Republicans and Democrats aren’t the only political parties finding their 2020 campaigning efforts hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian Carroll, an evangelical Christian, is the 2020 presidential nominee for the American Solidarity Party, a small-but-growing political party whose platform is based largely on Catholic social teaching.
Carroll told CNA June 15 that he hopes to be recognized as a write-in candidate for president in several states come November.
In most states, smaller parties depend on volunteers to circulate petitions in order to get on the general election ballot.
With many states still imposing restrictions related to the pandemic, volunteers have been hard to come by, Carroll said.
“Some states have recognized the problem and reduced or eliminated their requirements. For example, Vermont. We expect to be on the ballot in Vermont simply because Vermont changed the rules,” he said.
Carroll’s in-person campaigning has been on hold for several months. He said before the pandemic hit, he had planned a lot of travel, making campaign stops throughout the country. California, New York, Ohio and Texas already have fairly active ASP chapters.
Despite being stuck at home in California, he’s been active on his campaign Facebook page, offering his thoughts on recent world events and dialoguing with people in the comment sections.
‘Subsidiarity is well designed for a problem like this’
For Carroll, a retired history teacher, the pandemic and the recent protests for racial justice following the death of George Floyd are best viewed through the lens of ASP’s pro-life ethic.
The party began in 2011 as the Christian Democracy Party USA, and Mike Maturen, a Catholic, ran for president on the party ticket in the 2016 election.
Though the American Solidarity Party of today is not explicitly religious, its platform rests on several principles which the Church has developed as part of Catholic social teaching.
Subsidiarity— the Catholic idea that local authorities are best suited to tackle local issues— is a tenet of the ASP’s platform.
Carroll said he supports more local solutions rather than one-size-fits-all pandemic restrictions, because what is needed in places like Florida, where many seniors live, will be different than in a college town. Similarly, a greater emphasis on subsidiarity would allow urban and rural areas to impose whatever restrictions are appropriate for them.
“Giving the local people the ability to make some of the decisions, that’s better than having one central decision. They could make the wrong decision, and then you’ve lost the chance to see what might work. So I think subsidiarity is a strength there,” Carroll said.
“By giving local authorities more power to make the decisions, you’re more likely to craft a policy that meets that particular local area. So, in that sense, subsidiarity is well designed for a problem like this.”
As the virus spread earlier this year, politicians, including President Trump, were in uncharted territory in many ways, Carroll said.
“Once it got started, you can’t fault [Trump] in a situation where even the doctors didn’t know how this was going to behave. It was new, and it was the first time they’d seen it. And so there’s going to be some errors expected. You have to give them a little bit of grace and mercy on that part of it.”
That being said, Carroll criticized what he sees as “inconsistencies” in how COVID-19 restrictions have been applied in some places, and emphasized that government leaders “need to try and minimize the inconsistencies and then, by all means, live by their own rules.”
Carroll also commented on the economic impact of the pandemic. Distributism, the favored economic theory for the party platform, is a model championed by notable Catholics such as G.K. Chesterton and Hillair Belloc. The model calls for a broader system of ownership to create a more “local, responsible, and sustainable” economy.
The ASP favors a rewrite of regulations and tax incentives to favor small businesses and family farms, rather than major corporations.
Carroll said the pandemic has exacerbated the divide between large corporations, such as Amazon, which have profited greatly since the start of the crisis, and small businesses which have struggled to stay afloat or have already had to close.
“If we had a Congress that was more sympathetic to distributism, the [relief] bills that they put together would have favored the little guy,” he said.
The ASP’s party platform is strongly anti-abortion and supports care for pregnant mothers, as well as a system of universal healthcare. It opposes capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem cell research.
“We’re pro-life, but pro-life, obviously, is more than just abortion. It’s, ‘Are we taking care of our elderly who are threatened by a virus?’ That’s a pro-life question,” he said.
Advocating for greater racial equality also is a pro-life issue for the party, Carroll said. Victims of COVID-19 have been overwhelmingly poor, and disproportionately of minority races, such as African Americans and Native Americans.
Many minorities in the United States live in close quarters, do not have the freedom to work from home, rely on public transportation, and are more likely to have preexisting conditions, he said.
“All of those things make them more vulnerable, and that’s a life issue,” he said.
“The American Solidarity Party looks at so many different things as being intertwined, and they all feed back into the question of life and making our communities more friendly to quality of life, encouraging families. All of those kinds of things are where our party is.”
Carroll said he suspects that the pandemic will lead people to the understanding that tying healthcare to employment is a “basic flaw.”
“A lot of people had put faith in their healthcare through their employer, and suddenly realized that they had misplaced their faith, because it was very easy to lose their jobs,” he said.
“And so from that point of view, I think this is going to make the country much more open to the kind of healthcare that we’re looking for, where everybody gets covered.”
In addition, the principle of subsidiarity also applies to policing, he said. Police ought to come from the communities they serve, and not be seen as outside threats.
“We need to demilitarize the police and do everything we can to lower the tensions between police and the communities that they serve in,” Carroll said.
‘A specifically pro-life vote’
Even before the pandemic, turnout at ASP meetings across the country was low, but growing.
Though Carroll and his running mate, Amar Patel, are not sanguine about their chances of actually winning the presidency, their goals remain the same as when they first set out: to build up their party, and raise awareness that there is an alternative for people of faith who do not want to vote Republican or Democrat.
Carroll said he hopes the party will be able to field candidates for local offices across the country, and possibly even congressional candidates, in 2022.
Even if they don’t win offices, Carroll said, their party can affect policy by influencing the national conversation or drawing attention to specific issues.
Carroll pointed to Ross Perot, who ran for president as an independent in the 1990s, while pushing for a balanced federal budget. Though Perot did not come close to winning, the major parties discussed a balanced budget for years after that, Carroll contended.
In Carroll’s mind, if enough pro-life Democrats switch to the ASP, then the Democratic Party may consider softening its position on abortion.
Also, he said, if enough Republicans who “don’t like to see kids in cages at the border,” or who support a more universalized healthcare system, switch to ASP, the Republican Party might also begin to rethink their positions.
“My personal goal is for everyone, whether they love us, they hate us, or are completely indifferent and think we’re a joke, at least will have heard of us by November 3, and that the people who want to vote their conscience have at least that opportunity,” Patel, a Catholic who serves as ASP’s Chairman, told CNA in March.
He said he suspects that many Christians and Catholics end up voting for a candidate who they believe will defend one specific aspect of Christian morality, rather than looking for “ideal candidates who will actually defend the Christian message in total.”
“They can actually put in ‘Brian Carroll’ if they want a write-in vote that is significant, is meaningful, and counts specifically FOR something, as opposed to against something, which I think a lot of people are ending up doing.”
Patel said he hears a lot about “wasted votes” when it comes to third parties. But he has a different view.
In states where a Republican or Democratic victory is all but assured, such as California, even if millions of voters switched to a third party, it would be unlikely to change the outcome of the race, he said. However, the “entire face of American politics would have changed,” because people would be talking about the third-party candidate who garnered millions of votes.
“If you’re strongly pro-life and you vote for Trump in a state he’s going to lose, THAT’S a throwaway vote, because not everyone who votes for Trump is pro-life,” Patel argued.
“But if you change your pro-life vote to Brian Carroll, that will be a specifically pro-life vote that will be counted as such,” he added.