Pundits immediately eviscerated — and that’s not too strong of a word — the effort. They claimed it was doomed to fail before it even got started, noting that third parties historically don’t do well. Headlines included phrases like, “likely to fail” and “don’t hold your breath.”
It is true that what Americans say and what they do sometimes don’t align. It’s like saying I’m all for a new cola, but can’t bring yourself to drink anything but Coke or Pepsi.
I would like to see a third party succeed because a think we need voices that break the R and D gridlock. Gov. Whitman, in a phone interview, believes the party has come along at the right time.
“Past efforts were either singularly focused on an issue or an issue area, like the Green Party, or a person, Ross Perot, for instance. What we’re talking about is something much broader,” she told me.
She said the group looks for candidates who “come from the center and are going to agree to uphold our democracy and respect the rule of law.”
That sounds good, but what does the Forward Party stand for? Instead of the Forward Party developing a platform, the party intends to take a top-down approach and embark on a listening tour and hear, from voters, what issues they consider important.
Still, on its website, the party says it stands for ranked-choice voting, nonpartisan primaries, and independent redistricting commissions.
The party hopes to have candidates in all 50 states for a wide range of offices, an aggressive agenda given that 2024 is just about two years away. They are moving fast; the party has already begun endorsing candidates for various offices..
When we spoke, Whitman said the party had about 15,000 people across the country willing to help organize. She said the party will probably start its efforts in 15 states and expand from there.
A Gallop poll shows 62% of Americans, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, would consider a third party. And more than 40% of voters, according to Gallup, consider themselves to be independent.
“The American people are already saying, ‘We don’t like the way things are shaping up now. And we need to take a different tack, we need to approach things differently.’ "
That gets back to Coke vs. Pepsi. It’s one thing to say that you’re fed up but it’s another to give someone else a try. So why should they try the Forward Party?
“If people don’t like their choices, what we’re saying is, then come join us. Watch what we’re doing. Listen, interact with us, and tell us what you feel are the most important issues. And then see, as we come up with a platform and candidates if you’re comfortable with it.”
The party may have come along at the right time, but who will they get to run in more high-profile races? Politicians would find it hard to leave their established parties and all of their support for a nascent brand. (Liz Cheney isn’t a centrist, but if she loses her primary battle, someone like her would add much-needed gravitas as a third-party candidate either in Wyoming or for the White House.)
“We’re just talking about offering you the choice,” Whitman said. “If you still want to vote Republican or Democrat, that’s fine. But so many have asked for an alternative. And that’s what we’re here to provide.”
Will the Forward Party work long-term? Who knows. I’m just glad they’re trying.
Ray Marcano’s column appears each Sunday. You can send him a question or comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.