Can the Forward Party be a third American national political party? |Notice

If your reaction to the country’s newest third party, the Forward Party, has been a sustained yawn, you’re probably not alone.

The nation’s new party was unveiled last week in a Washington Post op-ed by former Florida GOP Rep. David Jolly, former New Jersey GOP Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

This is not the first attempt to harness what should be the enormous power of the political milieu – people so tired of the politics of extremes that they yearn for an alternative. A recent Gallup poll found that 43% of Americans identify as political independents, far more than the 27% each who identify as Republicans or Democrats.

In theory, anyway, that should be enough to provide a plurality victory for a candidate or two who espouse reasonable positions somewhere in the political milieu. And yet, harnessing the energy of this group turned out to be about as easy (though not as fun) as harnessing electrical energy by rubbing balloons over our heads.

To figure out why, I called Richard Davis, founder of the United Utah Party, one-third of the state and author of the book “Beyond Donkeys and Elephants: Minor Political Parties in Contemporary American Politics.”

Davis said polls show a majority of Utahns, like Americans in general, say they want a center third party.

“People are going to say, ‘Oh yeah I want a third.’ But at the same time, they won’t vote for that party unless certain conditions exist,” he said. Namely, they must know the candidate well and feel they have a chance of winning. Otherwise , many people will think that a vote for that person would be wasted, no matter what that candidate stands for.

The “lost vote” barrier can be difficult to overcome. It takes time and patience.

Davis said both major parties have enormous resources, including established national networks of volunteers, fundraisers and affiliates. And they have tradition on their side. Voters may not be happy with a party’s platform, but if their parents, grandparents and other relatives are party members, it becomes more difficult to break ranks.

Donald Trump is an illustration of this. Many mainstream Republicans first came out against him and then supported him because the party did.

As Philip Bump of The Washington Post recently wrote, “Trump was not a strong Republican, not a party guy. He switched between party identities at various times, just as he changed his positions on issues. Then, in 2016, he took over the GOP and remade it in his image. He understood a latent and underrepresented political force and associated it with the infrastructure of the Republican Party.

None of this means that it is impossible for a third party to win. It’s happened before, in state races. The election of former wrestler Jesse Ventura as Governor of Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket comes to mind.

Davis thinks the best strategy is to start locally and scale up. He fears the Forward Party is making a mistake by starting at the top, with a presidential candidate. Which, ironically, would be retrograde.

Another thing. Don’t underestimate the need for patience. The Utah United Party has yet to win a race. But one of its candidates won 38% of the vote in a head-to-head race with a Republican, and the party fielded more candidates in Utah County in 2020 than Democrats.

“We’re still a long way from 50% plus one,” Davis said. “It’s taking longer than I had hoped. But you can see the progress here. It’s progressive. »

So, does Forward Party have a chance? While I agree it’s necessary, I wouldn’t bet on it. On the one hand, the massive middle in the United States – this 43% – is not united.

In the Washington Post editorial, the founders of the Forward Party described the problem well. The nation’s politics are polarized, and in a dangerous, potentially violent way. Americans have a choice between two extremes.

On gun control, it’s either confiscating all guns and abolishing the second amendment, or eliminating all gun laws.

When it comes to climate change, it’s either destroying the economy as we know it or denying the existence of global warming.

Regarding abortion, it is to authorize it in all circumstances at any time of pregnancy or to make it a criminal offence.

But when you put all these independents together, it’s unclear where they stand on these issues. As Bump noted, that same Gallup poll I referenced also found that these independents were almost evenly split on whether they “leaned” Democrat or Republican. This implies great differences of opinion.

The nation’s ideals have always rested on the shoulders of different races, religions and ideologies whose members often looked upon each other with suspicion. A successful third party should chart a clear path, articulate it well, and present candidates who can rally and unite the people behind it. It is not enough to simply invite people into a room and start a civil discussion.

About Wanda Reilly

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