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Crashing the parties

Conservative candidate Phillips building for the future

There's a coffeemaker on Howard Phillips's desk-not just a cup, not a carafe, but a Mr. Coffee with a full pot. Running for president on a little-known third-party ticket means late nights and early mornings, he says.

"To achieve victory, first you must seek it"-one slogan of his party slips easily from his lips. So do the numbers that offer a glimmer of hope: The U.S. Taxpayers Party has ballot access in 40 states, reaching more than 80 percent of the nation's electorate. From his office in Fairfax, Va., Mr. Phillips talks about the political house he's building for conservatives and Christians.

Four years ago, Mr. Phillips founded the U.S. Taxpayers Party. This former Nixon White House official became disenchanted with the GOP and decided that voting for the lesser of two evils was still voting for evil.

"I don't think the Republican Party truly represents anything I believe," Mr. Phillips told WORLD. "Bob Dole voted for the Brady Bill, he voted for FACE [Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances], he gave us NAFTA, he supported assignment of U.S. military personnel to United Nations command. He consistently votes more money for Planned Parenthood and Goals 2000."

Mr. Phillips compares the present-day Republican Party to the 19th-century Whigs. "The Whig party died because it was unable to face the overarching moral issue of the day, which was slavery," he says. "Just as the Republicans are unable to face the issue of abortion. I believe we're facing a period in history when we're going to see the Republican Party go to the elephant graveyard. It has lost its moral course."

Instead it has made do with an "anti-liberal majority," he says, rejecting both "biblical and constitutional standards of governing."

Enter the U.S. Taxpayers Party, a group that tried to attract Pat Buchanan to its ticket and hope to attract Alan Keyes to its ranks in coming months. It proposes to end direct taxation, abolish the IRS, return the government to its strictest constitutional limits, and "restore American jurisprudence to its biblical presuppositions."

This new party will be the natural home of Christian conservatives, Mr. Phillips contends, but the party's support of higher trade tariffs and less immigration could turn off some. "Our biggest problem is that most of them are unaware of our existence," he says. "Ralph Reed declined to allow us to even be introduced at the recent Christian Coalition meeting. But when people hear our message, they respond."

Mr. Phillips, a Christian convert from Judaism, admits that most people remain concerned that a vote for a third-party ticket would be a wasted ballot card. "Not a single vote for us will be wasted," he responds. "If you vote for Dole, and he loses, then that will be a wasted vote. Even if he wins, I think you'll find that the conservative shift you're hoping for just isn't going to happen. But every vote for the U.S. Taxpayers Party will send a message to the political establishment."

Still, sending a message isn't the ultimate goal of the party, he adds. "We're not doing this for an exercise, or to make a point, or to change the Democratic or Republican Parties. We're doing this to elect a government." In fact, there are some 60 USTP candidates on U.S. House, Senate, and state ballots, according to spokesman Dan Giroux.

"In 1992, we garnered something like 40,000 votes," said Mr. Giroux. "We expect as many as 1 million this year, and that would be a breakthrough."

Howard Phillips, 51, worked in the Nixon administration, but after Watergate he concluded that conservatives were wrong to give their loyalty to a party instead of principles. So he started the Conservative Caucus and focused on issues such as the Panama Canal treaties, the Carter-Brezhnev treaties, and the Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1988 he backed the Libertarian candidate for president, pro-life pediatrician Ron Paul.

Mr. Phillips is married and has six children and six grandchildren. His oldest son, Doug (named for Gen. Douglas MacArthur) is now a lawyer with the Home School Legal Defense Association. His youngest son, age 10, is being homeschooled by Mr. Phillips and his wife, Peggy. Mr. Phillips is joined on the USTP ticket by constitutional scholar Herb Titus, the founding dean of Regent University law school.

Roy Maynard

Roy Maynard

Roy is a former WORLD reporter.