A Third Way: The American Solidarity Party’s Case
Editor’s Note: Ordinary Times will be presenting writing between now and election day with various author’s endorsements, cases, and observations on the political races. All writing is the opinion of the authors alone, published in the Ordinary Times tradition of presenting diverse viewpoints from various points of view.
GK Chesterton famously observed, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly” and while this is not the official motto of the American Solidarity Party, it might well be its Cri du Coeur. And what is 2020 if not the year of doing things badly? So as you contemplate how to allocate your one-hundred-thirty-millionth share of power, consider this an invitation to learn more about a Third Way: The American Solidarity Party.
Officially the party styles itself Christian Democratic and embraces a much better motto: “Common Good, on Common Ground, through Common Sense.” Their color is Orange (you can’t foresee everything) and their acronym is ASP (ok, this one you could foresee) and as you can guess from the acronym their mascot is, yes, a Pelican (foreseeing is hard, right?).
The American Solidarity Party’s nominee for President is Brian Carroll (that’s two ‘r’s’ and two ‘l’s’ for your write-in ballot and ‘i’ not ‘y’ – the ‘b’ ‘r’ ‘c’ ‘a’ ‘o’ and ‘n’ go in the usual places) and his running-mate is Amar Patel. Mr. Carroll is a former educator who resides in California and has the distinction of having challenged Devin Nunes in the District 22 congressional primary; he lost but did garner 1.3% of the vote (Twitter would never have been the same). Mr. Patel is also an educator and is based in Chicago.
So where would the ASP ‘fit’ in the American political landscape? The simplest way to describe it would be an Upper Left Quadrant party. There’s been a fair bit of ink spilled around the concept of the “Upper Left” quadrant of American politics – Fiscally Liberal and Socially Conservative – and its impact on the 2016 elections. However, now is not the place to discuss the connection or disconnection between the Republican Establishment and large chunks of their voters. Stuart Steven’s book is the lie that proves the rule. What is clear, however, is that some sort of constituency exists in this space. A space between current Republican and Democratic orthodoxies. That’s where the ASP fits in.
Today, while the ‘quadrant’ exists in theory, it hasn’t really existed in practice and it’s hard for us to imagine what such a party might propose by way of governance and policy. In fact, given the deeply partisan state we are in, there’s a good chance that stalwarts will simply imagine the worst parts of the other party amalgamated into a new party. To be sure there will be some of that (depending on your personal deal-breakers), but it’s not simply that. Or, to put it more optimistically, freed from the orthodoxies of both parties, there’s an opportunity to put together a different synthesis. For this the party leans on two pillars: Solidarity and Subsidiarity to provide a framework for a better way. Let’s look briefly at Solidarity and Subsidiarity and what they bring to the political dialogue.
Solidarity looks to bridge the gaps between Economic, Social, and Cultural interests; it differs from the right in that it recognizes economic and social injustices that require attention, and it differs from the left in that it recognizes that social and cultural issues are better addressed through reconciliation and trust rather than a power-based matrix which optimizes oppression scaling. Imagine a Socially Conservative party with a Social Justice platform:
Social Justice: We affirm a special collective responsibility to the most vulnerable members of society and call for societal structures that uphold the equal value and dignity of each person, regardless of any personal characteristics. This requires efforts to address systemic and historic injustices, including long-standing racial injustice, in a way that confronts inequalities that disparage innate personal dignity.
Of course, this Social Justice principle informs its positions on Life Issues where it adopts what it calls a ‘Whole Life Platform’ which takes positions in favor of supporting women before and after the birth of their child, policies which assist single parents while addressing challenges to family formation with the goal of reducing need to terminate pregnancies as well as the anti-woman pressures latent in abortion dynamics. The Whole Life Platform is consistent in opposing the Death Penalty for both Social Justice reasons as well as Political Justice reasons. On these hot-button issues, ASP takes stances that account for critiques of the standard positions from both sides; and comes up with policy objectives that challenge both the left and right from a third angle.
But Solidarity also contains an important economic imperative which recognizes that addressing historic injustices, enabling the creation of families and building social trust requires a re-orientation of politico-economic incentives.
