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Starrett and the rest of the party

We knew that Mary Starrett, candidate for governor of Oregon and nominee of the state Constitution Party, had extensive experience in Oregon television and radio (17 years on air at KATU-TV). We didn’t know, that notwithstanding, how skillful a public speaker she is – as good as any candidate for major office in the Northwest this year.

Mary StarrettYou can see the evidence in her annoucement speech, posted on line – her presentation is crisp, poised, briskly on track yet just loose enough to come across as human. The outlines of her message are still coming together, but already cohering well.

Initial estimates in the punditry have suggested her receiving a likely vote in the 1-2% range. We think such estimates should be revised upward, considerably; and if so, that would put her to the point that she could certainly constitute a big obstacle for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton.

We don’t yet know how she’ll do at meet and greet, at campaign strategy, at fundraising (though she could be a great one), at organization or at other important candidate skills. But she starts out as a political consultant’s ideal.

Or would be, under other circumstances.

There is, of course, the minor-party problem, which Starrett’s announcement spoke to but didn’t dispel: The difficulty anyone other than a Republican or a Democrat has in getting elected to major office. (Last time it happened in Oregon was 76 years ago.) In Starrett’s case there’s a second minor-party problem: The nature of her own party, a subject she left unaddressed.

Starrett’s campaign, consistent with her activism in recent years, appears (as indicated in her on-line campaign brochure) to have abortion as a focal point, with immigration, property rights (as in Measure 37) and public employee retirement forming the rest of her core issues. Those issues aren’t outside the mainstream of Oregon political discourse; they are similar to positions Republican gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix took this year and in 2002. Starrett’s significance as a candidate will rest chiefly on her drawing a distinction on them between her and Republican Saxton. In other words, taken by themselves, those positions could fit her within the framework of the Oregon Republican Party.

So why is she running as standard-bearer of the Constitition Party instead? That may be the single most salient question to pose to her, when the party’s background is borne in mind.

A quick history lesson. The party’s roots go back to the 1967 creation of the American Independent Party, formed as a vehicle for Alabama Governor George Wallace’s run the next year for president, on a platform opposed to the civil rights acts passed a few years before. (In California the state affiliate of the Constitition Party still is called the American Independent Party, which has fielded candidates there since 1968.) In 1992 many of the pieces of that old party’s structure was built into a newly-christened U.S. Taxpayers’s Party, which changed its name to the Constitution Party seven years later. The national Constitution Party has regularly fielded presidential candidates; its performance so far peaked with the 1996 run of Howard Phillips (.2% of the vote).

The national party’s platform, which provides the template for most of the state platforms, leads with this at the beginning of its preamble:

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.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

(Why didn’t they just call it the Christian Party?)

The national Constitution Party doesn’t have a lot to do with Oregon, however: Oregon’s Constitution Party broke off from the national. The national party’s web site lists affiliate parties in Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Alaska and other states, but not Oregon. It remarks, “We are sorry, but there is no contact information in our database for Oregon yet.”

The Oregon Constitution Party’s platform is broadly similar to the national party’s, but does differ in places. Its preamble, for example, starts this way:

We, the members of the Constitution Party, gratefully acknowledge the blessing of the Lord God as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of this Nation. We solemnly declare that the foundation of our political position and moving principle of our political activity is our full submission and unshakable faith in our Savior and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Divine Providence as we work to restore and preserve this Nation as a government of the People, by the People, and for the People.
The U.S. Constitution established a Republic under God, rather than a democracy.
Our Republic is a nation governed by a Constitution that is rooted in Biblical law, administered by representatives who are Constitutionally elected by the citizens.
In a Republic governed by Constitutional law rooted in Biblical law, all Life, Liberty and Property are protected because law rules.

The emphasis is a little different, but the overt religous base of the party is still quite clear – and makes it quite different from the Oregon Republican Party.

This being a blog post and not a booklet, suffice to say the differences between the Republican and Constitution parties do not end there. Take a wander through the Constitution’s platform and you’ll start to get a sense of the many distinctions.

Distinctions Mary Starrett may be called on to address, and which may prove tougher to tackle before a broad audience of Oregonians than the matters she’s hit on so far.

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