In 2002, a group of Pat Buchanan supporters left the Reform Party to form the America First Party, a group Wikipedia calls “paleoconservative,” and which opposes homosexuality, abortion, gun control, affirmative action, and illegal/unlimited immigration. We spoke with National Chair Jon Hill, who was pessimistic about the party’s chance of running national candidates in the 2012 elections, but who had interesting things to say about the possibility of running local candidates, and about the party’s philosophy and history.
POLITICALCONTEXT.ORG: Is your party running candidates in the 2012 elections?
Jon Hill: It is presently highly unlikely. The America First National Committee has adopted a resolution that encourages party members to focus on running competitive races, that is, on races where we are not outspent 10 to 1. This tends to result in a focus on local government offices. Of course we would like to take Congress and the White House, but we understand that the probability of success in these races is about zero given our limited
visibility and ability to raise funds.
On the other hand, local government offices are often a stepping-stone for higher offices — about 70% of State Representatives in my state, per a survey I did about four years ago, had started their political careers at the local level. You can see the National Committee’s resolution on electoral strategy here.
It is up to the membership and state parties to decide whether or not to advance state or local candidates. Presently, I am not aware of any such plan.
PC: What’s the process for choosing and nominating your candidates? Do you have a general convention? Where and when will it be held?
JH: The party would have a nominating convention for choosing a candidate for President and Vice President. This convention is called by the National Committee (the party’s highest governing authority) as needed. None is presently scheduled.
You can read our constitution here.
PC: What are the demographics of your existing base?
JH: We have not done a demographic study of our membership, but the party appeals to people of diverse backgrounds and economic means.
PC: What is your strategy for deepening your base within your existing demographic, and broadening your reach to other demographics?
JH: Our strategy is presently limited to publishing our newspaper and an occasional press release, and gathering new contacts via our web site and toll-free number. It is up to state parties to be proactive and take advantage of any opportunities that they have. We encourage our affiliates and members to use whatever opportunities they have, and we provide literature of various forms to assist state level activity. Our newspaper has been mailed to tens of thousands of targeted contacts.
PC: In your opinion, what are the chief barriers to the viability and success of third parties in the United States?
JH: The chief barriers are an uninformed, incompetent, and/or morally compromised electorate, as well as limited participation in political organizing, which is a long-standing phenomenon in our country. Another major hindrance is the popular psychology that third parties are “a wasted vote.”
The electorate seems to not understand the gravity of our national crisis. Part of this is due to ignorance of basic aspects of the U.S. Constitution. A considerable number of Americans are also attached to immoral lifestyles and/or disordered political positions which would lead them to consider our organization’s positions to be repulsive: our positions on abortion, homosexuality, the Iraq War and federally sponsored foreign aid (we oppose these), for example.
While some of the items above relate to our third party specifically, it should also be mentioned that few Americans appear to consider an active role in political organizing to be something they are personally called to. Since third parties rely on volunteers, this will have to change in order for third parties to get much traction.
The popular belief that third parties are a wasted vote is also a problem. Unfortunately, voters do not understand the damage they are doing by electing typical major party candidates. They do not realize that in doing this, they are often participating in the effective and gradual overturning of our constitutional system, as most major party federal candidates do not respect the basic requirements of the oath of office. If voters were to realize this, they might be more inclined to consider a vote for major party candidates to be a wasted vote, and likewise, be more inclined to support third party efforts.
PC: Does your party make the opening of space to alternative candidates a major part of your public message? Do you have a strategy for the opening of political space which you have laid out for voters and activists?
JH: I guess we do implicitly, although we do not expect the media to be very helpful.
PC: Do you work in solidarity with other political parties? If so, which ones? If not, why not?
JH: We have endorsed or recommended voting for political candidates of other parties. That is about the extent of the collaboration. We have endorsed a Constitution Party candidate for President. We have recommended that members consider voting for Bob Barr, a Libertarian Party candidate for President.
PC: How do you raise funds for your operations? What methods of fundraising have proven to be most successful for your party in the past?
JH: Through targeted direct mail, as this is the most effective.
PC: A broad, philosophical question: Why does your party exist?
JH: Because we do not expect the Republican Party to be reformed to the extent that candidates with our values are likely to be nominated at the national level, and in many cases, even at the state level. Our values spring from basic constitutional principles and basic moral principles rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is unlikely that we can get traction in any of the major parties. Candidates of the quality of Ron Paul are unlikely to get the GOP’s nomination.
PC: May we have a copy of your most recent national platform–either as a word document, or the link to where it can be found on the web?
JH: Yes. You can reference it here.
PC: What else would you like our readers to know about your party?
JH: We are open to persons of all faiths. Our goal is to put America First, that is, to put the general interest of our country first before all special interests. We are strongly opposed to the current fiscal, foreign, immigration, and trade policies on constitutional, if not moral grounds. We are for states’ rights, as well as the rights of parents as the primary educators of their children. We stand for the right to life, from conception to natural death. We oppose homosexuality.
Our web site has a lot of information, including PDF’s of our newspapers, newsletters, brochures, platform, party constitution, and archived press releases. The web site is found at www.americafirstparty.org.
PC: May we have a brief bio from the person answering these questions? May we also have bios for the current Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary, and Executive Director of your party?
JH: We have constructed the legal framework of our party to limit the role of personality. Accordingly, the National Committee has more authority than the party officers, who tend to have a mainly administrative role and a limited leadership role. Therefore, it does not seem necessary to provide bios, because the role of officers is limited. That being said, we tend to have ten years or more of political activism experience. Many of us have been self-employed and business owners. Some have been activists through previous involvements in campaigns, media, and the pro-life movement.
PC: In what city and state is the national party headquarters located?
JH: Our main mailing address is in Boulder, Colorado.
PC: What year was the party founded?
PC: Who were the leaders that founded the party?
JH: Our founding National Chairman was Dan Charles.
PC: Any significant “firsts” for the party–Who was your first candidate on a ballot, who (if any) was your first candidate elected to office?
JH: Our founding National Chairman appeared on MSNBC, as well as on numerous radio broadcasts. Our founding convention was covered by C-SPAN. Our present National Chairman has appeared on various broadcasts, including the Alan Colmes radio show and Al Jazeera English television.
We have had a candidate elected to a major county planning board in Florida — Brevard County. This person eventually became the chairman of this planning board. We have also had two individuals elected at the local level in Framingham Massachusetts. These were Town Meeting member positions.
Our newspaper publication was introduced in 2007 and has now been mailed to tens of thousands of contacts. It is professional in quality and highly informative.