A Third Way: The American Solidarity Party’s Case


Marchmaine is the pseudonym of a purveyor of fine artisanal software who spent his wayward youth wrangling degrees in Foreign Affairs and Intellectual History. Alasdair MacIntyre taught him 'After Virtue' but he was too dumb to realize it at the time. Now residing in the Lower Shenandoah Valley where he gives orthodox Catholics a bad reputation.

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77 Responses

  1. Chip Daniels says:

    As a leftist in good standing, I could see myself forming a fruitful alliance with such a party as this.

    Part of the appeal is the naked call for goodwill. That is, the premise is that everyone is included within the body and that the laws and policies be directed towards the betterment of the entire body.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Doughnuts and coffee in the basement for all people of good will… we’ll see that you get an invitation.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I am doubtful. We have seen a lot of these calls to “goodwill” in the years of Trump. Ahmari has weighed against the lack of maternal (note not paternal) leave that American companies can get away with giving to mothers of young children. Josh Hawley as made some noises critiquing capitalism’s harshness on something or another as well. Dreher has also made some noises in this regard.

      Maybe this is all nice and good but Ahmari is still mainly animated by his hatred of LGBT people and drag queens even though he loves all that Manhattan has to offer and would probably blow his brains out if forced to move somewhere more conservative like upstate New York because they don’t have good Whiskey bars.

      Josh Hawley is never really going to do anything that goes against capitalism or what the big money bosses want. It is just sounds for him to fool the media always looking for a hot take.
      It is hard for me to accept that a party that openly identifies itself sectarian anything as really being for goodwill.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Maybe this is all nice and good but Ahmari is still mainly animated by his hatred of LGBT people and drag queens even though he loves all that Manhattan has to offer and would probably blow his brains out if forced to move somewhere more conservative like upstate New York because they don’t have good Whiskey bars.

        There are plenty of good, Manhattan-style amenities in large parts of upstate New York if you know where to look. Problem is, if you look for them you’ll find Ahmari’s Manhattan-style degenerates (NYC-expats or the sorts of people who would normally leave upstate for NYC but decided to stick it out) responsible for most of them.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      The problem is that everyone seems to want Utopia and Utopia might not exist. At the very least, one person’s concept of Utopia might be another person’s concept of hell. Ahmari wants all that Manhattan wants to offer without those he deems to be “deviants” even though it is those “deviants” who create much about what he loves about big cities like New York. On the left, you have people who want life to be like Smurf village or the Shire but with all the conveniences and toys of the modern world and refuse to admit that these conveniences and toys might just be the products of multi-national shareholder capitalism.

      But maybe the human condition is merely and endless loop of people jumping up and down screaming “You can’t have it both ways but both ways is the only way I want.”Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I am someone who suggests various solutions to various problems. I know that a lot of my solutions aren’t going to make things perfect. I know that the only thing that they’ll do is make things better.

        Or, wait. Sometimes all they’ll do is make things less bad than they are. It’s not about “making things good” but just “making things less bad”.

        And you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve gotten “but that’s not a magic bullet that will solve the problem!” as a response.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

          And it is surprising to see the overlap between the people who say this and the people who tell us that the ACA was, like, the first step on the long road to healthcare reform, and that we shouldn’t expect it to solve all the problems right away, or even solve some of the problems at all, or even solve most of the problems at all, because establishing the position that Health Care Ought To Be Reformed was meaningful progress.Report

        • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

          Cool. So you’re the guy whose solutions will always make things better. I wish my solutions would make things better sometimes. Alas that is not the world.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

          Yeah, the ASP is clearly stating incrementalist approaches and policies (which makes me doubt Ahmari is much of a supporter of the political project, even though he’s read the same books)… even if you adjusted a tiny fraction of policies to be oriented towards Solidarity and reworked a handful of programs to be more subsidiarist you might see incremental less-badness. And that’s why it’s potentially an option, and potentially a threat. Usually claims of Utopia signal internal discord of the claimant rather than a substantial critique.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

            As I age, I become more and more of a fan of incrementalism. The only problem is that incrementalism is slow and it can sometimes feel like little is changing. The trend line over decades can be obvious but the trend line over weeks can feel flat. Heck, it can feel negative.

            I do think that collaboration is going down and if collaboration is a lagging indicator, that means that trust is going down.

            And I don’t see either of the two real parties working toward improving the horses that pull the cart. Just talking about how they’ll fix the cart.

            A party that notices that there are horses is a step in the right direction.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I cheerfully accept and embrace the notion of a Shire, with happy collectivist workmen building Morris chairs and crunching granola.

        But what is interesting, is when the different conceptions of the good interact.
        For example, Solidarity and Subsidiarity have one set of meanings when spoken by Catholics; But what happens when these terms get applied by non-Catholics to issues like policing and racial justice?
        How does the “seamless garment of life” come into play with respect to gun rights and property, and when that conversation is had by entirely secular people?

        Because as you demonstrate, different stakeholders will filter these concepts in very different ways, that we can’t really predict.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Interesting how Shire Envy has replaced Polis Envy… Peter Jackson has a lot to answer for in this life and the next.

          The answer is that you’re viewing Solidarity/Subsidiarity as pre-modern where it is in fact post-Modern. The idea of Democracy held by most of us here is – at best – a 19th century notion that’s just beginning to grapple with the fact that we aren’t doing Democracy, but instead we’re now doing Mass Democracy. We’re just now becoming the equivalent of Industrial Revolution Moving Assembly Line Democrats… in the era of advanced Automated Democracy.

          The problem with your question is that if you have a single-assembly-line model of Democracy, anything you do to ‘fix’ the line breaks it elsewhere unless you fix everything all at once.

