PETER SONSKI: Building American Solidarity
Peter Sonski, American Solidarity Party candidate for President of the United States, shares his thoughts on the state of American politics and the common good.
The following is adapted from a speech presented by American Solidarity Party 2024 presidential nominee Peter Sonski on September 28, 2023 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The American Postliberal does not endorse any candidiate or party in the 2024 presidential election.
Greetings my fellow Cardinals and guests! It’s terrific to be back in Brookland and to have the honor of addressing you in the capacity as a nominee for the office of President of the United States.
This pursuit, you may be surprised to learn, was not on my bucket list when I was a college student! Suffice it to say though, it has me fully engaged now. So, I caution you: Don’t lock out opportunity, or dismiss the unexpected — and keep your public speaking skills sharp!
Let me address the elephant in the room, or since an elephant has an association with the Republican Party, the pelican in the room. The pelican, you may know, is a universal symbol of charity or self-sacrifice — and the symbol of the American Solidarity Party, or ASP.
I’ve been affiliated with the ASP since 2018, and its members selected me from among a group of five candidates in a primary this past spring as its 2024 presidential nominee. But, why did I choose to run for president in the first place, especially with the backing of a little known third party? Because America needs help. American politics need revival! It is dysfunctional! American political life is profoundly disordered. It’s best characterized these days as hyper-partisan and deeply flawed, if not broken.
Last week the Pew Research Center published an article: “Americans have long been critical of politicians and skeptical of the federal government. But today, Americans’ views of politics and elected officials are unrelentingly negative, with little hope of improvement on the horizon. … Majorities say the political process is dominated by special interests, flooded with campaign cash and mired in partisan warfare. Elected officials are widely viewed as self-serving and ineffective.”
We hear a lot nowadays about fake news. I don’t think this qualifies. In fact, I suggest it’s not news at all, unless it’s old news. Think about this: Our former president is contending with four open indictments. A United States senator was arraigned today on egregious bribery and corruption charges, and our current president is in the throes of an impeachment inquiry, not to mention tiptoeing around his son’s legal woes — and tanking in approval ratings!
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Whether these cases and proceedings have any merit is the subject of endless debate and is rich fodder for Sunday morning political talk shows, but the majority of Americans are repulsed by this saga or, at the very minimum, fed up. The Pew poll reported 65 percent of respondents felt exhausted when they thought about politics. Fifty-five percent admitted they become angry when they discuss politics. Just 10 percent of respondents felt hopeful with American politics.
Optimism is welcome, but cynicism is winning. Conversely, in another poll released last week by the Georgetown University Institute for Politics and Public Service, ninety-four percent of voters polled agree that “Respect for each other is the first step in having a government that works.” Eighty-three percent of the eight-hundred respondents in that poll agree that “compromise and common ground should be the goal for political leaders.”
The ASP motto, by the way, is: Common Good. Common Ground. Common Sense.
Our two-party political system naturally divides us as a nation, pitting disparate mindsets in opposition to one another, each faction self-portraying as heroes while painting the others as villains. A third party, especially the American Solidarity Party, offers the opportunity to unite us in a manner that recognizes the American people are three-dimensional, that is, not defined exclusively by a Democratic or Republican ideology. The ASP does not box people in, it frees them from the paradigm of duopoly!
Our government institutions, however, have become distant. To people around the country, this city, Washington D.C., the seat of federal government, the capital of our republic, seems at times a far-off imperium. Many view the officials elected or appointed to represent us as self-interested, seeking to further their own interests and agendas, or those of their political party’s elites.
Likewise, many American businesses, grown swollen and large, fail in being responsible to workers and customers, as well as in contributing to the communities in which they’re located. The focus is inward, not outward. They bestride the globe in search of revenue, cut jobs and improvements in favor of profit, and are more beholden to shareholders than to patrons and employees.
