Seeking Solidarity During Trump’s 100 Days, Part 2

In my last article, I discussed the first few proposals of Trump’s 100 day plan. Now I go on in the arduous task of trying to find solutions to the legitimate problems Trump seeks to address and then mercilessly making fun of the phantoms of political rhetoric that somehow transformed themselves from being the ravings of talk radio heads and psuedo-journalists to became policy proposals.

“On the same day, I will begin taking the following 7 actions to protect American workers:

“FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205…” For someone who is not a typical politician, Trump certainly has gotten the political double speak down. Note here that he says he will announce his intention, not actually do anything. Obama announced his intention to nominate Merrick Garland. We all know how that turned out. Fact of the matter is, NAFTA has minimal impact on the US GDP, but it could have serious ramifications for American consumers, small business owners, and Mexican laborers.  So let’s look at what exactly NAFTA does.

The primary goal was to eliminate tariffs or taxes imposed by countries on imports.  Simple enough.  Bring back those tariffs and Mexico can’t flood the US with cheap goods, right?  Not so fast.

The US imports most of its foreign oil from Canada. Why care about Canada in a NAFTA argument? Well, Canada is one of the signatories of the deal. 40% of our imported oil comes from Canada. Now, before NAFTA, the US had fairly good trade relations with Canada. If Trump threatens to renege on NAFTA, you can bet Canada will slap us with tariffs. The reason why is obvious: Canada trades with Mexico and the US is between them. The CANAMEX Corridor is the main trade route between the three countries and severing ties with Mexico will sever Canada’s connection to the country as well.

Furthermore, NAFTA superseded and replaced our previous free trade deals with Canada, so getting rid of NAFTA means that American small businesses shipping goods to Canada will likely need to pay duties on the goods. This will put a damper on businesses of a certain size growing into international markets. Thus, only larger corporations will have the ability to make foreign investments and therefore reap the benefits of foreign trade while smaller businesses have to compete among themselves on shrinking domestic markets. This would make creating and maintaining a small business even harder than it was before and limit potentials for growth, thereby reducing the number of new businesses overall which will ultimately hurt the economy.

Moreover, consumers will feel the pinch of the tariffs as well. Corporations doing business in Canada and Mexico will “trickle down” the costs of the tariffs onto the consumer, which will make goods even more expensive. In a time when wages are stagnate and the only people getting richer are the very rich, having consumer products become even more expensive is only going to drive more people to the dole.

Two considerations that virtually no one cares to bring up are the Mexican economy and the jobs created by NAFTA. True, 682,900 jobs, mostly manufacturing, were lost or displaced due to the deal. But those jobs weren’t exactly lost.  The job market didn’t dry up; it just changed. New jobs were created as a new economy emerged.  The actual issue was that there was virtually no support besides the dole for those who lost their jobs. Retraining them was not then on the table. Since the passage of NAFTA, retraining programs in some states have helped these former factory workers find new work, making as much – if not more – money than their previous jobs. So we have new jobs here and old jobs in Mexico. But what happens when you take out the link that made this arrangement? Many of these new jobs depend on exporting to Mexico and Canada. The jobs in Mexico depend on exporting to the US. To sever trade ties would mean that the Mexican manufacturing industry would crash, with all the local and global affects that implies.  (A wave of unemployed Mexicans looking for work in the US?)  But it would also mean that those thousands and thousands of new American jobs, the ones based on exporting to our neighbors, would be gone.  That’s right, we would be poorer than we were before and in the process we would impoverish our neighbor as well. So Trump’s plan to ax NAFTA or renegotiate it isn’t even placing America first, let alone using America’s trade power to the mutual benefit of other countries.

“I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership…” For someone who says he wants to “direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator” in the very next proposal, you would think he would support a trade deal that not only projects American trade power into emerging markets in the Pacific, but challenges Chinese trade dominance in the region as well. There are plenty of problems with TPP and those should be addressed. But the US should not abandon efforts to actively participate in Pacific markets and thereby check the aggression of China in the region.

“I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately.” This assumes they aren’t doing that already. Seeing as it is part of their job description, this is, again, mostly a token gesture to his base.

“I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.” This is a contentious issue. More domestic production in these areas might benefit the economy in the short term, though jobs in the energy sector have declined primarily through the introduction of technology – coal employed a lot more people when picks and shoves were used! – or weak demand due to low energy prices.  Reducing regulation won’t remove those factors.

The long term effect will probably be like an addict getting his fix: he is going to need more later on. Our dependence on disposable energy is merely kicking the can down the road. Forget about the environmental concerns for a minute and just look at the plain fact that these resources can’t be reused. Once they are gone, they are gone and if we remain dependent on oil and coal and so on for our energy, we are going to run out one day and we will continue to be at the mercy of organizations that still have it.

A better plan is to open up these new reserves where environmentally safe, but direct energy companies, through tax policy and subsidies, to pursue better clean and renewable energy technology. Furthermore, incentives such as tax breaks should be given to countries who sell their oil to developing countries so that they can benefit from the boom in our industry. This sort of approach accomplishes three goals: a) it addresses growing environmental concerns through the development of cleaner, renewable, and affordable energy; b) it addresses current energy needs of both domestic and developing markets; and c) it preserves the future of our country’s energy industry by creating a lasting energy plan rather than going the addict route. Plans to “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward” would be moot with these policies. Trump’s plan to “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure” would also be moot since we would already be leading the world in that technology.

Again we see that Trump’s 100 days are going to be spent pandering to the interests that got him elected, regardless of their effects on the country. There is, regrettably, more to follow.

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Seeking Solidarity During Trump’s 100 Days, Part 1

After much speculation, the world knows for certain what it knew only as shadow of an oncoming terror: Trump is a puppet for nationalist populists. I have talked before how we need to resist nationalism, both as Americans and as human beings. I will reiterate the problem in terms that our fellows on the right can understand: nationalism deifies the state in much the same manner as socialism. Some may disagree with this assessment but after all the rhetoric during the campaign and after, you would think that our country was about to collapse and Trump was the only one to save it. That is nationalism; it has ascribed superhuman powers to a man who is, by the nature of his office, rather powerless. Yet he has proposals for his first 100 days that would change our country in more ways than Clinton ever could with a yes-man Congress and a rubber stamp SCOTUS. It is like Napoleon’s 100 Days if the Seventh Coalition were all on his side.

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The Battle of Waterloo would have turned out differently if Wellington had fought for the French.

His first proposal is perhaps one of the most outlandish. “FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress…” Congress is the direct voice of the people in government. It is where laws are truly made and our founders believed that the people should have a say in the laws that they would be subject to. Yet, this proposal makes the assumption that this is not happening, that somehow congressional leaders are not listening to their constituents.

This is an important piece of the not-as-liberal — commonly called “conservative” — folklore. In reality, this election in particular should prove this to be fantasy. The NALs –the not-as-liberals — will say that congressional leaders are not listening to them and as an example, they will point to Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell. But unless you live in their respective districts, you don’t really have an argument. Paul Ryan won the GOP primary in his district by large margins despite the supposed dissatisfaction with his job. The numbers would indicate that Ryan’s most ardent critics are people who can’t even vote for him. The same is true for McConnell. What the NALs forget is that a) this is a big country and b) there are other types of Republicans. Second, normally the NALs argue that they are not represented because a specific policy was not followed dogmatically. In other words, compromise is out of the question.

But I digress. Such a proposal to place term limits on members of Congress would actually hurt our democracy and the vision of the founders. Anyone can see that the terms for president were not added until FDR’s presidency and that was only because he was elected president for an unprecedented four terms.  (Only his cousin, TR, ever even ran for a third.)  In Congress, there is limited time to do anything of note. NAFTA, the massive trade deal that Trump despises but actually benefits Americans in the long run, took two presidents and multiple changes in congressional leadership to actually get passed. To have a revolving door like this makes coming to these compromises and getting things done extremely difficult. Much of legislating involves getting people to vote a certain way by promising to vote a certain way on other things; for this to work, there need to be relationships and those are only built over time and with hard work. With so many people coming in and out, you run the risk of damaging those relationships. You also run the risk of having a more moderate opponent who was willing to vote for your legislation be replaced with a radical.

In the end, this proposal would only help the radicals get elected and would bog down crucial legislation through increased partisan infighting and further unwillingness to compromise.

This next one is a doozy. “SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition…” This is why a businessman is not always the best solution to government. Maryland has had some success in that area, but if this is Trump’s solution, then he is going to have a hard time getting what he wants.

Everyone knows that the federal workforce is made up of slackers, toadies, and hard workers.  Trump assumes that the slackers and toadies will leave and the hard workers will stay.  On the contrary, the slackers and toadies are the ones who are where they are because they have learned to work the system; they’ll find a way to stay, while outgoing hard workers will not be replaced.  Getting rid of people in general will not make the federal workforce efficient. Instead, the key is getting rid of the right people and then changing the culture. Do that and you will have a better functioning bureaucracy.

“THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.”  On the surface, this sounds like a good idea.  But it seems that Trump, along with most other Americans, doesn’t know how federal regulations are made or what they consist of.

Every time a new  law or executive order or court decision that affects an agency is passed, issued, or decided, that agency then needs to write a regulation to be compliant with the law.  Thus, approximately 200 pages on the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) deal with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy for every federal agency because FOIA requires them to have it.

Moreover, when Congress creates an agency, it does not detail how the agency is going to function, what offices will be included in the agency, how they will handle office standards and so on. Regulations are created to define that.  These aren’t the bugbear regulations that micromanage your life; they’re simply standard operating procedures for federal offices.

It is true that federal regulations have hurt American business, especially small businesses. Trump’s rule, however, would not fix the problem. Instead, one could simply play a numbers game by combining regulations or adding to them, instead of creating new ones. (Indeed, it is a much easier process to change a regulation than it is to create an entirely new one.)  Furthermore, since Trump himself wants to pass new laws and direct agencies to do things and so on, there will need to be new regulations to do it. Agencies, filled with slackers and toadies, are just going to slap new regulations into old ones and move on.

The rest of his proposals– 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service; a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government; and a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections–are not bad and actually quite laudable. But again, these seem to be more regulations. In fact, most of the regulations we have regulate the government. These proposals create more questions than answers and likely only serve to mollify the alt-right nationalists who see government as some beast that needs to be tamed and then unleashed on their enemies.

The first six proposals Trump has given are nothing more than pandering to the nationalists that put their faith in him. These promises only really help those people in the end, giving them more power and influence in a republic that they seek to destroy like their cousins on the left. There are solutions to these problems. They require a renewed commitment to public service through a change in culture towards Solidarity between elected officials and the people; a reformation of the federal service with targeted culling of the herd so that the culture of agencies can be changed and they can be made more open to civic minded recruits; and legislation that divests the federal regulatory bodies of powers that would more properly be exercised by state and local governments. The broad, sweeping proposals put forth by Trump aren’t going to bring Americans together and unite us under one banner. Instead, it will satisfy one of the more dangerous political movements and embolden it to threaten our republic further. We need to tell President-Elect Trump that Solidarity, Subsidiarity, and a return to civic virtues are what we need, not more nationalism and more populism; we had eight years of that and we are tired of it.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the American Solidarity Party

Is ASP a Christian Party?  ASP is part of the larger tradition of Christian Democracy, a movement that began in the 19th century and aims to embody the values of the Gospel, particularly by caring for the poor and promoting traditional morality.  ASP supports the free exercise of religion for all people and welcomes people of all faiths or no faith at all.

When was ASP founded?  In 2011, under the name Christian Democratic Party USA, which was changed to American Solidarity Party in 2012.

Where does the name come from?  ASP takes its name from the Solidarity labor union in Poland, which played a pivotal role in the downfall of Communism and the restoration of democratic government in that country.  The Solidarity union is but one example of the broader tradition of Christian Democracy in which ASP participates.

Is ASP socialist?  Socialism generally refers to a system where the government owns the means of production (mines, factories, farms).  We oppose such an arrangement.  Rather, we favor – as did America’s Founders – a system of widespread ownership of private property, as befits a democratic society.

Is ASP a reformed Republican Party?  Reformed Democrats?  Neither.  Our starting point is not a major party which we seek to tweak just a little.  Rather, we seek to focus on America’s real values, real needs, and consensus-building around community-oriented solutions.  If that ends up looking “conservative” or “liberal,” so be it.  Our goal is simply to do what’s right.

What is ASP’s plan for the future?  Why does ASP run candidates who can’t win?  We are a political party, not simply a pressure group, and therefore our goal is to have members elected to public office where we can serve the public through legislation and policy.  But we know we are a young and still relatively small party.  Therefore, we pursue multiple approaches:

  • Running symbolic candidates to attract public attention and new members.
  • Running candidates with a realistic prospect at attracting a substantial portion of the vote.
  • Endorsing candidates in other parties whose positions accord with those of ASP, when they can be found.

What is solidarity?  Solidarity is more than warm fuzzy feelings about your neighbor (though that doesn’t hurt!).  Solidarity is a real concern for others that is lived out in action.  We believe that the dignity of all people and the material prosperity of the United States make it necessary and possible for us to care for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society.

What is subsidiarity?  Subsidiarity is the idea that issues should be addressed at the lowest level possible: the family, the neighborhood, the city, the county, the state, the nation, the global community.  Some issues – such as defense – are rightly national issues; a few – such as climate change – are necessarily global issues.  But most issues are best handled at far lower levels, where people have a more intimate understanding of the problems and have a vested interest in seeing them addressed.

What is the ASP position on….  ASP’s official positions are spelled out in the party platform, which services as a guide to candidates.  ASP believes the specific implementation of these positions, as well as topics not addressed in the platform, should be worked out by local communities to meet their particular needs.  Thus, you won’t find every topic covered in the platform.

…abortion?  ASP recognizes human dignity and is pro-life for the whole of life, meaning we oppose abortion as well as euthanasia, capital punishment, and torture.  Moreover, we think it important to support children and their parents with adequate health care and education throughout their lives, as befits their dignity.

…drugs?  ASP supports the decriminalization, not legalization, of recreational drugs.  Decriminalization mean that drug use becomes something like speeding: you could be fined for it, but it’s not a criminal offense, so users wouldn’t be tried in court, sent to jail, or have a criminal record.  Mass incarceration and the War on Drugs have failed; it’s time to try something different.

…health care?  ASP calls for universal health care, as befits a nation that cares about all its citizens and has been blessed with tremendous material resources.  We advocate a decentralized single-payer system.  There are various ways that could be accomplished, but that probably means each state runs its own fund, which then pays various public or private medical institutions for the services provided to residents.

…immigration? ASP supports broad immigration reform. We need to reform the bureaucratic processes by which people can legally enter the US, but we also need to address the millions of people who are already here.  ASP supports a pathway to citizenship, or at least permanent legal residency, for illegal immigrants who have no other criminal record.

…prostitution?  ASP opposes the commercialization of sexuality, which violates the innate dignity of people.  We recognize that difficult circumstances have driven many individuals into prostitution, and therefore we advocate alternative employment for prostitutes and strict penalties for those who purchase sex.

…war?  ASP opposes war apart from the traditional criteria of just war. In other words, war must be a last resort, only used in grave circumstances, when there is a reasonable probability of resolving the conflict. In the conduct of such a just war, the use of force must be proportional to the threat and the rights of non-combatants must be respected.

Do you have additional questions?  Please leave them in the comments!

Seeking Solidarity: Justice and Mercy in a Trumped Up World

“The measure of mercy is not strained.” When Shylock demanded a pound of flesh as payment, the strictly capitalistic logic was undeniable. Two people enter into a contract and the fulfillment of that contract is binding whether it ruins a person or not. Yet, what was Shylock’s undoing was the strict legalism he used to support his capitalism. He cannot extract the pound of flesh that is his due without killing a man and therefore committing a crime himself.

When we examine the immigration question, we must consider first the role of justice and mercy respectively and remember that mercy is not strained for the sake of a sense of justice. Yes, we have people who reside here illegally. Yes, they can be a burden on the infrastructure. Beyond those two arguments, there really is nothing else that doesn’t slowly descend into the borderline racism of ultra-nationalism. And it is true, these immigrants have broken the law and respect for the law is necessary for a good ordered society. Through the communal adherence to the law, national tranquility is kept safe and protects each of us from injustice. And they have, as I said, prejudiced communities through economic strain and placed undue burdens on them.

Yet, the lesson of Shylock remains: we cannot deal with this issue from a strict, legalistic perspective and motivated by economic concerns. Otherwise, we end up cutting out pounds of flesh and killing people, metaphorically of course.  Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, the USCCB chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, said, “We believe the family unit is the cornerstone of society, so it is vital to protect the integrity of the family. For this reason, we are reminded that behind every “statistic” is a person who is a mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother and has dignity as a child of God.”

The logic of this statement is clear: if man has inalienable value and dignity, then we cannot approach issues concerning man from a purely economic standpoint. We must–as Christians, as Americans, as human beings–approach this issue recognizing the inviolable dignity of man and therefore the family. No American could support the dissolution of family units through deportation. It goes against the very foundation of American values: the family. No American can look on and see the government tear families apart without standing up for the obvious injustice.

Similarly, no American could refrain from being generous to hard working, honest people who had the need to escape their home country due to violence or extreme poverty. No American is so heartless, so unfeeling to the cause of the immigrant with whom he shares the desire to breath free air in a free land that he would seriously desire such people to go back to the hell they escaped. Instead, Americans would seek to change the conditions in the home countries of these immigrants so that illegal migration no longer becomes an act of self-preservation. Americans are a compassionate people, eager to help the elements of change in those countries so that the same freedom and justice we enjoy can be had by all.

I sincerely hope that Donald Trump listens to the testimony of the Body of Christ and the patrimony of Western Civilization, and implement policies that ensure that justice is tempered by mercy; that debts be paid but not with blood; and that this nation, conceived in the liberty of man, remains on this earth to lead the world in establishing the natural justice due to all men. Let it always be said of Americans that we never hesitated to help those in need or grant clemency to those who needed it while upholding the demands of the law and justice. That would truly make America great: if we were known not for our wall, but for our love and mercy to those in need.

Films to Heal America

This post first appeared on the American Solidarity blog.

America is in serious need of reconciliation and healing. That was bound to be the case whatever the results in Tuesday’s poll. So I asked some American Solidarity Party members for film recommendations to help foster such healing.

The suggestions were wide-ranging, including religious films (The Mission, The Island, There Be Dragons), films about wars (Joyeux Noel, The Railway Man, To End All Wars), films about America (Remember the Titans, Forrest Gump), films set in ancient Rome (Ben Hur, The Robe), and films set in foreign lands or the dystopian future (St. Petersburg, Les Miserables, The Diary of Immaculee, Hunger Games). Here are three I thought particularly notable:
Of Gods and Men (2010). A community of Trappist monks decided to stay in Algeria alongside their Muslim neighbors, even as the civil war turned decidedly ugly.  This is their story.

The Tree of Life (2011). This film tells the story of one man’s life through his recollections of childhood and particularly his parents. (Side note: Robert Barron gave some commentary on this film as well.)

 

 

Pay It Forward (2000). A film about the power of kindness toward others.

Have you seen any of these films? What did you think? Are there others you would recommend?

Seeking Solidarity: Post Election Thoughts

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We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It is easy to be upset. It is easy to shift the blame. It is easy to blame ourselves. All these reactions to the general election are very easy to do. What is not so easy is to do is pick yourself up off the floor, dust yourself off, and be happy. It is hard to do because we live in a time without hope. Many of us had hope back in 2008. That hope and optimism faded by 2012 and now it is all but a distant memory. Even the victors do not have much hope; many of them don’t think the person they elected will actually do anything. They are more concerned with making sure he does nothing, or so it seems. Today, in 2016, we are without hope.

 

That is, unless you are in the American Solidarity Party. Yes, our candidate had no practical chance of winning. Yes, we have no representation in government at the present. But that is what makes us so strong. St. Paul was right and I shall now boast in my weaknesses.

We are small but we are growing. In the span of a few months, we grew larger and larger. We got certified write-ins in enough states to get noticed. We accomplished more in a few months that it took other parties years to accomplish. We are not hemorrhaging members due to ideological factions warring. Instead, we are fortifying our foundations, plumbing the depths of our first principles, and drawing from the wellspring of our forefathers’ wisdom to find better ways to solve our nation’s woes.

The election is over and we in the ASP have tremendous hope. We have hope and joy even in such certain and inevitable defeat. For in our defeat, we have gained recognition and those who stared too long at the mountains looking for help now see us by their shoulder holding them up. The election is over but the wounds inflict are great and deep. Only Solidarity can heal the evil partisanship and liberalism has wrought. We intend to give it to the American people who are starving for unity.

The American Solidarity Party will give that unity, that common and committed concern for the good. We are not seeking power for power’s sake or even for ideology. Instead, it is for the plain and simple truths that we all know already. The laws that rest in the hills; the oaths taken in the fields; and the justice that is in our blood. All these things are our goal. We seek to make know what is the most well known, what everyone already knows but wants to ignore. We advocate the hard truths no one wants to see but needs to in order to be happy.

One of those hard truths is that we must forgive. We need not forget, but we must forgive. We must give people a chance, no matter how terrible we think they are. For if we are truly going to advance the proposition Lincoln talked about so many years ago, then we must see that our enemies too were endowed with the same rights and dignity as we were. It doesn’t seem fair and it certainly isn’t nice. It will be difficult  and we won’t get everything we want. But, if we shoulder the burdens together, fight against the prejudices that rise up in ourselves first, and commit ourselves to mutual and sincere concern for the good of one another, we can heal our nation and make her greater than she ever has been before.

Seeking Solidarity: Why Christian Democracy is for Everyone

Featured Image -- 34I know what you are thinking: a Christian Democratic movement will never work in a secular nation without numerous people coming out of the woodworks claiming it is trying to establish a theocracy. No amount of pointing to the secular nature of Germany or Austria’s governments–the ruling coalitions in both nations are comprised mostly of Christian Democrats–will mollify these concerns. Besides, that is European Christian Democracy. What would American Christian Democracy look like? I say, similar and probably more fun because we have better whiskey.

Spirits aside, we need to first examine the spirit of America. Lincoln summarized rather well that spirit.

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“[O]ur fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We are a new nation. As such, all of our ideas, even if they are just old ones dusted up with some more American language, are new. Everything from the pizza to the automobile, America makes it new. While Germany and Austria have a longer patrimony of Christianity and Christian Democracy, America, I believe, could be much better at it simply because we seek to make things new and that one of the things that Christianity is about: rooted in earth, the leaves change with the seasons.

Lincoln shows what we are rooted in: a belief in the created equality of all men and their liberty. It is a old belief that we made new by declaring our independence and framing our constitution. This belief is older than our nation and comes from Christianity itself. The idea that each man is created equal and endowed with dignity and rights comes from the Gospels themselves. They found their way into the secular founding of our nation because they make sense to every, be they pagan or Christian or Jew or Muslim or what have you. It makes sense because it is not only a divine truth, it is human truth i.e. one that we all know to be true and can understand to be true. It is the law that is in our bones so to speak and our bones and the bones of our ancestors cry out for its execution.

Christianity and therefore Christian Democracy is all about man and his dignity. It places him as the most important issue, the most important question that politics has to address. It is the issue and question of man that is the great undertaking Lincoln talked about because the nation–the collection of men believing in the proposition and its conception previously discussed–is comprised of men, by men, and for men. Christianity says that man is valuable in himself, the same belief that helped spur the Civil War. That tension between the rights of a state and the rights of a man sent our nation into a bloody conflict. Christianity answers the question of the Civil War. It says that a man, no matter what the color of his skin or where he comes from or what debts he contracts, can never be a slave. He is free because he is a man and his freedom does not come from the state. Rather, the state has the duty to protect that freedom.

ea5bd-scene_at_the_signing_of_the_constitution_of_the_united_statesNothing I have said could be construed as the establishment of a theocracy. Our vision is not for prelates to rule us; they have burdens enough without tying up more on their backs. Instead, I have merely suggested than man and his dignity should be protected above all else. I believe that American Christian Democracy would follow in the spirit of the Declaration when the founders said to the King of Great Britain: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” America was founded with the committed concern for the common good of the citizens of the colonies, with a willingness to risk everything for the sake of each other. If that is not Christianity, if that is not good and honest Humanity, then I do not know anything at all and neither does anyone else.

Support for Christian Democracy is ultimately supporting man and his dignity and the best means to do those two things. It isn’t about burning gays, lynching abortion doctors, or forced conversions. It is about understanding who we are and figuring out what to do next. In a nutshell, it is everything we know life to be but applied to politics. And isn’t that what we all really want anyway?

After all, it worked for Poland.

Seeking Solidarity: Our Battle with Nationalism

a027c-asp2bbannerI have been recently reading Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book My Battle with Hitler. In it, I noticed something striking. Dr. D–as I like to call him–does not spend time talking about how Capitalism is better than Socialism. When he talks about the errors of those around him, he spends very little time talking about how individual freedom to follow one’s self interest is the greatest thing ever. Dr. D talked at length about nationalism, though, and its effect on those around him. In his time, the nationalistic elements of National Socialism were more deadly to him than the economic. This nationalism was the driving force behind the violence and anarchy  being perpetrated by the Nazis.

We see a new nationalism taking hold today. To equate it to the nationalism of Nazis is ridiculous. The circumstances of Germany then and America now are completely different. What is the same, however, is the rise of nationalism with the rise of political violence. It is interesting to think how we got here. Ira Glass has some theories, as do many in the conservative parts of the GOP. However one determines the immediate cause, the first cause is always nationalism. It is a sort of nationalism that spurs on the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a sort of nationalism that spurs on the Tea Party movement. But why nationalism? The problem comes from liberalism itself and whether you are on the right or the left of American politics, you accept the notion of hyper-individualism i.e. do what you want but don’t hurt anyone.

Naturally, when you accept the proposition of individualism, you have inadvertently isolated everyone. As such, people need something in common to rally around. Nationalism is the only thing possible since the only thing everyone really has in common at this point is the nation. But this begs the question: what is “American?” We have both sides condemning the other for alleged crimes against what it means to be American. In the end, this nationalism is just as individualistic as individualism, being born from individualism. So many things have been born from the nationalists, from the culture wars to actual wars. One thing has remained constant throughout all these nationalist movements: violence. Violence in speech and action have been the calling card of these movements.

Most disturbing is the use of Reichstheologie to justify these nationalistic movements. Be it Catholic theologians pressured to support the Invasion of Iraq against the advice of Pope John Paul II or the radical individualism inserted into Christianity to nullify any religious censure of political positions, be they the death penalty or abortion, these nationalistic movements needed a theology to accompany them in some way. Dr. D talked about that at length as well. The nationalists could not conceive of a scenario where their nation and their national identity could be wrong. Ergo, all things, including theology, needed to conform to the nationalistic ideals. Whether it is be Patriotically or Politically Correct, all things must conform to the proposed nationalism…but be an individual about it, ok?

Today we have such Reichstheologie and such violence done in the name of America and what she stands for, though not nearly as obvious. But then again, it was not obvious to the German nationalists that they were working their own demise and the demise of Germany’s reputation for years to come. The anger and bigotry from all brands of nationalism in America will likely come to some horrific end and we will all learn a valuable lesson from it like Germany. Then again, it might not. Who can really say if these forms of nationalism will bring shame upon the nation they proclaimed to love? Only Time could say, if it were allowed to continued.

The ironic thing about nationalism after all, is that, while it tries to unify individuals to dedicate themselves to the nation and some national cause, it removes the individual identity from those individuals. They are now liberals, conservatives, patriots, #RealAmericans, and so on. In seeking to bring unity, it instead brings uniformity and conformity. It is a form of control upon the mind and heart to a specific set of ideals. Add some space aliens and you have yourself a cult. Somehow we are ok with it so long as you say America enough and you want to provide birth control to lower income families.

America needs to reject nationalism. Not simply because it causes violence and division in our country, but because it wholly opposed to humanity and the dignity of the human person. Nationalism accepts as a common notion that the state is somehow greater than the person. Plenty of Reichstheologie is created to back that up, both in Dr. D’s time and our own, and on both sides of the aisle. In reality, as Dr. D argues, the state and therefore the nation are not properly a substance in the same sense as the human person. The nation state only has being–especially in democratic societies–through the designs of man. The nation has its power, its very being from man himself and therefore subject to him.

America needs Solidarity. Unlike nationalism, Solidarity brings people together freely through authentic commonalities inherent in their dignity as human persons. It rejects implicitly and explicitly the lie that one needs a national identity to have unity, that man derives anything from the nation other than mutual cooperation and protection for the common good of the people in his community. Where nationalism would seek to divide the Tea Party and the Black Lives Matter movements, Solidarity recognizes that the good of both resides in mutual understanding and cooperation. Solidarity does not need complicated Reichstheologie to justify it; it is found in every major religion and obvious to the casual philosopher to be essential to human nature.

Our battle against nationalism will likely not be as dramatic as Dietrich von Hildebrand’s but it will be no less arduous. The nationalists are deeply entrenched in their political institutions, but then so were those who opposed Dr. D. The only thing that can adequately defeat nationalism is to show how Solidarity is not only superior, but will reinvigorate the American spirit, the spirit of ’76, the spirit of mankind given by Nature and Nature’s God.

Why I am voting for the American Solidarity Party

The reason I am voting for a third party (and you should too) is simple: a third party exists, and it is less evil than the two main parties. Let me explain.

Lesser evils and false dichotomies

When there are two candidates, your vote for one candidate deprives the other candidate of a whole potential vote. In such a binary choice, a lesser evil choice is justified, because depriving a given evil candidate of a vote is worth casting the vote for the other evil candidate, if the other candidate is less evil than the given one. This is where we get scenarios like the trolley dilemma, in which one must decide whether to pull a lever to divert an oncoming train onto a track with one person lying on it, or refrain from pulling the lever and allow it to hit five people lying dead ahead. They are based on a dichotomy: there are only two positions of the lever, and (it is felt by many) only two candidates for president.

However, when there are actually more than two options, such dichotomies become false dichotomies, a.k.a. either-or fallacies. When there are three or more candidates running for office and you vote for one of them, your “lack of vote” for the other candidates is shared amongst all those for whom you don’t vote, because a lack of vote is not a positive, existent thing that you take from each party you don’t vote for, but rather a “hole” created by the disappearance of your potential vote. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; therefore, the total negative effect of your vote within the range of choices (the collective effect on all the options you don’t choose) must be equal to the positive effect within the range of choices (the effect on the single option you choose). Given that the effect of your vote is 1, the negative power of your vote on each of the options you don’t choose is 1/(n-1), where n=the total number of options. This will always be <1 when there are at least three options.

Therefore, in a situation in which there are at least three political candidates, the degree to which we effect the win of the candidate we vote for is greater than the degree to which we effect the loss of any other given candidate. Therefore, unless all the alternative candidates are more evil than a given candidate (and thus total to an effect of 1), lesser evil choices will more effectively allow the lesser evil than they will avoid the greater evil. Since it is always obligatory to effect evil as little as possible, this is never licit.

Objections

I perceive two objections to this line of reasoning. The first one is that it does not take into consideration the proportion of evil between evil candidates, which, if it is great enough, might offset the difference in the effects of my vote. My answer is that certainly the proportion of evil must be taken into consideration in distinguishing between ideological negligences of human rights and mere debates over methods, and between the relative priority of human rights (such as the right to life) over others. However, this objection goes beyond that and implies that it is permissible to be more responsible for causing a lesser evil in order to be less responsible for avoiding a greater evil. This is tantamount to doing evil that good may result. That is never permissible! Aquinas’ principle of Double Effect stipulates that one of the conditions that is necessary for cooperation in evil is that “The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, qtd. McIntyre, 2014). This condition must be met independently of the proportionality of the greater evil.

The second objection is that it does not take into consideration the probabilities of success of the candidates. My answer is subjective, but heartfelt: I do not believe probabilities of success should affect the moral categories of a vote. It is our responsibility as Christian citizens to express our moral convictions through our civic voice as completely as we can within options available, and allow democracy and Divine Providence to determine the result. I will not violate my conscience by my vote if I do not have to, regardless of the odds. I would rather be driven to David’s caves by my integrity than claim Saul’s throne by my compromise. I realize it may be possible for a good Christian to disagree with my stance on this, but it is, at least, the firm instruction of my conscience.

The errors of the Republican and Democratic Parties

In the Democratic party lies one half of our bifurcated moral consciousness, a concern for the common good of all humans, but, ironically, a neglect of the sacredness of human life. The party of social justice, equality and acceptance defends the rights of the powerful against the most powerless members of our human race, and stands in fundamental disconnect from the mind of Christ, not recognizing that justice is mercy.

In the Republican party lies the other half of proper moral consciousness, a concern for social morality and a defense of life and family, but a neglect for our moral obligation to the common good of our fellow man. The party of liberty and prosperity excuses the most prosperous and powerful from their obligations to those who, by their human dignity, ought to share in the natural goods which God has given to all men; thus it stands in fundamental disconnect from the mind of Christ, not recognizing that mercy is justice.

Without ranking these two parties or discussing their faults in more detail, it is sufficient to observe here that they both have serious moral deficiencies. If a third party existed, and if it had fewer deficiencies than either of them, then that would eliminate the possibility of a justified lesser-evil choice between them.

The fabled third party appears

Imagine my dawning wonder and delight when I discovered that there has recently emerged onto the American political landscape precisely such a mythical creature: a party that acknowledges within its platform and ethos a “whole-life ethic,” the responsibility to take strides as a society to care for the poor with a Christian spirit of solidarity and common good, and also to stalwartly defend human life from conception to natural death.

I am voting for the American Solidarity Party because it exists, and by its existence it renders the red-blue dichotomy a false dichotomy. It obviates lesser-evil voting for a platform about which I have deep misgivings. By embracing in its platform and moreover in its ethos a unification of all the moral principles of Christianity, it provides a way to express my voice into politics without having to cooperate in evil. Thus, in the American Solidarity Party, I have found the truly lesser evil. May God grant all my Christian brothers and sisters the courage and wisdom to join me in solidarity, though we be few, sounding a trumpet of justice and mercy into the suffering and confused heart of America.