          We don’t do factories that way any more, and we can’t do democracy that way anymore. Just as we’re moving to advanced management principles which give autonomy to workers and business units to accomplish goals rather than tasks, that’s how you have to think of Democracy going forward. Some democratic units will handle these issues differently than others… as long as we’re within the framework of Lowest-common-denominator Solidarity (or Mere Solidarity as I call it) then you have to allow for those other people over there to do it wrong.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

            I think this is a good point, in line with my thinking about how our politics is still framed on the terms set by mass industrialization of the early 20th century.

            Whether it is regarding issues like Uber or Amazon, or a UBI or Medicare for All, the language and rhetoric fall into the same wheel ruts that Henry Ford and Walther Reuther would have recognized.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Yes, this is the problem. There is no universal definition of the good, there was probably never a universal definition of good. One of the things I think the left and maybe Marchmaine’s sector of the right has trouble comprehending is that there are into finance. They are as passionate about finance and business as actors are about acting and writers are about writing. Plus they sincerely think “economic growth” is the best way for the good to grow. So how do you create a society where the person who wants to be a bohemian artist does not feel like the careerist striver climbing the corporate ladder for all the money is getting in their way?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            So how do you create a society where the person who wants to be a bohemian artist does not feel like the careerist striver climbing the corporate ladder for all the money is getting in their way?

            How do you make anybody feel (or not feel) something?

            A suggestion that would work would probably be like “bohemian artists have their own little cloister with minimal interaction with the outside world where they just create art”.

            Which, of course, immediately had me asking “well, what if the artists want their art to be appreciated by the outside world?”

            And then we’re off to the races.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The eternal dream is politics without politicians and an economy without business people.Report

        • George Turner in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Yes, we’re still waiting for the New Soviet Man. He was last seen selling smuggled Levis in Novgorod, and then dropped out of contact. He’s probably opened a boutique in an upscale neighborhood.Report

  2. greginak says:

    I’ve always thought it would be great to have a more parliamentary system so we could have more parties and the smaller parties would have some sway. Having this kind of party would be a net positive even if i’m not sure they would get my vote.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to greginak says:

      Agreed. It might be possible to change some voting paradigms (if not the entire regime) to open up space for more parties… ranked choice plus run-off systems could change dynamics so coalitions are formed around actual platforms and support traded for policy objectives. Really wouldn’t have to be that radical just to alter the first past the post plurality that’s locking us into the duopoly.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

      You would have to rewrite the Constitution to a Westminister system. The current set up does not really provide avenues for third parties or coalition governments.Report

  3. The Whole Life Platform is consistent in opposing the Death Penalty

    Of course Whole Life is opposed to Term(inate) Life.Report

  4. North says:

    Sounds like a fine European style right wing party. If I could press a button and replace the existing GOP with this one I would do so in a heartbeat. It can’t get my own vote, of course, being a traditional Christian/Catholic party. Me and mine voting for it would be like Turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.Report

  5. InMD says:

    Interesting ideas, though I wonder if the combination of Subsidiarity and Solidarity are really sustainable across a polity. Specifically can Subsidiarity keep itself from becoming another faction of cultural imperialism in the face of threats to Solidarity posed by other movements and parties? It’s certainly very Catholic to think it can but I wonder if that isn’t an unrealistic projection of American Catholic cultural norms onto a system with a lot of built in Protestant wiring. Like so much wiring that modern Progressivism doesn’t even recognize itself as the successor to expressly Protestant Christian movements that it is.

    Anyway if ASP could take off it would very quickly have to decide if it was willing to patronize hostile movements or abandon its principles. That said it certainly would be preferable to the walking corpse of the GOP and do a better job holding team D accountable for its laundry list of empty promises.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

      Interesting thought; I’m not sure that subsidiarity itself is a faction. It’s more like a self-regulating principle of federation that seeks to balance competing entities by giving legitimate autonomy and a self interest in not allowing authority to become too concentrated… both by decentralizing primary authority and providing the framework that prohibits consolidation. I should note also that this is a bias that carries into commercial projects as well. Ideally any entity that is XY big has counter-balancing entities which are also XY big. The important distinction is that there isn’t an Uber power that creates the sub-powers.

      But yes, the danger to any sort of decentralization is centralization… and the temptation to centralize in the name of efficiency is the ever present danger in politics as it is in commerce. The main thing to consider is that we’re failing on all fronts with regards centralization. If we don’t start an incremental movement away from these tendencies (which I fear are more enshrined in our popular consciousness than we realize) then we’ll wonder how it is we’ve lost what little subsidiarity we currently have.

      Not sure if that helps or misses the mark… there’s no political system that isn’t in danger of constant decay. Subsidiarity looks to address the decay by providing less centralized / multi-polar polity that depends upon a minimal (rather than maximal) solidarity. Think of it as ‘mere solidarity’ rather than uniform genomic singularity.Report

      • InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Close but what I’m really wondering is more practical. Like is Subsidiarity too fragile of a main plank for an American political party that has to win to sustain itself? There’s a lot of trust involved.

        Not that the two big parties we have aren’t running on fumes full of internal contradictions, particularly the GOP. The difference may be that they’re willing to sustain themselves on fear, greed, and downright culture war. I assume the ASP would have to reject those tactics.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

          I see… I agree in the sense that there’s no top-down magic-wand win-the-presidency and usher in the age of solidarity. But then, these early forays into the public sphere are more about messaging and getting the ball rolling. Nothing more happens without small local governance projects.

          It is fundamentally a trust building project… so you’ve hit on that directly.Report

  6. Stillwater says:

    One thing I absolutely love is that the graph you include (a pretty famous one, to be sure) leaves out a *whole bunch* of leftward points on the plot for the sake of making the vertical Y axis cut through the heart of red-dome.

