SDP Talks with Patrick Harris

Patrick and William discuss the American political scene, the problems of big tech and crony capitalism, the folly of recent foreign military interventions, and the hope that communitarian politics brings for the future.

By: William Clouston

In this episode of SDPTalks, SDP leader William Clouston speaks with Patrick Harris, the chairman of the American Solidarity Party.

Patrick and William discuss the American political scene, the problems of big tech and crony capitalism, the folly of recent foreign military interventions, and the hope that communitarian politics brings for the future.

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  • Excellent discussion. We look forward to joining you in future discussions from The Sensible Centre in Australia. We are on the same page.

    A comment on the term ‘centrism’. The reality is that, historically, there have been two kinds of centrism – the elite, neo-liberal version and the communitarian, distributist version. We have had both in Australia, historically, and they have competed, waxing and waning. Our strand of centrism has several Christian Democratic iterations – the first in 1920 with the formation of the Democratic Party by the Catholic Federation of Australia. This was a false start, but it happened again successfully in 1955 with a Catholic breakaway from the Australian Labour Party called the Democratic Labour Party (which was represented in the Senate from 1955 to 1977).

    In the 1970s and 1980s it was replaced by the elite, neo-liberal version in a party called the Australian Democrats (represented in the Senate from 1977-2004). But this version is now in dramatic decline. It has morphed into the cultural left and Green Party, and has become indistinguishable now from the general Left. We are now claiming the centrist space for the communitarian, distributist version.

    However, a confessionally Catholic political party is a mistake, and in particular a policy stance of abortion prohibition is not wise. The abortion prohibition stance continues to marginalise Catholic social activists and Catholic social thought in Australia in a very pronounced way. We say that abortion should not be prohibited (any more than alcohol) but that, in a messy and imperfect world, it is a necessary evil. This is the one issue on which we part company with the Christian Democratic tradition.

    We retain use of the term ‘centre’ because our electoral system makes it the pragmatic place in which to be positioned. We do not have a first-past-the-post electoral system, we have a ‘preferential system’(sometimes called the ‘Australian’ system in some countries). This is a pretty good system – voters number the candidate options in the order of their preference – if there are six candidates on offer, voters number them from 1 to 6 in order of their preference. If the candidate of your first preference is not elected, your vote is transferred across to your second preference, and so on, until one candidate gets 50% +1 of the vote and is elected. In our Senate, based on proportional representation, this means being in the centre is the place to be, rather than on the fringe Left or fringe Right. What this means is that the natural positioning for reformist and populist sentiment is in the ‘centre’, against both Left and Right, in the mainstream as against the extremes.

    There’s so much more to say and talk about. I hope we can.

Family, Community, Nation.