Catholicism, Christian Life, Community, Current Events, Education, Justice, Kingdom of God, Politics

A Christian Case for a Third Party

Two weeks: the remaining until the population of the United States will vote for one man (this time around, at least) to hold the most powerful political office in the world.  As is usual every four years, we–the faithful public–get to choose between two imperfect candidates as representatives of the two most powerful and longstanding political parties.

Now, it is no secret that I dislike politics, as I wrote earlier this year.  This dislike stems from the focus on issues that are popular and might contribute to gathering votes in swing states, instead of focusing around issues that are most important to the well-being of our country.  In short, I dislike politics for conflating popularity with priority, especially in the case of morality.  Discussions of abortion this year only received a quick shout-out in a very “Catholic” question during a debate.  (The answers were altogether disappointing.)  Discussions of prison reform (including eradicating the death penalty)–an enormous contributor to the perpetuation of poverty in the US–were non-existent.  The list could go on for ages.

So, for a while, I’ve been contemplating not voting, or voting for someone else.  But this, like I’ve been told and have come to accept, would be equivalent to “throwing away” my chance to affect the future of this great nation.  Ah.

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The other day, however, the world-governor that is facebook provided me a link to a very interesting to a 2004 article by Alastair MacIntyre entitled “The Only Vote Worth Casting in November.”  He argues that since neither party can fully grasp the hypocrisy upon which it stands when viewed from a Catholic stance of the dignity and value of LIFE, the only vote worth casting is not voting at all–an implicit rejection of the failed two-party system to exhibit anything close to Christian values.

I can’t go that far, mostly because I do feel some sort of obligation to have my voice heard amidst the imperfection that exists.  In this light, I recently appreciated a short piece by Becca Lachman wonderfully entitled, “Thoughts on Being s 21st Century Anabaptist,” in which she argues with herself on how a non-violent Christian can vote for anyone whose speech for the Nobel Peace Prize essentially defended a version of Just War Theory.  She concedes, in the end, that she will actually vote in November mostly for the same reasons many Christians vote: because there are options and we feel morally called to voice our opinion in the way of one vote among tens of millions.

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This brings me to the other reason I can’t stand politics: because people spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on getting certain other people elected in order to, once again, prioritize popularity over morality in so many cases.  The large amounts of money spent bother me so much more than the highly publicized ability for  Super PACs to be funded by independent organizations.  This latest trend has really become just another tool for political parties and seems to be used equally by both sides of the aisle.

But maybe I should be looking at this differently.

Instead of being distraught over the money spent, I should realize the potential within these vast amounts of wealth.  In short, they preach to me an oft-repeated truism: money buys power.  So if I can’t stand my options, I don’t need to “not vote,” I need to get a few hundred million dollars and create a competitive third party.  Seriously.  I could set up an independently-owned Super PAC and spend a few hundred million without even having to raise “grassroots” money.

With this in mind, I’d like to announce my newly-formed Third Party for anyone who would like to donate a few hundred million dollars to the cause.  I have to limit initial donors to a minimum of $50,000,000 unless we want to become another Green or Libertarian party.  Good intentions don’t get votes…money gets votes.

So as to generate conversation and make things more interesting, I’ve written up a basic initial party platform–one tenet with four major ideas, replete with controversies galore.  Let me know what you think and please contact me if you have 50 mil to invest in something awesome.

Central Platform: The Inherent Dignity of Every Life: Every life must be protected and valued from conception until natural death.  I interpret this as necessitating several distinct ideas:

    1. The end of the death penalty and a complete reform of the prison system throughout the US.
      • The prison system today is undoubtedly one of the worst perpetuating factors of our culture of violence and poverty.  It does not help the prisoners but shields them from the “good public,” further growing the idea that convicts are inherently not good people, period.
      • Prisons will be judged on their reform rates, and entirely different prisons/reform houses will be set up for people with drug problems.  A large portion of drug-related offenses will be restricted to community service and probation, with a revamped community-service office so that “picking up trash on the side of the road” is not a valid form of community service (I mean, seriously).
    2. The end of abortion and an enormously expanded adoption system throughout the US.
      • Whether or not the votes to end abortion exist (rape and incest clauses are hypocritical as a moral stance), the Third Party will dramatically overhaul the adoption/orphanage/foster system, exponentially increasing its funding and to erase the terrible name that “adoption” has to so many pregnant women in poverty.  Adoption and foster systems will be small, local, and found everywhere.  They will be tied with every community and offer a multitude of options for any pregnant woman (as well as anyone who wants to adopt).
      • All pregnant women will be given free healthcare, without forms, without questions.  A father’s signature will *not* be required for adoption (as is the case today and is not the case for abortion), but the father could argue for sole custody of the child if the mother chooses adoption.
    3. The drastic reduction of the US Military.
      • While, of course, a perfectly powerful military could end all violence throughout the world, this is absurdly unrealistic and, in the end, will only lead to more violence.
      • In order to pay for the drastic social changes above, the US military will be reduced drastically to a solely-defensive force.  If this requires other nations to increase their defense spending, so be it, but the priority of our country will not be military power but the eradication of poverty in a moral effort towards offering every single person a life of dignity and humanity.  In such a vision, military violence is truly, actually, a last resort.
      • The entire US-military construct will be revisited, with goals to decrease the size efficiently–do we really need Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army, a Coast Guard, and all the other intelligence services, especially when so many missions overlap?  How much violence are we creating rather than destroying?
    4. A complete overhaul of the public education system
      • Despite the economic unpopularity of such an idea, a year-round school system will be the norm for all public schools, following the empirically-tested huge success of such programs around the world.  After the initial economic shock and restructuring involved, I’m sure amusement parks will continue to make loads of money.
      • These year-round schools will also function as central points of community development, especially in poverty-stricken areas.  They will have classes for adult education, child-care, wellness and health centers for small emergencies, and counseling services.  These schools will work closely with the pregnancy/adoption centers as well as faith communities and faith-centered schools in the area, and may lead to coordination between public and private schools to provide all the services described.

