Howard Phillips - Founder of the Constitution Party

Howard Phillips - Founder of the Constitution Party

howardphillips.jpgHoward Phillips was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1941.  The son of Jewish parents, he later converted to Christianity, and remained a devout Christian to the end of his life.  He married Margaret “Peggy” Blanchard and together they raised six children.

A 1962 graduate of Harvard College in Cambridge Massachusetts, he was twice elected as chairman of the Student Council. 

During the Nixon Administration, Phillips headed two Federal agencies, ending his Executive Branch career as Director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity in the Executive Office of the President, a position from which he resigned when President Nixon reneged on his commitment to veto further funding for “Great Society” programs. 

Phillips formed The Conservative Caucus (TCC) in 1974 to provide conservatives with a nationwide grass roots voice. He made “defunding the left” a priority cause for The Conservative Caucus (and The Conservative Caucus Foundation, founded in 1976), and by 1980 it had become a common battle cry of the conservative movement. During the next few years, he held meetings in all 435 congressional districts, promoting in each the establishment of a local caucus of conservatives. TCC quickly became a leading organization in the fight for prayer in the schools and against the treaties to turn over the Panama Canal Zone and the U.S.-built Canal to Panama. Although the treaties narrowly passed in the face of public hostility, Phillips pointed to the political price paid by its supporters, many of whom were defeated in 1978 and 1980.

He went on to lead a similar and successful campaign against President Carter’s SALT II treaty, visiting all 50 states to turn public opinion against the treaty. He played a key role in what became known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Phillips promoted the necessity of developing a defense against nuclear missiles, and helped set in motion the events which led President Reagan to announce the beginning of SDI in March, 1983. Phillips then stepped up his campaign for the abrogation of the ABM Treaty, so that a missile-defense system could be legally deployed. That effort bore fruit when President George W. Bush abrogated the treaty and began deployment of the system which is now being used to protect the western United States against a possible attack from North Korea. TCC’s “Victory Over Communism” project included strong attempts to provide U.S. assistance to anti-Communist freedom fighters, especially in Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua. A key victory was the repeal of the Clark Amendment, which had prohibited U.S. aid to the anti-Communist forces in Angola.

The Conservative Caucus was a key part of what became known as the New Right, along with Paul Weyrich’s Committee for a Free Congress, Terry Dolan’s National Conservative Political Action Committee, and the direct mail marketing of Richard Viguerie. His determination to stand on principle was best shown by his willingness to oppose even popular Republican presidents when they chose to appease liberals. Phillips strongly opposed Reagan’s nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, and later was the only conservative to testify against the nomination of David Souter by George H. W. Bush. (Phillips correctly predicted that the long public record of support for legal abortion by both O’Connor and Souter would make them solid pro-abortion votes on the court.)

Howard Phillips founded the U.S. Taxpayers Party (USTP) in 1992 to offer America leadership committed to restoring the Federal Republic to its delegated, enumerated Constitutional functions and returning American jurisprudence to its original “common law” Biblical foundations. Phillips was nominated in 1992 and 1996 to be the USTP candidate for President of the United States. In 1999, the name of the US Taxpayer’s Party was changed to “Constitution Party” to better reflect the party’s primary focus of returning government to the U.S. Constitution’s provisions and limitations, and Howard Phillips was chosen to be its 2000 Presidential candidate.

Phillips authored four books: The New Right at Harvard (1983), Moscow’s Challenge to U.S. Vital Interests in Sub-Saharan Africa (1987), The Next Four Years (1992), and Victory 2000 (1999).

Awards Phillips received include:

  • The June 1982 Eagle Forum Award for leadership in the pro-family cause, and “steadfast opposition to the mischief of the federally-financed feminists.”
  • The National Association of Pro-America 1983 Award for “promoting Constitutional government”.
  • The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools Award, 1995.
  • The Strategic Resource Group’s William Wilberforce Award for “Ministry to the Nation/Public Policy” in September, 1996.
  • The Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty conferred upon him the title of “Patriot” in May 2002.

Democracy in Action interviewed Phillips in May 2000 at the National Press Club and provides details on Phillip's family background, education, and his political efforts to the end of his tenure in the Nixon administration.

This video playlist will give persons interested in the party insight into the vision, understanding, and goals of the founder of the Constitution Party. Mr. Phillips passed away in 2013; here's the tribute that Congressman Steve Stockton gave of Phillips before the U.S. House of Representatives.

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