“When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither.”
The two major-party candidates in this election are not just liars and panderers in the way politicians are. Many Americans, an unprecedented number, believe that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton belong in a criminal trial rather than on a presidential ballot. This man and this woman represent the nadir of American politics; they are manipulated by the New York moneymen and the demagogues of both parties, and they represent the very worst of the American elite.
Most people know this or suspect it, but they are willing to hold their noses and pick one of them anyway. I think that’s exactly the wrong solution.
Why should we only have two choices, especially when the choices are this bad? Other democracies don’t create a false dichotomy for themselves in the way we do. As much as anything else, my third-party vote is a protest against the injustices of the two-party system. But it’s also more than that.
I chose the American Solidarity Party simply because the party complements my political and religious beliefs far better than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party ever have. So, what does the American Solidarity Party believe? Why should you vote for them on Tuesday?
Basically, to understand the ASP, you need to have a handle on these three terms: Catholic Social Teaching, Distributism, and Subsidiarity. Nota bene: ASP is not a Catholic party per se, but it’s founded on largely Catholic ideas and 80% of the membership is Catholic or Orthodox. I, for one, would like to recruit more Protestants.
What is Catholic Social Teaching (CST?) A framework of political and social thought steeped in the doctrine of historical Christianity and brought into concrete form by a series of popes in a series of encyclicals (letters sent by the pope to bishops in the church). The Conference of Catholic Bishops lists seven tenets of CST, all of which form a part of the American Solidarity Party Platform. CST is distinctive in that it cannot be categorized as left-wing or right-wing. It has been carefully shaped into something that is a genuine Third Way, with meaty critiques of the ideologies of the Left and the Right. Although I am a Reformed Protestant, I find Catholic Social Teaching to be incredibly valuable. For more information, here’s the Wikipedia page on CST, which is accurate and helpful.
What is Distributism? Distributism is a political and economic philosophy first dreamed up by the Catholic thinkers G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. Distributists believe that ownership of property and tools is part of political power, and so ownership should be as widely distributed as possible. Workers should own all or a portion of the means of their own production. Distributism can be simple and uncoerced (credit unions, co-ops, employee-owned corporations), or it can be more complex and coercive, as in Taiwan’s postwar Land-to-the-Tiller program, which distributed ownership of thousands of acres of land to the tenant farmers who tilled it. I think there are some important lessons in Distributist thought for our capitalist society–it’s important to stress that most modern Distributists would say that Distributism can come about through a grassroots, compassionate Capitalist movement rather than by government edict.
What is Subsidiarity? The idea that power and decision-making abilities should reside at the lowest practicable level. I like to think of this in financial terms: why does the federal government collect my income tax, and disburse money to the states and eventually to the municipalities for schools, Medicare, etc.? Why don’t municipalities and states collect the bulk of taxes, and remit to the federal government only what is necessary? This is a political principle that, although radical, is widely agreed to be wise policy. Of all the things the ASP advocates, this is probably the most revolutionary and, paradoxically, the least controversial. Having important policies determined in your area, instead of in Washington D.C., has its own pitfalls, but the very idea of it excites people.
Out of these three ideas spring the whole of the ASP platform. Here are a few policies the ASP advocates, chosen nearly at random:
- All military activities must adhere to Just War principles (this goes back to Augustine)
- “[S]trict accountability in the use of lethal force by officers of the peace.”
- “We oppose the privatization of Social Security and other public pension systems.”
“We oppose the sudden elimination or reduction of income supports such as welfare, food stamps, and unemployment insurance, when no other safety net is in place.”
“We support constitutional and legal measures that establish the Right to Life from conception until natural death.”
“We call for an end to capital punishment.”
You may not agree with all of these policies–in fact, it would be surprising if you did. But go read the Republican or Democratic platforms and you will see what a breath of fresh air this is. Yes, I get it, it will be a Republican or a Democrat in the White House next January, just as it has been since any of us can remember. But the huge dissatisfaction with both candidates is also an opportunity: if the system is failing spectacularly, change the system. Vote third party. Vote American Solidarity Party.
But the huge dissatisfaction with both candidates is also an opportunity: if the system is failing spectacularly, change the system. Vote third party. Vote American Solidarity Party.
Is it crazy? Well, Father Zosima was asked a similar question in The Brothers Karamazov (quoted in this great piece on the ASP in First Things).
[W]e must keep the banner flying. Sometimes even if he has to do it alone, and his conduct seems to be crazy, a man must set an example, and so draw men’s souls out of their solitude, and spur them to some act of brotherly love even if he seems crazy, so that the great idea may not die.
I don’t think it’s crazy, but so what if it is? It’s a great idea–let’s keep it alive.