Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party A Revolution of the Heart
by Christopher Zehnder
The American Solidarity Party is facing a crisis. How it weathers this crisis will determine whether it will offer a real political alternative for American society or sink into the morass of confusion that is American political thought today.
This morass is precisely the American inability to rise above the dichotomy of "left" and "right," "liberal" and "conservative.” It is the penchant to see all questions as lying on a political spectrum that is defined by its extremes – extremes that represent no coherence in themselves but operate from the presupposition of radical individual autonomy. What separates the extremes is merely how and where they apply the principle of “personal freedom.” And even this distinction has increasingly become blurred. Pornography, for instance, is where the “left” and “right” principles of sexual license and economic freedom find their common locus.
It is thus a sorrow to find that those whom one might expect to think outside the political box continue to define themselves by “left,” “right,” and “center.” Of course, culture is powerful, and it is hard to escape its influence; and our culture insists on such a dichotomy. Still, one would hope that that the failure of the left-right cultural paradigm would stir people to an awakening. But it does not. Rather, we see desperate attempts to collapse the extremes into a center of compromise. A little bit of left here, a little bit of right there, mix them together, and, lo! We have a new recipe for – more of the same.
One finds that even American Solidarity Party members cannot pull themselves from this mire. We continue to identify ourselves with the dichotomy and thus fail to outline a real, alternative political vision. Ironically, we do not have far to seek for that vision; it is the tradition of Christian Democracy: the CD on our party's logo. That tradition calls us to seek a real alternative vision not in the weary and boring schools of a failed Enlightenment but in a politics of the transcendent – a politics founded on an understanding of the integral, human common good and the justice that it demands. We are doomed if we want to be a left party, a right party, or a centrist party. We have plenty of these already. This real alternative vision is what our people need, not a rehashing of failed political programs and ideologies.
What is the common good? It is simply human perfection and all the means necessary to achieve that perfection. It is that good for which are made and exist. It is the good not only of one class, of the few or even of the greatest number, but of all. It is the good all people share in common. It is human fullness. It expresses itself in material goods (food, shelter, and all means of livelihood), but more eminently in culture and, finally, those spiritual goods by which we rise above the level of mere beasts. It is common, moreover, because it includes every single person; and it is common because only by life lived in and dedicated to community can we obtain it. The means of attaining the common good are justice and solidarity.
If the American Solidarity Party is to speak to the deepest social and political longing of our age, it must be willing to go forth boldly and break old paradigms. Or, rather, it must be willing to embrace the oldest paradigm – the premise of the common good, the only foundation of a natural, human society. We cannot simply take some solutions from, say, the Republicans and some from the Democrats and stitch them up into a crazy quilt of a political platform. To do so would be to define ourselves in terms of other parties, whose fundamental problem is that their basic principles are wrong, for they are founded on the primacy of individual autonomy, not personal devotion to the good of all. We have to operate from clear principles that derive from the integral political vision of the common good and then examine issues in light of that vision. In doing so, we won't please everyone, but pleasing everyone should not be the goal. Offering real solutions to our society based on and advancing the common good should be our goal, our only goal.
There has been much talk about making the party a “big tent” as a means of advancing candidates and winning elections. But this is to see the party merely as a mechanism for power with only a passing nod to the content of its principles and platform. Indeed, in this view, these seem to exist only to serve the goal of political expediency. Such an approach is good, old-fashioned American politics, but it is corrupt to the core. Even if the approach could win us elections (and I doubt it could), it would be tantamount to gaining the whole world and losing our souls in the bargain. We should want political victories because they would allow us to implement sound policies. We should not create policies in order to win elections. That's what the major parties do, and people are sick of it. Younger people, today, are looking for something better. We need to speak to their longing, casting our seed, not onto rocky ground, but in the deep loam of the best inspirations of our Christian tradition – the radical, integral common good.
Tara Ann Thieke