Lately I’ve been gathering information that has made me dislike the GOP more than ever. The Constitution Party (CP), which is a small-government, avowedly pro-Christian, and immigration restrictionist party that came into existence in 1992, is being kept off the ballot in the presidential election in many states thanks to costly Republican efforts. Republican operatives have lavished tens of millions of dollars challenging petitions that the CP and its candidates have submitted in various states. Indeed, Republicans have engaged in all sorts of nasty tricks to prevent a challenge to their candidates from the organized right.
What has typically happened, as occurred in my state of Pennsylvania, is that GOP lawyers have mounted complicated challenges to every name that appears on CP ballot petitions. The required number of names has been raised as high as 20,000 to scare away threats to our eternalized two-party American-style constitutional democracy. Under an able leader from Lancaster, Jim Clymer (who is also the national party’s vice-presidential candidate), the Pennsylvania CP raised over 35,000 signatures, in defiance of our media- and GOP-approved way of life. But since GOP lawyers are challenging most of the names on the submitted petitions, it’s unlikely the CP will be on the ballot this fall in Pennsylvania. Through persistent hard work and fundraising, however, the CP has gotten on the ballot in 21 other states, most recently Virginia.
Although Clymer, a distinguished local lawyer, has tried to deal with the challenges to the best of his ability, the cost of staying in the fight has become for his cash-strapped state party truly astronomical. When asked to raise another $100,000 to go on battling GOP obstructionists, Jim threw in the towel. Because of GOP muscle, which is every bit as despicably applied as that of the Democrats’ public-sector unions, the CP will see its prospective votes in Pennsylvania this November diminish to a mere trickle.
I am fully aware of the arguments that local GOP flacks are pulling out on behalf of their party’s Stalinist tactics. It is apparently necessary for all non-leftists to get behind Romney, so that we can oust from office the Evil One, who is denounced daily in the neocon-GOP media. Any other party on the right, Republicans are made to believe, is in league with Bam and should be viewed as an instrument designed to get a leftist president reelected. But (alas) the socially traditional and foreign-war-averse right has absolutely no place to go in this election, unless it can vote for a suitable third party. Neither Romney nor Obama stands for this option. If the GOP presidential candidate represents any right, it is only because media noisemakers tell us he does.
There is nothing Romney has said that would suggest he’s significantly different from Obama on social issues, and there’s plenty to suggest he’d be a lot worse in dealing with our “antidemocratic” enemies worldwide. Do we really want to see the neocons put back in charge of American foreign policy, with a candidate who is offering at best an extension of W’s presidency? These are the points that CP presidential candidate Virgil Goode and his running mate Jim Clymer have been making. And though Goode as a congressman from Virginia voted for the Patriot Act and W’s other war measures, he seems to have developed more gravitas in the intervening time. To Goode’s credit, I haven’t noticed John Bolton or Robert Kagan turning up in his retinue, which can’t be said for Romney.
There are two other relevant observations: One, in 2000 the Democrats allowed Ralph Nader to run as a third-party presidential candidate, although from the outset it seemed this earnest challenger would take more votes from the Democrats’ socialist left than from the GOP’s anti-immigrationist right. (Nader in 2000 combined economic socialism with vaguely rightist populist sounds.) We now know this third party candidate cost Gore the race by taking enough votes from Floridians to throw their state to W.
But that’s how the Dems, not the GOP, acted back then. I’ve no doubt the GOP, faced by the same problem, would have ruthlessly and happily crushed a third-party challenge. Unlike the Dems, who have kooky intellectuals to keep under control, Republicans believe what they’re told. If they’re repeatedly informed that Romney is a right-winger because he believes in “American exceptionalism” and will put the U.S. armed forces at the disposal of Benjamin Netanyahu, why shouldn’t Republicans believe this? After all, who’s to say it’s not true, except for a Muslim Democrat?
Two, the Republicans look as if they’re taking their program for eliminating parliamentary opposition on the right from the German Christian Democrats after World War II. Set up as a centrist party by the occupational powers, one intended to appeal to the non-Nazi right without becoming itself a right-wing party, the Christian Democrats and their Christian Social allies in Bavaria worked tirelessly to outlaw their opposition. And the oppositions rarely if ever included real right-wing revolutionaries. The party in power mounted court cases as threats to German democracy against such implausible targets as Bavarian regionalists and on one occasion the old Catholic Center Party, of which the German chancellor had once been a leading member but which Chancellor Adenauer wanted to collapse into the postwar Christian Democrats.
These eliminationist tactics were successful up to a point. They helped provide the Christian Democrats with a safe constituency in the center (which was really the Catholic majority of the eliminated Center Party), but there was a high cost that came with this provisional success. The German left, which has been in power since the 1970s, although sometimes with Christian Democratic window dressing, has continued and accelerated the practice of eliminating through the courts any pesky opposition on the right. In Germany “right-wing extremism” starts with those who question the latest media-approved multicultural agenda, and those parties that represent such resistance soon find themselves dragged through courts and under investigation. This all began under the opportunistic leadership of the postwar Christian Democrats, who seem to have foreshadowed our present-day GOP.
What Republicans have done to the CP will not unite the right. It is a preparatory action to moving our politics further to the left, which is exactly what happened in Germany. But there are short- and middle-term benefits from this game. The center obtains a somewhat bigger share of the electoral pie by making the right disappear as a party factor. But that doesn’t change the overall situation, in which the center does the work of the left by getting rid of the right. On the other hand, that may be all the GOP really wants, a bit more time to make careers and to hand out patronage to its drudges.
Paul Gottfried is the author, most recently, of Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal.