Notorious anti-abortion noisemaker Randall Terry is running for president. Here’s why: Terry thinks he can use his campaign as a vehicle to put graphic images of aborted fetuses on national television, preferably during the Super Bowl. The strategy worked for him last year, when the Terry-managed Missy Reilly Smith campaign — she was a candidate for DC delegate to the House — was able to broadcast ads so graphic YouTube pulled them.
So, that’s the plan: raise enough money with his campaign to get a graphic anti-abortion ad on during the Super Bowl in 2012 by using his presidential candidacy as a hook to prevent TV stations from refusing to air them in the middle of the primary calendar. (More on the scheme here.)
But at a press conference held outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington today, Terry outlined loftier goals for his run for president, including freeing the tea party movement from leaders he says are intent on shying away from social issues and the humiliation of President Obama in Iowa, the state where his unlikely journey to the White House began in earnest back in 2008.
“We will focus on a theocentric libertarian platform,” Terry told the crowd of maybe a couple dozen supporters and press.
What’s that? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Terry said he will run an “unashamedly theocentric campaign.”
“The Constitution of the United States of America is a phenomenal document,” he said. “But it is not the primary document that was given to the human race to govern themselves. That would be the Ten Commandments and the Sermon On The Mount.”
Terry is mounting his theocratic political crusade from a Democratic ballot line, challenging Obama for the party’s nomination. As one reporter pointed out at the presser, Terry has described himself as a Republican in the past, and his theocentric libertarian message certainly sounds like it would appeal to Republican voters more than it would Democratic ones. But Terry said running as a Democrat effectively allows him to cut out the middle man when it comes to casting votes against Obama.
“I don’t want to quarrel with Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee,” Terry said. “I want to focus on the madman, Obama. Obama is the central figure of voter rage. There are people, myself included, who loathe this presidency. By going against him in a Democratic primary, I can focus on him like a laser beam and I will.”
In the past, Terry has thrown his support behind Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who many social conservatives view as their 2012 choice. It’s not clear that Pence will run for the Republican nomination but if he does, Terry can steer clear of tangling with him by running on the Democratic side.
Terry also says running as a Democrat provides him with the chance to “humiliate” Obama in Iowa. It’s less than likely that Team Obama will mount a vigorous campaign to take on Democratic challengers like Terry, which Terry suggested could be a big mistake. Using “two RVs,” his collection of volunteers and his large mailing list, Terry plans to storm the Hawkeye State starting in March to convince voters to become Democrats just to throw a protest vote Obama’s way.
“The Iowa caucuses are designed so that people — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — can walk into the caucus, the night of the caucus and say ‘tonight, I’m a Democrat,’” Terry explained. “Together, we can take this primary train, with pro-life and tea party values down Democrat rails.”
“Even if I get 35-40% of the vote in Iowa, it’s a massive embarrassment to President Obama and it shows the level of voter rage against this man,” Terry said.
So that’s part two of the plan: humiliate Obama with the power of pro-life activism. But it also suggests part three: Terry’s plan to use his run for presidency to wrestle the tea party away from leaders who Terry said are pushing conservative activists to drop the social politics.
Terry, of course, is vehemently opposed to abortion. At today’s presser he said that he’s also opposed to gay marriage. (There was also talk of ending America’s dependence on foreign oil and upending the farm subsidy program, not exactly a surefire winner in Iowa.)
Though he pitched it with trademark flair, much of Terry’s social political agenda is not that different from the one you hear from more mainstream social conservatives. The future of the social stuff has sparked a deep divide in the conservative movement, one that Terry said could mean the death of the tea party that he said, like him, is ready for a culture war.
“What you have is you have people like Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich trying to steal — literally buy and steal — the tea party movement,” Terry told me in an interview after the press conference. “And they’re corrupting a few select people to say, ‘Oh, stay away from the social issues, they’re too controversial, we want to focus on money.’ Baloney. Human rights, the right to life, civil liberty — those are the foundations of this republic.”
“So, the question for tea party activists is whether they’re going to become the mistresses of the Republican Party,” Terry said. “[The tea party] must put principle ahead of party and it must put the right to life, the defense of marriage and the centrality of theocentric law as its foundation.”
“If it does not, then it will go the way of all these trite little moments of political unrest,” Terry said.