    Why not re-center the Y axis on that graph through the heart of the blue dots and liberate the leftward blue plot-points from their cages of erasure?

    Add: In policy the American electorate is further left than people want to admit. In politics the America electorate is further right than is good for it.Report

    • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

      A confusing chart for a confused people.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

      Let slip the dots of war.

      But I’ll also point out that Parties also gather-in dots and consolidate them… some of what we’re seeing is the unfocus of the parties and the revolt of the dots.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Yes, that’s exactly what this is.

        Part of the problem is that being a blue dot is not unfashionable and being a red dot is unfashionable.

        That said, in a tight-knit community, fashion hits differently. We, as a society, have gotten rid of a lot of communities (and this ain’t all bad! there are bad things that happened in a lot of small tight-knit communities!) and replaced it with a simulacrum of community and that means that fashion hits.

        There are a lot of things that are bundled together and you have to pick between the Blue Bundle and the Red Bundle and both bundles have a handful of decent sentiments and a truckload of crap.

        The unfocus of the parties is trying to deal with how the bundle is working a lot differently than it used to.

        Trump was a backlash.
        Obama was a backlash.
        Bush was a backlash.
        Clinton was a backlash.
        Bush was an echo of a backlash.
        Reagan was a backlash.
        Carter was a backlash.
        Nixon was a backlash.

        I think we have to get to Kennedy stealing the election… but I suppose that stealing the election was also a form of backlash. (Just not by the whipsaw mood of the American people this time.)

        Now I’m rambling. Sorry.Report

      • must shout out to “let slip the dots of war” – enjoyed greatlyReport

  7. Chip Daniels says:

    Tying together on this thread some loose thoughts on the other comments about the SCOTUS fight, voting rights fights and access and GOP ratf*ckery in general…

    I’ve seen a lot of essays and comments about how to “fix” the problem of the Electoral College yielding unrepresentative results, or the gaming of SCOTUS appointments, from both liberal and conservative voices.

    And they all suggest various structures and mechanisms that will somehow yield a more just and representative government. Everything is suggested from parliamentary systems to Constitutional amendments to term limits.

    But they all, like this essay, assume an electorate that behaves generally with goodwill and a shared commitment to republican democracy.
    And that’s the real problem here that needs fixing.

    There doesn’t exist any sort of system that can yield justice when a large enough number of the citizenry crave injustice. If a large number of people refuse to accept the full humanity and dignity of their fellow citizens, any system can be gamed and abused and perverted so as to produce the exact opposite of its intention.

    And right now we have that, a large plurality of American citizens who aren’t willing to accept other Americans as full and equal citizens, they aren’t willing to accept the results of democracy, and they control the Republican Party at all levels which is working to create an unrepresentative government which doesn’t respect the dignity of all its citizens.

    I would love to live under the American Solidarity Party. Or rather, I would love to live in an America where the sort of people who embrace its ideals make up some large number of its citizens.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I was sure you were talking about Democrats, who openly despise white people, black conservatives (who they call Uncle Toms), Asians (who they openly discriminate against), Jews (who they openly attack). Biden openly calls conservatives “the dregs of society”.

      The Democrats have become a party of racist hate.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Democracy never figured out what to do with the anti-democratic elements in it or what if a majority or substantial minority of the people want something bad. This has been a problem since Athens. People like to present Socrates death as the ignorant masses going against a great truth teller but the reality is that Socrates was closely associated with the anti-democratic faction in Athenian politics. He is executed to prevent him from spreading the antiquity version of fascism. That was his corruption of the youth, telling them that democracy was bad.

      Now modern democracies obviously do not believe that we can kill people because they are anti-democratic. That would make a mockery of democracy. If a substantial portion of the population is anti-democratic than doing anything to them is even more of a problem. That leaves the problem of what to do with them. The best we can hope for is that a democratic system basically puts them in minority roles in perpetuity.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    I like the sentiment behind this sort of thing and, as a 3rd Party voter, I’m sympathetic to coming up with a different way to go about things than Team Red or Team Blue (“Team Be Ruled” was the joke I made a million years ago. Sigh.)

    When it comes to the common objections, I am down with all of them but have a quibble with the first.

    At my work, I’m generally considered the Pinko Libertine. I push back and prod against my conservative co-workers, I make cutting little comments at particularly egregious appeals to moral authority, and can argue Biblical Criticism at an Above Replacement Level.

    As such, being told that a vote for Jo Jorgensen is a vote for Biden always brings a wide smile to my face.

    As for the “the party is too Christian for my taste”, I think… meh. I can handle Christians. Most of them are pussycats who have been beaten down by Super Protestants over the last 40ish years and the ones who aren’t are ones who tend to have done enough of the required reading to see the benefit of a Devil’s Advocate when it comes to strengthening immune systems.

    The question for me is not “Is this just Trumpism 2.0?” but “Is this just Bushism 2.0?”

    Which, I suppose, brings us to the “dealbreakers” question.Report

    • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t see too many echoes of Bushism. It’s hard to imagine something like the push to privatize social security coming out of this platform. I assume the just war theory plank rejects nation building/foreign policy adventurism. Of course IIRC so did Bush right up until 9/11. Remember when Kosovo was controversial and cruise missile strikes in Sudan were ‘wag the dog’? Good times.Report

      • George Turner in reply to InMD says:

        Biden and Harris want the US to get involved in the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflict. Won’t that be great? I’m sure the Iranians, Erdogan, or Putin will give our supply convoys a free pass to go in there.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

        I was more thinking “Compassionate Conservativism” and all that that entailed.

