The Pre-Partisan Political Platform

John C. Rankin

The Pre-Partisan Political Platform is a more detailed expression of the politics of the Pre-Partisan Caucus. It is rooted in the the biblical ethos of the Mars Hill Forum series. This ethos can be summed up in the creation of a level playing field so that all ideas can be given the fullest possible hearing. If such an ethos can permeate the culture, the difference would be remarkable.

In political terms, I am a pro-life libertarian, which most closely approximates what it means to serve the biblical roots of unalienable rights given by the Creator  that of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness; congruent with the Declaration of Independence and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

For most of my years, I have been a registered independent, but upon return to my native Connecticut in 1992, two years later I registered with the Republican Party. I did so to participate in the primary system. But as well, there is room for pro-life libertarians in the Republican Party – though with tensions too – but there is virtually no room within the Democratic Party. This makes ma a small “r” republican. But I am first and always a minister of the Gospel as I interact with the political world.

The Pre-Partisan Caucus sets forth its vision simply, below, and then in detail with its Platform to follow.

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The Pre-Partisan Caucus (PPC)

Cut U.S. and State Laws by Over 99%

and Set the People Free

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A Pre-Partisan Covenant with the American People

Our nation presently needs 1) a vision for honest politics, 2) a means for all ideas to be heard equally, and thus, 3) the power to cut U.S. and state laws by over 99 percent.

To wit, here is a three-point covenant with the American people to be affirmed by any and all political participants, from citizens to office holders and candidates for the same:

First: The Six Pillars of Honest Politics

  1. The power to give affirms that the unalienable rights of life, liberty and a free market economy given by the Creator belong to all people equally, and leaders in human government should serve such a gift.
  2. The power to live in the light means leaders in human government at every level should be as fully transparent as possible.
  3. The power of informed choice is rooted in an honest definition of terms in political debate, providing a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, apart from which political freedom is not possible.
  4. The power to love hard questions is in place when political leaders honor and answer those who pose them the toughest questions.
  5. The power to love enemies recognizes that even the harshest of political opponents share a common humanity and are to be treated with respect.
  6. The power to forgive recognizes the need to address our individual and societal transgressions against one another, and to work toward justice and reconciliation.

These six pillars are by definition pre-partisan. In other words, they set the foundation for healthy partisan debates over public policy, in service to the consent of the governed. The deepest partisanship is the creation of a level playing field for all partisan ideas to be heard equally, where the pursuit of truth in any and all matters becomes possible. Truth will always rise to the top in an honest process.

Political candidates who live and articulate the substance of these pillars, regardless of political party, and in contrast with those who do not, deserve to be elected.

Second: The Committee on Political Ideas (COPI)

Rooted in the pre-partisan ethics of the six pillars of honest politics, a Committee is proposed to serve federal and state governments as a sheer positive foundation for good lawmaking. It can be sponsored by the executive and/or legislative branches.

  • COPI’s purpose is to be sure that all ideas for political debate are discussed in an open-ended fashion.
  • COPI has no lawmaking purposes, but rather serves as an information resource for Committees that work on writing law.
  • On a chosen topic, COPI receives applications from partisans, prioritizes their testimonies, and works through them until all ideas have been fully and publicly aired.
  • Written presentations for COPI are a maximum 2,000 words, presented orally, there is no limit on footnotes and attachments, and are followed by open-ended dialogue in all directions until the partisan is satisfied that he or she has been fully heard.

And Third: Taking Occam’s Razor to the Law

James Madison rightly feared that if laws become too “voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood,” then constitutional government is in danger. We are well past that point already.

With all partisan ideas fully heard and debated in the COPI process, it is then time to apply “Occam’s razor.” Namely, “to reduce needless redundancies,” and in knowing that the simplest explanation is usually the truest one, we can work to cut all law by over 99 percent.

In The Six Pillars of Honest Politics by John C. Rankin, he has taken Occam’s razor to Connecticut law, and cut it from 17,000 pages (as of 2006) down to 33. This can be done for any other state as well. He has likewise taken U.S. law and cut it from 48,000 pages (at the time) to 25. All the pandering, exceptions and needless complexities have been removed, making law simple and accessible.

