Joyce Rice is an educator and homemaker in San Francisco. A second-generation Chinese-American, Joyce grew up in the Chicago suburbs and attended Wheaton College (IL), where she studied physics and theology. A rank-and-file member of the American Solidarity Party since 2019, this is her take on why she supports a third party.
The American Commons: Before you found the American Solidarity Party, were you involved in politics?
Rice: No, I was not. In fact, the first time I voted, in 2008, I could not decide between John McCain and Barack Obama, so I actually left that part of the ballot blank. After that indecision, in 2012, I did not bother to vote.
The American Commons: How did you hear about the American Solidarity Party?
Rice: My husband found it online in 2016. When I read the 2016 platform, I was very impressed. I officially joined as a voting member in 2019.
The American Commons: Who did you vote for president in 2020 and why?
Rice: I voted for Brian Carroll of the American Solidarity Party. The main reasons are the following:
- I live in California, where Biden was sure to win with a large majority. Thus, I found it to be a better use of my vote to amplify a third-party that aligns with my values than to weigh in on the two major parties.
- I don’t feel that either major party represents me.
- I think one of the biggest problems facing our democracy is how polarized we are. The two major parties don’t work together, and we desperately need someone who is willing to work across party lines. The ASP is well-positioned to work with both parties, and Brian Carroll promised in his campaign to have a bipartisan cabinet.
- I’ve interacted with Brian Carroll, and I know him to be kind, thoughtful and humble.
The American Commons: Have your political views shifted over time and why?
Rice: Yes, I grew up evangelical, but also the child of immigrants. Looking back, I don’t feel that either myself or my family really understood American politics, but we did listen to a lot of conservative Christian radio, which tends to be very right-leaning. So I grew up mostly apolitical, but with the vague idea that Republicans were the ones who cared about Christians and stood up for people like me.
In 2006, I attended a Christian college, which ironically exposed me to Christians of every political stripe. This actually helped me break out of my fears that the Left was out to get me and think critically about how different issues aligned with my religious and cultural beliefs. I became much more open to the Democratic party, but never landed there.
In 2016, I started paying more serious attention to politics. I was shocked by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Someone told me about the American Solidarity Party, and I found that I agreed more with the ASP platform than the platform of any other American political party.
The American Commons: What personal experiences have shaped your political views?
Rice: Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I felt a lot of pressure to hide my religious faith. While my town was not particularly blue, the teachers at my public school who were most vocal about politics had a tendency to disparage “conservative Christians” and “evangelicals.” Though I didn’t know much about American politics, I noticed that these teachers tended to lean left, so I often felt attacked by the Left (the Pacific Research Institute found that among American teachers, Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to 1. A 15 year old study found similar, although less extreme, imbalances present in higher education. Thus, non-profit groups like Heterodox Academy have formed to work towards viewpoint diversity in higher education).
Studying theology in college and after gave me time to work out my views on many topics in relation to my faith and away from the pressures of the daily news cycle. My views became gradually more conformed to Catholic social teaching, but since I went to a Protestant school, I didn’t know that term at the time.
Being the daughter of Chinese immigrants has also affected my political views. As the Republican party’s views on immigration have hardened over the last 10 years, I’m increasingly unable to be at home within the Right. At the same time, I have traditional views about family and the importance of tradition and community that are hard to square with the progressivism of the Left. My grandfather was part of the post-World War II exodus to Taiwan and has first-hand stories of how Chinese communists tortured family members. Thus, the Marxist tendencies of the extreme Left scare me. For example, some leftists have called for a federal Department of Anti-Racism that would preclear “all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas.” In 2020, California’s Proposition 16 suggested removing anti-discrimination language from the State Constitution so that the State could discriminate in favor of “oppressed” groups; it did not pass. This is called “Critical Race Theory” and people like Neil Shenvi have worked to detail the Marxist roots that lie beneath it.
As a young adult, I lived in rural Indiana, where I volunteered at my church, worked at a town-run summer camp, and volunteered with a non-profit that focused on helping people out of poverty. These experiences gave me a first-hand view of rural poverty and the kinds of problems middle America is facing. As I reflected on what I saw, I felt that neither of the major parties had solutions for these problems.
The American Commons: Where do you see agreement between yourself and people who are somewhere else on the political spectrum?