        (I mean, it’s still better than the “Hey, we need to help invade Armenia!” that is currently cooking on the back burner.)Report

        • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

          Maybe ‘compassionate conservatism’ but for real this time. Not ‘compassionate conservatism’ where the compassion is mostly for all that lonely, sad capital wallowing in public trust that could be out happily raising shareholder dividends.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

        Right. From my perspective Bushism (Compassionate Conservatism) would be critiqued in a similar way we’d critique the Left… if the goal is to simply tax and re-allocate, then we’re not really broadening economic gains but negotiating service fees from a segment of the population that is manipulating the rules that govern markets to their advantage… sometimes by trading small fees/taxes for small benefits to large numbers. That’s the neo-liberal consensus in a nut-shell — Left and Right alike.

        It’s an important distinction that a Solidarity Party isn’t simply taking Left/Right positions in a new amalgam, but really does look to incrementally change the direction of the ship on some important matters… it recognizes markets, but it recognizes them as Game Theory domains, not invisible hand Natural Law dynamics. The Economic Laws aren’t a priori, they are crafted and discerned a posteriori. The market is always a human game. Importantly it is a game that is too complex to control absolutely, but it isn’t a game where the rules cannot be questioned at all… and more fundamentally, it isn’t a game that would exist without rules in any scenario.

        This is an important distinction that prevents this economic approach from trying to do too much while acknowledging it is possible to do too little.

        But that’s why it isn’t Trumpism, nor Bushism, nor Neo-liberalism, nor Libertarianism, nor Mercantilism… it’s a Stakeholder Economics where the Stakeholders are as broadly distributed as possible.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

      As a general observation, I think it’s very difficult in our system for a third party to own territory in the middle. I understand that the formulations used by the ASP aren’t an act designed to gain the middle, but a lot of its balancing of priorities makes it more natural to gain supporters from the non-extremes. In a way, it’s easy to form a party based on extremes. You’ll get next to zero votes, but you’ll be clearly defined.

      We say that people vote for parties, but I think it’s more in the sense of voting for candidates of parties than voting for platforms of parties. Platforms are odd, and they can lie or be so general in order to get away with stuff. Of course, the same is true of candidates. But they generally have a track record, and the party itself has a track record. When you vote for a candidate from one of the two big parties, you generally know what a person in that party is going to do. With a third party that is absolutely 100% against, say, trees, you know you’re voting for a candidate who hates trees. But a third party staking out a platform that tends toward the middle, what would the candidate do in office? The tension between subsidiarity and solidarity is a great place to have a conversation about governance, but what does it tell me about Candidate X’s agenda?

      The only way I see around this is if a third party coalesced around a Candidate X, or more likely former Governor or former Ambassador to China X. This party is like this guy, and we know this guy, so we can understand where the party is likely to come down on a certain issue. Clearly defined, not extreme, not one of the two parties.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

        Sure, these are good practical observations. It is hard to build a party, especially when the voting apparatus is designed to put new parties at significant disadvantage. Which is why we don’t really have a political “farm club” model but more of a Pirate / Hostile Takeover model for the two existing Parties – which is worse.

        Practically we could advocate for minor changes to the mechanics of voting (to displace first past the post pluralities); but absent that there’s really no other option than to run for office to gain a profile to launch the movement that hopefully builds the infrastructure needed to… Hijack an existing party vessel, see your ideas co-opted by another party without attribution, or be the rare case where a new party replaces the old.

        That said, I’m 100% on board with the fact that political parties are also political movements are also cultural avatars are also think-tanks and policy groups are also coalitions with evolving priorities based upon paths available to them. In this sense I’m the Aristotelean Politics guy… there’s no perfect form we’re trying to bring down from heaven… just the day-to-day work of building polity. And that day-to-day work has to happen first, before the Party has an identity or an ability to govern.

        This was precisely the argument I made to reluctant Trump voters, and I stand proven right in everything I told them would happen if you try to do politics by personality – without building the political infrastructure right and first. [Bracketing the catastrophically bad Personality that was the first premise of my arguments].

        So I agree with your observations, and re-iterate that if a thing is worth doing, it’ll be done badly at first.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

        We need an H. Ross Perot.

        Or a Trump.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

          I’d say maybe Regan would be the better comp to synthesize with Pinky.

          Love him or hate him, he put in the 20-years of work as part of a movement that eventually arrived in 1980. When he arrived he arrived with policies, think tanks, congressmen, Senators, Governors and an entire apparatus that stepped in to the Executive branch on day 1.

          Bill Clinton is a similar example in that he aligned with and was championed by the New Democrats which brought in on day 1 an apparatus that had done the pre-work to necessary to take the Democratic party in a different direction.

          Obama is an example of a person who didn’t and saw his presidency suffer for having jumped the gun. My critique here isn’t that he was unfit for the presidency, just that he didn’t do the work necessary to make his presidency more than the B- it was.Report

  9. This is an interesting OP, and I’ll have to chew over the ASP’s message, etc., before I consider giving it my vote in a future election. (I’ve already mail-voted this election and even if I hadn’t, I would still be voting for Biden.)

    I understand your response to the “third parties can’t win” argument. However, if it does replace or take over either of the two parties, the ASP will have to stray so far from its goals as to be at least somewhat unrecognizable, where “at least somewhat” can mean “a little” to “mostly.”

    While I like this point:

    And by small ‘g’ governments we mean all those entities both private and public to which people belong. In thinkers from Burke to Nisbet to Lasch these are the intermediate institutions that balance political order from unilateral consolidation.

    I’ll say you’re not discussing only government, but also civil society. I’m not sure that’s the same thing as subsidiarity. I’m not sure it isn’t, but I’m not sure it is. I see civil society as something autonomous of anything we can call government. That said, I haven’t given a lot of thought to that and I haven’t read most of the thinkers on this subject that you’ve read.

