DDoes the United States need a third party, and can we pull it off? According to the founders of the new Forward party, the answer to both questions is yes. By targeting disgruntled Americans from all parts of the political spectrum, the founders — who include former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman — hope to create a new force that will lead Americans towards a future in which they can “cut extreme partisanship, reintroduce a competition of ideas and work together in good faith”.
Great. But sadly, the Forward Party is ill-conceived, based on a mistaken idea of how to fix America’s descent into political madness, and likely to crumble under the weight of its own contradictions.
At the heart of the party’s justification for its own existence is the suggestion that America’s two major parties are responsible for the country’s dysfunction and that the only way forward is to replace them with something new. This is a misleading and self-serving diagnosis. Whatever gripes one may have with its politics, the Democratic Party is the only one of the two major parties that is committed to basic democratic and liberal standards. The problem plaguing America is that Republicans are not.
The absurdity of this attempt to create a false equivalence becomes even clearer when the founders of the new party discuss the details. They claim that “most Americans” agree neither with “the far-right insistence on scrapping gun laws” nor with “far-left calls to confiscate all guns.” and to repeal the Second Amendment”. But these two things are not the same: the first is what’s really going on in America right now, while the second is an opinion that was attributed to Kamala Harris in a fabricated smear on Facebook that has no support within the Democratic Party. .
On abortion, the founders of the party oppose in the same way “the desire of the extreme right to make the choice of a woman a criminal offence” with “the extreme views of the extreme left on late-term abortions”. Once again, the false equivalence is striking. It is thanks to the mainstream Republican Party, not the “far right,” that abortion is now illegal in eight states, and many more are expected to follow. “Late abortion,” meanwhile, is a medically meaningless term used by conservatives to imply that women who undergo life-saving surgery late in pregnancy actually undergo elective abortions, encouraged all along. by the baby-killing liberals.
When they avoid talking about specifics, founders can seem more persuasive. Who could disagree with “welcoming new ideas” and “creating a political home” for people from both parties? But in America today, such bromides feel – to borrow, in the spirit of bipartisanship, a phrase from Sarah Palin – “hopey-changey.” In reality, there is only one responsible place for anyone to protect American democratic and liberal standards — and that place is the Democratic Party.
Instead of strengthening this last realistic defense that the United States has left, the Forward party will weaken it. The party’s founders rely on old polling data from just after the Jan. 6 uprising to claim that 50% of Americans now identify as independents. In fact, the figure is now closer to 40%, and political scientists will tell you that there are very few “true” independents in America’s polarized political landscape. Of this small pool, the Forward party – whose most recognizable face is Andrew Yang, a former Democrat – seems much more likely to siphon votes from the left than from the right. Even if not, it will have helped spread propaganda about liberals wanting to end the Second Amendment and legalize third-trimester abortion, to benefit Republicans. Even a small electoral effect could be catastrophic – especially with Republican state governments poised to steal close elections in swing states.
The final problem with the Forward party is its internal inconsistency. The party promises “common sense” solutions, but common sense means very different things to different people. The fact that the party tries to rally supporters from all political walks of life is likely one of the reasons it offers so few details about what its actual policies will be. Political tents can only grow bigger before they crumble under the weight of their own contradictions, and it’s hard to see how the Forward party can avoid a similar fate if it wants to move beyond the platitudes.
The Democratic Party may not be perfect. But the two-party system, and the threat Republicans pose to American democracy, has a hard, blunt logic. Those who care about democracy and liberalism should advance the cause of the Democratic Party. Republicans who cannot bring themselves to do so should work to change the Republican Party from within. Everything else is a vanity project. Such projects could have value for politicians whose personal ambitions have been thwarted in the regular party system. But what do they have to offer the American people?