LP vs. CP


A Response by Kevin Craig

Kevin Craig has been the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Congress in California's 41st District and Missouri's 7th District in 2002, 2004, 2006, and now in 2008.

Andrew Davis' essay appears on the lp.org blog, and it presumably represents an "official" statement of the LP.

In summary, the disagreement with the essay at left is that it doesn't criticize the Constitution Party when it advocates BIG government, but only when it advocates Christian government, even if at that very point it advocates NO government (e.g., no government subsidized gambling).

posted by Andrew Davis on Jun 13, 2008

August 9, 2008
We often get emails at Libertarian Party headquarters asking what exactly are the differences between the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party.  The confusion is understandable, especially for party outsiders who are just beginning to look at either as a new political home.  The question of the differences in the parties has become even more frequent as Ron Paul supporters are looking for a new home after Paul's announcement that he is discontinuing his campaign.  When I first decided to run for office, I had to choose between the Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party. I had been registered as a Libertarian for many years, and had been familiar with it even before I registered Libertarian, but as a Christian, I was attracted to the Christian rhetoric of the Constitution Party. After study, I concluded that there was more Christian rhetoric than substance, and that LP policies were more Christian than CP policies, even if the LP rhetoric was abysmally sub-Christian.
After all, there is very little in the Republican Party or Democratic Parties that would make a Paul supporter feel welcome or at home.  
On the surface, the LP and the CP appear to be quite similar.  The very name of the Constitution Party appeals to the libertarian-leaning voter looking for a political party dedicated towards returning to a government strictly bound by the Constitution--as the Libertarian Party wishes for also.  Additionally, the LP and the CP are very close on issues like foreign policy, Second Amendment rights, economic policy and health care.  
However, beyond their initial similarities on the surface, a more in-depth look at the two parties shows profound differences in both platform and ideology. From time to time I may highlight phrases in the LP column on the left. I doubt that the differences are "profound," and where I think the policy differences might plausibly be said to be profound, those policies are not discussed in the LP essay. 
The most acute difference between the two parties, and one that will explain much of the content in this article, can be found in the preambles of the two parties.  
Constitution Party:  
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.  
Libertarian Party:  
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others. I doubt seriously that anyone who signed the Constitution would speak of individuals as "sovereign."
We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized. This would have been way too anarchistic for America's Founding Fathers.
Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power. "Diversity" has become an anti-Christian and pro-homosexual code-word. Theoretically the concept should permit freedom to those who want to turn America into an Islamic Theocracy. Nothing about the word in its contemporary context would be approved of by America's Founding Fathers.

None of these phrases were in the 1972 LP Platform.

From the get-go, the differences of the two parties are quite obvious. 
How would these "differences" be stated?
(a) The LP is silent in expressing its gratitude to God
(b) The LP officially denies the existence of God.
Option (a) is not a "profound" difference. Option (b) would be; it would also cut off the LP from the support of a huge part of the electorate.
At its very roots, the Constitution Party is unabashedly a party of Christian philosophy and spirituality, where as the Libertarian Party remains much more secular in its composition and values.  Some have described the Constitution as "secular," yet its Framers would not disagree in any way with the preamble of the Constitution Party. Review their actions here. The absence of such language in the Constitution is due to the fact that there was tremendous competition between the rival denominations represented in the States. Language submitted by one denomination would have been rejected by the others. In the end, there was general agreement that the federal government was to have no authority over the States in religious matters -- a principle which the modern Court has repudiated in favor of atheistic intervention against religion. After the federal constitution was ratified, every State Constitution sounded like the Constitution Party Platform. Pluralism is a myth.

Nor would they disagree with the LP paragraphs above. So what are the real "differences?"

The best example of this can be found in objectives of the CP and LP, which are "to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations" and "to build [a world] where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power," respectively. Is the LP committed to obstructing, resisting, or opposing the restoration of "American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations?" Would the CP denounce or oppose the LP objective? (No.)
Though the Constitution Party has a very real and intense dedication to Constitutional provisions--made clear by the fact that they support many of their platform planks with citations from both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence--their raison d'etre is to essentially establish a "Christian" nation, and somehow maintain religious tolerance (though this latter portion is never explained).  I don't know why Christian is in quotation marks, unless the LP feels that the CP is not living up to Christian standards. I could agree with that.

As a matter of personal character, I consider myself a "tolerant" person. Madison and other Founding Fathers strenuously opposed the concept of religious "tolerance" as a political policy. America was created to establish and promote Christianity. This objective has never been officially or legally repudiated in any founding charter of the U.S. or any state. 

On the other hand, not a single person who signed the Constitution believed that the government should "tolerate" the Aztec believer who wanted to rip the heart out of a 14-year old vestal virgin and offer the beating heart to the sun god. When false religions sought "religious liberty" under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court routinely turned them away on the grounds that this is a "Christian nation."

I think it may be more accurate to say that my goal is to establish a Christian "society" rather than a Christian "nation," because "nation" usually implies a "government," and I believe governments are inherently un-Christian.