    I realize it’s much easier for me to nitpick your argument than to offer something constructive. Like many of the others above, I would like ASP to replace the current GOP, but it might not get my vote. It might, but it might not.Report

    • InMD in reply to gabriel conroy says:

      The focus of third parties on the presidency allows a certain, very limiting purity to prevail. I get that the idea is less to win, more to inject ideas into the mainstream that might not otherwise get a hearing. It seems to me though that the case for that approach is getting weaker and weaker. Time to start running for school board and dog catcher.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to InMD says:

        Having a few thousand ASP adherents running for city council and dog catcher would be an excellent thing.
        Like a alluded to above, creating an America where the ASP was a credible contender for national office, would require deep changes in the American civil society.

        It would first require explaining the concepts of solidarity and subsidiarity which at this time barely register in the national consciousness.
        Which in turn would need some high profile spokespersons and advocates starting with things like bestselling books and movies and plays, reviews and essays in media.

        Just the mere act of this conversation playing out would change things for the better, IMO.

        By entering the debate, the stalemate between the 20th century arguments of New Deal/ Anti Communism would be forced to find new justifications and adapt new arguments and lines of reasoning.
        I’m thinking of how the 19th Century Progressives didn’t win, but permanently changed the course of American political history and produced the New Deal coalition.Report

        • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Well sure, but if solidarity and subsidiarity started finding any significant purchase with the electorate you can be sure one of the two big parties would coopt it. My money would be on the Democrats, personally, but it’s theoretically possible the GOP has enough vitality in their decaying fibers to try as well.Report

          • InMD in reply to North says:

            I think it’s really tough to say where it best fits. Haven’t there been some recent essays wondering whether it’s easier for the right to pivot (relatively) left on economics/the welfare state or for the left to pivot (relatively) right on social issues?

            You also get into this question of where weakly aligned parts of the coalition go and what their numbers actually are. They may bitch about the RINOs or the DNC but do they have it in them to defect? Does it matter if they do?Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to gabriel conroy says:

      On the contrary, I think you bring up a very good point. Subsidiarity indeed encompasses all of Civil Society; in fact, an important part is that Civil Society is both public and private institutions. The error is crowding out one to the exclusion of the other. You could see how it might make some on the right uncomfortable for not always trying to diminish govt. while making some on the left uncomfortable for making govt entities one among many. Think of it as right-sizing government within a civil framework that is more than just govt.

      Good observation, thanks.Report

  10. Aaron David says:

    In any polity and political system, there is a continuum going from more to less conserving, less to more liberalizing. Now, there is going to be a set of people who will gravitate to the poles and remain unchanging there. But there are also going to be a set of people in between those poles, who will move with the general flow of society. Meaning that as society feels the need to push forward, they will liberalize. While at the opposite time, they will move toward conserving as the general society feels the need to pull back. And this is going to go back and forth as the two poles, those hard set in their opinions, gain and lose power. And that power is gained or lost due to pushing forward too hard or pulling back too firmly. In other words, society moves at its own preferred pace.

    Attempts to sidestep this dynamic and appeal to that middle ground are doomed to fail. Why? It is, in my opinion, an attempt to freeze the middle ground at some stasis point, as opposed to seeing it as the waxing and waning in the conflict for the pace of society.

    There is much in ASP’s platform that appeals to me personally, but with that one, massive exception. It is too static, even while attempting to be dynamic. It is at its core a false dynamism though, as it does not see the why of our current political stasis.

    Third parties can only be viable within that framework, the liberalizing/conserving spectrum. Thus, as an incredibly wise person once said, they need to work as a vector. Libertarians and Greens need to realize this, and work to move the direction of that spectrum, but not attempt to replace it. ASP would need to be the same.Report

  11. DavidTC says:

    Logically, it seems there is a place for a ‘reverse Libertarian’ party in politics. It certainly seems like can’t fare worse than the Libertarian Party, which has never had real support (As evidenced by the quadrant graph) and is basically just a place for Republican Contrarians to live.


    Because…well, ‘social conservative’ voters don’t exist naturally. The entire premise of social conservativism, the way it is in the US, is something that has existed mostly to make sure that economically conservative politicians get elected and judges get empowered. It’s repeated propaganda, pushed over and over, by people who have a very specific goal that has nothing at all to do with anything social.

    The American Solidarity Party wants to reduce those people’s power. More than the Democrats, even.

    This is not going to happen.

    Also, everyone: Don’t fall for the idea they are anything you want. Go read their platform…it has deal-breakers for pretty much _everyone_. Like, uh, getting rid of no-fault divorce! And sperm banks!

    And they often present insanely opposite positions, mostly because they grabbed a somewhat-far conservative position, and a moderate liberal one somewhere else, and didn’t notice they conflicted:

    Should we censor things or not?

    > While the government has a responsibility to curtail media consolidation, it should not use its resources to censor the media or the Internet or to violate digital privacy itself.

    > It is also vital to recognize the social costs of pornography, which is inseparable from human trafficking, the promotion of pedophilia, and rape. We therefore support laws which criminalize the production and sale of pornography and deny categorically that pornography is protected speech.

    Do corporations have rights or not?

    > Federal and state governments must safeguard laws that protect religious institutions, small businesses, and private individuals from civil or criminal liability for choosing to follow their conscience in matters regarding life, healthcare, morality, sexuality, and marriage.

    > We will work to restrict the legal construct of “personhood” for organizations and corporations.

