After the 2020 election, Americans were clear: they wanted a viable third political party.
In modern American history, the country has been dominated by the Republican and Democratic parties almost to the exclusion of all others, effectively creating a quasi-bipartisan monopoly of power in the White House, Congress, and state.
Other parties, such as the Reform party, the Greens or the Libertarians have never really broken. In 2021, while the aftermath of the 2020 election continued, the polls shown widespread support among Americans for a third party that offers something different from the status quo. Even a majority of self-identified Republicans said they wanted a new party in the mix.
This should be prime ground, then. for the Andavant partyfounded in July by a group of self-described centrists including former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
The people wanted a new third, and they have been given one, one that has been boasted of having erected more than 5 million dollars. So what are the chances that Yang and co will win office and stay on the floors of the US Capitol?
“Fit to head,” says Marjorie Hershey, professor emeritus of political science at Indiana University Bloomington. “Emphasis on the head.”
Third parties face resource problems, on the one hand. Forward’s $5 million pales in comparison to the Joe Biden raised $1 billion of donors during his 2020 election campaign.
Donald Trump raised $774 million from donors, according to open secretswhile data from the Federal Election Commission shows that House and Senate candidates raised $4 billion between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020, and spent $3.8 billion.
The two dominant parties also have huge structural advantages: mailing lists, email addresses, existing supporters and name recognition, things that have taken decades to build.
A more fundamental issue is that the American electoral system is simply not set up to accommodate a third party.
The first-past-the-post system, in which one person is elected in each congressional district, means that a third-party candidate could, in theory, win 49% of the vote in a given area, and it would count for nothing if their opponent wins more .
Forward, which launched on July 23, was formed out of three existing political groups: Renew America Movement, made up of dozens of former Republican administration officials; the Forward Party, which was founded by Yang after his failed bid to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for mayor of New York City; and the Serve America Movement, a centrist group of Democrats, Republicans and independents.
“The rigid, top-down, one-size-fits-all platforms of outdated political parties drift to the fringes, making solutions impossible,” Forward said. web site reads.
“We defend doing, not dividing. This means rejecting the extreme left and the extreme right and seeking common ground.”
The mission of the party: “Not left. It’s not good. FORWARD”, as its slogan indicates, is noble. But there are doubts about what a centrist party might look like and represent.
“There are a lot of people who would consider themselves moderates or centrists who are very much at odds with other people who consider themselves moderates or centrists. It’s not a group,” Hershey said.
The Forward party has not yet presented a detailed platform. But once he lays out his positions on divisive issues like abortion, Social Security and tax cuts, Hershey said, “One part of this media is going to disagree with other parts of this media, and the so-called big medium is no longer huge.”
In a statement, the Endavant party said it “cannot be linked to the traditional left-right spectrum because we are not built like the existing parties.
“The glue that unites us is not memorized ideology, it is a shared commitment to really solve problems. The hunger for this kind of simple but revolutionary politics is immense.”
As for how it will compete with Democrats and Republicans, the party said it is “not looking to lose a billion dollars in a 2024 presidential race.”
Instead, it will focus on gaining ballot access and recruiting candidates to run in races across the country.
“That takes money,” Forward said. “But people are needed more than money, and we are rich with them.”
Forward is less than two weeks old, but it has already attracted its fair share of cynicism and criticism, especially for the false equivalency it displayed in describing the need for a third party.
In an opinion piece the Washington Post titled “Most Third Parties Have Failed. Here’s Why Ours Won’t,” Yang, Whitman and David Jolly, another co-founder who was formerly a Republican congressman from Florida and executive chairman of the Serve America Movement, appeared to offer bogus arguments about why their efforts were required.
Ross Perot, center, participates in a 1992 presidential debate as a third-party candidate alongside Bill Clinton, left, and George Bush. Photograph: Mark Cardwell/Reuters
On guns, the Forward suggested that most Americans are “justifiably concerned about the far-right’s insistence on eliminating gun laws,” but “disagree with the far-left’s calls for confiscate all guns and repeal the Second Amendment.”
As Andrew Gawthorpe, a historian of the United States at Leiden University and host of the America Explained podcast, wrote in the Guardian:
“These two things are not the same: the first is what is actually happening in America right now, while the second is a vision that was attributed to Kamala Harris as part of a fabricated smear on Facebook and enjoys approximately zero support in the Democratic Party.”
Third parties can have an impact, said Bernard Tamas, associate professor of political science at Valdosta State University and author of The Decline and Resurgence of America’s Third Party: Ready for a Political Revival?. But there’s usually a pretty specific formula.
“It’s always based on outrage,” Tamas said. “It has to be where the audience is galvanized.”
Tamas pointed to the Progressive Party, founded in 1912. This party, led by former President Theodore Roosevelt, championed child labor laws and the establishment of improved working conditions, including an eight-hour day and “a day of rest in seven” for workers.
Roosevelt, who was shot during his campaign, won 27.4% of the vote, beating incumbent Republican William Howard Taft but losing to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. But eventually progressive reforms were introduced.
“What they’ve historically done successfully could be described with an analogy of ‘stinging like a bee,'” Tamas said.
“They appear, very often, suddenly, and attack both parties [and] they effectively turn voters away from them.
“And both sides then respond, and at critical moments, they respond by trying to take those bases out of the problem, whatever makes the third party successful. They take them out, the main party changes, and effectively the third party dies.”
Forward, which has pledged to reflect “the moderate, common-sense majority”, has many people skeptical that it can sting like a bee, let alone do more and elect candidates.
“The way they’re presented, it might not have the galvanizing message,” Tamas said.
“Just saying, ‘Hey, you know, let’s all get together and work together’ is hardly something that gets people running in the streets protesting.”