There’s a new party on the scene. According to The Week,
Dozens of former Republicans and Democrats have joined forces to launch Forward, a new centrist political party. Its founders include Andrew Yang, the onetime Democratic presidential candidate; Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey; and David Jolly, a former GOP congressman from Florida.
“Political extremism is ripping our nation apart, and the two major parties have failed to remedy the crisis,” Yang, Whitman, and Jolly wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. In the last two years, there has been a “spike in political intimidation,” they said, and “if nothing is done, the United States will not reach its 300th birthday this century in recognizable form.” The op-ed cited a 2021 Gallup poll that found half of U.S. adults identify as independent and 62 percent believe the Democratic and Republican parties “do such a poor job representing the American people that a third party is needed.”
It’s hard to argue with the criticism–but not at all difficult to criticize the remedy. Third parties in the U.S. face formidable challenges, and–if history is any guide–virtually all efforts to provide a third-party option have managed only to be “spoilers.” (No matter what Ralph Nader says, his third-party run gave us George W. Bush.)
I agree with Stuart Stevens, who was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012. Stevens was quoted as saying that it is “extraordinarily difficult to get on the ballot. It is extraordinarily difficult to create a party structure from nowhere. My greatest fear about this is that it is going to detract and distract people from what is really the greatest crisis we have, which is stopping an autocratic movement. I hate to say, it sounds harsh, [but] it’s sort of a vanity project.”
There’s a reason that the two third-party Senators currently serving–Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine —caucus and vote with the Democrats.
A political historian, writing in the Guardian, came to the same conclusion. The author found the Forward party to be ” ill conceived, based on a faulty idea of how to fix America’s descent into political madness, and likely to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.”
At the core of the party’s justification for its own existence is the suggestion that both of America’s two major parties are to blame for the country’s dysfunction, and that the only way to move forward is to replace them with something new. This is a misleading and self-serving diagnosis. Whatever gripes one might have with its policies, the Democratic party is the only one of the two major parties committed to basic democratic and liberal norms. The problem that ails America is that Republicans are not.
The absurdity of this attempt to create a false equivalence becomes even clearer when the new party’s founders talk details. They argue that “most Americans” agree neither with “the far right’s insistence on eliminating gun laws” nor with “calls from the far left to confiscate all guns and repeal the Second Amendment”. But these two things are not the same: the first is what is actually happening in America right now, whereas the second is a view that was attributed to Kamala Harris as part of a fabricated smear on Facebook and enjoys approximately zero support in the Democratic party.
On abortion, the party’s founders similarly contrast “the far right’s quest to make a woman’s choice a criminal offence” with “the far left’s extreme views on late-term abortions”. Once again, the false equivalence is startling. It’s thanks to the mainstream Republican party, not the “far right”, that abortion is now illegal in eight states, with many more expected to follow. “Late-term abortion”, meanwhile, is a medically meaningless term used by conservatives to imply that women who have life-saving surgery late in their pregnancy are in fact having elective abortions, cheered on all the way by baby-killing liberals.
America’s problem is that the current GOP isn’t a reasonable alternative for sane people who disagree with Democratic policies. They have nowhere to go.
Since Yang seems to be the only identifiable Democrat involved, Forward could be that alternative–especially since there are a number of Republicans in addition to Whitman and Jolly. If we’re lucky, Forward may end up just being a refuge for unhappy Republicans, pulling disproportionately from the GOP. (Fingers crossed…)
Meanwhile, The Nation’s justice correspondent wants to know what the new Party stands for. As he tweeted: “Do these people have an actual *platform* with, like, POLICIES and stuff … or is it just an amalgam of people too conservative to win a Dem primary but not racist enough to win a GOP one?”