    Here’s a dumbass compromise that is ‘Let’s see how conservative we can make a liberal position’

    > We call for an end to the use of prisoners as slave labor. Prisoners must be remunerated at the minimum wage for work performed

    They do understand that there’s a problem with _voluntary_ prison labor too, right? Mainly because it incentivizes governments to imprison people, and also because it then results in the prisons deciding to not provide things so prisoners can buy them.

    And…their second part is very stupid…prison labor _doesn’t currently follow labor law_, which not only means they can be paid nothing, it means they can be working in unsafe conditions and not get breaks and everything, and if we really want to allow prison labor at all, we need to just _put it under Federal labor law_, and voila, they get the full protection of it, including increased min wage.

    Which ASP would know if they had spent five seconds on this issue instead just sorta cobbling together some stuff.

    And try to figure this one out:
    > We oppose the enclosure of science and culture through unduly restrictive intellectual property laws. Copyright and patents should be leased at their full market value, in order to lower prices on necessary resources such as medicine and educational materials for those who need them most. We support increased public funding for scientific research.

    So…whose doing the leasing here? The government? You think copyright and patent are bad, so…the government should lease at full market value and let us use them for free? ‘The government should create monopolies on critical things, via intellectual property, but then pay them to not act monopolistically’?

    That can’t be what they are saying but…what are they saying?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC says:

      In defense of the Libertarians, my argument was that they existed to change the argument. It wasn’t to win an election, necessarily… but to get the two parties to argue about what the Libertarians wanted them to argue about. Heck, maybe one of them would choose a side that the Libertarians would agree with… instead of both agreeing that the Libertarians were wrong.

      There are things that I like about the ASP. None of them include “I think that one of them will win the election for dog catcher.” One of them is “Hey, maybe they’ll change the argument.”Report

      • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m open to evidence on this but do we know libertarians really have done much of that? You were there for the legalize debate in CO right? Did the libertarian arguments help move things? If so that would be a good data point.

        From my perspective the mass consumption libertarian message has served only to radicalize GOP hostility to the welfare state and inclination towards Laffer Curve silliness/total abandonment of fiscal responsibility.

        The hippy dippy stuff about drug legalization, reining in SWAT teams, and (opposition to) what could broadly be called ‘evisceration of the 4th amendment’ is always discarded.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think the some of the problems I have with the libertarians is exactly when they are claiming to ‘change the argument’, honestly. Yes, sometimes they actually do…but other times they all they do is provide conservative cover to not actually fixing anything. They just sorta vaguely hand-wave at the system and say ‘It needs to be torn down’.

        Which is fine when it’s something that can actually happen, over time, like stopping the drug war. It’s not fine when it’s something like ‘We can solve the problem of gay marriage by not having government-sanctioned marriage’ or very silly things that will not happen. They get to pretend they invented a solution, when their solution is just a handwave of ‘We can solve this problem by doing a bunch of really unpopular stuff that will not actually happen politically, or will take literally generations.’

        Honestly, it seems like the only ‘changing the argument’ the libertarians do is on the _liberal_ side. Maybe that’s really the issue, and my problem isn’t with libertarians at all, it’s with conservatives who literally refuse to change in any manner, so all the libertarians can really do is annoy the left.

        And at some point, the question really does have to be asked: Why do they get any sort of air time and not, say, some straight-up Marxists? Or anarchists?

        Because that is literally the level of popularity among voters they are operating at. Libertarians are no more popular than ‘overthrow the government, seize the means of production, literal-revolution’ Marxists.

        So why do only the libertarians that get to propose outside-the-box arguments? And not the Marxists?

        I don’t really have a problem with Republican Contrarians living somewhere. That’s fine. I have a problem with that somehow being a Serious(TM) thing we all talk about Seriously(TM) because it’s A Serious Third Option. While somehow Liberal Contrarians don’t get any airtime. (We’ll see if the American Solidarity Party gets any airtime…it won’t, because it is anti-corporate, but let’s pretend to be surprised.)

        Hell, I’m not even trying to argue it should be equal, just the same. Republican Contrarians should be influencing _Republican_ thought (Which they are not allowed to do because Republicans must be in lockstep.) and Democratic Contrarians should be influencing _Democratic_ thought. (Which they are not even given airtime to do.)

        The fact it’s only Republican Contrarians, who are only influencing Democrats, is very stupid…even if that influence is sometimes a good thing and posing new directions of thought.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC says:

          So why do only the libertarians that get to propose outside-the-box arguments? And not the Marxists?

          I think the problem the Marxists have is the whole “previous example” thing.

          Libertarianism, for example, can point to places where, for example, legalizing marijuana (or decrim, whatever) made things less bad.

          As someone who has, personally, argued against Marxists, there are problems where the argument is either something like “well, that’s not real Marxism” for the bad examples and “well, we wouldn’t need to do that too” for some of the stuff the good examples have (e.g., language laws in the Scandinavian countries, and that’s without even looking at demographics).

          While libertarians can just, say, point to Colorado for weed.
          They can point to Canada for gay marriage.
          They can point to Germany for epipens and Peru for Insulin.

          There’s no shortage of examples of stuff getting better with a less intrusive government… even if there is the occasional silly example of bears invading New Hampshire townships.

          The examples of Marxism Done Right are rare and have a handful of problematic traits.
          The examples of Marxism Done Wrong is long and getting longer.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

            Forget Marxism for a minute, I’m not really trying to argue for or against a philosophy. I was just pointing out a group that was _as_ popular as libertarians. But forget them, let’s instead look at a position that is is way more popular…the position that American Solidarity Party has decided to stake out.

            Let me be clear: I don’t like what they’re selling. I think parts of it are horribly regressive, although I don’t really feel the need to deconstruct it that much as…there’s no reason to, it’s literally unimportant, they have no power and won’t get any anytime soon, and we have much more important political things going on.