This can cut the size of government and taxes in half and set the economy ablaze in service to all people equally. It is rooted in the biblical ethics of the unalienable rights of life, liberty and property which empower the pursuit of a socially integrated happiness.

When the COPI process is implemented fully, such a simplification of U.S. and state laws can become reality. Such a proposal can then be debated in the legislative process and submitted to the consent of the governed with the goal to replace existing law. If state and federal office holders resist this process, then members of the Pre-Partisan Caucus need to run for office and replace them.

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The six pillars of honest politics serve the power of simplicity, truth telling and transparency. They naturally separate honest politics in service to the consent of the governed, from self-serving political agendas. And out of honest politics flow the healthiest grappling with specific debated issues. When these six pillars are examined, is there anything in them that is not attractive to all people of good will? This is equally true for the atheist who may not like the mention of the Creator, yet likewise seeks to have his or her unalienable rights of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness protected. What other source is there for these rights? Out of unalienable rights comes the freedom for the atheist and all others to be who they are as political equals, under the rule of law in the United States.

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The Pre-Partisan Caucus, designed for legislators and those who support them, is most naturally suited for pro-life libertarians, but it is not exclusive. Anyone who affirms its three-point agenda is welcome. By the same token, its logic leads to a more detailed political platform, with a more detailed political philosophy defined, and though I attempt to make it fully biblical, there can be honest room for disagreement.

In 1993 I inaugurated the Mars Hill Forum series, seeking to embrace the same freedom Paul experienced on Mars Hill in Acts 17, where he was spontaneously alone in the presence of perhaps hundreds of the most professionally qualified skeptics possible, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of ancient Athens. He was giving answer for his belief in the Good News of Jesus.

In this series I seek to interact with qualified interlocutors on a range of topics, usually with skeptics of the biblical worldview, but also with fellow believers on topics of intramural church concern — in university settings, churches and other venues. The goal is to win honest relationships in the face of theological and cultural debates that otherwise divide people, all in service to the Gospel. For skeptics of the biblical worldview, the goal is to give an aggressive hospitality to their toughest questions. By “aggressive hospitality” I mean I go out of my way to proactively be in the presence of the questions of skeptics.

The term “Mars Hill” is the Latin reference to the place in ancient Athens that was the center of political authority and philosophical debate in its golden age. After the Roman conquest, political authority was stripped from Mars Hill, but philosophical debate remained and flourished. In Acts 17, the apostle Paul was invited spontaneously to address a meeting of the “Areopagus,” the original Greek term for Mars Hill (both references to the god of war). Paul appealed to the God of creation and unity of the human race, even citing Greek poets who were yearning for the same, and proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus in the presence of hundreds of skeptical philosophers who had rejected Greek polytheism. From many angles, therefore, Mars Hill is an apt metaphor for good public thinking on all matters theological and political.

Prior to the initiation of the Mars Hill Forum series, I headed up an evangelical pro-life ministry in Massachusetts (1983-1991), and was invited onto multiple dozens of college campuses to debate. My desire from the outset was to seek communication, in the goal of winning honest relationships across the debated topic, rather than mere debate. I saw first hand the power of a level playing field where both sides of a debate were heard. When I convened the Mars Hill Forum series, virtually any topic concerning theology and/or politics was in view, and to date I have hosted some 150 forums.

Rooted this in the ethos of the Mars Hill Forums, the Pre-Partisan Political Platform advocates its partisan views.

