Michael Peroutka may provide an alternative for conservatives who are disenchanted with the prospect of choosing between George W. Bush and John Kerry this fall.  Bush has focused most of his energies on an unnecessary and calamitous war and has warmly embraced every tenet of neoconservatism, from expanding the size and scope of the federal government to promoting a guest-worker scheme that would effectively abolish our borders and impoverish the American middle class.  Kerry is an unreconstructed leftist who, though willing to criticize Bush over Iraq, is unwilling to withdraw American troops.

Peroutka and his Constitution Party expect to be on the ballot in 40 states and hope to be on the ballot in one or two more.  Peroutka is “trying to reach anyone who has come to the conclusion that there is something wrong in America,” and he is running on the campaign themes of “God, Family, Republic.”  He favors dramatically reducing the size and scope of the federal government and reining in what he terms “judicial tyranny.”

Peroutka describes Iraq as a “bloody mess” and considers the war “unconstitutional,” because it was launched without a declaration of war by Congress.  He notes that the “Founders were very wary about giving the power of war and peace to one man” but believes that we have done just that, with Congress effectively ceding the power to declare war to the executive branch.  Peroutka, citing the work of William Kristol’s Project for the New American Century, believes that the war in Iraq was a “war for empire” that was launched to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in the Middle East, even though this is not how it was sold to the public.  Peroutka’s plan for Iraq is to “Get our troops out . . . as quickly and safely as possible.”  Unlike many “mainstream” conservatives, Peroutka is unwilling to whitewash Abu Ghraib, where Americans have unfortunately done “horrible, denigrating, lawbreaking, immoral things.”

Peroutka also takes a clear position on immigration and trade.  He thinks it “odd” that we are willing to send troops to the Middle East yet are unwilling to secure our borders.  He suggests that such unwillingness to defend America’s national interests reveals something wrong with our political leadership and bluntly argues that it is “time for a President with an allegiance to the people of America.”  Peroutka states that “illegal immigration is, in fact, illegal” and also favors reducing annual legal immigration to around 250,000 immigrants, a number he sees as more conducive to assimilation.  He regards NAFTA and the World Trade Organization as “antithetical to American sovereignty” and argues that most Americans do not benefit from unrestricted trade with low-wage countries.  Peroutka maintains that “All of our trade agreements should be based not on an internationalist agenda, but on American interests.”

Peroutka is strongly opposed to both abortion and “gay marriage.”  However, unlike many conservatives, he does not favor a constitutional amendment to deal with either issue.  Since the fundamental problem is one of the judiciary reading its values into the Constitution, amendments, even if they could be enacted (which is extremely unlikely) merely offer more words for judges to twist.  Peroutka believes that the likely failure of any constitutional amendment restricting “gay marriage” will merely serve to legitimate the practice.  Instead, he favors a more confrontational approach, declaring that “anticonstitutional court decisions are not binding.”  Peroutka is also willing to consider legislation that strips courts of jurisdiction over certain issues, as outlined by Prof. William J. Quirk in the June issue of Chronicles (“The Fourth Choice: Ending the Reign of Activist Judges,” News).

It is, of course, virtually certain that either Bush or Kerry will win the White House.  But if Peroutka does well—and especially if votes for Peroutka deny Bush a second term—politicians may begin paying attention to the issues he is raising.