What is the end product of all this? Alienation. Distrust. Frustration. Disgust. America needs course-correction! The American Solidarity Party can provide that course-correction because it is grounded in Christian Democracy, which derives from a century-plus of Christian social thought. I’m advocating a return to the grounding this nation had when the founders designed it to be of the people, by the people and for the people! Christian Democracy was born long after our nation, but it hasn’t lost its principles!
Christian Democracy was also born in 19th century Europe to provide a new framework for Christian engagement with politics. Later, in the run-up to World War II, it adapted as a political movement in response to fascism and communism, similarly to provide a Christian response that avoided falling into unbridled liberalism.
In the late 19th century, in the midst of the industrial revolution, Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum, an encyclical that addressed the concern about the conditions of the working class, and called for just wages and safe conditions for workers. Ostensibly, it introduced cautions about the competing social forces of unrestricted capitalism and socialism, which is why it is embraced in ASP political philosophy.
What do I mean? We see in socialism, as well as in communism, a perversion of justice. In the pursuit of equality, communists created a framework of government tyranny that attacked both the legitimate right to property ownership as well as the role of religion in society. It was characterized by centralization of power in the state, and the rank and file were oppressed, without adequate recourse to justice.
Capitalism and liberalism exaggerate different values. An overemphasis on individual liberty, for example, allows business owners and executives to pursue growth and profit at whim, regardless of its consequences. Whether it’s mergers and acquisitions to gain more market share or downsizing and outsourcing reduce operating expenses, business leaders and shareholders seldom shoulder losses. Employees and customers often bear the brunt of such moves.
Christian democracy falls into neither of these categories. It steers clear of the extremes, but recognizes that both rich and poor have a stake in governing — and can cooperate to create a truly just society. And it found its foundation in Catholic Social Teaching.
Rerum Novarum became a blueprint for that teaching, which evolved with the 20th century but never strayed from promoting the common good in human society. Successive popes expounded or focused on the elements of Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical. Notably, Quadragesimo anno by Pius XI, Pacem in terris by John XXIII, Populorum progressio by Paul VI and Centesimus annus by John Paul II are landmark writings in the development of Catholic Social Teaching. Each of these documents is Catholic in origin, but not Catholic exclusively. Catholic Social Teaching is grounded in the natural law and encompasses all human society — the common good.
The ASP values human dignity; it values family and community; it endorses human rights and responsibilities, including property ownership and just remuneration; it recognizes a preferential option for the poor; it seeks solidarity with all, at home and abroad; and it harkens to the need to steward the earth — our common home. The ASP upholds this series of principles, unlike any other American political party. Moreover, they are complementary, based firmly in natural law — on values intrinsic to human nature. In other words: common sense!
This is why the American Solidarity Party can enliven our exhausted republic. It’s intrinsic for humans to seek natural order and direction. Our national aimlessness is, in part, also due to our lack of common ground. In my optimistic estimation, the ASP offers the best of what America can be. An America filled with opportunity. An America marked by respect for order and concern for the common good.
What is my experience, and basis for this belief?
I am a New England native and the grandson of immigrants. My mother’s family came from Canada to Connecticut in the post-Civil War era. My father’s family relocated here from Eastern Europe at the end of World War I. Both families were employed in the textile industry. My maternal grandfather was a World War I veteran and later a civil servant, a postmaster. My father and six of my biological uncles were World War II veterans.
John F. Kennedy was president when I was born. I grew up in a blue-collar household and registered as a Democrat at age 18. I voted for Jimmy Carter but left the Democratic Party formally in the 1980s. In truth, it was the so-called “party of the little guy” that left me when it decided “the little guy” in the womb was disposable.
I forayed into the Republican Party, and held two elected positions at the municipal level as a GOP member, but ultimately became disillusioned there too. All this time, I deeply valued the call to social justice the Church was instilling in me. For two decades, I was politically homeless until introduced to the American Solidarity Party in 2018. I am now finishing my second-term as an elected member of a regional board of education in Connecticut and turning my focus decidedly to carrying the ASP banner.