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Theological Foundation

The ethical nature of the pre-partisan covenant, of the six pillars of honest politics, is rooted in biblical theology:

The Six Pillars of Biblical Power – An Affirmation

  1. The power to give: We believe that the Creator, Yahweh Elohim, the Lord God Almighty, our heavenly Father, employs his unlimited power to give to and equally bless all people as image bearers of God. The power to give is modeled in the faithful marriage of one man and one woman, in parenthood, and is the basis for trust in human society.
  2. The power to live in the light: We believe that the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. As darkness and the prince of darkness flee the light, we embrace the power to live in the light of God’s presence, open and accountable to all people in all we believe, say and do.
  3. The power of informed choice: We believe that the Lord God gives us all the power of informed choice, to say yes to the good of freedom and life, and no to the evil of slavery and death.
  4. The power to love hard questions: We believe that the Lord God gives us the freedom and power to pose hard questions of him, and of one another, in Christian community. This is the power of sanctifying integrity.
  5. The power to love enemies: We believe that the Lord Jesus loved the world when we were yet enemies of the truth, drowning in a sea of broken trust. Now, as believers, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love those who are, at present, enemies of the Gospel.
  6. The power to forgive: We believe that the power to give is restored to the broken world through the power to forgive, purchased in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus, we as believers are called to extend this forgiveness to the broken world, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in celebration of the mercy that triumphs over judgment in the second coming of Jesus.

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These biblical and political ethics lead to a vision for a constitutional and limited government.

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The Pre-Partisan Political Platform

The Pre-Partisan Political Platform is based on trust in limited government. It is inclusive of any and all persons who celebrate limited government and the six pillars of honest politics. The Declaration of Independence gives the original definition to the scope of civil rights and the nature of a limited government to serve these rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

In the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, these rights are legally defined as the protection of persons from the deprivation of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law. In other words, these rights cannot be taken away from us by the power of the state, unless first we have taken one or several of these rights away from others.

The word “men” as used in the Declaration is understood in its best literary sense as inclusive of all humankind – men, women and children. It was this commitment to unalienable rights, with the checks and balances on power in the consent of the governed that enabled the United States to overcome inherited evils. Especially, it allowed us to legally emancipate blacks and women to fully participate in our democratic and constitutional republic. And it should apply likewise to Native Americans.

The basis for civil rights in the Declaration naturally follows the biblical order of creation where the subjects of God, life, choice and sex are introduced. In the beginning is God, and his highest goal in creation is human life, as he made man and woman in his image to be stewards of the good creation. Then man and woman are given the power of moral and aesthetic choices. The most important choice involves human sexuality, where in marriage and the establishment of a household, there resides the power to pass on the gifts of life, choice and sex, through procreation, to our children.

The Declaration begins with God as our Creator who gives us unalienable rights. The first is that of life, followed by liberty that equals the language of choice and freedom. Then the language of “the pursuit of happiness,” equally with that of “property,” indicates the concern for human sexuality. Here, as man and woman join in marriage, they then establish a new household, which is their basis for property rights and economic productivity, which in total equals the basis for the individual and society’s power to pursue happiness.

Rooted in biblical ethics, the Pre-Partisan Political Platform affirms six pillars of honest politics that are universal in aspiration, and an excellent foundation for a healthy political order:

  1. The power to give affirms that the unalienable rights given by the Creator belong to all people equally, and leaders in human government should serve such a gift.
  2. The power to live in the light means leaders in human government at every level should be as fully transparent as possible.
  3. The power of informed choice is rooted in an honest definition of terms in political debate, providing a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, apart from which political freedom is not possible.
  4. The power to love hard questions is in place when political leaders honor and answer those who pose them the toughest questions.
  5. The power to love enemies recognizes that even the harshest of political opponents share a common humanity and are to be treated with respect.
  6. The power to forgive recognizes the need to address our individual and societal transgressions against each other, and to work toward justice and reconciliation.

As human life is protected, human liberty is established, and property rights and the pursuit of happiness are made possible.

These three contexts for civil rights equal the scope of a limited government, at the federal and state levels. Their necessary and logical order equals the framework for defining good law.

Life

Apart from a definition of human life, questions of liberty, property and law are moot. Pre-Partisan Political Platform affirms:

  1. All human life is made in God’s image, is of equal value in God’s sight, and for its entire natural duration, is to be protected by due process of law as the first order of human government.
  2. The historic family unit, rooted in heterosexual, faithful and monogamous marriage, and the fullest possible presence of both father and mother in the raising of children, is the basic institution in society. It is based on the power to give and it is the cradle for human life. As such, it deserves unique cultural and legal affirmation.
  3. Civil society can only exist when trust exists in human relationships, this is what the power to give yields, and is best learned in the intrinsic nature of faithful marriage and parenting.
  4. Life can only be forfeit, after due process, when a person deprives another of his or her life.

