For pro-life Christians who want the nation’s highest office to defend the unborn, the pickings are grim. Really, for citizens of any religious persuasion who hold to any sort of principle besides “power at any cost”, the major-party choices for President are depressing to consider. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in keeping with the general direction of the parties they represent, have demonstrated contempt for the rule of law and disregard for the human dignity of various vulnerable subpopulations.
The bitter Democratic primary fight and the farcical excuse for a Republican nomination contest both served to clearly demonstrate that there are many factions within the American body politic that are otherwise unrepresented in national party politics. For pro-lifers in particulars, the nauseating spectacle of evangelical leaders lining up to offer their services to Donald Trump like Oholah and Oholibah have pushed for calls to form a pro-life third party.
Voting third party is not especially popular in America, although there are indications that more voters are considering it during this election because of the abysmal options offered by major parties. While a full discussion of conscientious abstention versus voting third party versus a desperate move to stave off potential violence against minorities is beyond the scope of this essay, I think that if enough people who actually aligned more with a third party than one of the two major parties actually cast their votes accordingly, said third parties might actually win elections here and there or at least force the major parties to retool their platforms.
Conscientious abstention is virtually indistinguishable from ignorant indifference to party operatives while reluctant compromise with a major party has (at least in the case of pro-life causes nationally) led mostly to empty promises. At the very least, as a registered voter in a solidly blue state, I feel the best use of my vote involves supporting a serious pro-life candidate.
Sadly, the most prominent third parties seem to demonstrate little hope for gaining ground this year. The Libertarian Party has once again nominated Gary Johnson, whose disinterest in defending life, religious liberty, or the needs of the poor makes him unappealing to most Christians despite an admirable commitment to rolling back the ever-encroaching surveillance state at home and the ever-expanding warmongering abroad. The Constitution Party seems to hold principles generally consonant with conservative Christians, but then invokes numerous conspiracy theories to justify abolishing most of the structure of the federal government as we know it. The Green Party is doing its best to justify the Constitution Party’s belief in said conspiracy theories.
There is, however, a new alternative that I think holds promise for Christian voters: the American Solidarity Party (ASP). It is worth noting that there are other groups forming like The AND campaign which are similarly focused on politics for the “common good” as well as discussions among other evangelical leaders to redirect the political energies of Christians towards more fruitful endeavors. The ASP provides a compelling option for people of conscience to express their electoral strength in a Presidential contest where, from a pro-life perspective, there is virtually nothing else left to lose.
Explicitly based on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and drawing on the long history of Christian Democratic political parties (which owes a great deal to Kuyperian thought), the ASP has come out with a set of principles and a platform that seem to share far more with the evangelical, pro-life consensus than either major party does. There may be issues with ballot access (most voters will probably have to write them in), their website is still a bit clunky, and neither candidate is particularly polished.
However, waiting for Superman hasn’t done much for people of conscience in the first half of 2016 and a concerted movement of pro-life Christians who are otherwise disconcerted with their options for President has real potential for good if we’re willing to give the Solidartiy party a try. Simply sharing and discussing the ASP platform broadly across our various forms of media could make an impact on the political landscape as the fragmenting evangelical political consensus finds something other to do this year than kick dirt.
There are, of course, many other things to do in resuscitating our body politic from the speedball it has overdosed on. We are starting to realize that atomizing market-driven autonomy can be just as tyrannical as asphyxiating state-directed authoritarianism, and we need far more than politics to rebuild the institutions that would protect us from both. However, there remains a need for wide-ranging discussions about the policies that would protect essential liberties while restraining obvious harms, and the ASP platform provides us any opportunity to have those discussions while sending a signal to the major parties that they have not earned our votes this year.
While the pro-life movement has gained tremendous ground in recent years thanks to a focus on state legislatures, national progress towards federal laws on behalf of the unborn have stalled. Undoubtedly, this is in no small part because voters who might otherwise support a pro-life candidate found themselves at odds with Republican views on other social policies (while on the Democratic side, pro-lifers are often shut out). I suspect that a great many pro-life Christians (particularly of the younger generations) are more inclined to agree with the entire “seamless garment” approach that the ASP takes to issues of life. Having a coherent economic policy oriented around supporting vulnerable people adds teeth to our commitment to protecting life.
Mere Orthodoxy has long examined the pernicious ways in which the modern economy works against faith and family and suggested constructive alternatives for designing an economy built for humans (instead of the other way around). While the proposals advocated by the American Solidarity Party are far more radical than those suggested by any major party, they are not uncalled for. With the economic recovery overwhelmingly benefitting the rich over the poor and many other proposals for redistribution (such as raising the minimum wage or free college for all) threatening to only worsen the problems they intend to solve, economic solutions focused on ownership are worth considering, if not fully implementing.
For conservatives who might balk at the opposition to the death penalty or the call for expanded social welfare programs, I have argued before that if unborn life is truly precious and protecting it is our preeminent political goal, conservatives should be willing to compromise and pay whatever economic cost is necessary to reduce abortions. Furthermore, given that the other ostensibly pro-life candidates are either associated with the John Birch Society or a chain of casinos, I think it is at least reasonable to align oneself with a political party that can at least demonstrate its continuity with a tradition of Christian thought.
After abortion, the issue most concerning for many conservative Christians is conscience protections. The Republican Party (at least at the national level) appears to be crumbling in its defense of those who would conscientiously object to providing or performing services they would find morally objectionable, leaving little recourse for those who would expect the First Amendment to protect them. A party with a strong commitment to protecting religious freedom deserves support from Christians who want to see those freedoms flourish.
However, the majority of evangelicals are now also realizing that the civil rights of their brothers and sisters of color are also constantly under threat, whether it is the Fourth Amendment being routinely violated in traffic stops or the Fifteenth with more restrictive voting laws. There are no simple policy solutions that would solve the problems caused by racism in America, but a Christian Democratic platform that seeks to uphold the rule of law in order to help secure equitable treatment for people of all races is a good place to start.
The rest of the party platform can be read here; any regular readers of Mere-O will find that many of the proposals resonate with our strong interest in promoting the home economy and rolling back government’s encroachment on religious institutions while finding the least tyrannical ways to promote the common good. There is plenty for any conservative to disagree with, but there is far more, I think, that is worth arguing about in as many forums as possible or simply supporting as an alternative to our current two-party madness. The American Solidarity Party will only be as successful as Christians who cherish democracy and the rule of law distinctively informed by the moral standards we hold dear will make it. At a time when political courage seems in short supply, there is little to lose and much to be gained in promoting a party that explicitly and thoroughly wants to protect the vulnerable.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org