            But I will admit it would sound great to a large section of America. I’ve mentioned before that I know pro-life people who flatly refuse to vote Republican because they actually understand people need health care. They vote third party, and I bet _this_ is who they are voting for.

            A group like this could ‘change the argument’. But _ASP_ doesn’t get to have talking heads on every major news channel that present a ‘third party position’.

            Only libertarians get to have that, to present a position that is basically ‘Republicanism minus sex-stuff’. A position that is, again, insanely unpopular with the actual public.

            People who are fiscal conservatives are almost always social conservatives. People who are social liberals are almost always fiscal liberals. And there is a group of social conservatives but fiscal liberals, where ASP is aiming. What there aren’t are people who are fiscal conservatives and social liberals…aka, libertarians.(1)

            Like…the grid shows the truth. There are four quadrants, and the libertarian one is almost empty.

            That’s why I get a little pissed at ‘At least libertarians change the argument’ concept, like that’s a good reason to treat their philosophy seriously. There’s a _lot_ of stuff that could change the argument if it ever appeared in front of literally anyone and was treated seriously as an alternative by the media and political establishment.

            But nope. Only libertarians get to do that.

            1) Outside of…a certain very insular internet community, before people start trying to claim this place disproves that.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC says:

              Well, there’s a cart/horse problem. You say:

              There’s a _lot_ of stuff that could change the argument if it ever appeared in front of literally anyone and was treated seriously as an alternative by the media and political establishment.

              Part of the issue is the success of the policies when enacted. As I said: While libertarians can just, say, point to Colorado for weed. They can point to Canada for gay marriage. They can point to Germany for epipens and Peru for Insulin.

              Like, these are examples that exist. They’re not saying “if you had some ham, we could have ham sandwiches, if I had some bread”.

              For the stuff that is pie-in-the-sky (or, at least, hasn’t been done yet), there are a lot of libertarian sentiments in The Constitution. A lot of talk of rights, for example. Rights for this, rights for that, rights, rights, rights.

              This is automatically appealing. It’s appealing to principles that most everybody pretends publicly to have anyway and, since most people pretend to have them publicly, they get in the habit of thinking they think that they have them.

              This gives libertarianism a leg up.

              (See also: Christian Socialism.)Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                The heartbreak of libertarian arguments is seeing people walk up to the city you’ve built and claim that because they got there by a different path then A) it’s a different city and B) they built it themselves.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Eh, I don’t really care which horse wears the garland of flowers so long as the cart gets to town.

                Let’s call “ending the drug war” something like “Modern Socialism, properly understood”. Who’s on board with Modern Socialism, properly understood?

                I am! I am! Let’s be socialist guys!Report

  12. DavidTC says:

    BTW, my comment here: https://ordinary-times.com/2020/09/26/trump-to-nominate-amy-coney-barrett-to-scotus/#comment-3393566

    To quote myself:

    But, forgetting that for a second…what would conservative women want, in a hypothetical conservative party that responds to them? I can come up with a few unique things.

    Things like ‘childcare options’, ‘expanding and supporting the foster system and making adoption easier and cheaper’ and ‘helping young women into STEM’, and things like that.

    This would be on top of some ‘normal’ feminism issues like ‘taking sexual assault seriously’ and ‘paying women the same for the same work’.

    Honestly, everything I can think of for ‘conservative women’ is just normal feminism except tilted toward supporting children and parenting, and tilted away from ‘sexual liberation’ type things, if that makes sense.

    The problem is that the GOP is not only not particularly good at normal feminism, but the things conservative women want done…are often social services of some sort.


    • Kristin Devine in reply to DavidTC says:

      The thing you miss here David is that conservative women have a totally different idea about how to DO some of those things. Childcare options could be broadened and made more affordable by doing away with some of the more heavy-handed licensing laws, for example (while making it easier for poor people and minorities to enter the field) https://www.mercatus.org/publications/regulation/occupational-licensing-childcare

      Getting young women into STEM could be accomplished by more on-the-job training (which will NEVER come about while the Democrats are willing to continue to throw massive amounts of money at the completely corrupt system of higher education, ensuring you have to have 4-6-10 years of school to work jobs that one really could learn while doing them)

      The foster system and sexual assault are well within the legitimate purposes of the state, so it is not anti-conservative in any way to push for those programs to be expanded if needed, and run better.

      Making adoption easier would require less regulation, not more.

      I am perfectly fine with making less money than my husband because I have more freedom to spend time with my kids and pursue my own goals, and this is not a unique perspective among women.

      So your observation that “the things conservative women want done are social services” is simply untrue. These things are entirely compatible with a conservative worldview. We favor other options rather than “give tons of money to crooked bureaucrats and trust them to dole it out”.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I think you misunderstood ‘social service’ as ‘government-provided social service’. Republicans, rather obviously, would not provide social services via _the government_.

        But that wasn’t my entire point.

        Instead, they stand there, straight-face, and say ‘We should reduce regulations so other people can do these social services instead’.

        This could hypothetically work, maybe…but it doesn’t. And it’s easy to show it doesn’t, as almost everything I’m talking about is controlled at state-level.

        I live in Georgia. I know conservative women. I know they can’t afford childcare.

        Why does the Republican government here, which has run Georgia solely by itself for over a decade and a half, keep regulations that result in child care being priced so high?

        Well, we’ve got two options: 1) The Republicans aren’t responsive to the demands of women and only give them lip service, so haven’t fixed this, or 2) Even if you lower the childcare regulations to the minimum standards the population is comfortable with, it does not actually reduce the cost of childcare enough for people to be able to afford it.