Economic Security: The state and subsidiary organizations must act to remedy economic injustice by creating conditions for widespread ownership of property and production. Personal, cooperative, and social ownership are all valid in a just society. Workers’ rights and a family wage must be ensured, and those who cannot work should receive income adequate for full participation in society.
What does this mean? It means that the goal of a good Economic policy is to align the incentives of ‘capitalism’ with broader distribution of wealth at the point of creation. If the Right pushes free markets and privileges capital and the distribution of profits and gains-in-value to the capital investors, the modern Left fundamentally agrees but wants to negotiate with Capital for a percentage of those gains to redistribute to (favored) constituencies. Let’s be honest, there’s no Socialist bugbear to fear… it’s all Capitalism with the Right protecting all gains going to the Capitalists and the Left hoping to negotiate a junior partner status. Are those the only two ways we could structure the incentives of Capitalism? If the goal is to keep the engine of Capitalism and the benefits of an economic system that allocates resources efficiently on products and solutions that maximize human needs (and luxuries), are there any ways to adjust the incentives that don’t burn down the system, but allocate the wealth created more broadly? They think the answer is yes.
Another Chesterton observation is that “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” The ASP wants to adjust the incentives that govern the market to broaden capitalism so that more individuals capture a representative portion of the wealth created by capitalism. The goal isn’t to eat the rich but to dine together. Finally, while everyone remembers the above quotation, I find this one from the same book (The Superstition of Divorce, incidentally) to be equally insightful: “Capitalism believes in collectivism for itself and individualism for its enemies.” Which, if you ruminate on it for a bit, you might see how certain trends in politics and culture align with our economic paradigm to oppose any real Solidarity movement.
Hopefully this brief treatment of Solidarity and how it touches economic and social issues in ways that are different from the now ossified partisan polarization will give you an idea that there may be other ways out of the box we find ourselves in. The principle of Subsidiarity likewise offers a path for de-escalation on how we manage Solidarity in a multi-polar state. This is what the ASP means by Subsidiarity:
Community-Oriented Society: Humans are created to live in communities, and the proper organization of our communities is necessary for the flourishing of our societies. Society consists of various institutions and communities, like families, governments, and religious groups, whose primary authority over their own affairs should be respected and defended. Higher levels of government should serve to empower and support lower levels of authority, rather than replace them.
The counter-intuitive thing about such an intuitive thing like Subsidiarity is that the governing imperative runs the opposite way. It isn’t that smaller things do small things on behalf of the bigger thing; it’s that the small things have primary authority to do everything they can do, until such time as they need to ‘delegate’ upwards for collaboration and coordination. The little thing has the power/authority to invest the big thing with delegated power… that is a fundamental inversion of how we (currently) think of authority.
But how does this help? Just as Solidarity rescues us from the radical individuality of the entrepreneurial bootstrap Right and the weaponized identities of the identarian Left, Subsidiarity offers us a real multi-culturalism based not on the deconstruction of the dominant culture, but on the American premise of the Great Truce. Paraphrasing Chesterton above ‘Too much Government does not mean too many governments, but too few.’ 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.
If this sounds something like what we have, good… the goal is not to burn it all down, it’s to remedy certain habits we’ve become accustomed to in the interest of iterating on 200-yrs of distributed government. We have some of the instincts, even if we are out of habit. I also recognize that any discussion along these lines immediately triggers a certain “States’ Rights” reaction (good or bad) and I should note upfront that subsidiarity goes well beyond States and it also runs on parallel non-government paths. States are merely one other entity which can locally assist smaller entities: there is no romance of sovereignty. In fact, there should probably be a couple of regional entities that assist the states more formally than our current ad-hoc semi-jurisdictional entities.
Finally, a brief word on foreign policy, which in a properly ordered polity would be the first word when discussing the president, as most of his non-delegated Executive Powers are in this sphere. Not surprisingly both Solidarity and Subsidiarity apply here too:
Peace and International Solidarity: Peace is the fruit of justice and requires solidarity among peoples and nations. Aid and trade policies must advance justice, sustainability, and human flourishing. Diplomatic and nonviolent means of resolution must be exhausted before violent means can be considered. Military action must strictly adhere to just-war principles.
