Room in the middle

Alternative political voices deserve to be heard

Nov 11, 2019 by

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The candidate’s photo seemed irrefutable evidence. A neatly trimmed, white beard hugged the jawline, never close to the upper or lower lip. He had to be Mennonite.

After running for Congress last year in the Fresno, Calif., area’s 22nd District, Brian T. Carroll announced this year he is running for president as the American Solidarity Party’s candidate.

A quick email to the party chair revealed Carroll is not Mennonite. He considers himself evangelical. But parts of the ASP platform made him look pretty Anabaptist:

— Consistently pro-life for all of life;

— Health care for all;

— Climate and environmental protections;

— Social justice and reconciliation;

— A more peaceful world.

Voting straight-ticket pro-life from 1980 to 2010, Carroll was presented with a crisis when the California GOP ran a pro-choice governor candidate. In 2016, after 35 years with the Republican Party and his church, he left both.

“Life issues are also social justice issues, and now critical climate issues have become life issues,” he said in March. “This means that, on some subjects, our allies will be from parties to the right of us, and on others, they will be from parties to the left. Walking such a tightrope will require leaders who are able to cultivate friendships on both sides, yet not stumble into self-defeating compromises. The other tightrope will be running a secular campaign that manages to glorify God. That is my goal.”

Carroll sounds like someone Mennonite voters ought to know about, at least as a matter of curiosity, if not as a viable candidate.

The dilemma of two-party dominance in the United States is that voters are forced to compromise and politicians aren’t. Many Anabaptists would admit holding their noses at particular Republican or Democratic Party planks.

In parliamentary systems, votes for second-tier parties aren’t wasted. Smaller clusters of ideologies get representation too, often keeping the bigger groups from a majority and forcing compromise — a political virtue that has gone extinct in democracy’s cradle.

No one wants to throw a vote away nor help elect a candidate one didn’t vote for. The Greens were blamed for stealing Democratic votes and electing George W. Bush in 2000. But in a system where two parties hold all the power, the Brian T. Carrolls of the world merit consideration.

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