American Solidarity Party presents its 2024 national ticket -- two Catholics who will vie for president and vice president, and try to restore human dignity to society.
The first debate among Republican candidates for president, including front-runner former President Donald Trump, is set for August 23. On the Democratic side, the presumed nominee is President Joe Biden, although he has a few challengers.
But one emerging third party already has its national ticket in place, ready to hit the campaign trail. And its nominees for president, Peter Sonski, and vice president, Lauren Onak, are both Catholics who have embraced a platform that has many similarities to Catholic Social Teaching.
Sonski and Onak are running for the White House with the American Solidarity Party, which traces its beginnings to 2011 and first ran a presidential campaign in 2012. Both Sonski and Onak came to the party after a history of frustration with the two major political parties: escaping from the pro-abortion positions of one, but finding the other problematic in other ways.
They believe that many voters, including Catholics, feel the same way and would be interested in checking out the American Solidarity Party, or ASP.
Although the ASP is not a sectarian, Catholic political party, its founding was based on the history of Christian Democratic parties in Europe and Latin America, which were explicitly based on Catholic Social Teaching, said Daniel Philpott, Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the ASP’s board of advisors.
Sonski, an administrator of the Blessed Michael J. McGivney Pilgrimage Center in New Haven, Connecticut, has no illusions that he’ll be moving his large family to the White House in January of 2025. Third parties have rarely won more than a handful of electoral votes in a national election, and part of the problem is even being qualified for the ballot in individual states. But he believes his time will be well spent in advancing some of the positions the ASP espouses.
“There is an opportunity to give voters a choice that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Sonski, 61, said in an interview in late July. “And also there is an opportunity to share some of the values and policy positions of the American Solidarity Party in hopes that minimally, even if I’m not elected, I can introduce ideas that can flourish.”
“Right on social issues, left on fiscal ones”
Sonski, who has been involved in local politics in Connecticut for a number of years, was careful to point out that, although he works for the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization founded by Blessed Michael J. McGivney, the organization is non-partisan and is not endorsing him or any other candidate for public office.
He describes the ASP as “predominantly centrist – a little right on social issues, a little left on fiscal issues.”
“There are certainly things it has in common with the Democratic Party – strong proponents of respect for our natural resources and stewardship of the environment. There are certainly things that it has in common with the Republican Party – like the abortion issue,” he said. “But the combination of those things is not found in either the Republican or the Democratic Party, and the values that I have make it difficult for me to select from candidates in either of those two major parties, because while they may have views that align with mine in some ways, in other ways they’re completely the opposite. And I always have to make judgments about whether I can vote for one candidate or another based on only a few items. I’d like to be able to make those judgments in totality on a candidate.”
In a separate interview, Onak said that one of the taglines of the party is “Vote all your values.”
“You don’t have to choose which vulnerable group you want to protect, because we want to protect all of them,” she said.
The party is “strongly pro-life,” Sonski stresses. “In fact, many prefer the term ‘whole life’ because they want to emphasize that they don’t just oppose abortion but they oppose euthanasia; they oppose capital punishment; they favor universal healthcare.”
In addition, he said, the party advocates economic principles based on subsidiarity, the Catholic Social Doctrine principle that decisions should be made by or closest to the people affected by them.
“We often refer to it as distributism, a term that, again, was developed in the early years of Catholic Social Teaching, if not by Pope Leo XIII, by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, developing upon Rerum Novarum and its tenets, wanting to promote a community-based society, wanting to see that workers were able to own land and support themselves, support their families, own the products of their production. This is a concept that is not foreign to capitalism, but in capitalism, of course, there’s lots of opportunity for individuals and corporations to continue to increase in size and increase in power, and that diminishes humans in the process: Humans just become another element of production, just like other raw materials.”
But, Sonski said, humans provide the labor, “and when laborers own the tools of their own production and have contributions in the production they have more authority and more respect, and that’s certainly something that the Catholic Church has always taught that we needed to have – more respect for human beings and more respect for labor.”
At the root of many of America’s problems, Sonski believes, is an increasing disregard for human life and dignity. In spite of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, “the cultural disposition toward abortion” hasn’t changed.
“We see violence towards human life everywhere: human trafficking, mass shootings, assaults,” he said. “These are all symptoms of the culture that has a growing disrespect for human life and human dignity. Even the mere fact that we have so many people who are not earning a living wage, so many people that are not able to secure for themselves basic healthcare, so many that struggle with an ability to find dignified housing.”
Related to the disregard for human dignity is an “atomizing” of society.
“We have become so centered on ourselves that we have a diminished view too often about others,” Sonski said.
One particular issue that needs to be addressed, he said, is immigration.
“We have a border crisis, and we have half of the population that wants to follow the Trump edict of building a wall and preventing people from entering the nation as a way to solve the immigration crisis,” he assessed. “The other half wants to be much more lenient and allow these individuals who very obviously are coming to the United States because they’ve got a much worse situation in their own homelands.”
Neither Biden nor Trump has effectively addressed the issue, in Sonski’s view. What’s needed are “more immigration judges” and finding ways to “process” newcomers “so that they can come into the United States legally and we can treat them with dignity and find ways to integrate them very humanly into American society.”
For Onak, 34, a “stay-at-home mom,” the issues that are important have to do with life and family, including the struggles families have getting healthcare for children. She and her husband have a child with special needs.
“One big thing that drew me to the American Solidarity Party is this idea of the livable wage and having it be possible for one person’s income to supply the needs of the family,” said Onak, who lives outside of Boston and teaches natural family planning. “I see so many families, couples wanting to grow their families, where both parents are employed and they’re still struggling. I think that we need to support parents better than we’re doing now.”
The ASP will be struggling too – to get ballot access and to get its message out, with its small budget. In the 2020 election, it had ballot access in eight states and write-in access in 31 others.
“I’d love to be able to minimally double the number of states in which we could have ballot access in 2024,” Sonski said.
Along the way, he and Onak might be giving voters who have been struggling to choose among the current choices another alternative, possibly one closer to their values.