The Society has included the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in its current strategic plan, and has been working quietly now for several years to prepare for this election season. How can we do this when we don’t yet know the people running for office, you wonder. Regardless of the personalities, we already know the election timing and the issues most important to us. Our planning has been to insure that issues involving our friends in need are at the forefront of the campaign issues and discussions.
As a nonprofit organization, the Society is not allowed to discuss and/or recommend candidates. We prefer in fact not even to favor one party over another. We instead stick to values and to ideas. Our hope is that regardless of which party, which candidate ultimately wins an election at the federal level (including Senators and Representatives), poverty, and its related issues are part of the national conversation.
Several years ago, the Society signed on to the Circle of Protection, a Christian coalition of many organizations that collaborate on keeping poverty high on the national agenda. The Circle sent letters to all prospective candidates in previous elections asking for their positions through written and video communications that could be shared with the Circle’s many coalition memberships and outside interested parties. This activity is planned to expand for the 2016 elections, and the Society is part of the effort. We will also work closely with the USCCB, Catholic Charities and others active in the Catholic Social Ministries Gatherings to look at specific issues of importance to Catholics including not only poverty and systemic change but also of life, religious freedom, immigration, prison re-entry, marriage and other Catholic social teaching issues. That’s a big plate!
Even within that tight framework and collaborative approach, though, there can be so many hot-topic issues that it can be difficult to achieve desired focus. We’ll need to let others carry the ball at times. The Society may appear to soften its participation in some areas while it strengthens in others. The value of a strategic plan, and an active national Voice of the Poor committee, is to determine many of these choices before the heat of campaign battle rhetoric. Our focus on poverty must remain at the forefront of our Society’s national conversations in this election cycle. Too many families depend on our success in achieving platform promises, funding priorities and economic success measures to improve and stabilize their lives. We must not fail them.
No one in the Society will expect all of our Vincentians to support the same party or the same candidates. Our work ahead of us must strive for accuracy, fairness and transparency regarding what we think we know about platforms and ideas throughout the campaign season. Again, we will focus on ideas and national priority areas that ultimately help our friends in need, and we’ll continue to ask and to demand that all candidates have poverty issues in their priorities for action if elected. Conservative or Liberal or Moderate, Republican or Democrat or Independent, we will hold all of them accountable for their role in helping the neediest of our friends and fellow citizens.
As an individual Vincentian and Conference member, you can be an active participant in insuring that poverty is a major campaign topic at the local and state level. Such priorities often bubble up from grass roots conversations. It is not too early to get started. We know that many, many other issues, serious and frivolous, will be vying for candidate and media attention. Part of systemic change is trying to change the larger systems that can influence whether or not a family stays in or emerges from poverty. It begins with finding the right people to get it done, and we are blessed to live in a country where the people influence these personnel decisions through elections. Your voice now, and vote later, can be a huge part of our Society’s and our faith’s efforts to help the poor. Let the campaigns begin!