Calling all disgruntled Democrats and Republicans — a new political party wants you
Organizers of the Forward Party — the latest attempt at a third national political party — are hoping to recruit candidates and voters that they contend are unhappy with what they believe is a dysfunctional two-party system.
Party co-chairs are former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey. Also expected to be in leadership is former Florida congressman David Jolly, a former Republican.
“The emergence of a coalition of left-right-and-middle,” said Jolly, appearing on CNN. “Political actors, voters, state leaders, [and] community leaders who have realized, ‘you know what? We can build a big enough tent that celebrates independent thought and ideological diversity.’”
Jolly is executive chair of the Save America Movement, or SAM, that he’s merged into the new party. No political party today, he claims, celebrates independent thought.
“The major parties and the minor parties — all of them — are starting at a point of saying, ‘We must subscribe to a specific ideology 40% of Americans today object any party, major or minor,” said Jolly. “But it is wrong to assume they’re all moderate. They’re not.”
Forward’s basic premise is that Americans agree more often than they disagree even in this time of political polarization. But Jolly concedes that the new party is sailing into uncharted waters.
“It suggests that we can actually coalesce around shared values of moving the country forward; of solving the nation’s most pressing problems without requiring a top-down dogma that necessarily has to fit from Boston, Massachusetts to Birmingham, Alabama,” he said. “It is a beautiful celebration of independent thought.”
The Forward Party’s plans, for now, do not include putting up a presidential candidate in 2024 or as Jolly puts it “chase a shiny object.” The initial focus is down-ballot.
“What we hope to do is what we’ve recently been able to do, which is elect a mayor in Newtown, Connecticut, or yes, Congress and [U.S.] Senate,” said Jolly. “But who know what 2024 presents; and if that moment meets the Forward Party halfway, I’m sure they will reach out and grab it. But that is not the intent of the Forward Party today, to play in the ’24 presidential race.”
“If you want to build a durable political organization, I think it makes sense to build a deep bench of candidates; ideally, people with elected experience,” said Adam Cayton, a political scientist at the University of West Florida. “Former members of the major parties who have some credibility in a state or a district where they would like to run.”
If you want to see the most successful third parties in American politics, Cayton says you have go to back a few years, or at least a century, to the Progressive Party in 1912, and the People’s, or Populist, Party in 1892.
But, the most successful third party may surprise you.
“The Republican Party displaced the Whig Party as one of the major parties in American politics [in 1854],” said Cayton. “It came into existence when the Democratic Party had split in two, and the Whig Party had completely collapsed. So even thought they were a third party, they were the most stable political party in the country during the political crisis around slavery and succession.”
Three of the most recent third party candidates were George Wallace, who got 14% of the popular vote, and 46 electoral votes in 1968; John Anderson in 1980, with 6% percent of the popular vote, but none in the Electoral College. Ross Perot, in 1992 garnered almost 20% of the popular, but no electoral votes. Cayton says at this point, there is a lot of gray area surrounding the Forward Party.
“I think their chances of forming a lasting political party and very slim regardless of their strategy it’s an uphill battle based on past experience,” said Cayton. “There have been quite a few presidential candidate vanity projects that break through, make a big splash in one to two elections, and then they’re gone.”
One major obstacle for any political organization is money. But Cayton says while important, that’s not the predominant issue here. Rather, they are the American electoral rules – winner take all.
“That puts tremendous pressure on third parties (and) makes it very difficult for them to exist, because even the second place party gets nothing,” he said. “So the third party, they have very little hope of ever winning office. The purpose of a political party is to win elected office and keep it.”
And when it comes time for the Forwards to go after the White House, the question could be who might be out there with the charisma of a Bill Clinton, a Ronald Reagan, or a Barack Obama? Cayton says it’s tough to predict who the next political stars will be.
“If you had told me in 2014 that the next leader of the Republican Party was Donald Trump I wouldn’t have believed you," he said. “You never know whose personality is going to meet the right circumstances, and have something happen to make them become popular.”
Forward Party leaders are planning events in about two dozen cities nationwide this fall, to introduce their platform and to try to gin up support. The first rally is set for September 24 in Houston, Texas with a national convention planned next summer in a city to be announced.