New party boosted by election frustrations
In 2011, a handful of U.S. college professors and a few others began to build a political platform for a new party, but it wasn’t until the end of 2015 that it began to truly grow.
“Many people feel like political orphans in this particular election cycle. We seem to be experiencing an extraordinary amount of ugliness this time around,” said Mike Maturen, presidential candidate for the American Solidarity Party and Michigan resident. “The ASP provides a party through which these folks can vote with a clean conscience, rather than voting for what they see as the lesser of two evils.”
The fledgling party attempts to bring a political movement common in Europe and Latin America to the U.S. — Christian democratic parties. Such parties attempt to apply Christian principles, often Catholic, to public policy. In practice, the increasingly secular parties tend to be center-right on social issues and center-left on economic matters, according to Wikipedia.
“They take their historical roots in that (Western) Christian tradition but they’re not limited to or necessarily connected with Christianity, specifically,” said ASP media manager Christopher Keller, who himself is an Orthodox Christian in Minnesota. “We see there to be a lot of similarities to the approach of the founders (of the U.S.) and how they rooted their conception of human rights in the dignity of the human person as created by some sort of deity, but they did not specify a particular religious approach beyond that.”
Keller sees a need for government to be grounded in respect for the human person. “With the Republican Party, there’s been greater and greater departures from the interests of the average person, the middle class, (and) maintaining some sense of social responsibility for each other,” he said. “Yet on the Democratic side there’s been a detachment from social values that” reveals a vision of society that is “both incomplete” and “inconsistent.”
ASP’s national committee chairman Matthew Bartko, a Protestant in Pennsylvania, shared similar thoughts. “Neither party seems to be consistent with their respect for the dignity of human life from conception to natural death,” he said. “I found the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) in Germany to most represent where I was politically but was disappointed that there wasn’t something like that in the U.S. Once I found out about the existence of ASP … I was excited and readily volunteered.”
The party’s slogan is “Common good. Common ground. Common sense.” Those who join the party must affirm “the sanctity of human life, the necessity of social justice, our responsibility for the environment, and the possibility of a more peaceful world,” Bartko said.
The party’s platform includes support for the rights of labor unions, a reform of election and intellectual property laws, more local say in how tax revenues are distributed, marriage as a union between a man and a woman, local control of education, immigration reform, net neutrality, jury selection reforms, the public exercise of religion, and decriminalizing but not legalizing recreational drugs. It includes opposition to the Patriot Act, capital punishment, assisted suicide, surrogate motherhood contracts, abortion, pre-emptive military strikes, torture, privatizing Social Security and public pensions, subsidies that encourage urban sprawl and hurt farming, and discrimination due to race, ethnicity, religion or gender.
The fledgling party, which held its first national convention in July with 70 participants, now has members in 45 states, with strongest support in California and Texas. Most registered members are Catholics, Orthodox Christians or Protestants, though the party is open to all regardless of creed or a lack of any.
The American Solidarity Party skews young, with members largely in their 20s and 30s. This echoes a new GenForward poll released Friday. It found only 28 percent of those aged 18-30 believe the two major parties do a good job representing the U.S. Only 38 percent had a favorable view of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and only 21 percent liked her rival Donald Trump. Sixty-three percent believe Clinton broke the law in using a private email server while secretary of state.
“There’s been a lot of growth,” said Keller. “We have doubled our numbers in the last two months alone, and that doesn’t take into account those who have been active in our discussion but haven’t enrolled in our membership … According to the person handling this, we would be probably around the 5,000-person mark come November.”
That total seems tiny compared to the two major U.S. parties, even if their popularity has neared historic lows according to Gallup. Only 26 percent of citizens identified as Republicans and 29 percent as Democrats at the end of 2015. But that still amounts to about 84 million in the GOP and 94 million Democrats by U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
“While we will not pretend that we think we will win, we do provide an opportunity for Americans to send a clear message to elected officials that things need to change,” said Maturen. “A vote for the ASP can send a message that our platform is what mainstream America is looking for. A vote for us can change the face of American politics over time.”
Don’t expect to find Maturen and his running mate Juan Munoz on the ballot in Madera County or even the state of California. The filing deadline to petition to be added to the ballot is Friday, and the state requires signatures equaling at least one percent of total registered voters, which would be more than 179,000 signatures — a tough hurdle to leap. The American Solidarity Party does intend to file with the state for its presidential ticket to be recognized as a legitimate write-in option.
“A presidential run can accomplish a couple of things,” explained Maturen. “First, it gains us visibility. The amount of media interest has been astounding! This visibility gives us the momentum necessary to help build the grassroots of the party. As we build our infrastructure and move forward, we will hopefully be able to field candidates at the local and state level.”
Party members hope to remain in the public eye long after November.
“We’re making sure we’re incorporated and complying with all the rules of the FEC (Federal Election Commission) and the IRS,” said Bartko, who later added, “We have work in place not to just be a blip on the screen for the presidential election but to actually have congressional candidates to put forward for 2018 and 2020. So very exciting but a lot of tedious (infrastructure) work behind the scenes.”
Information on the American Solidarity Party can be found online at www.solidarity-party.org.