About That Third Party…

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?” 

Good question.


  1. I have yet to see anything good come from a third party, and I am old. Idealistic young people get sucked into these endeavors not knowing they are wasting their time and money. As prof keeps pointing out, there is but ONE sane choice right now. Please do not get distracted. The R’s must be defeated — NOW.

  2. If I had to guess, I’d put my money on “…just an amalgam of people too conservative to win a Dem primary but not racist enough to win a GOP one?”

  3. I’m all for 3rd parties if they rise out of the Republican party, not the Democratic party. As many as they can possibly manage.

  4. Well, the first three posters projected their rightness from the center. Anyone with a Twitter account and about a week can discover that the Labour and Democratic Party are suffering from the same problems. If we rid them of their corruption, the need for a third party would be unnecessary. Same for the Republican Party.

    The problem is corruption, and none of you see it as a Democratic problem. The corrupt party is always on the other side of the propaganda media. 😉

  5. Throughout history, third parties have been formed to promote particular candidates or issues. The Forward Party promises to be non-ideological and to not take positions on issues. Supposedly it’s just an empty vehicle for disaffected Republicans and Democrats. The concept makes no sense to me.

  6. Sorry, Sheila, but it is easy to argue with the criticism, and you proceed to do so.

    One thing though. I notice that every time someone suggests that we need a new party in the “center”, the coalition looks like Reagan would be its most left-leaning member.

    Whitman – famous for cutting taxes while balancing the budget. It was simple. She defunded the state pension fund. Zero contributions.

    Besides my need to remind people that Whitman is no saint, or even good for the average citizen, the rest of your post is devastatingly on point. I can’t add a thing – except I like to point out whenever I agree with Paul’s comment. 8)>

  7. My wife and I had a long conversation about this op-ed while traveling over the weekend. While I was certainly excited about some movement on this front, she was not so moved. She noted, appropriately so, that “new” parties usually arise around some major issue or due to some sort of seismic shift in political thinking. She was not convinced this has happened and felt this was doomed. I argued that I think the issue that can unite a new working majority of voters is “privacy”. If this new political party effort can work to ensure our private lives actually can exist under a Constitution that doesn’t mention that word specifically, then it could get somewhere – at least it can give safe harbor to those who are fearful of the religious zealots who seem to be growing their forces as of late. However, I am not that smart, and my wife has her PhD in Political Science so I am the first to admit that she will, most likely, be proven correct. But a boy can dream…

  8. Sorry, Sheila, but this was the most weakly researched piece I’ve ever seen from you. Much of what you say about FORWARD is not representative of what they are about. They were founded by liberals and moderate Republicans are joining the movement for common sense solutions. <– Notice the mission.

    This post is an obvious continuation of the Democratic Party's fear of losing power, part of the two-party problem that FORWARD is solving.

    You believe that FORWARD has no "platform," but they have always focused on recovering and restoring the democratic elections system.

    “virtually all efforts to provide a third-party option have managed only to be ‘spoilers.’” The current two parties are spoilers of democracy, locked in opposition to each other to the disservice of average Americans, 62% of whom want a third option.

    Third parties have been spoilers … except when they are not. Such as when the Republican Party was established in 1854 because neither of the existing parties took a strong position to support anti-slavery.

    Today's problem is that the existing two parties not only failed for decades to take a strong position to support our democratic election system , but one party is opposed to democracy, and the other participates in gerrymandering and controlling the election system to its own benefit … out of fear of losing power. Both existing parties have cost us our election system, and the American people are out to get it back.

  9. Todd Smekkens – Well said.
    “The problem is corruption, and none of you see it as a Democratic problem. The corrupt party is always on the other side of the propaganda media.”

  10. Two Republicans and one Democrat to NOT a Third Party make! Lest you have forgotten we have had a FOUR party system for a number of years now; the fact that they have no chance of ever winning should have been a clue to the chance of more than a two party system here to reach the majority. That hasn’t worked in recent decades due to the Electoral College and rewriting of the filibuster in Congress maintaining minority control over all.

    The Nation’s correspondent may wonder what the new Party stands for; we who are thinking Americans are still wondering what the Republican party stands for. The current foundation is based on the Big Lie and maintaining the filibuster while finding a way to give control to alternate Electoral College members to decide the presidency in their favor AGAIN.

