It’s hard to look at the doctrine of the Constitution Party without seeing references to overt religious fundamentals -- namely, Christian fundamentals. The preamble to its platform begins:
"The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States."
Does this sound like a political party or Christian litany?
The Constitution Party argues that its platform does not reflect Christianity itself, but instead the Christian principles on which America was founded. I would call this a subtle distinction at best; Thomas Jefferson's concept of “separation of church and state” is more than mere semantics.
Terms like God, Christian, Church, and Jesus -- none of which explicitly appear in the U.S. Constitution -- abound within the Constitution Party's website.
“At its very roots, the Constitution Party is unabashedly a party of Christian philosophy and spirituality, whereas the Libertarian Party remains much more secular in its composition and values.”
“The mention of the roots of the Constitution [Party] may be dismissed as ‘Religious Right’ by some, but to us any political party that does even acknowledge the depth and breadth of the Founding Father’s wisdom makes them superfluous,” said Constitution Party National Executive Committee Member Peter Gemma in an email response for IVN.That distinction aside, the challenges faced by the Constitution Party are similar to other third parties. According to Karen Murray, the national communications director of the Constitution Party, “gaining ballot access is a major priority for any alternative party.” Murray claims the party has already secured ballot access in 13 states and is confident the number will grow even more going into the 2016 election cycle.
The Constitution Party’s 2016 presidential candidate will be nominated by state delegates at the party's convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. Virgil Goode, Jr., the Constitution Party’s nominee for president in 2012, received 122,000 votes in the election, placing him in fifth place overall.
Several individuals have expressed interest in running in 2016 under the Constitution Party's banner, including its 2008 vice-presidential candidate, Darrell Castle, a Tennessee attorney and host of the conservative podcast, The Castle Report.
Other potential candidates, according to Gemma, include:
- Rev. Scott Copeland, who served three two-year terms on the executive committee of the Texas Southern Baptist Convention, and is the author of Your 2012 Middle Class President.
- Chad Koppie, a member of the Illinois Kane County Regional Board of Schools. He has also served as a township trustee.
- Owen Schuler, CEO of Shuler Capital Corp., a Georgia investment company with interests in oil, gas, transportation infrastructure, real estate, and specialized technologies integration across several sectors.
Of these, only Shuler has formally announced. Gemma says there are also efforts underway to recruit:
- Dennis Lynch, entrepreneur, documentary film maker, and conservative commentator from New York.
- Steve Stockman, former two-term Republican congressman from Texas and well-known conservative advocate.
National elections are not the only focus of the Constitution Party, however. According to Murray, “local and state candidates continue to be a priority for a grassroots-based party such as the Constitution Party.”
Murray also points out the importance of third parties in American politics.
“Alternative parties have the power to change the focus of the argument on many issues,” she said.
She argues that by attracting a growing number of dissatisfied Republicans, the Constitution Party has been a “wake-up call” to the GOP.
“It is an educational and spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of the American people, not a win-at-all-costs political spat.” - Karen Murray, Constitution Party
“Without a firm foundation in basic principles of good governance for a free people, there will be no change. The Constitution Party seeks to be the impetus for that change,” she added.
The Constitution Party was not able to provide hard numbers to measure its support, but Murray expects increases in terms of higher electoral numbers, more candidates, and more Constitution Party members elected to office in 2016. Currently, 13 Constitution Party members hold public office, according to Murray.
While the Constitution Party has only been able to garner limited support in most U.S. elections, it’s hard to ascertain the ideological impact it may have had in recent years. The Constitution Party claims to be the philosophical home of tea party supporters.
Any rightward shift at the polls would likely be seen by the Constitution Party as affirmation of its efforts. Whether the American public is ready for conservatism with a side of religion remains to be proven.