My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem
by Monica Sohler
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017. The Consistent Life Network doesn’t endorse specific candidates or political parties, but offers helpful information on all of them.
“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It’s that they can’t see the problem.” – G.K. Chesterton
From the time I was a teen I was pro-life. I had been challenged with photos of fetal development. I was an atheist at the time, so religious arguments against abortion (not commonly heard back then) were not compelling. On the other hand the photos, which clearly showed this was human life, were compelling. In the ensuing years medical imaging improved, along with our understanding of biology and DNA. This progress only underscored the obvious humanities in those photos.
I was also opposed to the death penalty, which surprised some people who tried to debate me on abortion. Even back in the 1970s, the divide had begun; people who were anti death penalty might be expected to be anti-war, but certainly not anti-abortion. A consistent life view was a surprise to many.
As I reached voting age I found I had difficulty finding candidates who held a consistent pro-life view. Back then, most people in both parties were claiming to be “personally opposed, but” regarding abortion. I voted for candidates from both major parties after carefully weighing each candidate on life issues, with abortion being to me the most critical. If one cannot value the most helpless and vulnerable, how can one value anyone?
But my difficulty in voting increased over the years, with each major party often on opposite sides of life issues, and each tolerating less diverse views on these positions both within and outside the parties.
Yet, I began to notice something eerily similar with both parties. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. There was a sameness despite the very different platforms, and this sameness grew over time, and tied in directly to the life issues. Special interests and the backing of big business became something shared by both parties. Both parties moved towards abortion, the death penalty, and a quick trigger finger on war issues.
Each election I continued to look at each candidate individually, and pick the “lesser of two evils,” at times deciding to hold my nose and vote.
Then came the 2016 election. Like so many, I couldn’t see myself voting for either major presidential candidate based on one being the lesser of two evils; both choices seemed terrible. In the previous two elections, I’d come close to voting third party, but I didn’t want to “throw away my vote.” But this time I simply could not vote for either. I could not play ball with either side. This time I was willing to vote my complete conscience, even if “it did no good.”
I had to vote, but for whom? What party really shared my values?
One day last fall, while commiserating over this with my adult daughter, she suggested that I look into the American Solidarity Party. This, she said, was a party that had elements from both the Republican and Democratic parties, yet was pro-life in the broadest sense. Would I look into it?
After years of wandering in the political desert, occasionally finding an oasis, I found home. And in finding this home, I discovered the reason for that strange similarity between the two major parties.
The Solidarity Party is built upon the idea that human beings have worth, no matter their age or condition. Then they take this idea to its logical conclusion. Every policy, every position, comes from this view.
On the other hand, in the two major parties it does not. At the end of the day, regardless of those parties’ stated views on abortion, war, capital punishment, workers rights, euthanasia, or immigration, their “solutions” look at humans as commodities, as numbers, as problems. Instead of “how do we work for the common good,” it becomes “how do we rid ourselves of the problems?” And that very quickly translates into “how can we get rid of these troublesome people?” The only difference I saw was a difference in who the troublesome people were. The solutions to deal with the “trouble” were much the same. In short, both parties denigrate the dignity of the human person, albeit in different ways.
When I first opened the Solidarity Party web page, I saw the motto: Common Good, Common Ground, Common Sense. This appealed to me – I’d seen no common sense in politics in years (one can question whether it’s ever been there). Certainly no common sense used to find solutions that actually work towards the common good. Instead I saw factions; no one listening, no one willing to see the valid points in an opposing view, each vilifying the other. And what suffers? The common good.
So is the problem with the major parties simply a matter of not trying to find common ground and working together for common sense solutions for the common good?
No. I have come to believe that they have a more basic problem: without the fundamental belief that human beings have inherent worth and dignity despite condition, age, or ability, any solutions promulgated by these parties will ultimately prove to be flawed. This is because their solutions will continue to lead, on some level, to the destruction of life and the commoditization of human beings. Compromise without the notion of the non negotiable value of human life and the human person, will often turn deadly.
Below the ASP slogan on their web page, I saw their “party requirement.” It says if you can say “I affirm . . . the sanctity of human life, the necessity of social justice, our responsibility for the environment, and the possibility of a more peaceful world,” you can join the American Solidarity Party.
Why those four things? Because they are the logical conclusion of the basic view: Human life has dignity and worth, no matter what. Life, from conception through natural death, should be valued and protected, without making exception for those who cannot produce or who don’t otherwise meet someone’s specifications. Life is worthwhile, because you are human.
Social justice follows from that. How do we treat our fellow people? Do we stand apart or do we stand in solidarity, no matter rich or poor, weak or strong? If human beings are not commodities to be used, it changes our entire worldview. If we are not simply commodities, perhaps the creation we care for has worth as well. While property is a good, misuse of what we have is not. Respect for life starts at one point and flows naturally to others. And all that, of course, leads us to value a more peaceful world. War is the great destroyer – destroying love, destroying people (born and unborn), promoting hatred and vengeance, and destroying the creation around us. If we value human life, and the environment in which we live, a quick trigger looks less and less desirable.
This past election showed many who thought as I did: people who were uncomfortable with both major parties and who joined the Solidarity Party. With them they brought a diversity of ideas for solving human problems, but they also brought their common belief that human beings have innate worth from conception to natural death, with that value based on their humanity, not what they can produce for society. That common ideal was ever present as the party revised its platform recently. There was much discussion, and many compromises, as the party strove to find common ground, using common sense. But there was a difference here – the common good was based on the dignity of human life. It resulted in a platform I can joyfully embrace.
For more information on the Solidarity Party, and to read the full platform, go to https://solidarity-party.org/
The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:
The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)
The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)
Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)
Common Ground (Jim Kelly)
The Mind’s Drive for Consistency (Rachel MacNair)
See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.