of Columbia. Under this system, if a state contains 10 percent of the nation's citizens, it will be responsible for assuming payment of 10 percent of the annual deficit.
On foreign affairs, The Constitution Party would like to see the United States withdraw from all international monetary and financial institutions and agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It wants to terminate all programs of foreign aid, whether military or non-military, to any foreign government or to any international organization. It would withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and would withdraw recognition of Communist China, which its platform describes as a murderous and tyrannical regime enslaving the Chinese people.
The Constitution Party refuses to take any federal funds for its presidential campaigns. The party made it clear after the 2000 campaign that it planned to be around for a while. On its web site, it stated, "In light of the widespread need across the country, the party is fully dedicated to building party strength and organization at the State, County and local level."
Constitution Party Website. Available online at <www.constitutionparty.com> (accessed November 20, 2003).
Lucier, James P. 2000. "Phillips Leads the Way for Constitutionalists." Insight Magazine (Sept 25).