  11. Paul Ogden – “not take positions on issues”?? They aren’t participating in oppositional political arguments. Instead, their position is to negotiate “common sense solutions” (which are abundant) and implement them (actually get something done). The current two-party Congress is out of touch … We’ve known that for decades. To caught up in the political oppositionism, dividing us, failing to compromise to pass common sense solutions that the majority of Americans know about and support.

  12. TLentych – ““new” parties usually arise around some major issue or due to some sort of seismic shift in political thinking.” Precisely! Look at the long list of “new” parties – especially early in our history – that stood up for a particular issue instead of just maintaining political power.

    “privacy” – FORWARD uses the term Free People. See the website.

  13. Yes, boys and girls can dream….
    In 1800, who would have dreamt that slavery, an established way of life and foundation of the southern economy, would have ever been abolished?
    In 1850, who would have ever dreamt that women would ever be allowed to vote?
    In 1900, who would have ever dreamt that women would ever be allowed to hold office?
    In 1950, who would have ever dreamt that smoking would not be allowed in businesses and restaurants?
    The two self-serving parties that have a stranglehold on this country each care about one thing: doing whatever helps their party. And thanks to the robotic blind allegiance of a populace that votes (or doesn’t) based on family tradition, apathy or laziness, TLentych’s wife is probably correct that the D’s and R’s will continue to suppress any possibility of competition from another party.
    I’m glad there were dreamers around in 1800, 1850, 1900 and 1950. Unfortunately, in 2022, working to accomplish dreams has been replaced by complacency.

  14. I don’t know how many times this has to be said, I suspect an infinite number would not be sufficient to get the point across but… Todd – NO ONE believes the democratic party is blameless or all good. People believe that one side of the aisle is corrupt and filled with problems, but not unfixable. Difficult, certainly. But, not impossible to correct and probably (given a long history of a two party system) easier to fix than to start from scratch while the other side of the aisle is christo-fascist nationalism that would sooner see the entire world burn rather than give one inch towards compromise. The crazy side is therefore a much bigger problem – hence that side being mentioned as a problem more regularly by most people on this blog. It’s not, I repeat NOT, because people think the democratic party is full of sunshine and unicorns of unmatched joy and wonder. When the house is on fire people are less focused on bad plumbing!

    This isn’t complicated. This doesn’t even need to be particularly nuanced to grasp the basics. You are not the lone voice of reason struggling against the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune in this story.

  15. The problem right now is the Republican Party. They are an existential threat to our Constitutional government. We do need major changes, but please, please , please understand that we first need to eliminate the current threat. When we have restored sanity to government, then we can turn to alternatives, including a viable third party.

  16. I’ve commented on my frustration with the tendency of people to equate “centrists” with “moderates” and The Forward Party is founded on the fatal assumption that they are the same. As a commenter above pointed out, a “centrist” today would have Ronald Reagan as its leftmost torchbearer.

    A moderate is one whose values and policies don’t lurch to the right or left because that’s where the people in control of their party are headed. Centrists are penultimate practitioners of “bothsidesism”. The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and other organs speak for them and to them.

  17. if the third party is to be found,its needed in the intrests of the people. progressive ideas,and a foot down on the status quo. outright vocal,call the incumbants out,and tell it like it is, we have been thrown into a economic slavery that only bennefits the rich,and wall streets greed..having another rich guy founding a party really sends the message,only they can play,and, choose. like the RNC/DNC in lockstep,they have produced the laws and breaks that have made up much of the economy and regs in the past 50 years. we now have,two parties who are all about the present stauts quo, neither one shows any remorse of concern for the population,they, decide who we should have elected,period…. together those two parties have disinfranchised the working class,and gave away what we worked for,given all to wall street and its scam economy. when the idea of wealth was to be substaintually richer, all these two parties have managed to do was, lock up trillions of dollars in a few pockets,and devise ways for them to keep it out of ours. why shouldnt we start a new party? seems the present ones demand we vote for our looser incumbant who have little backbon and few words that do any good for those,who do the work. bring a war on and its full blown propaganda why we should kill ourselves trying to get to a recruiter. send a message for tax cuts and it distroys our civil society in local needs.tell media we need to,promote anything we the rich want,and control thier minds by deciet. a rich guy wanting a party, tell the asshole to buy one,like his buddies have..

  18. Patrick:
    your a good write everytime. but let me clear something about reagan,he was a asshole, he will always be a asshole to the working class in Calif. i watched him pick apart the unions and boycotts the working class shoved up his wazzooo.. even as a person,he was a asshole…

  19. Democrats should secretly be running “third party” conservative candidates in every single race.

    Corruption, blah, blah, blah. The human race is corrupt.

