Apr 27, 2013

Howard Phillips, 1941-2013

Howard Phillips, a leader of the religious right who spent more than 30 years pushing conservatives to be more true to their anti-government principals, has died at the age of 72.

He worked for Richard Nixon in the 1970s, dismantling welfare programs, but resigned when Nixon failed to stop funding programs he had promised to slash. Phillips was a key player in the founding of the Moral Majority and the politicization of evangelicals in the 1980s, and then founded a religious right party as an alternative to the Republicans in 1991. Phillips ran for president three times on the U.S. Taxpayers' Party ticket, in 1992, 1996, and 2000.

He embraced Christian Reconstructionism and libertarian economics, and was particularly interesting as a radical figure who refused to compromise. At his most politically successful, in 1996, Howard got .19 percent of the vote.

In 2000, during his last presidential run, he devoted some of his campaigning to attacking George W. Bush, a politically conservative evangelical Christian embraced by much of the religious right. Phillips, however, called Bush "a pretty new face to mask the ugly old policies" of "America's permanent power structure."

On the stump that year, Phillips said,
In this century, three Presidents in particular, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson have successfully launched fundamental assaults on America's heritage of Constitutional liberty. None of their successors altered the course on which these Presidents directed us.

Neither Harding, Coolidge nor Hoover undid the damage done during the Wilson presidency. Eisenhower consolidated and extended the systems put in place under FDR's New Deal and carried forward the institutional policies of the Truman presidency.

When Richard Nixon became President, instead of challenging the neo-Marxist revolutionary agenda of LBJ's Great Society, he consolidated it and extended it, while providing increased funding for its activities.

Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton all operated in the context of LBJ's Gramsci-esque political reality which was, in essence, a Federally funded war on the Constitution, on the culture, on the military, on traditional educational policy, and on the family.

Instead of e pluribus unum, America has become 'a house divided,' with its citizens defined on the basis of gender, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation.

A runaway Supreme Court has, without serious challenge, asserted legislative claims never intended or granted by the Framers. Religious liberty has been assaulted, respect for the sanctity of human life has been abandoned, local control of crime has been undermined, and private property rights have been jeopardized. 
But the real reason for the pro-Bush dynamic of the Year 2000 election is the overriding disgust with Bill Clinton and the desire to end the Clinton era.

Moreover, America's permanent power structure needs a pretty new face to mask ugly old policies.

That is the reason 'Dubya' is the clear favorite.

Once disgust with Clinton is, a few years hence, superseded by a new political reality, with Dubya having been in office for one, two, or three years, sensible conservatives and Christians will discern that, in GWB, they have installed Clintonism without Clinton.
Phillips got more than 98,000 votes cast for him that year, about .09 percent of the total vote. He finished in sixth place, behind the Green Party, Reform Party and Libertarian Party candidates. Despite his electoral failures, though Phillips was a real force for radicalization on the Christian right.