In an April 2008 Internet column, Baptist pastor and conservative talk-radio host Chuck Baldwin wrote, "I am convinced that only a miracle can save America now."
"I am expecting God to grant such a miracle," continued Baldwin, a former Florida state chairman in Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. "Beyond that, I am willing to do my part to place myself in a position to let God use my voice and my vote to accomplish this miracle. And if that means voting for someone who 'has no chance of winning' in order to let God take the glory for whatever victory results, it is the least I can do. So, who will join me?"
At the time, Baldwin was endorsing presidential candidate Ron Paul, whom he called the "only choice" for conservative Republicans. Now, with a tepid endorsement from Paul, Baldwin is counting on a miracle in his run for president on the Constitution Party ticket—which strictly interprets the U.S. Constitution and seeks to "restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations."
However, Paul's support for Baldwin—over Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr—seems to have evaporated. Following his endorsement, Paul has refrained from mentioning Baldwin on his Web site, and Baldwin's name is conspicuously absent from the Meetup site of the Triangle Campaign for Liberty, the local chapter of Paul's national network of supporters.
"There are tons of Ron Paul supporters who aren't happy with Baldwin, who are still going to vote for Barr," said Dana Mazer, organizer for the pro-Paul group.
Baldwin is on the ballot in 37 states and is a certified write-in candidate in 10 others, according to the Constitution Party Web site. However, a statewide petition seeking to designate Baldwin as a write-in candidate in North Carolina failed, gathering roughly half of the required 500 signatures—including just seven from Triangle counties. Because votes for non-qualified write-in candidates won't be tallied, a vote for Baldwin in North Carolina will be discarded—and there will be no proof that anyone voted for him.
Despite this setback, Constitution Party members hope that Paul's backing, however blunted, and anger over the economic bailout plan would convince disaffected Republicans in North Carolina to make an unrecorded "protest vote" for Baldwin.
Jim Randleman, regional director of the "Southern Region" of North Carolina—a party-designated grouping of 11 counties east of Charlotte—recently e-mailed supporters, urging them to cast votes for Baldwin as a "possible pivot point to help overturn the excessively difficult ballot access laws in North Carolina for third party access."
"I can't vote for the lesser of two evils anymore," Randleman told the Indy, referring to Barack Obama and John McCain, whom Baldwin called "nefarious nabobs," in the April column.
Last month, Paul endorsed a slate of third-party candidates, but not Barr, who was a no-show at the press conference. Then Paul—who has campaigned for smaller government that doesn't interfere with free markets—endorsed Baldwin, who advocates for governmental incursion into international trade, and whose party walks a delicate line on the First Amendment. (They support it for campaign donations, but not for pornography, for example.)
Paul's decision appeared to be a calculated slight of Barr, who instead encouraged Paul to endorse one candidate, presumably him. (Barr had pitched the idea that Paul serve as his vice president, which Paul declined.)
"I've thought about the unsolicited advice from the Libertarian Party candidate, and he has convinced me to reject my neutral stance in the November election," Paul wrote on his Campaign for Liberty blog. "I'm supporting Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate."
Like Paul, Barr promotes a libertarian ideal of limited government, fewer taxes, free markets and protection of civil liberties and privacy rights. But Randleman described Barr as "power hungry" and said Paul didn't agree with his "core values" as a person.
"Bob Barr will say anything to get elected. I think he was bitter because Ron Paul didn't choose him," he said.
Mazer, the Triangle Campaign for Liberty Meetup organizer, told the Indy that Paul's choice of Baldwin was "insignificant," and that most of his Meetup members were planning to vote for Barr.
"[Paul] used [his campaign for the Republican Party nomination] as his platform, and it worked, and now he's using that platform to try to open up the third parties. Him saying, 'Support third parties' is more important than actually supporting Baldwin. It's convincing people that they're not wasting their vote, and getting another voice out there, if we're not being heard, or the major parties aren't listening to us."
Yet Al Pisano, chairman of the North Carolina Constitution Party, insisted that younger Republicans are considering voting for Baldwin. "Especially after this bailout fiasco ... we are now really starting to see people contacting us, because they figure our voice is just not being heard," Pisano said.
As a solution to the current financial crisis, Baldwin has proposed the "Baldwin/ Castle Doctrine," named for Baldwin and his running mate, ex-Marine Darrell Castle. In it, he proposes barring foreign interests from owning any portion of American commerce or infrastructure, including stocks and bonds—without explaining how he will dismantle the global economy.
"We will stop this international meddling ... this intentional empire-building," Baldwin writes on his foreign-policy issue page. "When Chuck Baldwin is sworn in as President of these United States the 'New World Order' comes crashing down!"
The "New World Order," which takes its name from an H.G. Wells book, is a conspiracy theory that posits multilateralism efforts, including wartime alliances and the United Nations, will lead to a singular world government.
Other Constitution Party issues include strictly enforcing immigration; eliminating federal funding of Social Security, education, and health care; repealing the Voting Rights Act and campaign-finance laws; and employing an official pro-life policy that would eliminate federal funding to states and foreign entities that permit abortion.
In a blog post on the Libertarian Party Web site, National Media Coordinator Andrew Davis writes that a principle difference between the Libertarian and Constitution parties is gay rights, which the Constitution Party vehemently opposes. The Libertarian Party, Davis writes, holds that "government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships."
The Constitution Party platform, meanwhile, refers indirectly to homosexuals as "sexual offenders": "We reject the notion that sexual offenders are deserving of legal favor or special protection, and affirm the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior. We oppose all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through the federal court system." The party doesn't support a constitutional amendment defining marriage.
The platform also states that "this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
A return to America's Revolutionary-era gilded age, Pisano insisted, did not necessarily involve an armed insurrection—despite conventional wisdom about his party.
"The media has portrayed people in the Constitution Party as fatigue-wearing, toothless right-wing coots in the woods training for Armageddon," he said.
The Constitution Party is simply advocating, he said, for a return to the "time-tested, proven ideals that came from our founding fathers."