In the likely event that the Republicans fail to nominate an ultra-conservative ticket at their 1996 convention in San Diego, Religious Right strategists plan to immediately promote a radical third-party ticket.
"It is possible constitutionally and legally to be on the November ballot in all 50 states in 1996," said Howard Phillips, president of the Conservative Caucus, "and to withhold a decision about the identity of an independent, pro-life ticket until after the Republican Convention in San Diego."
Phillips, a disciple of Christian Reconstructionist theologian R.J. Rushdoony, also heads the U.S. Taxpayers Party. The U.S. Taxpayers Party will hold its convention in San Diego on August 15-18, 1996, on the heels of the Republican National Convention. "Be a part of history in the making," a flyer promoting the convention says. "The eyes and ears of the world will be focused on San Diego where both the U.S. Taxpayers Party and the Republican Party conventions are being held."
The leading contenders for a radical conservative slate are political commentator Pat Buchanan, African-American talk show host Alan Keyes, and Congressman Robert Dornan. Admitting that none of these men have much chance of capturing the Republican nomination, plans are in the works to place two of them on a third-party ticket. The ticket would probably consist of Buchanan for president and Keyes for vice-president.
The Freedom Writer received a fax from Colorado Springs containing the June 2, 1995 memorandum from Phillips to Focus on the Family head James Dobson.
"A President can be elected outside the Republican and Democratic Parties in 1996," Phillips said in his memo. "That President can be a pro-lifer, such as Alan Keyes or Pat Buchanan." Calling the plan a "political insurance policy," Phillips told Dobson, "More than anyone else in America today, you have the power to make this happen."
According to the strategy outlined by Phillips, the first objective is to get the U.S. Taxpayers Party on the ballot in all 50 states. With Dobson's help, Phillips thinks he can do this. He may be right.
"Millions of Americans now look to [Dobson] for spiritual and, sometimes, political guidance," The New York Times wrote. "He has emerged as one of the country's most influential religious figures." In his January 1995 newsletter, Dobson stunned conservative Christians when he suggested supporting a third-party candidate.
"If the Republicans fail to address the things that matter most, I believe a third party will coalesce around an emphatically pro-life candidate in '96," Dobson wrote.
In a March letter to Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, Dobson warned that "you leave us and millions like us with no recourse but to consider a third party candidate for president in 1996." The letter was co-signed by hundreds of attorneys and their spouses attending a conference at Dobson's Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In his effort to get the U.S. Taxpayers Party on the ballot in every state, Phillips told Dobson, "I urge you to help me make sure that those ballot lines will be available in all 50 states so that, if the Republicans in San Diego fall short of what you and I know to be necessary, (Remember, we had a 'good' GOP platform in 1980, 1984, and 1988 — but the policies of the Reagan and Bush Administrations, in significant respects, advanced abortion — by approving hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for Planned Parenthood, by naming pro-abortion judges, etc.) in the days immediately following, it will be possible for us to nominate a ticket and give it the support it needs to march forward to victory when the voters choose in November, 1996, and when the electors meet in the 50 state capitols in December."
After placing the U.S. Taxpayers Party on the ballot in each state, the second step is to prepare to nominate two ultra-conservative, high-profile candidates should the Republicans fail to do so. Phillips believes that Buchanan is their man, and will accept the U.S. Taxpayers nomination after his rejection by the Republicans.
In "The Howard Phillips Issues and Strategy Bulletin" of February 28, 1995, Phillips wrote, "Pat Buchanan CAN be elected President in 1996, but only if he runs for President — not if he runs simply for the Republican nomination."
Phillips contends that Buchanan can raise unlimited amounts of funding for his campaign if he does two things: reject federal matching funds and have a different running mate in each of the 50 states. "Each of those running mates (if they are running as a team with Pat with the same campaign committee) can spend unlimited sums in behalf of the Buchanan candidacy."
In an interview published in the June 1995 Chalcedon Report, Phillips said that it was "very unlikely" that conservative Christians will capture the Republican Party. "Even if a Pat Buchanan," he added, "were to win the Republican nomination (an outcome which I regard as extremely unlikely), his potential for winning in November would be undermined by his perceived ability to unite his own party, a significant proportion of whose members have different views than those of Pat on everything from NAFTA, GATT, and the New World Order to abortion, homosexuality, and Federal spending."
"Our goal," Phillips told Chalcedon Report, "must be not merely to capture a party, or even a platform, but to install our policies in government. And, in shaping those policies, we must advocate what we know to be necessary, not merely what we are told is politically expedient. Without the Presidency, we can't turn the country around."
In his memo to Dobson, Phillips said that "there is much which a President can do to end legal abortion in America." A president can appoint only anti-abortion federal judges; he can "veto funding for all pro-abortion programs and services; he can instruct U.S. Attorneys to prosecute abortuaries for violations of Federal regulations; he can withhold funding for courts and judges who have violated the laws of God with respect to abortion; he can assert that, contrary to Roe vs. Wade, abortion is unconstitutional, under Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, which guarantees to each state a Republican form of government (in a republic, as opposed to a democracy, our God-given rights to life, liberty, and property may not be extinguished without due process of law — even by a two-thirds vote)."
While these plans are formulated behind the scenes, Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition continues to grab the headlines. The Christian Coalition is a key factor in the 1996 elections. Currently, the group's executive director, Ralph Reed, thinks they will do better if they remain within the Republican Party. Nevertheless, last February, Reed, speaking at a Conservative Political Action Conference, said that the Religious Right would withdraw support from the Republican ticket in 1996 unless both candidates opposed abortion. He vowed to mobilize the Christian Coalition against the Republican Party if it nominated pro-choice candidates for president or vice-president.
In spite of what Reed said then, the Christian Coalition's "Contract with the American Family" is viewed by some as a compromise, and has come under fire from other conservative Christians. A cover story in The New American of June 26, 1995, the magazine of the John Birch Society, called the Contract "gimmicky at best and dangerous at worst." The article accused the Christian Coalition of "selling out its principles, particularly with respect to the right-to-life issue."
"I am horrified," declared Judy Brown, president of the anti-abortion American Life League. Brown said that the Contract with the American Family was "terribly disappointing." "The outcome of such failed pragmatism will be more dead children. As a fellow Christian, I am appalled at their betrayal."
Evangelical commentator Chuck Colson said that abortion is a "non-negotiable issue" for conservative Christians. He warned that an anti-abortion plank must remain a part of the Republican platform. "You leave us, and I'll tell you one thing, Southern Baptists and evangelicals will leave you," he told GOP leaders.
An allegiance between Phillips and Dobson would be formidable, although such a maneuver would most likely be opposed by the Christian Coalition at this time. Politics is about winning. Because the Christian Coalition wants to be on the winning side, the group is likely to back whatever Republican presidential candidate they perceive will win. On the other hand, if they decide that a third party candidate could win, their allegiance could shift. Then the Phillips/Dobson coalition to produce a winning third-party candidate might just work.