Underdogs and also-rans 

Third-party candidates on the ballot

A handful of bantamweight political parties have candidates appearing on the November election ballot in Montana, hoping to win the support of voters who can’t stomach either Republicans or Democrats. Although their candidates aren’t likely to win—at least not this year—the Constitution Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and the Reform Party are promoting nominees who offer alternatives to the familiar two-party standoff.

At least three of the four alt-parties do not support the U.S. war in Iraq. And several call for reforms to the U.S. election laws, like instituting instant run-off voting and abolishing the Electoral College—reforms that would go a long way toward transforming their proposed candidacies into realities. But while they share common objectives, ideologically the parties are vastly different.

Constitution Party
Appealing to zealous Christians who find the Republican Party too moderate, the Constitution Party “strongly champions the principles of government laid down by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, principles which have been abandoned by our political establishment.” Its platform aims to “limit the federal government to its delegated, enumerated, Constitutional functions and to restore American jurisprudence to its original Biblical common-law foundations.” Only when state and local governments’ rights are restored, believe Constitution Party members, will “America’s slide into lawlessness, corruption and tyranny” be reversed.

According to the Constitution Party National Committee website, the party “is completely pro-life, anti-homosexual rights, pro-American sovereignty, anti-globalist, anti-free trade, anti-deindustrialization, anti-unchecked immigration, pro-second amendment, and against the constantly increasing expansion of unlawful police laws, in favor of a strong national defense and opposed to unconstitutional interventionism.”

The Constitution Party’s nominees for president and for state representative in House District 100 will appear on November’s ballot.

Maryland attorney Michael Peroutka, chairman of the Constitution Party of Maryland and member of the Executive Committee of the Constitution Party National Committee, is the party’s presidential nominee. Like the other third-party presidential candidates, he opposes the war in Iraq. He describes the war as “unnecessary, un-Constitutional and enormously expensive.” Peroutka supports a “Republic of Sovereign States based on Biblical principles.”

The Constitution Party is a Christian party. “The very first presupposition of American government,” according to the first of Peroutka’s campaign themes, titled “Honor God,” “is that there exists a Creator God, yet our taxpayer-funded schools teach our children that He either doesn’t exist or that they can’t mention His name.”

Peroutka believes that Republicans and Democrats alike have failed to defend the rights “granted to us by God” in the Constitution. “Sadly,” he writes in a campaign blog, “the candidates in both major parties are hard at work trying to extinguish the dying embers of this great American experiment.” He points to the candidates’ “unconstitutional” support for funding the Department of Education as one example.

Louis Hatch, who could not be reached for comment, is running as the Constitution Party’s candidate for state representative in House District 100.

Green Party
The Green Party is the left’s antidote for the Constitution Party, attracting voters who think that mainstream political discourse in this country is too conservative and unjustly controlled by business interests.

The Greens made a big splash in 2000 by garnering 2.8 million votes in the general election for their presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. But the party bid adieu to Nader for the 2004 battle. Some Greens felt betrayed when Nader refused to participate in the party’s internal nominating election for the 2004 elections, and instead they chose Houston’s David Cobb, a co-founder of the Green Party of Texas (and former Democrat).

Cobb, an attorney, is a member of the General Counsel of the Green Party National Committee and was the 2002 Green Party candidate for Texas Attorney General.

Bob Kelleher, from Butte, is the Montana Green Party’s choice for governor. He was the Green’s candidate for U.S. Senate in 2002, and he currently serves as vice-chairman of the Butte Silverbow Green Party. Kelleher, who was part of Montana’s 1972 Constitutional Convention, breaks with the Green Party on its support for reproductive freedom; He opposes abortion rights and publicly funding abortion.

Although Kelleher has almost no chance of winning, and will likely receive only a small fraction of the votes cast, Scott N. Proctor, the coordinator for the Montana Green Party, hopes Montana citizens will pick up on the party’s message. “I think it’s at least worthwhile for people to take a look at what [Kelleher] is saying,” Proctor says.

“He genuinely realizes how important it is to do something about the child poverty rate here in Montana.”

On the international front, the Greens want to get the United States out of Iraq, arguing that the U.S. occupation is driven by a desire to control Iraq’s oil. “Instead of fighting for oil, we need to make the transition to renewable sources of energy,” the Green Party’s 2004 Unity Statement says.

Wearing its nonviolent idealism on its campaigning sleeve, the Green Party promotes the creation of a federal Department of Peace to promote and seek more gentle means of solving international crisis and conflicts.

The Greens have targeted goals at home, too. They believe all Americans should have access to health care, and the party has proposed a single-payer universal health care plan.