As the party’s presidential nominee, I’m entering into federal politics at a time of political chaos with the major parties consistently at loggerheads. The daily headlines have reminded us of the looming federal shut-down and the lack of bipartisan effort in averting it. And how much confidence did we take away from last night’s Republican debate?
My wife and I have raised nine adult children, and are grandparents so far of six. I see the struggles of my children to provide for themselves and their families. They have all had, or are currently pursuing, a postsecondary education, yet the middle class existence I knew in my youth is far different today. The cost of housing, food, transportation and healthcare outweigh my experience. Only one child has owned her own home. I’m certain each of you feel these economic burdens, even without the comparisons I cite of a mere three decades ago.
So where must we start? Let’s begin with the foundation of Catholic social teaching: human dignity. We live in a culture that is willing to discard people as useless or inconvenient. I refer to abortion, of course, but euthanasia too. We term it “death with dignity,” but is it not rather death with expediency?
What about mass shootings, or any shootings, or stabbings, or rapes, or assaults? What about human trafficking? What about suicide? Some 50,000 Americans take their lives each year. Why are people so lacking in hope, in optimism? Why do they lose value in their own lives? Why are we, as society, so indifferent, or deficient in help?
Allow me to go still farther in the disregard for human dignity. I’ll also include capital punishment. Human dignity is not lost even by the most grievous of human actions. No one is exempt from redemption. What about unfair labor practices? Child labor exists in America as well as in the third world. And the UAW members are looking for a fair share of the pie. I can go on but the point is clear: America has a human dignity deficiency!
All these affronts to human persons contribute to the reason many feel disenfranchised. It’s why people are angry. We cannot designate some people as worthy of love and others to be ignored or discarded. Human life and human dignity are inviolable. Period. Full Stop.
Human life must be respected and protected. Human beings must be valued, supported, encouraged and celebrated! Human life and human dignity are inviolable. They know no age distinctions, no race distinctions, no education distinctions, no income distinctions, no political distinctions. We must embrace that as the first premise in every political undertaking. Whatever we do must be for the benefit of human lives rather than at the expense of human lives.
That is why I’ve chosen to affiliate with the American Solidarity Party. Human dignity is its nexus, which fosters not only a policy approach centered on human needs, but a political approach based on human respect and civility.
We don’t find human respect among the hyper-partisan bickering on Capitol Hill or the many state houses across America. Beyond normal political jousting, today discourse in the halls of government are often defined by rancor and disgust for those of opposing affiliation. Instead of seeing other lawmakers as colleagues and fellow-citizens, those who disagree are viewed with aversion, if not worse — and we who are observers are swept up in the animosity as well. We bring anger into our homes and families.
We need to recover what we have lost. Seeing everyone as a subject worthy of respect will do much for us. In that sense, we will curb hostilities. Of course, there will be those who reject this approach and live in aggressive ways, but the American Solidarity Party desires and promotes human flourishing.
People want to flourish. And people do flourish when we acknowledge their human dignity. The two major parties certainly make gestures at human dignity, but their actions belie their promises. We need renewed outward focus. We need an approach that promotes human flourishing.
To be sure, this audience contains some of the future leaders of the American church, of American enterprise, and of the American political system. You are needed to move America in the right direction. If you’re here, it means to me you have a love for our country’s future, and perhaps for the needy, the marginalized, and the underdog. That is the vision the ASP holds.
Put your talents in service to the common good.
I acknowledge my political quest is completely uphill. Politely, people who know me call me “ambitious.” And, so I am. Victory is measured in different ways, however. Should I not, in January 2025, become a resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I will, nonetheless, consider it a win if a renewed respect for human dignity, through my campaign efforts, finds root in our American political landscape.
Thank you for the opportunity to sow seeds tonight in Washington.
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