Subsidiarity assumes autonomy and integrity in a multi-polar world, and it provides for collective security and international collaboration as needed; there is no pre-disposition towards nor requirement for isolationism. I do think it worth noting that negotiating trade policies must account for Local and Global Solidarity as regards justice, sustainability and human flourishing. It goes without saying that there is no agenda for Democracy-building through kinetic adventures.
“Is this just Trumpism 2.0?” No. This isn’t a Trump or Trump-inspired project. “But some people tell me Trumpism is “upper left” too.” Meh, Trumpism isn’t really anything other than Trump… but even so, the existence of constituencies that are outside the ordinary orthodoxies of both parties is an opportunity to build new coalitions. It is possible to have competing factions working on messaging to different parts of these coalitions. ASP is also targeting parts of the Democratic coalition that are increasingly distant from the core of the current Democratic messaging. If you’re looking for a way to reduce it to mere “Trumpism” or base “Populism” then I’ll interpret your criticism as implicit recognition that you don’t really understand what any of them are.
“Your vote for the Solidarity Party is really just a vote for Biden/Trump.” This objection only seems sound when considered from your one angle; the fact that both parties makes the same accusation is the negation of the objection. “But this is the most important election of our lifetime.” Honestly, that’s why you have to vote for a political Party you support, not vote against something else.
“Third parties can’t win.” Well, not with that attitude, buddy. The point, of course, is to signal support for a new party (or a take-over of other parties) and to draw funding and attention. It is a vote to reallocate resources.
“The party is too Christian for my tastes.” I think this is fair. For American politics its marketing and messaging is probably more Christian (and, honestly, Catholic) than it needs to be. I myself am Catholic and recognize the value propositions they are making to these groups; but as I mention above, one of the benefits of joining young coalitions is to help form and shape them. Solidarity and Subsidiarity are defensible within Christian frameworks, but they aren’t dependent upon Christian theology or belief to be compelling. As the ASP grows, I expect it to mature into a party that appeals to all people of good will. Perhaps it will even spawn co-opetition in the form of a purely secular faction. In either case, that’s just the political process. But the one thing it won’t be is inimical to religious participation in the public sphere.
“There’s a deal-breaker for me in their platform.” Understood. There are deal-breakers for me in the Democratic and Republican platforms too. “But my deal breaker is more important than your deal breaker.” Yes, I’m sure it is.
This is just a taste of how the interweaving of Solidary and Subsidiarity as principles could inform new approaches to old issues. But despite my best efforts to show that this is not simply an amalgam of Left/Right ideas I’m sure many readers may remain unconvinced. Perhaps some of you will find a few ideas interesting but deal-breakers in other areas. That’s understandable. But my hope is that some tiny fraction — maybe only one other OT reader who is also disaffected with both parties — will read this and consider casting a vote for Solidarity. Not a protest vote, but a start-up vote. It is [ahem] unlikely that the American Solidarity party will win this presidential election; and that’s ok, they shouldn’t win, not yet. But start-ups offer opportunity for people to shape the direction the project should go, to build on the good ideas without the baggage, and to negotiate a possible realignment.
For a party based on subsidiarity, the next step is building a broad coalition, winning local elections and demonstrating to your fellow Americans that the governing principles have been tried, iterated and amended through experience. So when another election comes around we’re sending state senators to congress and from congress to the governor’s mansion and from there? Well maybe that cool regional thing I mentioned that doesn’t exist yet… but you get the picture. Cast aside whatever bad connotations you might have about voting Orange (and here I’m talking to Irish Catholics) and be brave, be a Pelican.
On the wildly optimistic chance that there’s even one person reading this thinking, yeah March, maybe I will … how does one vote Solidarity? Here’s a map showing where they are currently on the ballot and where you’ll need to use the ‘Official write-in formula’ in your state. Remember that’s two “r’s” and two “l’s” an “i” not a “y” and all the other letters in their usual places.