Liberty

All liberties are in service to human life, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sets forth the order of liberties necessary for a just society:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Pre-Partisan Political Platform affirms:

  1. The first freedom is that of religious liberty, and only when it is secured is there freedom of speech, press, assembly and redress of grievances. The “free exercise thereof” is secured as Congress gives no preference to one church denomination or religious organization over another; as it refuses to establish churches, and as it is free itself from being established by a church.
  2. The goal is “free exercise,” which is to say that citizens of all religious or philosophical persuasions are invited to participate in the political process according to their express beliefs, to participate on a genuine level playing field.
  3. Religious liberty celebrates the enfranchisement of all minority worldviews, guaranteeing the vote to all law-abiding citizens. Majority and plurality religious or political worldviews expect no more freedom to advocate their positions than the freedom minority worldviews have. By the same token, minority worldviews have no more freedom to see their positions morally or legally enfranchised, beyond what they can win through the persuasion of the consent of the governed.
  4. For those who by choice, circumstance or the brokenness of adversity do not participate fully or partly as members of the historic family unit, they should be equally free from punitive laws restricting private associations. All persons, however, must accept accountability for the public consequences of their private associations and actions, and in no way deprive others of life, liberty or property.
  5. The education of children is the primary responsibility and liberty of parents. As such, government must serve this prerogative, and serve local liberties to define the nature and relationship between private and public education. This freedom of choice in primary and secondary education is the foundation for a vibrant higher education, for this nation’s commitment to a genuine liberal arts discipline in all the sciences, and thus for preparation of leadership in all sectors of the culture.
  6. There is a crucial liberty for people to choose their own means of health coverage, retirement provision and other “insurance” and “social security” type needs apart from government mandated means. By the same token, where government means have been mandated in the past, all such promises must be honored.
  7. The liberty for citizens to disobey civil government is only applicable when and if the Bill of Rights were to be abridged by the force of a coercive and unconstitutional State power, thus seeking to force citizens to deny their religious or other beliefs in word or deed.
  8. An immigration policy rooted in the identity of the United States as a nation of immigrants reflects the power to give; our future identity is rooted in the same power to give that welcomes legal immigrants.
  9. In its international role, the United States should model its constitutional freedoms. Wherever religious, political and economic liberties are respected or sought after, the United States is free to join in mutually appropriate relationships. As well, the United States maintains its prerogative for national sovereignty and defense as the best means to be an agent for religious, political and economic liberty within the community of nations, respecting equally the same aspirations of all other peoples.
  10. Liberty can only be forfeit, after due process, when a person deprives another of his or her rights.

Property

Once life and liberty are secured, property rights and the pursuit of happiness become possible. The Pre-Partisan Political Platform affirms:

  1. The ownership and protection of private property, to keep what is honesty earned, to buy, sell, and trade based on the same; this is the liberty for all to pursue.
  2. The reservation of rights to property belongs first with the people, and then within the local and state jurisdictions that are outside the scope of a limited federal government.
  3. The jurisdiction of a limited federal government includes those areas where interstate cooperation is necessary for the common good; such as national defense, commerce and the protection of the environment; as well as the protection of life, liberty and property in capacities that transcend an individual state jurisdiction, or supersede it in concert with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and property.
  4. The right for collective bargaining in labor matters, and the right not to participate in the same, are equally necessary.
  5. Tax policies must support society’s dependence on the historic family unit, must be in fair proportion to government’s legitimate needs, must be derived from productive economic activity, and must encourage entrepreneurial ventures and capital formation for businesses and job creation.
  6. The ethical commitment and logical order of a free market economy is: “Earn all you can, save all you can, employ all you can, and give away all you can.” Accordingly, it is understood that wealth, and the cognate power for charity, are produced by families and workers in the private sector, not by government. Government serves the free market economy in its constitutional role of protecting life, liberty and property.
  7. The support of the historic family unit rooted in the faithful presence of both the father and mother, is the best deterrent to criminal actions that violate persons and property, and the best deterrent to substance abuse.
  8. Property can only be forfeit, after due process, when a person deprives another of his or her rights.

