SOUTHERN UTAH – With a weighty election just around the corner, the Utah Constitution Party offers voters yet another option to the long-standing two-party reflex.
Who are the Constitutionalists?
The Constitution Party is the smallest of the five major political parties in the United States – the others being Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green – as well as the most recently founded. The party claims its values are based directly upon those in the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution, with the belief that allegiance to those documents will cause positive governmental change. Loyalty to the ideas and principles of the Founding Fathers is also stressed.
The Constitutionalist’s political platform is staunchly conservative. The party opposes all foreign aid and borrowing, proposing to eliminate the national debt through reduced spending on federal expenditures including health care, education and welfare; most taxes are also strongly opposed. Constitutionalists typically favor a noninterventionist foreign policy and support withdrawing the United States from trade treaties and organizations.
The party supports stricter immigration laws and stands firmly against illegal immigration, rejecting the practices of awarding U.S. citizenship to American-born children of illegal immigrants and amnesty for any illegal immigrant. Additionally, the party advocates that the armed forces be used to protect states against surges of illegal immigrants.
The strong Christian influence on the party is evident in its stance on social issues. Constitutionalists oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, pornography and gambling. They do, however, support the right to bear arms and the death penalty for those convicted of committing capital crimes. Officially, the party is classified as being both fiscally and socially conservative.
The Constitution Party was founded by Howard Phillips, a former Republican and director of the Office of Economic Opportunity during the Nixon Administration. Following controversy surrounding the legality of his appointment to the OEO, he left the party in 1974 and for many years was an activist for the Conservative Caucus, a nationwide public policy advocacy group.
In 1991, Phillips launched “Conservative Roundtable,” a weekly television program focusing on conservative politics and analysis of national issues that still airs today, with him as host. He launched the United States Taxpayers’ Party the next year, which adopted the name Constitution Party in 1999. Phillips unsuccessfully ran for president three times before the nomination was passed on.
Though, like many third parties, the Constitutionalists have never come close to having a candidate elected as president, the party has grown exponentially in a relatively short time span. In the 1994 elections, only two candidates throughout the entire country ran on the Constitution ballot; by 2006, that number grew to nearly three dozen. The party gained ballot access in 37 states in the last presidential election and this year, the goal is all 50.
Constitutionalists in Utah
The current State Chair is Kirk Pearson, also a candidate for governor in the upcoming elections. A family man from the small farming town of Lake Point, Pearson has run his own business, Kirk D. Pearson Construction, since 1985. The challenges of heading a company through financial ups and downs were part of his inspiration to join the Constitution Party. His platform principles aver that he does “not believe in debt” and encourages voters to consider “where this country could be if half our politicians felt the same.”
Like Pearson, many party officers are also candidates or are preparing to become candidates. One future hopeful is Washington County Chairperson Dianne Graham, whose work promoting the Constitution Party in her community has inspired her to become even more deeply involved. During her years with the party, Graham has met a great number of people who are seeking an alternative to two-party politics but do not know where to turn. She said she believes that increased third-party influence will help eliminate the seemingly endless arguments between Republicans and Democrats, which she said has steered them away from addressing, let alone resolving, crucial issues. Graham dedicates much of her time to raising public awareness about her party and her goal is to one day carry that dedication into holding office.
The Constitution Party has seen moderately successful results in Utah elections, winning scattered local offices over the years. But for the impending elections, candidates at the federal, state and county levels are boosting their campaigns like never before in an effort to hook voters with a different option.
“(This party) is the natural home for people who believe in freedom,” said Shaun McCausland, the 2012 Utah candidate for Senate. “Some of our candidates are being elected and more will be as people realize they do have (another) choice.”
Once a state and county delegate and campaign assistant for the Republican Party, McCausland joined the Constitutionalist movement eight years ago after becoming dissatisfied with the “unnecessary laws” and “throwing away (of) money” of both major parties. He is now a self-proclaimed “anti-candidate,” in that he does not consider himself to be a politician, but rather a concerned and loyal American citizen who decided to publicly take a stand to support his views.
“I am not famous, wealthy, terribly good-looking nor interested in power or political manipulation,” he said. “I simply love (this) country and believe that the Constitution contains the answers to the problems (we face.)”
Though he has been tirelessly campaigning through his social media effort “Mr. Shaun Goes to Washington” and numerous radio and television interviews, he said that for voters to truly understand his views, they must first understand the historic documents that inspired them. He has downloadable copies of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution available on his website and encourages prospective supporters to take the time to read them.
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