A bleak portrait of the United States is being painted by a cabal of angry Americans at a little-known national convention on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
The U.S. Taxpayers Party is picking its own presidential candidate after a three-day parade of some of the country’s most eloquent doomsayers.
Strident Christians, constitutionalists and conspiracy theorists got standing ovations from hundreds of like-minded delegates.
The party’s platform cuts two-thirds of the federal government and abolishes the IRS, the Federal Reserve, the education department and a raft of other agencies.
It makes the Republican platform look like the work of big-government liberals.
And while the small but swelling Taxpayers Party gets lost in the stampede of alternative political parties, its message resonates in much of the Inland Northwest, a national hub for anti-government sentiment.
In fact, a Spokane man gave the Friday morning prayer before the party set to work to craft a platform at the beachside hotel Del Coronado.
Convention speakers described an America in which the people are inured to the killing of millions of unborn babies, and the president himself is “Mr. Abortionist.”
They condemned a Big Brother government bent on tapping every telephone and fax machine, and eventually planting biochips in our bodies to keep track of us.
They see federal policies threatening U.S. sovereignty by allowing the United Nations to send U.S. soldiers into battle and by allowing illegal aliens from Mexico to raid U.S. borders and plot to overthrow the government.
The country’s moral decay is equally alarming to these outraged conservatives, a mix of men and women who range from suited businessmen to wild-eyed followers with founding-father hairdos.
One delegate toted two briefcases covered with alternative party bumper stickers and this message: “McCarthy Was Right.”
Delegates and guests applauded a call to make teenage sex a crime. AIDS education was depicted as a ruse to force taxpayers to subsidize sodomy. One pro-life speaker decried federal spending on gatherings at which people pour chocolate on their naked bodies.
About 500 people cheered wildly in the chandeliered ballroom Saturday as Randall Terry, former leader of Operation Rescue, exhorted them to “prepare for the collapse of the two-party system!”
One of the convention’s most popular speakers was Texan Daniel New, whose son Michael New was kicked out of the military last year for refusing to wear U.N. colors.
“The blood of my children is not available for sacrifice on the altar of the New World Order,” New declared.
He asked delegates if they understand what it means to be taxed to support an international peace-keeping force.
“Tyranny!” shouted some delegates. “Slavery!” yelled others.
But New also urged delegates to be reasonable in the way the party presents its views. “I hope you can help us craft a platform that does not make us look like the lunatic fringe,” he said.
The U.S. Taxpayers Party emerged in 1992. Led by Howard Phillips, chairman of the nation’s Conservative Caucus, the party got on the ballot in 21 states four years ago.
The Taxpayers hope to be on the ballot in twice that many states this year. The party already is on the ballot in Washington state after a Spokane gathering collected the necessary 200 signatures. It’s still trying to qualify for the Idaho ballot.
The party’s growing support in part reflects its efforts to convince Pat Buchanan to abandon the Republican Party and become the Taxpayers candidate.
Buchanan declined, but he did praise Phillips in a speech in California last week.
The Taxpayers convention attracted former Republican presidential candidate Charles E. Collins, who after switching parties vowed to “put a leash on government” and move to abolish the IRS in his first day in the White House.
It also appealed to impeached Arizona Gov. Evan Meecham and Republican firebrand Alan Keyes, who ran onto the stage Friday morning.
“I think the conservative movement in this country is the hope, the only hope to preserve our country, to make sure this great Republic survives this era of corruption!” Keyes shouted.
As applause thundered, he embraced Phillips.
Phillips was the party’s presidential candidate in 1992. He was nominated again Saturday despite a strong challenge from Collins, who complained the convention was “rigged” and that Phillips should be ashamed for running a “banana republic convention.”
Another disappointed presidential hopeful was Lawrence Ray Topham, a gentle Utah man with a long white beard. Topham has refused to use paper money for the last 15 years. His point is that the Federal Reserve has duped Americans into thinking greenbacks are real.
He said he felt so strongly about his campaign that he walked, without food, much of the way from Salt Lake City to San Diego.
Phillips is scheduled to give his acceptance speech today.
In 1992, Phillips received fewer than 50,000 votes, but Delaware delegate Tina Johnson believes he can win this year.
Johnson joined the U.S. Taxpayers Party because Delaware’s politicians wouldn’t listen to her. She said the new party is exciting. “It’s like a baby being born,” said the pro-life crusader.”
John Beal, the Spokane man who led Friday’s prayer, said he was a Republican before growing frustrated with the GOP’s reluctance to make an unequivocal stand against abortion and its willingness to allow erosion of the Constitution.
“The evidence is abundant,” said Beal, who runs two Spokane ministries.
In an interview with The Spokesman-Review - at times the only news publication observing the convention - Phillips said the party is increasingly attracting experts in a variety of fields.
Phillips carries a Constitution in the pocket of his pinstriped suit to bolster his points.
He said his party is driven by principles, not personalities.
“Our conservatives are in the center of the ring here,” he said. “We might not have a big tent, but we have an open door.”
Phillips panned Republican Bob Dole’s acceptance speech last week, claiming the Kansan was a hypocrite and betrayed his voting record of 40 years. He also cast Dole as “the errand boy for big corporations.”
Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, warned that gun control can lead to genocide. He also defended militias.
One speaker asserted there are 100 eyewitnesses to the fact that TWA Flight 800 was shot down by a missile, and said the Oklahoma City bombing was the work of Islamic terrorists.
Eric Bleicken, an advocate of the “Fathers Rights Movement,” said more and more men are falsely accused of abusing their wives and children, and claimed research shows women are “as abusive and as violent as men.”
K.B. Forbes, communications director for the Taxpayers Party, was exasperated Saturday with some of the “nuts” the convention attracted, noting he’d met people who were convinced Elvis was still alive.
Forbes said he supports the party’s ideals, but didn’t want anything to do with some of its followers. He said he intended to resign today.
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