        (Hint: It’s actually the second that is true, but it’s kinda funny to think the problem is the first thing.)

        Same with fostering and adoption. Republicans can point all they want and say ‘religious organizations will do this for us’, and…they are, as best they can, but their resources are very limited.

        That is my point. Republicans are unable to solve any problems that require additional social services with the only tool they allow themselves to use for that, aka, asking other people to do it. Because that tool is actually very bad at getting things done.

        At best, they don’t fund private social organizations enough(1), and in the case of child care, don’t really help them at all monetarily.

        1) Mostly because this is actually very inefficient, and state governments have very little money, so can’t really fund the inefficient thing much.

        Getting young women into STEM could be accomplished by more on-the-job training (which will NEVER come about while the Democrats are willing to continue to throw massive amounts of money at the completely corrupt system of higher education, ensuring you have to have 4-6-10 years of school to work jobs that one really could learn while doing them)

        …I’m not even sure what you think should be done there, it also sounds like you’re saying ‘make sure colleges don’t exist so that people get on the job training’, which is…an interesting idea, but also not going to be particularly good at getting women into an industry that is massively dominated by men.

        In fact, it sort seems like that would have the opposite result, of making it harder for women to get in. When there are objective measurements of classes and test score, it is harder to justify bias.

        I mean, you may think what you said is a good thing, and maybe it actually is.

        But it’s not something that helps with what I said…although I will remind you I was literally just guessing what conservative women would want, and if you think that particular guess is not truly important as a goal, you can just say that.

        The foster system and sexual assault are well within the legitimate purposes of the state, so it is not anti-conservative in any way to push for those programs to be expanded if needed, and run better.

        …why do you think I said it was anti-conservative? My entire post is literally me guessing what _conservative_ women want, and what sort of party would exist if _they_ had one they directed.

        The problem, as I said, is that it’s pretty anti-Republican Party to push for doing anything about sexual assault. The GOP platform does mention sexual assault, but only to the extent of saying this ‘Whenever reported, it must be promptly investigated by civil authorities and prosecuted in a courtroom, not a faculty lounge. Questions of guilt or innocence must be decided by a judge and jury, with guilt determined beyond a reasonable doubt.’.

        I.e., they put that in there to say everything’s fine.

        I am perfectly fine with making less money than my husband because I have more freedom to spend time with my kids and pursue my own goals, and this is not a unique perspective among women.


        Yeah, that’s a good position for a hypothetical ‘conservative women’ party trying to have.Report

  13. March, this was a great piece and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for writing!Report

  14. Marchmaine says:

    After supper tonight the family voted with the first of our remote ballots.

    It was fun sitting around the table with the kids googling the candidates and grimacing at their platforms before we made a decision (the R and D platforms, of course, not Solidarity). We agreed before looking that if *any* democrat took a pro-life position, we’d vote for them no matter their other positions. It seems the D’s will dutifully fall on their swords rather than send any representatives from anywhere near these environs.

    A couple quick hits:
    * Ballots have to be witnessed *unless* you don’t feel ‘safe’ having a witness. Which is one of those things that sound fine, but in simple practice means ballots have no requirement for a witness. Which is also fine (I guess)… but just abandon the idea of a witness because there’s no need or provision to identify what safety means. It’s just dumb… waive the requirement for a witness. Period. Otherwise we’re suggesting that its ‘possible’ that some of the unsigned ballots are invalid rather than ‘unsafe’.

    *Constitutional amendment to change districting to a bi-partisan committee … which I like less than defining the data method first, then the review committee… but I’ve been persuaded that data analytics have transformed districting for the worse, so it shouldn’t be done by the majority of the assembly alone.

    *Another constitutional amendment for a lovely sentiment, but one which has no business being written into the constitution. That’s what laws are for.

    *I doubt we’ll be removing any statues in my jurisdiction, but thanks for asking.Report

  15. Marchmaine says:

    As it happens, Dreher is also blogging about ASP.

    That’s not terribly newsworthy… but this comment from Dr. Alex Salter is.

    Libertarians for Solidarity, yo!

    UPDATE: This in today from Prof. Alex Salter at Texas Tech, who gives me permission to post it:

    This is Alex Salter, from Texas Tech University. We’ve corresponded a few times over the years. I read your post about the American Solidarity Party and wanted to share why I, a free-market economist, decided to vote for them.
    I’m currently writing a book about distributism, which is under contract with Catholic University of America Press. I went back to the classic works of Belloc and Chesterton to see what sort of a dialogue contemporary economists could have with distributists. I was surprised at just how much political-economic wisdom I found.
    A central claim is that a free society (by which I mean one that preserves ordered liberty) requires not only political freedom, but economic freedom as well. Freedom in this sense is positive, not merely negative: it requires access to capital. Property must be widely distributed, or at least widely accessible, or else the modal household/family has no reason to ‘buy in’ to the social order.
    In economics jargon, you could say that the distributists argue there is a negative externaltiy associated with the market mechanism: the free-market allocation of resources, including productive capital, is not necessarily the allocation that will result in the preservation of democratic-republicanism, subsidiarity, etc.
    The American Solidarity Party is the only organization I’m aware of that is taking these arguments seriously. They are also the only party with a substantive commitment to the common good. For these reasons, although I have my reservations about many things in their platform, I eagerly want them to have a larger political voice, both locally and nationally. The rest of my ballot was a mix of parties, but Brian Carroll was my vote for President. (Carroll is an approved write-in candidate in TX.)Report

    • InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

      This is actually a good description of why I abandoned my youthful dalliances with libertarianism and an argument more casual libertarians should take seriously. The government we get if we allow the bottom to fall out or even inequality become too extreme will not be remotely interested in libertarian principles.Report