By Peter B. Gemma
On July 8, Michael Maturen of Michigan was nominated as the American Solidarity Party (ASP) candidate for President. The ASP defines itself as a “Christian Democratic Party” which promotes, “the common good and the material and spiritual welfare of all people.”
Although Maturen graduated from the Minnesota Graduate School of Theology and was ordained as an Anglican priest, he is now an active layman with the Roman Catholic Church. Maturen, a business consultant, is a semi-professional magician and the author of A New Dawn: Weekly Wisdom From Everyday Life.
Peter B. Gemma: I appreciate you carving the time out for this interview. The American Solidarity Party platform claims to be inspired by Catholic social teaching and in the tradition of the European Christian Democratic parties. Can you give me an overview?
Michael Maturen: My pleasure. The American Solidarity Party was founded in 2011 as the Christian Democracy Party-USA. The name was later changed to better reflect the values of Solidarity that we espouse. While we are inspired by Catholic Social Teaching, we are not a strictly Catholic, or even Christian, party. Membership is open to all who hold the same values and principles that we do. We are what I like to call “Pro-Life for the whole life,” meaning that we don’t just stop at opposing abortion. We value life at all its stages, so we also oppose the death penalty, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, etc. Also, we see a workable social safety net as being a key part of what we call the Consistent Life Ethic.
Gemma: The ASP has been described as a “center-left on most issues related to economics, immigration, and the environment.” Let’s start with immigration – in his book, Immigration and Integration Policy in Europe, British author Tim Bale writes, “Christian Democrats/Conservatives do not diverge significantly from Socialist parties on immigration controls.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel is an open borders advocate. Do you have different views?
Maturen: The party platform officially calls for some form of amnesty, but does not specifically call for open borders. As the Presidential candidate, I believe that we do need to secure our borders, but not with a massive physical wall or with shoulder-to-shoulder border guards. There must be common sense reform. There is absolutely no way to deport 12 million illegal immigrants – we don’t even know where most of them are! My personal belief is that it is best to provide some sort of path to citizenship, or at least legal documentation. We need to be careful that by doing so we aren’t encouraging an opening of the floodgates for more illegal immigration.
Gemma: The American Solidarity Party has also been characterized as center-left on foreign policy issues. The ASP platform states, “We oppose the use of military force in violation of Just War principles. Among other things, this precludes the use of pre-emptive strikes and disproportionate retaliation.” How would you apply this philosophy to U.S.-Middle East policies and the threat of terrorism?
Maturen: When we are directly attacked, we will respond. I think, frankly, that the United States is over-entangled in the business of foreign countries. While it is true that we must maintain solid relationships with our allies, I also believe that we need to start pulling back much of our overseas presence. Regarding the use of the Just War policy, I believe that diplomacy should be exhausted before even considering military intervention. When the security of our nation is directly threatened, military involvement may be necessary.
Gemma: What are your views on free trade agreements and foreign aid?
Maturen: I believe the trade agreements have helped to destroy our economy. The United States used to be a nation that made things. That is how our foundation was built. Now, with the advent of the free trade agreements, much of our manufacturing has gone out of country. Something must be done to encourage the return of manufacturing to our country. It is my contention that the free trade agreements must be renegotiated or dropped altogether.
Regarding foreign aid, I think all of our overseas expenditures need to be re-examined. Some foreign aid (especially humanitarian aid) is necessary. However, much can be eliminated, returning dollars to our economy where they can be used to provide for the needs of those who are less fortunate than us. We have an infrastructure problem here. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. Our railways are woefully outdated, and our energy sector needs to move toward clean and renewable energy, such as nuclear, solar and wind.
Gemma: When discussing economics, something called distributism seems to be a core element of ASP’s world vision. What is the premise of that approach and what would be the practical impact on taxes and government spending?
Maturen: Distributism, teamed with the concept of subsidiarity, sums up our fiscal policy. We believe that corporations have far too much control of the American economy. Our country is rooted in the strength of small business, the old-fashioned “mom and pop” shops. The advent of so-called “big box” stores has effectively neutered small business. Employees are just a number. The welfare of their families means nothing. That is what our economy has come to. Solidarity would say that we need to create a climate in America where small business can flourish. Family run businesses tend to take care of their own.
Regarding taxes and government spending, we believe in moving from a tax system on earned income, to one based on unearned income. This would include concepts such as economic rent. Government spending must be reigned in. All programs need to be looked at, and duplicates our outdated programs eliminated. Our concept of subsidiarity says that issues should be handled at the most local levels possible, and the higher levels of government should not intervene unless necessary. For instance, the Federal Department of Education could easily be eliminated.