    We either defeat the Republicans or our grandchildren will be slaves.

  20. Please all the gods not again please all the gods not again. Please all the gods… Ad infinitum

  21. Dollars to donuts if a body could dig deep enough they’d find a boatload of Koch, DeVoss, Adelson , and all the usual suspects $$$$$$$$$

  22. Isn’t it rather impossible for a third party to be a threat to our democracy right now?

    #1, most of the state laws need to be rewritten to allow someone to run as an independent candidate and be included on a ballot, right? Or included in the political debates? Or funding like citizens United?

    #2 the media has made this a winner and loser challenge so with random party candidates, what will that bring us?

    #3 wouldn’t the Electoral College need to be rewritten so that 3 way ties are allowed to actually govern and make laws going forward? Like the Palimentary ways of other democracies?

    #4 isn’t the Forward party jumping the gun, so to speak, before these other items are resolved?

    There are independents all over the place because people got upset that Bernie Sanders was shut out by the Hillary campaign and many that liked Obama so much they wanted him to have a third term but the law doesn’t allow it because of the republicans from FDRs time. Many democrats were furious that the SCOTUS chose our President in 2000.

    I’ve said it before but we need to new constitution written for the 22nd century republic because that 1776 one isn’t working anymore. We have structural systemic political problems that nobody seems to see…the elephant in the room. I’m not hopeful but Biden has had a good week.

  23. Many Republican candidates have so little respect for potential supporters that they are required and willing to lie about Donald Trump’s elections (both of them) in order to get employed in State or Federal Government.

    What else do you need to know about the failure of the Republican Party?

    Go Forward!

  24. Forward will result in wasted votes if it gets on ballots, benefitting only the right-wing nuts. As noted, it’s a vanity project with nothing to recommend it other than vague aspiration.

  25. Gentle reminder – votes for third parties in critical states in 2016 elected The Duck, just as they elected Bush in 2000. Our country is deeply divided…”those who don’t learn from history…”

  26. JFC, they just don’t learn do they. Ironic that they speak about “extremism” in both parties, but seem to ignore the elephant in the room (see what I did there?…) that the Republican party is pretty damn dangerous to democracy and not so much those Dems. Plus, I despise Andrew Young and his bro-culture vibe. I hope they fall apart before the mid-terms.

  27. The more Parties, the merrier!

    There are problems, though: Republicans and Neoliberal Dems, who currently fill nearly all political offices, fear competition and have buttoned down election law and ballot access. Here in Hoosierland, for instance, a third Party has to either get 2% of the vote for Secretary of State for ballot access or approximately 40 thousand signatures for ballot access. This is wrong. How about a simple filing fee to go sign up at the County Clerk’s office for ballot access? Oh, and, BTW, the “Spoiler” effect of the Green Party is absolute bullshit. The Dems lost in 2000 because they failed to put up candidates good enough to counter the terrible Clinton Presidency.

  28. It is never the fault of the party. It’s always the fault of the voters. The sycophants of both cults abhor the populace. Why would anyone want to support Republicans or Democrats?

    They do nothing for anyone but the executive class.

  29. I do not agree that the more parties the merrier. Our polity would not prosper with such an European parliamentary system inasmuch as we have grown accustomed to a two party system since the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, the Whigs, the oldest political party in the world (the Democrats), and finally, Republicans in 1854. Other “Third” parties tend to come about on narrow issues (e.g., Republicans on slavery from Whigs being a rare success) to which they add other lukewarm “issues” in order to appear to be a Big Tent party. Such “parties” have neither a consistent nor broad message that appeals to voters, so some have come and some have gone.

    We are politically fragmented enough these days what with the divisions of Trumpers and anti-Trumpers in the Republican Party and AOC and other coalitions in the Democratic Party, but with the necessary understanding that comes with the Big Tent, I think we Democrats can survive narrow issue coalitions without falling apart, whereas I think the Republican Party, bereft of both a platform and a set of governing principles and captured by political conspirators and election deniers, is (metaphorically) headed back to the oblivion of the Whig Party from which it arose in 1854. Time will tell.

  30. Strategies are carried out one tactic at a time. If the tactics are wrong, the strategy won’t work. Wars are won one battle at a time. Lose too many strategic battles and the war is lost. This is why third parties can’t make it in this country, and why the Dems are losing the war. 3rd parties cannot gain enough momentum, therefore not enough size or support to win battles in the two-party war. The ancient Scotts understood this, so the small clans joined the larger clans to create even larger collective clans to fight the other large, collective clans. Bernie understands this.

