By nature and by nurture I’m a conservative. When I lived in the UK the Tory party was the best fit for me, and once I returned to my native USA the Republican party had my vote. I could never, however, be a dyed in the wool, gung ho Republican or Tory. I was a conservative with reservations. Too often the conservative parties were in the pocket of the internationalists, the military-industrial complex and the super rich. Increasingly I had to hold my nose in the voting booth.
I’m not a political animal, and as a priest I can’t tell people which candidate to elect. As an American citizen, however, I can’t avoid the conclusion that, with the nomination of Donald Trump, the Republican Party in the United States has been holed below the waterline and is sinking. Leading Republicans are distancing themselves from The Donald. Senior members of the party, like the Bush and Romney clans, are planning to skip the convention. Most of the other presidential contenders have refused to endorse Trump and scoffed at the idea of serving as his Vice President. Is the Republican Party finished? I hope so.
The popularity of Bernie Sanders and the grudging support of Hillary Clinton amongst Democrats indicates a similar dismay and disintegration in the Democratic Party. Clinton is distrusted and disliked by the very voters she was supposed to appeal to most. Hillary seems to be the epitome of the cunning, cynical, establishment politician, while the Democratic Party machine is accused of stacking the votes in her favor so that the democratic process seems most stifled in the party that bears its name.
Sincere Catholics in both parties are dismayed at both the candidates on offer and the party platform. Catholic Democrats are repulsed by the pro-abortion moral free-for-all of their party, while Catholic Republicans view the aging billionaire Lothario with disgust. Could Christians in both the Democratic and Republican parties find an alternative?
Perhaps the decay of the two main parties is the best thing to happen to the political scene in the USA. Then something new and fresh could rise from the ashes. Maybe in the aftermath of a Trump or Clinton presidency Christians of all denominations and from both political parties could rally to a new banner. Christian Democracy parties are influential across Europe and Latin America. Inspired by Catholic social teaching, the Christian Democracy parties are right of center on social and cultural issues and left of center on economic and justice issues.
Christian Democracy parties support the traditional family and the sanctity of life, but are not legalistic and reactionary. In other words, the Christian Democratic Party works positively to support life and uphold traditional family while not penalizing those who disagree. The Christian Democrat supports the family not simply by being opposed to same-sex marriage, but also by being opposed to quick, no-fault divorce. Christian Democrats work to put positive legislation in place that orients the whole economic and social system towards the family as the core unity of society.
Christian Democracy would be pro-life, but in more ways than by simply opposing abortion. They would also seek to mitigate the underlying causes of unwanted pregnancies—pornography, promiscuity, prostitution, poverty and broken families. When it comes to opposing abortion, Christian Democrats would be realistic. Realizing the unlikelihood of repealing abortion laws immediately, they would work positively to restrict abortion and to promote adoption and support for single mothers and those in poverty, while working to eradicate abortion in the long term.
Christian Democracy is in favor of a social market economy. Rejecting communism and enforced socialism, it is in favor of common-sense government regulations and state welfare that recognizes the innate dignity of the individual and works to assist individuals and families to be independent, hard working members of society. Christian Democracy sees a moderate welfare state as the public expression of every citizen’s responsibility for his poor brother or sister.
Rooted in Catholic social teaching of the nineteenth century, Christian Democracy parties have been successful in Europe and Latin America in blending the strengths of the liberal, socialistic and conservative movements. Built on the two principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, the Christian Democracy movement seeks to bring common sense Catholic principles into the public square. In the United States, however, the movement has gained little traction due to the powerful and polarizing Democratic and Republican parties. If those two extremist positions are now failing, the time has come for a third way to emerge.
Could an American Christian Democracy Party rise from the debacle of the 2016 presidential election? Does such a party need to be established? It already has been. In 2011 the Christian Democratic Party USA was formed, and after the 2012 election it was re-named as the American Solidarity Party. Small political parties in the United States do not have a great track record, but given the choices available to Christians, the American Solidarity Party may offer a way to vote according to one’s conscience and according to their simple motto: Common Good. Common Ground. Common Sense.
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll: Christian Democracy]
Fr. Dwight Longeneckeris a former Evangelical, then an Anglican priest and now a Catholic priest. Visit his website atdwightlongenecker.comto browse his books and be in touch.