Rice: I find common ground with Democrats on issues like immigration, the environment, racism and the struggles of the urban poor. With Republicans, I find common ground on abortion, religious liberty, the importance of family and community, and the struggles of the rural poor. With Libertarians, I can agree that we need balanced budgets, less overall government spending, and deregulation in industries where there is over-regulation.
The American Commons: How does your faith inform your politics?
Rice: I think my faith helps me see the importance of using my vote to not only represent my own interests, but also to keep in mind the interests of my neighbors, especially the “least of these.” I think that if my politics reflected my deepest fears, the conspiracy theory that would resonate most with me is that our government is going to take away our religious freedom and the ability to educate our kids the way we want. You might remember California’s recent attempt to withdraw state funding from Christian colleges. Or that Harvard professor’s suggested ban on homeschooling. Attempts to ban homeschooling have a long history in the US. Trends like these are concerning. However, my faith teaches me to trust God regarding my own needs. Instead of fearing what others may do to me, I should be more afraid that my neighbor will have reason to cry out to God because of me, and that God, who is compassionate, will hear (Exodus 22:27). So that compels me to take a wider view and consider the needs of my neighbor.
The American Commons: What areas of tension exist between your faith and your political party/candidate?
Rice: I think the biggest area of tension for me is remembering that just because my party lines up nicely with my faith does not mean that the party is equivalent to or even the primary means to the Kingdom of God. We need God to intervene in our lives and save us, and no human government, no matter how godly or well-constructed, will bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. When God sent Jesus to the world, Jesus had the chance to become King and to establish an earthly political kingdom. Instead, He chose to give his life for the world in humble sacrifice. A Church that lives out Christ’s self-giving ethic of humble sacrifice is God’s plan A for redeeming the world and bringing salvation to all people. So, it’s important for me to keep that straight and not be tempted to think that our society’s salvation will come primarily through political activity. When I’m tempted to solve problems primarily through political means, it helps me to first take my thoughts, feelings, and concerns to God in prayer. Once I’ve spent time in the presence of God, I’m able to see more clearly and work on things from a place of peace and security rather than a place of anxiety, anger or fear.
The American Commons: How are you currently involved in the ASP?
Rice: Right now, I mostly pay attention when members are asked to vote on internal decisions or if there is an ASP candidate running for office that I can support. I also occasionally write for the ASP magazine. My family donates a little bit to the ASP each year. I’m not currently in a place where I can devote a lot of time and energy to political activities, but I would be interested in joining a local chapter someday.
The American Commons: How do you see the ASP making the US a better place?
Rice: From my perspective, there are several ways the ASP is already making the US a better place. The American Solidarity Party promotes Catholic social teaching and the philosophy of Christian democracy. These are powerful ideas that paint a better vision of how society and government could function. Even if the ASP does not become a majority party, if Catholic social teaching became more mainstream among the two major parties, I would jump for joy. Similarly, the ASP gives faithful Christians who find the two major parties morally reprehensible a place to camp politically. As we saw in the January attack on the Capitol, people claimed that the Bible and Christianity supported their attack on the Capitol, which in fact runs contrary to what the Bible teaches regarding respect for government authority. Similarly, many Christians are embracing critical race theory or contemporary views on sexuality and allowing that to reshape their worldview, even when it means abandoning centuries of Christian tradition. Since from my perspective, ASP principles align better with the Christian tradition, it is a little easier for me to be faithful to my baptismal identity as a member of the ASP. Of course, the church is my primary place for Christian formation, and I would never want a political party to take the place of a healthy church.
In national politics, it’s my hope that in the next decade, the ASP can start winning seats in Congress. Even if the ASP only held a small percentage of congressional seats—say, 5%–the ASP could have out-sized power if this means that one or both of the two major parties no longer has a majority. For example, imagine a Senate with 48 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 4 Solidarians. Both major parties would be forced to reach out either across the aisle or to the ASP to pass anything. It would force the two major parties to work together, and the ASP senators would hold a lot of power as the “wild card” that could side with either of the two major parties.
However, from the perspective of Christian witness and alignment with my core identity as a follower of Christ, I would be here even if the ASP never gains power.
The American Commons: Thank you so much for your time, Joyce.
You can learn more about the American Solidarity Party here. Their party platform can be found here. You can follow the official American Solidarity Party Twitter account here. The American Commons magazine is an online publication run by rank-and-file American Solidarity Party members. We are not directly affiliated with the party in any official capacity.
By Joyce Rice
James G Hanink
Thanks for the thoughtful piece!