To say that this has been a difficult political year for most people is an understatement. I honestly think that both Democrats and Republicans elected the worst person they possibly could to run for president. But here we have it: Clinton versus Trump. In some ways this odd election has forced me to consider my own political allegiances, or lack thereof. You see, I am a political independent – sometimes voting Democrat and sometimes voting Republican. And this election has crystallized for me why I cannot join either party.
It is probably easier to start with my dissatisfaction with the Republican Party. It is pretty obvious to me that I cannot ever vote for Trump. He represents nearly everything I personally oppose. I don’t think I even need to supply the links of his insulting of a disabled person, sexist remarks, placating of racism and authoritarianism, do I? It is common knowledge that he has engaged in all of these activities. He has no experience for the job and I truly am scared of the idea that he would gain the nuclear codes. Church going evangelicals were not supportive of Trump in the primaries but many support him against Clinton today. However, I certainly am not one of them.
It would be unfair to attribute all his negative characteristics to the Republican Party as his nomination is quite a phenomenon. However, the ease in which he panders to racist elements in our society is disturbing because this is a long term problem for Republicans. Forget his ridiculous wall that Mexico is going to pay for. Four years ago Romney had to promise to make Hispanics “self-deport” to get the nomination. Beyond immigration issues, Republicans simply do not show a willingness to work through the tough racial issues in our society. There are some exceptions, but generally Republicans seem to tell minorities to just fall in line and forget about their concerns. I am not asking Republicans to adopt the desires of BLM. I certainly have my issues with that group. But is it too much to ask that Republicans at least acknowledge the contemporary struggles of people of color?
Throughout the years, I have never felt comfortable with the idea of identifying with Republicans. It is not that I disagree with everything they do. In fact there are issues where I am in strong agreement with the Republican platform. But not taking racial issues seriously is a deal breaker for me. I cannot become a member of a political organization that does not at least acknowledge the racial problems in our society and seriously seek solutions to them. I have voted for Republicans in years past when I thought they had the best candidate for that race, but I remain a critic of the party. Trump’s flirting with KKK and alt-right is merely an exaggeration of a common problem among Republicans.
That brings me to the Democrats. One would think that a black sociologist would naturally be a member of the Democratic party. Indeed there are certain issues where I appreciate a more progressive approach. But it turns out the Democrats are not a good fit for me either. To be specific, Democrats’ unwillingness to defend free speech and religious freedom rights unless it is for people who vote for them is particularly disturbing to me. I have come to the conclusion that the Democratic party of today does not actually believe in free speech and religious freedom. So while I feel quite strongly connected to the progressive perspective of the Democrats on certain issues, their non-support of free speech and religious freedom is a deal breaker.
I know that many disagree with my assessment of the Democratic party. I have accused the Democrats, and progressives in general, of not supporting free speech. The institution I spend the most time in, other than my home is a great example of this – higher education. It is not conservatives who are pushing safe spaces and microaggressions in attempts to shut people up on those campuses. It is progressives. It is liberal students who are more likely to say that the first amendment is outdated. Conservative speakers are disinvited or even forbidden to speak at college campuses. Even liberal speakers who are not sufficiently liberal enough are shouted down on our college campuses. Alternate viewpoints to a progressive ideology are simply not welcomed on college campuses and I have talked about such education dogma in the past. If someone believes I am being unfair putting this on progressives, then I welcome evidence indicating that conservatives are as restrictive of free speech on college campuses as progressives.
Unfortunately the tendency to stifle speech is not limited to college campuses. Remember that Brendan Eich was fired for contributing his own money to a conservative organization. It is progressives who want to outlaw hate speech, which will indeed rob us of free speech. When Michael Moore does his sting jobs, I do not see conservative prosecutors charging him with crimes. That was not the case for David Daleiden and his sting on Planned Parenthood. Although the charges were dropped, as there really was no case that could be sustained, one has to ask how much more stifling can one be to free speech than to threaten those with politically incorrect speech with jail time.
I am certain there are occasions where those on the right violate free speech. Usually when that occurs, there are many conservative politicians who speak out against such actions. This is in comparison to the relative silence of Democratic politicians. A notable exception is when President Obama affirmed free speech rights of college students. But his remarks are not the rule for Democratic politicians. Perhaps because he does not have to run for office as a Democrat again, he was free to support free speech. If that is true, then it is a sad condemnation of the lack of willingness of Democrats to support free speech.