Gemma: Your party platform states, “To replace the culture of death with respect for life, we call for adequate social services and income support for women, the elderly, immigrants, and other vulnerable persons.” What would an ASP government social welfare net look like? How much money do you predict this will take?
Maturen: We have not done an analysis of the exact amount of money that an adequate social safety net would take. However, I believe that we should be looking at a combination of government programs with private charitable organizations and faith-based programs. Americans are by and large a compassionate and loving people. I believe they would strongly support such a program.
Gemma: On the Catholic website Aleteia, Fr. Dwight Longenecker maintains that on social issues American Christian Democrats “seek to mitigate the underlying causes of unwanted pregnancies – pornography, promiscuity, prostitution, poverty and broken families.” Is that your policy? How would it work?
Maturen: Indeed. There are two ways to battle abortion. First – and the one primarily used by the pro-life movement today – is legal. I favor a constitutional amendment recognizing the unborn baby as a human person. This would guarantee them the same rights as all other human persons, including the right to life. The second approach is the one you described. I believe both approaches are necessary in order to effectively eliminate abortion from our culture.
While we cannot legislate away many of the problems you mentioned, we can work to create a culture of life – what we refer to as a Consistent Life Ethic. Education is a key to all of this, as is a good economic climate that helps families to stay together. A solid and reliable social safety network will also help to eliminate one of the main reason people give for having an abortion – that they can’t afford to take care of a baby. In addition, I believe we should work to make adoption easier and less expensive.
This two-pronged approach gives us the best chance for success.
Gemma: You have said that, “ASP is based on Catholic Social Teaching,” and that, “we are not a Catholic party, per se.” Gallup and other polls show at least one third of voters consider themselves moderate and other surveys reveal that a majority would seriously consider supporting a third party candidate. Do you believe a sectarian appeal on issues can create an effective third party?
Maturen: In order to achieve the broadest success, we must appeal to the broadest number of people. However, while doing that we must be very careful not to compromise any of our core principles. We will certainly appeal to many Christians, as well as those of other faiths, not to mention folks of no faith at all. Catholic Social Teaching is truly catholic – with a little “c” – in that is universal. As such, it has universal appeal to men and women of compassion. We have areas of agreement with both of the major parties, and of course areas of strong disagreement. I believe those who are disaffected and, like me, disgusted with the direction of American politics will be able to find a home with the American Solidarity Party. Our results so far are proving this to be true. We are growing at a rapid rate.
Gemma: The American Solidarity Party is organizing chapters and formal party affiliates around the country. What states have an active ASP presence? What are they doing this year?
Maturen: There are chapters in at least 35 states so far, and members in 45 states, I believe. The focus this year has been on party building and ballot access. I am often asked why we started out with a major national campaign, rather than trying to get people elected at the local level first. It was my belief that a national campaign would get us the biggest bang for our buck as regards growth and recognition. So far, this has proven to be true. We have received an enormous amount of media coverage, even on an international level.
After this election cycle, the state chapters will focus on continuing the local and state growth, while also beginning to recruit candidates for local and state offices for the 2018 elections and beyond. We will also start to lay the foundations for better ballot access looking toward the 2020 Presidential elections.
Gemma: Juan Muñoz of Texas is your running mate. Who is he and what does he bring to the ticket?
Maturen: Juan Munoz is a devout husband and father. He currently works in the service industry. He and his family live in Cypress, Texas. Juan brings a great deal of knowledge and intellect to the table. Like our party motto, he is a common sense guy. He will be a steady voice to establish common ground in order to work for the common good.
Gemma: Where will the ASP appear on the ballot? In which states has the party qualified for write-in votes?
Maturen: We are currently on the ballot in Colorado. Ballot access for third parties is difficult at best. The system is definitely weighted toward a two-party system. Therefore, most of our votes will come by way of write-in. To date, we have qualified as write-in in Texas, Ohio, Georgia and Michigan and have filed the necessary paperwork with and waiting to hear back from Virginia, Kentucky and Massachusetts. We will also be write-ins in Alabama, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. We will also be filing paperwork in many other states prior to the general election in November.
Gemma: What do you say to a secular, moderate-to-conservative voter to convince him to join the American Solidarity Party?
Maturen: C’mon in, the water’s great! We offer a party and a platform that will enable you to vote with a clean conscience and work to improve the face of American politics moving forward.
Our party, while based on religious ideas, is not confessionally religious. We will work to establish a secular government that is informed by faith. We are not in favor of a theocracy – the Founding Fathers of this great nation had it right, and I intend to work to restore our country to a place that all can thrive, not just survive.