The Catholic Case for Andrew Yang

Human Dignity

First, Andrew Yang takes a more direct approach to uphold human dignity than other Democratic candidates. In a Catholic context, human dignity stems from the creation of humans in the like image of God. Because all humans are created in the Lord’s image, every human life has a fundamental, undeniable, special dignity that relates humanity to the spiritual realm. The Catholic Church thus asks its believers to always uphold this as the central determinant of their choices. However, the Trump administration doesn’t appear to be concerned with human dignity. There’s no question that locking up young children at the border denies their fundamental dignity. A society that allows 45,000 people to die yearly due to expensive healthcare does not prioritize human dignity. A country where 1 out of 7 children is born into poverty is not a country doing enough to combat poverty. Therefore, every candidate fighting for healthcare, the poor, and immigration justice addresses human dignity. Luckily, the entire Democratic field discusses these issues. However, Andrew Yang stands out in his affirmation of human dignity regarding automation.

Common Good

A second tenet of Catholic Social Teaching that Andrew Yang uniquely addresses is the Common Good. This element often reflects the actualization of human dignity. The common good involves loving one’s neighbor and organizing society with the good of all in mind. One aspect of the Common Good is the universal destination of goods or the idea that God created the world for all of his people so that material goods should be accessible insofar as people can achieve well-being. Another part of this doctrine is the preferential option for the poor, which is the primacy placed on helping the poor and weak in society (182). The Bible verse Matthew 25:40 sums this up in the statement, “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’”. Thus, candidates’ ideas to tackle poverty and create opportunity demonstrate their commitment to the common good. This is an area in which most Democratic candidates do well. Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, proposes thoughtful, progressive ideas on universal childcare and reforms to make housing more affordable. The list of Yang’s ideas that uphold the Common Good is immense, however; from Medicare for All, to affordable college, to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants, his entire platform embodies this aspect of Catholic Social Teaching. However, it is Yang’s most creative policies that prompt interesting questions about how American politics can better serve the common good. It’s worth highlighting those that challenge the vague cookie-cutter promises made by some other progressives.

Solidarity

A third element of Catholic Social Thought is Solidarity or the recognition of the bonds of community that drive humanity towards justice. Solidarity recognizes that people are inherently social and interrelated. As per Saint John Paul II, Solidarity is a responsibility towards all people together. The Compendium further outlines that Solidarity represents the commitment towards others stemming from this responsibility as well as the moral virtue that orders society to protect against sin. Policies that bolster the relationships between different communities and within them further solidarity. Structuring institutions such that they promote a genuine, tangible sense of inclusion strengthens these bonds. Because of humanity’s universality, Solidarity operates on many levels — between different countries, regions, counties, neighborhoods, classes, essentially any communities. Solidarity in Rerum Novarum, therefore, encompasses ideas that encourage humility in the face of social interaction so that all communities can share in its benefits.

Yang grilling.

Subsidiarity

The pillar of Catholic Social Teaching which Andrew Yang diverges most from the rest of the Democratic field is subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is not as often discussed as the aforementioned values, but without it, putting Catholic Social Teaching into practice in government is impossible. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church discusses subsidiarity as “higher-order societies” helping, promoting, and protecting “lower-order societies.” Simply put, this means that the government should not stifle the participation of lower-level governments, civil society, and communities themselves in policy and action. In turn, subsidiarity recognizes that “functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately”. This is not, as it may at first seem, a call for libertarian-style paring back of government. Certain activities, like interstate highway construction, universal primary education, and financial regulation cannot be performed adequately by private groups or local governments; thus, the central government does play a role in Catholic Social Teaching. Less about small government, subsidiarity emphasizes effective, participatory government.

Conclusion

Andrew Yang’s seemingly outlandish ideas might strike observers as unattainable and material for memes. However, what matters more than their practicality, considering that Yang is polling at an average of 1.3%, is the fact that policies furthering Catholic values will get a mention in the Democratic primary. Andrew Yang qualified for the first Democratic debate in June due to his polling and donor figures, assuring his place on the television screens of millions of Americans. This is the perfect platform for Yang to reach progressive Christians with an appeal to the faith values that his policies uniquely suit. What remains to be seen, however, is whether Democratic Catholics will listen and whether Yang’s presence will force other candidates to consider their appeals to human dignity, the common good, solidarity, and subsidiarity.

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Andrew Figueiredo

Andrew Figueiredo

Moderate Communitarian politics. Catholic. 1st Gen Portuguese-American born and raised in Kansas. Now a law student in Pennsylvania.