The search for a third way in U.S. politics

Voters disillusioned with the major party presidential possibilities for 2016 have an option that will not compromise consciences, according to Mike Maturen and Matthew Bartko, presidential candidate and chairman, respectively, of the American Solidarity Party (ASP).

The ASP was first formed in 2011 as the Christian Democracy Party by predominantly Catholic intellectuals. The party was inspired by similar movements that started after World War II in Europe, especially the efforts of President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and the Solidarity movement in Poland to help destroy Communism in the 1980s.

“For the next several years, [the now-ASP] cobbled together a platform and started working on a party identity,” said Bartko, 34. 

That identity — rooted in solidarity, subsidiarity and distributionism, three key components of Catholic social teaching — offers a consistent life ethic not found in either of the two current major parties.

Social fabric

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Maturen

Maturen, 52, told Our Sunday Visitor that true pro-life solutions are multi-pronged, and not only reduce abortions through legislation, but also address the circumstances surrounding a woman’s decision to have an abortion in the first place.

“There are always two sides to every coin,” Maturen said.

That “respect from womb-to-tomb” mentality is mirrored in the affirmation statement to which members of the party must ascribe: “Recognition of the sanctity of human life, the necessity of social justice, our responsibility for the environment, and the possibility of a more peaceful world.”

Because for the ASP, true pro-life activism is more than anti-abortion. It’s also anti-death penalty and anti-physician-assisted suicide. “Then there are also social safety nets so we don’t have people dying of hunger on the streets,” said Bartko. “All that funnels into pro-life for us.”

Maturen credits his own passion for the cause to his return to Catholicism in 2002 after having left the Church for 18 years. As he delved back into his faith, he began reading Catholic social teaching in depth and realized his political beliefs and his faith life weren’t matching up. Nor was he at peace with the current political climate. “I’ve seen diplomacy disappear, statesmanship disappear, and morals disappear,” he said.

Maturen emphasizes that although the platform has heavy roots in Catholic social teaching, many Protestants and Evangelicals are also part of their organization. The ASP is a “ladder and a map to live out your Christian faith,” Maturen said, one that is attractive to secular society as well as religious groups.

Growing demand

Maturen cited a CNN story published on Oct. 13 that said Google searches for third-party “write-in” candidates surged over the last week by more than 2,800 percent, hitting a record high since 2004. 

Even the ASP is seeing evidence of apparent voter dissatisfaction with the status quo. For example, the ASP’s Facebook statistics rose 235 percent from Sept. 18-Oct. 15. Throughout the past month, official members of the ASP rose from a few hundred to more than 1,200. Not to mention, there are members in each of the 50 states and in Puerto Rico, as well as member chapters in about 35 states.

Originally, Maturen received the nod for the vice president slot during their July convention, but became the presidential candidate when the first nominee had to step down. Slowly but steadily, the party began receiving national attention, said Maturen, including coverage from a variety of news outlets.

Maturen says some have questioned the ASP’s strategy of rushing head-first into elections with a presidential platform versus a “start small and build up” approach first in the states.

“Our tactic was, because we’re small, and because the field is so muddied with so many people out there, that we felt it was best to have a national ticket to … make that big national splash to get that publicity nationwide,” explained Maturen. “Moving forward after this election cycle, we’ll have a little bit of name recognition and a little bit of credibility, and then we can start recruiting those state and local candidates.”

Past and future

Bartko is not surprised by the surge of interest in third parties and points back to the Civil War as proof that history repeats itself.

“If you look at the political history of the United States, a political party has never risen to prominence without two things,” said Bartko. “One is an issue that people are passionate about that they can coalesce around, and the other is the death of another political party.”

Two dominant political parties, the Whigs and the Democrats, led politics in the early-to-mid-1800s. As tensions proceeding the Civil War bubbled up, constituents became disillusioned by the two main parties’ inability to make any meaningful contribution toward the abolition of slavery, the hot-button pro-life issue of its day and the crux of much animosity and debate.

“The Republicans came to power because the Whigs died out. And their big issue, their catalyst, was the issue of slavery. And for the Republicans, that was being anti-slavery, whereas the Whig party was split on that issue,” explained Bartko. “And all the divisiveness in the Whig party meant that these new Republicans, with their focus on an issue that many people were passionate about, were able to seize the day. And that is why we have the Republicans and the Democrats, as opposed to the Democrats and the Whigs.”

To Bartko, the dissatisfaction with the gridlock status quo on slavery back in the 1800s bears a striking resemblance to the dissatisfaction of pro-lifers today who feel the answer to a consistent life ethic lies in neither party, creating a state of despair he calls “political homelessness.”

“I think the time is coming ripe for one or both of [the current] parties to fall into history,” he said. “And for other parties, with their issues and passions behind them, to take the forefront.”

After the presidential election, the party will step back and reevaluate. Win or lose — “and we know how that will pan out,” Maturen added wryly — the party will build relationships with the existing parties, both in Congress and the White House, to find common ground, and put legislation in at a national level. And he doesn’t care whose name is on the bill. “However it gets done, that’s fine,” he said. “We just want to get it done.”

To learn more about the American Solidarity Party and its platform, visit www.solidarity-party.org.

Mariann Hughes writes from Maryland.