Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Future of Christian Democracy in America

Some years ago I asked why there is no tradition of Christian Democracy in America. Unbeknownst to me, the following year a tiny party was founded, which eventually settled on the name of American Solidarity Party (ASP). It affirms the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death; it is built upon the twin ideas of solidarity and subsidiarity; and it draws on concepts familiar to Catholics and Protestants of various stripes.

But what is the future of such a party? As Steve pointed out in his latest post, the role of Christians in politics is in decline, in much the same way that church attendance is in decline. What kind of future could Christian Democracy have in the US, if Christians are fast becoming a small minority?

Admittedly, one need not be a Christian to support a political party in the Christian Democratic tradition. But the question is still a valid one. So allow me to articulate my hopes for the American Solidarity Party and, more broadly, Christian Democracy in the US.

(1) When possible, ASP will field its own viable candidates and sometimes win election. I am enough of a realist to know that this will not be common at the national level. But I am hopeful that a centrist, pro-family, localist message will resonate with many Americans. So expect to see some offices won at the local and sometimes state level.

(2) When major party candidates conform to the principles and policies espoused by the ASP, it can endorse them. This too is not likely to occur with much frequency. After all, if the major party candidates were all wonderful, there would be no need for third parties. Their groundswell, particularly in this current electoral cycle, is a sign of the shortcomings of the major party candidates. Still, it has long been the habit of the major parties to adopt elements of third parties, if only for their safety. We might hope that some of the causes ASP supports will gain sufficient traction to be picked up by major parties.

(3) ASP will provide a haven for conscience when there are no alternatives. Some might question whether this is significantly different from abstaining. In the short term, it may not be much different. But in the longer term it sends a message in a way that abstention does not. It is a call for change and a reminder that there is a constituency out there for decency.

In all of this, ASP is doing two other important things. It is educating the body politic, inviting people to think about political ideas, their implications, and the values that underpin them. And it is encouraging people to think about how they can strengthen their communities, yes, through political action, but also through volunteering or simply getting to know their neighbors.

So even if we won't see a president emerging from Christian Democracy any time soon, I think there is plenty of work for a party like ASP to do.
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