    Vote Blue, no matter who. Then when blue dominates the political scene in this country, work on fixing it, if it is still possible. There is no fixing the Fascist Party formerly and formally known as the GOP. They pay no attention to the will of the remaining Republicans still voting for them. Right now, the Dems are busy trying foolishly to work across the isle. It’s a waste of time and money. It’s not an isle; it’s a battle zone, and every time they try to cross it, they get decimated. It doesn’t help to have DINOs who are actually Republican spies in disguise, like Joey Manchin.

    Do I think such an approach will get us there? I’m not very hopeful. The R fascists are better at waging war. They recognize that it is a ruthless game. Too many Dems are still trying to be gentlemen (gentle people??? 🙂 ) Michelle Obama got it wrong. If they go low, you have to lower, unfortunately, or you lose the battle. Lose too many battles and …

  31. If Trump were to run in’24, and a 3rd party was introduced, it would almost guarantee Trump would win. History shows that 3rd party candidates are a disaster. The ONLY way I’d accept a third party is if there is a runoff. In other words, the third place candidate would be eliminated, followed by a runoff between the the two top vote getters. The best option would be that 3rd party “thinkers” should put their efforts toward supporting more moderate candidates in the primaries.

  32. From FORWARD:
    “A few “get ahead of it” notes for new folks:
    1) We’re not running any candidates in 2022
    2) We’re not playing in the 2024 presidential
    3) We strongly oppose extremism
    4) We’re funded by ordinary citizens. Full details are on http://opensecrets.org.”

  33. To be viable, the only thing a third party needs to do is to break the two-party choke hold on the election system and allow people to pick and choose among all viable candidates, not just their two handpicked radicals. FORWARD is for Ranked Choice Voting, Open Primaries, independent redistricting commisions, and common sense solutions. Put the people back in control of our “democracy” and they’ll fix all the problems very quickly.
    Party politics is about power. FORWARD politics is about people and common sense solutions, which a strong majority share.

  34. None of this matters. The 2022 mid-terms will define the near future. Have you seen the polling? The independents and hispanics and breaking red in big numbers. The “train” has left the station.

  35. Third parties ARE spoilers time after time, and frankly the threats to democracy from Trump and his extremist, conspiracy theorist supporters on radio, TV, and the internet is too great for spoilers to risk electing him and his sycophants.

    This third party has a good platform, but they haven’t divulged how they plan to achieve it. While the Democratic Party mostly supports their platform, forming a 3rd party raises hackles in both parties, making any legislative accomplishment more difficult than it is already.

    Formation of a 3rd party makes its leaders feel like they are doing SOMETHING, but they’d be more effective recruiting, raising money and volunteers for, and electing good candidates in either or both parties. I’m frankly surprised they don’t understand this. If they want voting rights and elimination of gerrymandering, there are 2 Democratic U.S. Senators they need to influence or replace. That’s achievable, but trying to form a nation-wide party with leaders and like-minded supporters everywhere is more like shaking a bottle of nitroglycerin than an achievable goal. They can kill us all.

  36. Ah the lure of third parties –

    For every complex problem there is a solution that is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong – H.L. Mencken

    I am sure I mentioned it before (echoing many others here), but when studying Comparative Political Systems, it became clear that multi-party systems fail. Parliamentary systems are most successful when two parties dominate. Third parties work as replacements – Labor for the Liberals in England; Whigs for Federalist and Republicans for Whigs – when new coalitions become a viable opposition party.

    Christopher – some fact checking – your portrayal of today’s GOP is correct, but the Democrats tend to do much less gerrymandering and they do it poorly. Many blue states have switched to commissions and even in gerrymander-friendly New York, the “liberal” courts struck down their political gerrymandered districts – no such thing happens in red states.

    jack smith – I am the one who pointed out that so called “center” third parties would find Reagan as their left-most member. That wasn’t a compliment. When it comes to Reagan — I would just say “listen to jack, he sees clearly”

    Msammy – there is one third party that I would cheer – the one Gerald alludes to – the “new Whig” party. If all of the disaffected Republicans who would never “vote blue” had their own party, the Trump GOP would be demolished and then the “new Whigs” or whatever they will call themselves would gain adherents and become what the GOP used to be. That would be a good third party.

  37. I went back and read through the ForwardParty.com website. Much of what you say about FWD is wrong, politically motivated, and based on others opinions instead of credible sources.

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