I think that’s enough for now.  There are plenty more issues (immigration, health care, the economy…), but I feel that the platform above should serve as the basis for any political party that centers its argument around the dignity and value of every human life.  This is a party and a vision for the country I could belong to and fight for with all the moral strength I can muster.

But, of course, this is a democracy, so feel free to disagree.

About John Slattery

John is a doctoral student in Systematic Theology and History & Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame.

Discussion

10 thoughts on “A Christian Case for a Third Party

  1. Thanks John. Is it politics or the present partisan politics that you dislike?
    A fifth point, I would strongly suggest is about rethinking global engagement. At the end of the debate the other night one candidate called the United States as THE hope for the world. As a Christian, I find that terribly offensive. There is only one hope for the world and it’s not the USA. How can we move past the manifest destiny / city on the hill/ almost idolatrous notion that our country is more divinely inspired than others. A third party could do a lot in also helping us to rethink our international relations, especially if the third party was willing to join and connect with the global networks of political parties. These have been (misguided?) unsuccessful attempts at creating Christian democratic parties in the USA with a similar platform, but they have never moved much.

    I wish I had 50 million to give you…

    Posted by Kevin J. Ahern | October 23, 2012, 1:53 pm
    • Thanks for the response, Kevin, and you make an excellent point. The refusal to join with political parties globally seems to be fueled by the notion of American exceptionalism–and, of course, the money issue…we’d have to get a lot more humble to interact globally in such a manner. I feel that the current American exceptionalism really must be just a campaign ploy…do politicians really still believe America is the hope for the world? Haven’t we seen enough evidence to the contrary?

      Posted by John Slattery | October 23, 2012, 3:41 pm
      • Great post John – what I would add on the internationalizing of parties is that, because our two main parties had historically been more of big-tent parties, this tended to quelch the growth of significant minor parties. Even if one might fit better in a libertarian, green, socialist, Christian democrat, or whatever party, you could find room usually as either a Republican or a Democrat.

        But this big-tent view is slipping away in favor of party orthodoxy, so that might also give us hope for the rise of other parties. At least in the long haul.

        Posted by Stephen Okey | October 23, 2012, 3:58 pm
  2. So glad I’m not the only one swimming far away from the main parties. This is my first time voting in the United States presidential election as I became a citizen in 2010. And there are not only men in the race – the green party ticket is all female! But sadly, you’re right – money is the vote maker much more than opinion or values. If the green party gets 5% (a long shot) – they would qualify for 20 million dollars which would help them jump-start the next election cycle. Growing up in Switzerland, a country that is truly multi-party, it makes the quasi-democracy in the US look a bit un-democratic. If you get the 50 million, let me know – I would love to be a member of your party (at least based on your 4 stances above) – until then, I will vote for a party that is not one of the main two parties!

    Posted by Baeders | October 23, 2012, 1:58 pm
    • Thanks, Marcus! I like your resolve to vote for one of the third parties. Someone on facebook noted that a viable third party would have to be subsumed into one of the two leading parties, but I don’t think that’s the case. A two-party system necessarily creates good-vs-bad analogies and unnecessary tension instead of helpful compromise. I’ll let you know when my first donor comes through… :)

      Posted by John Slattery | October 23, 2012, 3:44 pm
  3. Reblogged this on From Dust to Joy and commented:
    A friend who’s making some good points here – although I’m all for voting, even if it is seen as “throwing away your vote”, because the more people vote non-Demublican (or non-Repocrat), the more there is a chance of a true multi-party system in our country!

    Posted by Baeders | October 23, 2012, 2:03 pm
  4. This is the first party platform that I agreed with on every subject touched, and I’m Baptist! Bravo, guys!

    Posted by RodTRDH | October 24, 2012, 7:19 am
  5. Amen to this. I’ll link to this on my own blog this evening!

    Posted by Barry Hudock | October 24, 2012, 10:55 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: The third party we need « Faith Meets World - October 24, 2012

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