Third Party Candidates: A Herd of Dark Horses
No one can seem to decide on the correct name of the political party to which presidential candidate Howard Phillips belongs. The Rocky Mountain News got the name of the Libertarian Party's candidate wrong. Monica Moorehead of the Worker's World Party is making a habit of blurting out impromptu speeches during events at which she's not scheduled to speak. And according to the Associated Press, Ralph Nader isn't really talking about getting elected at all. Welcome to the jumbled mish-mash of ideas and personalities that are the third party candidacies of Election Year 1996.For many voters, the term "third party" is synonymous with H. Ross Perot, the Reform Party candidate from Texas who voters either revere as a saint or revile as an loudmouth nut. But, perhaps as an inevitable result of the sheer boredom of this election cycle in terms of the two major parties' candidates, other political groups are getting some long sought after attention in the media. In many cases the discoveries are illuminating; in others, they're horrifying--but the indisputable similarity is that they certainly don't represent politics as usual.One alternative to the standard brand of politicking is Harvard graduate and former assistant to the chairman of the Republican National Committee: Howard Phillips. He would like to add the name of his party to the voters' consciousness ... but no one's figured out if it's the American Constitution Party, as it's referred to in a number of newspapers, or the U.S. Taxpayer's Party, as it's called on CNN and the party's campaign Web site.But no matter what you call it, the message is the same: if Phillips gets elected, God would really be the president.Phillips would eliminate the separation of church and state and change the government to a "republic under God, rather than a democracy," since the laws of the U.S. Constitution were "rooted in Biblical law," according to party literature.The platform is a very clear document, leaving little room for misinterpretation. Phillips proposes the full criminalization of abortion, declaring the argument over when a fetus becomes a person afforded protections under the constitution moot. The party states unequivocally that a "pre-born child, whose life begins at conception, is a human being created in God's image," and furthermore that Roe v. Wade is "illegitimate." The platform is liberally flavored with such statements that alienate those who like to believe in something other than a Christian god.In the AIDS plank, for instance, the Taxpayer's/ Constitution Party continues to sound like the Christian Coalition by condemning homosexual behavior as "perverse, immoral and unhealthy" that should be punished criminally as "willful acts of omission or commission (that) place members of the public at toxic risk."These beliefs will be taught to all young Americans, since the platform states that "all education is related to the basic assumption about God and man. Education, as a whole, cannot be separated from religious faith."In addition to prosecuting perpetrators of gay sex, the federal government under Phillips' watch would be charged with the duties of protecting its citizens' rights to life, liberty and property. As far as taxes go, he would abolish the Internal Revenue Service and practically all forms of taxation. In order to raise money for the operation of government, Phillips would, according to a system outlined in the constitution, keep the tax on imports and let the states make up the rest. Each state would be responsible for a percentage of the annual deficit that is equal to the percentage of the country's population it holds. This is ostensibly to make state lawmakers more likely to argue for lower federal spending so that they don't have to charge their citizens as much in taxes.If Phillips' platform seems like the original draft of Patrick Buchanan's before anyone computed voter acceptance into the equation, perhaps one of the three Socialist parties on Colorado's ballot would be more to your liking. Unlike Phillips (whose website doesn't even feature a picture of the candidate), Monica Moorehead of the Worker's World Party is going to lengths to make sure people know who she is, what party she represents and what she stands for. When she found herself inexplicably invited to Clinton's 50th birthday party at Radio City Music Hall in New York City (a circumstance that undoubtedly did not go unpunished inside the White House later), Moorehead took the opportunity to loudly berate the president for signing the welfare reform bill. A few weeks later, she marched to the podium erected at the National Press Club for a C-SPAN third-party candidates' debate. The fact that she hadn't been invited didn't deter her from launching into a 12-minute explanation of her platform.Located on the opposite extreme end of the political spectrum than Phillips' position, the Worker's World Party aims to "make the rich pay." Following socialism to the letter, Moorehead advocates redistributing the wealth of the nation so that everyone receives the same amount of money, social services and living conditions for their troubles and achievements. In her scheme, Bill Gates would live in the same austere apartment building as a Seattle cab driver and they would both have identical bank accounts. On her first day on office, Moorehead vows to triple the minimum wage and punish corporate layoffs with jail time; fully implement affirmative action; "end racism;" and give full rights to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.Based on the Communist Manifesto, the Worker's World Party platform is designed to appeal to the laborers Moorehead says create all the wealth in the world yet control very little of it. The small percentage of billionaires who control the majority of the nation's cash would obviously suffer the most but Moorehead sheds no tears for these capitalists: "You really don't need these billionaires in society," she says from the campaign trail in Michigan. "We don't see them as being productive in society. ..."America has the largest economy worldwide--$7 trillion dollars a year--and it can't even meet the basic needs of its people," she says. "The money is there, but the priority is not there ... the priority under capitalism is too make more and more profits at the expense of the people's needs."If Moorehead's Marxist platform would throw the country into a tailspin, then so be it, she says. "Elections have never changed conditions in this country--mass movements have changed the conditions."One person who would probably disagree is the candidate for the Libertarian party, Harry Browne. Browne's first move in office would also cause mayhem but for different reasons: he would abolish everything about the government that wasn't expressly stated in the U.S. Constitution and he would pardon all non-violent drug offenders.And for a completely different spin on the entire national situation, we have the Natural Law Party hawking physicist John Hagelin for president. The Natural Law platform is a warm and fuzzy document touting "conflict-free politics and prevention-oriented government" that will "bring the life of the nation into harmony with natural law."Natural law is vaguely defined in law dictionaries as "law which so necessarily agrees with the nature and state of man, that without observing its maxims, the peace and happiness of society can never be preserved." The knowledge of natural law can be obtained, the definition continues, "merely by the light of reason."The party's platform comes off as somewhat star-struck, rife with happy intentions but notably short on plans for implementation. Among the recommendations made by Hagelin are renewable energy production and conservation, agricultural practices that would eliminate the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, crime prevention that would rely on transcendental meditation for the rehabilitation of prisoners, and "educational programs that develop the inner creative genius of the student."In spite of its decidedly new-age flavor, the Natural Law Party has very reasonable ideas about election reform (most notably the adoption of a proportional representation system of elections as opposed to the "winner-take-all" process we now have) and campaign finance reform.But then there's the economic plan to balance the budget and implement a 10 percent flat tax by 2002. Though noble-sounding and supported with columns of figures, the basis for the economic recovery relies on reducing Americans' stress levels. Dissolving social stress and conflict, according to the party platform, will provide "a more positive and stable environment for economic growth and prosperity."That none of these candidates will get elected to national office should go without saying, at least not this year. But the age of the third party may indeed be upon us. Says Moorehead: "The major candidates aren't saying anything. This is such a boring campaign. People are just fed up with the Clintons and the Doles because they're not saying anything. What they're doing is attacking the rights of poor and working people."And, of course, the one fact that is becoming increasingly apparent and could very well lead to the future election of a third party candidate is summed up by Moorehead: "People do not see any difference between Clinton and Dole."