Editor’s Note: This post originally ran here at Approaching Justice on May 27, 2014. Re-posting in light of recent events, though I would emphasize that Bundy’s view and those of his family are very extreme and fringe even within Mormon community, which is in mans ways ultra-conservative. -CH
Cliven Bundy has left the Republican Party and switched his party affiliation to the Independent American Party.
The Independent American Party has roots in Utah and according to their website, they were founded out of a commitment to the right-wing political principles of the late Mormon leader Ezra Taft Benson. Here is how they describe their 1993 founding:
Utah wanted a “truly” conservative party, and citizens formed the Utah IAP. The founders were inspired by a speech given by Ezra T. Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture, entitled “The Proper Role of Government”. Benson’s love for America and belief in its divine destiny were echoed by many and thus became the basis for the initial platform. The 15 principles for the proper role of government, taken from his speech still influence core decisions today.
Ezra Taft Benson was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 until his death in 1994. He was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1943 to 1995.
While an Apostle of the LDS Church, Benson served as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during both terms of President Dwight Eisenhower. His appointment to the Cabinet was a gesture of reconciliation with the conservative wing of the GOP.
After his time in the Eisenhower administration, Benson was an outspoken right-wing voice in American politics. He blasted everything from social welfare programs, civil rights, and the United Nations as being part of a Communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the world. While he was not a member of the John Birch Society, he was a vocal supporter.
The Independent America Party is not associated with the John Birch Society. However, when covering Utah politics in the late 1990s, it was not uncommon for me to see signs for Independent American candidates next to official John Birch Society “Get Us Out of the United Nations” signs.
The Independent American Party was briefly associated with the national American Party, an offshoot of the American Independent Party. The American Independent Party is best known for having Alabama Gov. George Wallace as their presidential nominee in 1968.
George Wallace had approached Ezra Taft Benson multiple times about joining his ticket in 1968 in the Vice President slot. Benson followed the advice of then LDS Church President David O. McKay and declined the offers.
The Independent American Party became a national party in 1998, but it has not had been much of a presence beyond Utah and other Mormon pockets of the American West. Even in those areas, I can find no record of an Independent American candidate being elected to office. In many ways it has been in the shadows of similar right-wing “Constitutionalist” parties like the Constitution Party.
From their website, it is clear the the party is both a Ezra Taft Benson fan club and functioning ideological political party with under a dozen candidates running the 2014 Utah elections. With the party’s official heavy emphasis on Benson, it is unlikely that the party would appeal to many non-Mormons. For Cliven Bundy, himself a Mormon, this was not an obstacle and likely part of what lead him to officially align with the Independent American Party.
The national and Nevada GOP are likely very relieved.