Archive - November 5, 2016

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Hope for a Catholic Political Party: Never Bleaker, Never Brighter

Hope for a Catholic Political Party: Never Bleaker, Never Brighter

I’ve long yearned for a Catholic political party.  It would be one that passes the test that Hubert Humphrey once posed for a moral nation, namely that it stands for people “in the dawn, in the twilight, and in the shadows of life.”  It would be the Democratic Party of the New Deal, the early labor movement, and the civil rights movement but without the lifestyle libertarianism.  It would be the Republican Party that was founded in the struggle against slavery, protects the unborn, and upholds marriage, but not the one that cheers the death penalty and hardens its heart towards the immigrant.  It would resurrect the pro-life Democrats and the legacy of the late Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey.  It would be pro-life, pro-family, pro-environment, pro-immigrant, pro-religious freedom, pro-human rights, anti-death penalty, humane and law-abiding in its foreign policy, and against the radical division of classes that is now besetting America.  Such a party, I believe, would attract wide support among African-Americans, Latinos, Catholics, many evangelicals, and a wide swath of middle class Americans.

This election season, my hopes for such a party have never been bleaker and never been brighter.  Bleaker, because we’ve never had two candidates further from this position.  I will vote for neither.  I don’t decide this lightly because I think that one should strive to vote for one of the viable candidates if one’s conscience at all allows it.  Mine does not.

I follow the U.S. Catholic Bishops in the teaching that voting is not simply a matter of weighing up alternative futures in utilitarian fashion but also a matter of what kinds of policies one intentionally supports.  One cannot support policies that are intrinsically wrong or support candidates because they stand for these policies – that is, policies that are wrong whatever the circumstances or outcomes.  Both candidates support such wrongs beyond the threshold where I can consciously vote for one of them.  Others will place the threshold differently and we can disagree charitably.  But here is why I think both candidates are beyond it.

Secretary Clinton supports continuing and even expanding laws that have sanctioned the snuffing out of over 60 million unborn persons; perpetuating and expanding laws that deny the reality of something so fundamental as marriage and sexual natures; and likely the further restriction of religious freedom on behalf of laws that promote these causes.  She will bring a far steadier hand to executive leadership than Trump and more humane policies towards immigrants.  But her problems are deal-breakers.

Trump’s problems are well known and hardly worth repeating but are, briefly: support for torture; support for killing civilians in the war on terror; cavorting with racist allies; abusing women in word and deed; mocking the mentally handicapped; showing reckless disdain for the rule of law; and dismissing entire classes of human beings like Muslims and immigrants.

Both take me beyond the point where I can say, Which candidate is the better future?, and to the point where I must ask, Can I be complicit?

In Christian history, crisis and darkness form opportunities hope and renewal, and so I was delighted when, for the first time in my life, a real Catholic party appeared on the scene, the American Solidarity Party.  Built explicitly on Catholic social teachings – the wisdom of the encyclicals – the party adopts a wide ranging platform that channels these teachings into American politics.

It is inspired by Christian Democratic parties in Europe and Latin America, which – admittedly yesterday more than today – are also rooted in Catholic teachings.  Like Christian Democratic parties, the ASP is not exclusively Catholic and can appeal, I believe, to a wide range of constituencies, religious and otherwise.  The word Solidarity evokes the Polish Solidarity movement, which connected Catholic moral roots with political action and shook the world in the 1980s.

Third parties are difficult to sustain in the United States, though if there takes place such a shock to the system that one or both of the existing parties break apart – not entirely out of the question after November 8th – such a party might seize upon the opportunity to form a new electoral coalition.

To succeed and not end up a flash in the pan, I believe that ASP should form itself as a movement with deep intellectual and spiritual roots, one that reflectively connects religious and deep moral teachings to political positions – again, Christian Democratic Parties of yesteryear and Solidarity are examples.

It would also be nice were the ASP on the ballot in Indiana, which it unfortunately is not, even as an eligible write-in possibility.  After the election, though, there will be much work to do.

Added November 5, 2016: See also this excellent piece on ASP by my friend Malloy Owen.

© Daniel Philpott The views expressed in this forum are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Daniel Philpott, CCHR, or the University of Notre Dame.