Political Animal


April 23, 2013 5:03 PM Paul’s Godfather

By Ed Kilgore

I just realized, via Julie Ingersoll of Religion Dispatches, that Howard Phillips, one of the true founders of the Christian Right and one of that movement’s most aggressive theocrats, died over the weekend at 72 after suffering from a debilitating illness for the last couple of years.

Aside from his important role in working with Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell in building the Moral Majority and serving as an unofficial ideological commissar during the Reagan years, Phillips was better known in the 1990s for bailing out of the Republican Party and founding the U.S. Constitution Party (originally the U.S. Taxpayers Party). Phillips’ party was a vehicle for far-right activists and especially Christian Reconstructionists determined to build a society where rigid biblical norms governed culture but private activity ruled the economy. While the Constitution Party has never had any electoral clout, it has had some well-known supporters whose influence continues to rise, notes Ingersoll:

The Constitution Party’s goal is to “reestablish” Biblical Law as the foundation for American society. Part of the ability of the Constitution Party to endure, despite structural impediments to third parties in the American political system, is no doubt due to longstanding support from Ron Paul, Rand Paul and a dedicated core of their supporters.

Rand Paul spoke at a Constitution Party event as recently as 2009. His father actually endorsed the Constitution presidential ticket in 2008, and after his retirement from Congress, has devoted much of his time (as Sarah Posner has reported) to the promotion of a home-school curriculum whose development was supervised by Gary North, a major Christian Reconstructionist theorist with links to the Constitution Party, who has also been cited as an influence by Rand Paul.

I wonder how aware some of the young hip libertarians attracted to the Family Paul—or for that matter, the MSM journalists who occasionally interpret the Paulite message in the image of their own economic conservative/cultural liberal views—about the Christian Reconstructionist associations of Ron and Rand. Sure, it’s possible to systematically dislike government on purely libertarian or even anarchist grounds, but it’s also possible to hate “government schools” because they compete with strict conservative evangelical madrassa training and wish to undermine government generally for interfering with the imposition of biblical law. If Rand Paul does emerge as a viable candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 or later, I do hope he’s asked early and often about Howard Phillips and the Constitution Party, and exactly how much freedom he actually wants us to have from the Revealed Truth as he understands it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on April 23, 2013 5:26 PM:

    "If Rand Paul does emerge as a viable candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 or later..."

    You're from the South, Ed, so you'll understand it when I say, "Well, hush yow mawath!"

    And when Rand Paul is mentioned in the future, I'll say, "Well, bless his heart..."

    Which, as everyone knows, in Southern, means, "He don't know what the f*ck he's talkin' 'bout! And I hate his f*ckin' guts!!!"

  • monoceros4 on April 23, 2013 9:27 PM:

    Ah. One of these "strict constructionists" claiming letter-perfect fidelity to the Constitution, except when it comes to religion, where we're supposed to believe that the Founders intended this to be a strictly Christian nation even though they forgot to write that down. What's the standard right-wing answer these days to why the writers of the Constitution never got round to explicitly mentioning that really they wanted us to obey the Bible?

  • rea on April 24, 2013 6:33 AM:

    Gary North is so darn biblical he supports capital punishment for gays and adulterers, mandatory Christianity (of his pecular kind) and slavery. He does not support voting-he supports theocracy. How this gets him called a "strict constructionist" is a mystery.

  • jim filyaw on April 24, 2013 8:53 AM:

    in re: Howard Phillips

    to quote Oscar Wilde, "I've never committed murder, but I confess there are obituaries I've read with great pleasure."

  • Sean Scallon on April 24, 2013 11:21 AM:

    "I do hope hes asked early and often about Howard Phillips and the Constitution Party, and exactly how much freedom he actually wants us to have from the Revealed Truth as he understands it."

    You can do so but you'd be no better than Sarah Palins and Eric Ericksons of the world who tried to do the old guilt by association game with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayres, who conducted his terrorist activities when President Obama was all of eight years old. Ayers had turned away from his violent past by the time Obama was courting him in his Hyde Park home and certainly Obama wasn't advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government the Weathermen did. But that didn't matter to Obama's opponents any more than Gary North's support of the Pauls matters to you. So what's the difference?

    Name me one instance where the Pauls ever promoted the stoning of adulterers or sodomites or suggested the U.S. should be ruled by a theocracy or require taxpayers to tithe to their local religious institutions? Their association with North is only relevant in the context of the ideas they promote and support. Christian Reconstructionalism is not part of their platform and never has been. (If anything it damn near killed the CP as their sectarianism caused a split with the Mormon wing of the party which Phillips had to prevent.)

    So again, what does it matter who Gary North supports for President unless the candidate was adopting his platform? Nothing. As Ronald Reagan once said "You endorse me, you endorse my platform and what I stand for." If same standard is true for Obama then it should be for the Pauls too. Besides, most people would reply to such an inquiry: "Gary who? What's the Constitution Party?"

  • Frank on April 24, 2013 12:25 PM:

    Remember Charlie Pierce's rule: Anything any member of the family Paul says seems to make sense for five minutes. At 5:00:01, their tinfoil hats come on, and you find yourself wondering where these clowns came from, and who would ever listen to them on anything.

  • Sean Scallon on April 24, 2013 7:26 PM:

    On Pierce's bio on his Esquire column it says his children no longer live with him. I can sort of see why.