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Thursday, September 15, 2016

We've Made It to Rumordom! Confronting the First-Ever Mischaracterization of the American Solidarity Party


Every political candidate or party has been dogged by baseless rumors and mischaracterizations. It comes with the territory of being visible. So, perhaps I should rejoice in the fact that the American Solidarity Party has reached the "milestone" of being grossly misrepresented (deliberately or otherwise, I won’t assume one way or the other). What, exactly, is the token of our growing popularity? We dig child porn!

That's right, readers. This overwhelmingly Christian party, which is otherwise socially conservative on issues like sexual morality and abortion, has somehow dropped the ball on child pornography.  The notion that such a party could support or condone this scourge is incomparably more fanciful than the wildest so-called "conspiracy theory" being pedaled this electoral season.  What could have given rise to this absurdity?

There is a tendency among many people to conflate one’s moral position on an issue with his policy position on it.  However, these positions relate to two entirely different concerns.  The latter concerns the means that society should employ in addressing the issue, while the former concerns the question of whether it ought to be viewed as a moral problem.  Bad things happen when we misconstrue a disagreement over the most effective way of solving a problem – especially one that is as unquestionably vile as child pornography - as a disagreement over whether the problem should be regarded as such.  The emotional reaction of some ASP members and observers to an earlier plank in our platform to subject consumers of child pornography “to a regime of treatment, rather than incarceration,” suggests that such a misconstrual has occurred. 

I can’t believe that I feel compelled to affirm this, but there is absolutely no room for debate over whether child pornography is tolerable.  However, a moral position on a problem doesn’t in itself imply the best way to combat it.  Those who supported the plank (which has since been removed) appreciated this fact.  They were willing to think outside the policy box, recognizing that policy is a means, not the end.  On the reasonable assumption that locking people up cannot, in itself, heal them of their underlying illness, they believed that treating offenders is a far more effective means of fighting child pornography than putting them behind bars.  We can certainly disagree over whether this belief is correct; during my nine days as the ASP presidential candidate (long story), I personally opted for an approach that combined treatment with incarceration.  But please, people: let’s not mistake such a disagreement for one over whether child pornography is a problem that needs to be eradicated!

It was only a matter of time before we’d be grossly mischaracterized for something.  But I always expected that our growing popularity would be followed by – oh, I don’t know - the accusation that we had a secret plot to install the Pope as president.  But no - we got child porn.  Nevertheless, my hope is that the transparent absurdity of this notion won’t be lost on most people.