Take for instance the CP's views on gambling: "Gambling promotes an increase in crime, destruction of family values, and a decline in the moral fiber of our country."  To their credit, the CP does not say that government should outlaw this behavior although their rhetoric strongly suggests they'd like to see it abolished.  Instead, the Constitution Party calls for government to refrain from officially participating in gambling--for apparent moral reasons--by eliminating lotteries and ceasing to subsidize "Indian casinos in the name of economic development." 
So how is gambling an "instance" of the "profound" differences between LP and CP?
Does the LP take the position that gamblers and entrepreneurs are moral or economic equals?
Or does the LP take the position that no statesman should ever mention, appeal to, or apply "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to public policy?
Other issues like pornography ("Pornography, at best, is a distortion of the true nature of sex created by God…We call on our local, state and federal governments to uphold our cherished First Amendment right to free speech by vigorously enforcing our laws against obscenity to maintain a degree of separation between that which is truly speech and that which only seeks to distort and destroy") I agree that pornography can be sinful. But, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, there is pornography in the Bible, but it is not "obscene." "Pornography" which is deemed "obscene" is not protected by the First Amendment, according to the Court. The CP apparently agrees with this.

Rather than totally cutting off the CP from the category of "libertarian," I would maintain a dialogue with them on this very simple issue: the Constitution does not give the federal government authority to ban any publications. The Constitution Party is obviously unconstitutional on this issue, at least with respect to the federal government. With respect to local governments, the CP needs to be reminded that under current standards, the city of San Francisco can say the Bible is "obscene," that it violates "community standards," and ban it. Does the CP really want the government at any level to have that power?

I believe all anti-pornography laws are unChristian because they represent an unBiblical initiation of force.

and the judiciary ("We particularly support all the legislation which would remove from Federal appellate review jurisdiction matters involving acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government) diverge quite distinctly from the LP philosophy. I don't know why the LP would oppose removing an issue of religious liberty from federal appellate review. This is pretty much the essence of the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law..."). (The Framers used the word "Congress" because they never imagined that the Judicial Branch would someday be making laws.)
However, the biggest difference between the two parties, and one that is the best manifestation of the diametric difference of philosophies on the role of government in society, relates to the issue of gay rights.  
The Constitution Party, in pursuit of their goal to "restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations," takes a very different approach towards homosexuality than that of the Libertarian Party.  The platform of the CP states that "the law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman," and "no government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted."
So does the LP believe
(a) the law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and __________ (fill in the blank with something other than "one woman" -- say, "two women," "one woman, one man, and one goat," or "one 3-year old").
(b) Government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."
The LP will never explicitly state either of these propositions. Either one of these will lose 90% of the voters. Imagine the headlines: "Libertarian Party rejects the Declaration of Independence."

Does the CP authorize the initiation of force against homosexuals? Nothing quoted by Davis says so.

Does the LP affirmatively support government-mandated definitions of marriage? I don't think so. I don't.

The CP also does not believe the government should recognize civil unions for gay couples. Nor do I. Certainly the federal government has no authority to do such a thing.
While Libertarians hold many different views on the issue of gay marriage, with some believing marriage, both straight and gay, should not be an issue for government and others believing that gay marriage should be recognized so long as straight marriage is recognized--Libertarians believe "government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships." I agree with the last line. If the government has no such authority, then it cannot recognize "gay marriages." Asking the government to do so is to ask it to extend, rather than contract, its powers.

I also believe the government does not have the authority to define marriage contrary to "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."

"Licensing" and "restricting" are acts which constitute the initiation of force which I think are unChristian.

One might remember the saying in grade-school geometry that "all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares."  Well, the same can be said of libertarians and Constitution Party members.  Many Constitution Party members are libertarians, in some way, shape or form.  However, there are very few Libertarians--if any at all--that would comfortably identify themselves as ascribing to the Constitution Party platform.  There are parts of the CP Platform which I found sufficiently unConstitutional, unlibertarian, and unBiblical that I did not want to run as a CP candidate (and suspected that I would eventually get thrown out of the CP anyway.) But none of those policy issues have so far been discussed. I haven't seen any "profound" differences.

So far, the only point of contrast has been "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," and the impression is given that Libertarians do not believe in or acknowledge these Laws, or believe the government has the authority to negate them.

There is a simple explanation for this: Christian members of the Libertarian Party recognize that the basis of their religion is the idea of free will and volition,


and that their morality does not need to be reinforced or supported by government laws or coercion. 

I am a "Christian member of the Libertarian Party" and I do not believe that the "basis" of my religion is "the idea of free will." I am a hard-core Calvinist. "Free will" is a myth. It seems strange to bring in a hotly-contested fine point of theology in an essay which has been chastising the CP for dabbling in theology!

The only purpose of government that has been universally agreed upon for centuries is the duty to "reinforce" or "support" morality by punishing immorality. The government may not be able to prevent a robbery or a murder, but everybody who is not an out-and-out anarchist believes that government has a duty to punish those who violate the laws of morality, such as "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal."

