I have decided to take some time away from my Democratic Party membership- this includes resigning as Vice President of Florida Democrats for Life. I have been a Democrat in spirit from the age of 13, when I took the initiative to volunteer many hours for the 1976 Jimmy Carter presidential campaign.This decision is not a flippant one. I will not trade one major party for another, I am going in an Independent direction and would like to found an American-version, Common Good Party, when time permits.
As an orthodox Catholic I take my chief political inspiration these days from the Church’s Social Doctrine- I like what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says about political and party allegiences- from paragraph #573:
573. A particular area for discernment on the part of the lay faithful concerns the choice of political instruments, that is, membership in a party or in other types of political participation. A choice must be made that is consistent with values, taking into account actual circumstances. In every case, whatever choice is made must be rooted in charity and tend towards the attainment of the common good. It is difficult for the concerns of the Christian faith to be adequately met in one sole political entity; to claim that one party or political coalition responds completely to the demands of faith or of Christian life would give rise to dangerous errors. Christians cannot find one party that fully corresponds to the ethical demands arising from faith and from membership in the Church. Their adherence to a political alliance will never be ideological but always critical; in this way the party and its political platform will be prompted to be ever more conscientious in attaining the true common good, including the spiritual end of the human person.
I was not always Catholic, not always pro-life, but I had a special interest in politics as a young teen that I did not get from my parents or an especially motivated teacher- it came from within. I responded to something that Jimmy Carter appealed to- I always had a heart for the underdog- be it in sports or in cowboy-indian play fighting as a child- I liked the indians and I am still a Detroit Lions supporter! What I didn’t like was what I thought the Republican Party represented both as a child, and even now as an adult- I don’t see the Republican Party as a “pro-life party”, I don’t trust that the establishment power base of the Republican Party is really interested in making Abortion illegal, or cares if the average family is able to earn a family wage. I have no fondness for Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. or George W. Bush- so I am not leaving the Democratic Party to switch from one powerful and corrupt major party and enter another one.
My more recent goals as a pro-life Democrat have been to try to locate a base of Democratic Party members and activists, who identify more with the old FDR coalition of minorities, labor union/Catholic Worker populists, traditional Catholics and social gospel Protestants. I wanted to try to gain some measure of clout inside the Party in order to compete with the New Economy Clintons’, pro-sexual revolution social liberals, who have come to dominate the Democratic Party scene.
I ran for Florida State House in 2006, did fairly well at the ballot box, but couldn’t find enough activist support to even get comfortably onto the ballot for 2008 even though I was in a good political position having established some name recognition and having the incumbent out due to term limits. The social liberals and radical secularists who dominate the local Democratic party circles didn’t like my openly Catholic approach to policy proposals. Being pro-life, and pro-funding for private schools really put me outside in the cold with area Dem activists. I expected that, but I thought I could make up the difference by bringing in new activists from the minority communities who supported the Democratic Party on economic grounds, but were traditionally religious and family-oriented in their social issue beliefs. My goal was to develop in these communities a new force to be reckoned with in the local and then national Democratic Party fold. I tried but failed to get any significant interest or support in this mission- and after several years of either running for office, or writing letters in the local press- to no real avail- I have decided to kick the dirt off my sandals and move to higher ground in search of deeper solutions.
I find that most people who are political are divided pretty sharply into hardcore liberal or conservative encampments. They are either in the camps out of “love” because they truly believe that their ideology will “save” the world- or they are roughly aligned with the ideology or party but are career-oriented/pragmatists as opposed to purists/idealists. I suppose that I am one of the purist/idealist types, but I don’t find my soul’s fit comfortably inside the liberal/conservative Democrat/Republican confines. I figured I would just go with the party of my childhood infatuation and try to remake it in the image of what I intuit is the blueprint laid out by Catholic social doctrine. There is a God, but no Party of God politically-speaking.
I met some really good folks in the Democrats for Life organization, from the top-down, I really feel a closer union with them than with any other group of political activists. The problem for me is that I can’t shed the Democratic Party membership and expect to stay in a leadership/membership role in an organization calling itself Democrats for Life. So, I have to say goodbye, and yet I will stay supportive of the mission of my Dems for Life brethren. In a different geographical location there may be more hope for gathering in a budding pro-life Democrat community. It just isn’t happening in my area of Florida, and all of Florida seems to be having troubles attracting pro-life recruits.
My number 1 concern is my Catholic Faith, my Christian discipleship. I am a Catholic religion teacher, and I don’t want my students or anyone I meet to be able to stereotype my ideas based upon my stated membership in a major political party. Like it or not, most people seem to make almost immediate assessments on all kinds of levels- based on whether you say you are a Democrat or a Republican. I want to force people to engage in a more profound way. If I say I am in process of trying to found a “Common Good” political party, I think it is a conversation starter rather than the stopper that saying “I’m a Democrat” has been.
I want to have the label “Catholic” and “Christian Disciple” used to describe me, I don’t want to be dismissed as a “liberal”, “conservative”, Democrat or Republican. I am more interested in the issues- starting with the right to life for unborn children, and justice/mercy for all humanity and all of God’s Creation- I don’t have an ideological home, I have a Church, the Church Jesus Christ founded to steer all humans home to heaven. That’s enough for me- I’m looking for a higher road than the one currently travelled by the major players in our political spectrum. Again, please check out the Compendium quotation above- we all need to be more critical of the parties and political ideologies even if we largely ascribe ourselves to one or the other of them.