Of my political values, free speech is one that I hold very dear. But if there is a value that I hold in higher esteem than free speech, it is freedom of religion or conscience. I believe it to be the most primary of values. When the government takes that away from us, then we truly are only a few steps away from having a thought police that must make sure that we have the “right” ideas in our society. Unfortunately the evidence is even stronger that Democrats are unwilling to support freedom of religion than it is that they will not support free speech. I am not sure whether I could become a Democrat with their unwillingness to defend the free speech rights of those they disagree with. But I am certain that their lack of support for freedom of religion or conscience for those who do not have the “right” beliefs makes it ideologically impossible for me to be at home with the Democrats.
I have criticized the tendency of Democrats and progressives on issues of supporting religious discrimination on college campuses, attacking Christian colleges and removing freedom of conscience for businesses. When I point this out, many say that if Christians merely obey the laws then they would not be punished. This simplistic approach does not take into account the way rules have a disparate impact although I suspect such critics understand disparate impact effects on rules such as voter ID laws. But rather than butt my head against that wall, let me merely point out that advocates of the policies I mentioned above always seem to go silent when people they like exercise their freedom of conscience in the public square.
These advocates are very silent when a hotel ejected an anti-gay marriage group for their views. They are silent when a church is denied an extension of its lease because of the hateful rhetoric of the pastor. They are silent when a lay pastor is fired from a job because he preached against same-sex marriage. They are silent when a landlord refuses to rent his apartment to Donald Trump supporters. They are silent when pharmacists are encouraged to use their freedom of conscience to refuse drugs to be used for the death penalty.
Of course many will state that these individuals who are rejected do not deserve to be protected. They will desperately comb through these cases to find some insignificant contrast to justify this differential treatment. Needless to say that if a hotel ejected pro-gay marriage groups, a Muslim Mosque is denied an extension of its lease, supporters of the Green party are not allowed to rent an apartment, a progressive pastor was fired from a job due to a sermon or pharmacists were encouraged not to provide abortifacients, then the reaction from these individuals would be much different. That is the point. It is not about whether you like the religion or beliefs of others. If you believe in religious freedom, then you believe in it for everyone. You do not only enforce the notion of public accommodation on conservative Christians. If you do not believe in providing freedom of conscience for everyone, then you do not believe in religious freedom. I find that Democrats, with very few exceptions, do not believe in religious freedom.
So I am stuck with two different political parties that have major deal breakers for me. If I lived in a battleground state, then I may have to stuff two socks up my nose and vote for Clinton. While she and the Democrats have no respect for religious freedom, the danger of a Trump presidency is more urgent. (Clinton also has a host of other particular issues I find distasteful as well, but as I stated she is less dangerous than Trump.) However, I live in Texas. If Texas is in danger of flipping to the Democrats, then the election is already over. So I feel a freedom to take Senator Cruz’s advice and “vote my conscience” in ways I may not feel if I lived in Florida. And while I have never voted third party for president before now, this appears to be the year to do that.
With that said, I now am happy to announce that my vote this year will go to the American Solidarity Party. I do not agree with everything promoted in ASP, but it is a party willing to address our racial divide in a meaningful way and respects religious freedom. I also appreciate the fact that this party is truly anti-big business which is something that we cannot say about either Republicans or Democrats today. So unless Trump drops out of the race or Clinton reaffirms religious freedom in a meaningful way, my vote will go to ASP. I am under no illusion that ASP will win the presidency but the more votes they gain will help them to position themselves in the coming years as a potentially viable third party competitor. Perhaps as such a competitor they may be able to influence one or both of the major political parties to move in a useful direction.
I know that most people are still committed to the two party system, even in a year like this. But if you are a never-Trump, never-Clinton type, then check out ASP. If you are a pro-life Democrat who feels that the party went too far this year, then check out ASP. If you are a Republican who cannot support Trump but you are not endeared to the hard right wing alternatives like the Constitution Party, then check out ASP. Come on in and join me. The water is fine.
My commitment to ASP is only for this presidential election. After November I will take a look at both political parties and ask some hard questions. Do Republicans want to take racial issues seriously? Are Democrats going to believe in religious freedom again? I will also take a hard look at ASP. Are they making moves to become a viable third party option? In time I may migrate back to being an independent that goes between both major parties or I may throw my full support to ASP and work to help them build something special. But those decisions can be made after November. Until then I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I am a Solidarist!! Michael Maturen for President!!