The Pre-Partisan Political Platform affirms the above principles as a guideline for specific public policies. It believes that the government that governs the least governs the best, and accordingly is committed to reducing the complexity and amount of current local, state and federal statutes as much as possible.

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Specific Application

Under the definitions of life, liberty and property, these tightly worded statements give freedom for public debate on a level playing field, and can thus result in much simpler laws. All statements are as proactive as possible, affirming the good, which is to say, trusting that where light shines, the darkness will dissipate. There is no need to waste ink chasing down and accusing the darkness.

Thus, debates over such issues as human abortion, same-sex marriage, capital punishment, church and state, minority rights, laws regarding human sexuality and pornography, education, health insurance, civil disobedience, immigration, international relations, war and peace, property law, eminent domain, federalism, labor, taxes, economic well being, substance abuse, and a range of others, find their respective places to be addressed.

So much in partisan politics is marketed as being for or against a certain legislative bill, which may or may not be informative as to where a given legislator stands on the deepest issues underlying the bill. Thus, “congressional scorecards” or “voter guides” can be suspect – they often judge the candidate or representative on politically compromised or fungible language. Let’s define the terms clearly on the deepest issues, and once we know where a political candidate or office holder stands, we have better ability to trust how he or she will interpret and vote on sundry legislation. This is the goal of the six pillars and Mars Hill Society platform.

In essence, these realities translate into what can be called, in the penultimate sense, a “pro-life libertarian” political position – the best way to sum up the Declaration of independence, the U.S. Constitution and the federalist Papers – all rooted in unalienable rights given by the Creator. Liberty is central. And liberty has a deliberate order where religious liberty allows political liberty which allows economic liberty.

Summation

Rooted in the pursuit of simplicity, truth telling and transparency as a summation of the six pillars, the Pre-Partisan Political Platform believes the following eight goals can be realized:

  1. The power of a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally – the truth can then best be understood.
  2. The power to maximize unalienable rights for all people equally.
  3. The power to build a healthy society rooted in the nature of marriage and parenthood.
  4. The power to reduce statutory law by at least 99 percent, and thus reduce the size of state government drastically, while greatly increasing the quality of the government for its essential purposes.
  5. The power to cut state taxes drastically.
  6. The power of an unleashed free market economy to help the state become the best destination in the nation for honest and creative businesses.
  7. The power of an unleashed free market economy to cut health care costs drastically, while greatly increasing its quality and access to all people equally.
  8. The power of an unleashed free market economy to set local neighborhoods free to prosper, to build up the middle class, and serve tangible hope and prosperity for the poor and needy.

Simplified State and Federal Constitutions, and Statutory Law

As earlier noted, James Madison stated: “If the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood,” then it does us little good to have an elected government. When laws are too complex for the society at large to understand, then government becomes the playground for various politicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, et al., whose purposes are other than the genuine consent of the governed.

Madison would be horrified at today’s political swamp in the United States, and the gathering speed of its death spiral, where mind numbing top-down enslaving complexities serve a self-appointed elitist political class, with their allies. The purpose in chapters 8 and 9, is to take Occam’s razor and return to simplicity, the power of trust, and hence, the liberty into which this nation was born and aspired to attain.

The defining partisanship of the Pre-Partisan Caucus, both theologically and politically, is the creation of a level playing field for all partisan ideas to be heard equally. Thus, churches can fully participate politically as well. They will never be asked to endorse candidates or parties, but rather are free to host forums where all candidates for a particular office, and/or other dissenters, are equally invited to be heard. This is above reproach in the sight of the Internal Revenue Service, even in view of the unconstitutional 1954 federal law that sought to restrict the political liberties of pastors and churches. But especially, it is biblical – the power of the level playing field.

The Pre-Partisan Caucus is sponsored by the Theological Education Institute (TEI), LLC. It is neither a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation, nor a political action committee (PAC), nor a political party, thus maximizing its own freedom as a voluntary association.

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