The Constitution Party, for whatever reason, finds that government should be a model for morality--that is, Christian morality--and all semblances of behavior and lifestyles contrary to this behavioral model should be eliminated through "Constitutional" government methods, with the end goal of establishing a Christian nation. Does the LP believe that government should be a model for immorality?
Does the LP believe that government should be a model for Islamic morality?
Re: "all semblances": Does the LP believe that the CP believes that government should stamp out Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride (the "seven deadly sins")? I don't think the CP believes this.
Perhaps the Constitution Party has more optimism for the functionality of a quasi-theocracy in regards to respect for the Constitution and the freedom to live, but seeing the corruption of the "Christian right" in the Republican Party, their optimism seems far too romanticized.  While it is in the Christian ideology that followers of this faith should be testaments to the power of the message and should evangelize to all people of the earth, none (at least those who believe in a libertarian-element to the religion) believe this call to evangelize can be replaced by a call to legislate I seriously doubt that the CP believes the "call to evangelize can be replaced by a call to legislate." Making people Christians is one thing; punishing murder is another. I think the CP knows the difference.
This, indeed, is the tragic fallacy of most Christians in politics, and one that poisons the Constitution Party's platform. I doubt it.
For a party that believes so strongly in the Constitution and preserving its authority, it is puzzling that the CP takes the position that God's law is supreme to Constitutional authority in the government.  Many Christians, including myself, do believe that God's law always is supreme to the law of man when the two conflict; however, the difference is that this belief is made at a personal level, and would not expect the same to apply to government. The Declaration of Independence clearly, obviously, unmistakably says that "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" are superior to Parliament, the Crown, or any laws of man.

I totally do not understand this last line. "I believe gassing Jews is wrong at the personal level, but that doesn't apply to government."

In order for the authority of the Constitution to remain intact, there can be nothing in government that undermines its supremacy.  It was this very problem that sparked the beginnings of the American Revolution.  When the British Constitution no longer was supreme, and parliament could pass laws that trumped the laws of this (unwritten) Constitution, the authority of that document was destroyed.  Every single person alive at this time believed that government was obligated to obey the Laws of God, and "promote the Christian religion." If you can name one exception, it only proves the rule.
This is one logical incongruity that the Constitution Party fails to answer when it comes to both religious freedom and the people's right to be free in their lives from government.  The problem is only amplified by the Constitution Party's lack of positions on privacy issues as it relates to how citizens live their lives.   
It should be said that there is some grounds for what the Constitution Party believes that can be traced back to the founding of the nation.  The role of religion and government together were widely discussed; however, the general conclusion of our founding fathers may be best encapsulated in this quotation from James Madison:  
The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.
Madison is talking about "ecclesiastical bodies," or what we would today call church "denominations," not the Law of God and the Christian religion in general. If elected to Congress, I would follow Madison's urging that legislators vote against every bill if
the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift, ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of (revelation) from coming into the Region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it, with a wall of defence, against the encroachments of error.
More on Madison here.
Would Madison have said government must not or cannot ban the vilest pornography readily available today? I doubt it. He would be horrified at our atheistic, immoral culture. He would see that his Constitution was an utter failure. He would become a defender of "anarcho-theocracy," as I am.
In order for a society to be free, and a religion to remain uncorrupt, there must be a distinct separation between the two.  While it is a mistake on one side to believe that our politicians must divorce themselves of all their religious and moral beliefs before taking office, it is another to suggest that our political leaders should use their own personal precept of morality as a template for laws that apply to an entire nation.
This is a false antithesis.
politicians must not divorce themselves of all their religious and moral beliefs before taking office
political leaders should not use their own personal precept of morality as a template for laws that apply to an entire nation
politicians must use "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" as a template for laws that apply to an entire nation. Every single person who signed the Constitution would agree with this. Libertarians deny it at their peril.
Thomas Jefferson said that truth would stand on its own regardless of whether it has the support of the government.  Therefore, there is no need for the government to define and establish what this truth is. No need for government to define and establish murder? No need to punish murder? Is this the LP's position?
The Libertarian Party wants a world where all individual are free to live their lives in peace, without interference from the government or their fellow man.  This entails a tolerance of many other lifestyles, though not approval or acceptance (a key distinction), because it will be recognized that nobody should dictate anything else through law but freedom.  Should society turn into a Christian society through this freedom, then so be it.  It will at least be done through the volition and consent of all others. This is not a well-thought-out statement. Law (that is, government law) is the opposite of freedom. Every government law is the imposition of morality. Every government law restricts the freedom of those deemed immoral.
There would be no element of coercion, and that is what any true Constitutionalist should strive to achieve. A constitutionalist inherently believes in coercion. This is why I am not a constitutionalist.
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Author's Note: I would like to emphasize that this is not an attempt to distort or misconstrue any belief or position of the Constitution Party.  I have tried my best to remain objective and present their positions exactly how I believe the Party to stand based upon their platform and messaging.  This article is simply to illustrate the ideological differences between two political parties that are often associated together.  Comments on this article can be sent to Andrew.davis@lp.org.