Like other marginalized political parties, the Greens argue for major reform of the electoral process. They support public campaign financing, instant run-off voting and proportional representation.

Not surprisingly, the Greens are unsympathetic to corporate interests. The party calls for an end to “corporate welfare” and seeks to abolish “sub-poverty-level wages.”

Libertarian Party
The Libertarian Party (LP), founded in 1971, espouses a drastic reduction of the size and scope of government. Government is best, LP members believe, when its powers are limited to protecting the freedoms acknowledged in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Libertarians argue that government has become “bloated” and government spending wasteful and nonsensical. “For example politicians spend millions of dollars to urge people not to smoke—while spending more millions to subsidize tobacco farmers,” the party explains in a statement on its website.

Libertarians place a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility. Accordingly, the LP would hold people accountable for their own health and support a free-market health care system. The platform calls for “a complete separation of medicine and State.”

In contrast to many Republicans, Libertarians as a rule do not condone legislating issues of personal morality. Many state Libertarian Parties have opposed bans against gay marriage. In contrast to Democrats, as a rule, Libertarians would like to see trade legislated to a lesser degree. Instead, they favor a free-market economy.

To Libertarians, privacy is paramount. Consequently, the Libertarian Party condemns the U.S. Patriot Act and its infringement on personal freedoms.

The freedom to bear arms is similarly sacrosanct to the Libertarian Party because it views gun ownership as an extension of citizens’ inherent right to protect themselves. The party argues that if government would admit its defeat on the war on drugs and legalize drugs instead, gun violence would decrease.

Michael Badnarik, a computer consultant and the Libertarian Party’s candidate for the Texas House of Representatives in 2000 and 2002, is the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president. His plans for America begin with a strong statement against the war in Iraq. “The war in Iraq is a failure,” says Badnarik on his website, “and the U.S. government should never have waged it.”

Missoula’s Mike Fellows is the party’s candidate for U.S. Representative, running against Republican incumbent Denny Rehberg and Democrat Tracy Velzaquez. “I think a lot of people in Montana consider themselves Libertarians,” says Fellows, though those people may not have a formal membership with the party.

Bozeman’s Stanley Jones, a business consultant, is on the ballot as the LP’s gubernatorial candidate. According to Jones’ website: “I’m running for Governor to drastically reduce state government. To get government out of your pocket book, out of your bank account, out of your business, out of your home, and out of your life.”

Reform Party U.S.A.
In Montana, it’s the Reform Party that put Ralph Nader on the 2004 ballot. “We were completely determined to elect Ralph Nader,” says Reed Perry, chairman of the Reform Party of Montana.

Nader isn’t actually running as a Reform Party candidate, but as an Independent. Perry explains that the Reform Party of Montana does not want to alienate people who might be inclined to support Nader but would normally associate the Reform Party with the party’s original figurehead, Ross Perot.

The Reform Party has a simple if idealistic mission statement, adopted at its 1997 founding convention in Missouri: “We, the members of the Reform Party, commit ourselves to reform our political system. Together we will work to re-establish trust in our government by electing ethical officials, dedicated to fiscal responsibility and political accountability.”

Perry speaks in terms of “credible agenda,” or candidates who are unafraid to articulate their beliefs, however unpopular in the polls.

He sees Republicans and Democrats as fundamentally similar and too easily inclined to pay lip service to public opinion polls. “The differences between the two parties…are very, very small,” says Perry.

Like the Green Party, the Reform Party calls for massive changes to the nation’s election system. It favors shortening the election cycle and abolishing the Electoral College. It also proposes weekend elections instead of Tuesday elections “so working people can get to the polls.”

Corporate reform is on the agenda as well. The party emphasizes anti-trust enforcement and seeks to give corporate criminals “real jail time.”

Inspired by the live-and-let-live premise of the Monroe Doctrine, the official party platform adheres to principles of nonintervention, flatly stating that the United States “should not be the policeman of the world.” In 2003, the Reform Party passed a resolution on the Iraq war calling upon President Bush to “develop and publicize an exit strategy for Iraq.”

Reed says that on a national level, the Reform Party has “largely disintegrated.” He believes that by the 2008 election cycle, its members may choose to join forces with the Green Party.

Perry claims that Nader received almost 9 percent of the Montana vote in 2000, and more than 18 percent of the Missoula County vote, but state and county election officials put the actual numbers are 6 percent and 15 percent respectively—nothing to sneeze at, but considerably less than the Reform Party’s exaggerations.

kszpaller@missoulanews.com

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