The Forward Party: Andrew Yang’s Third Party Pitch or Call to Action
The current state of American politics is a hyper-polarized dysfunctional embarrassing mess. Even with control of the House, Congress and the White House, the Biden Administration and elected Democrats still struggle to accomplish anything meaningful.
Gallup, an analytics and advising firm, has found that in September of 2021, the US Congress had a 27 percent approval rating; that number has plummeted as low as 15 percent in recent years. Surprisingly, these very same congresspeople have a 92 percent re-election rate. So nearly everyone is dissatisfied with many of our elected officials, and we can’t get new people elected. It stands to reason that our two-party representative democracy is no longer serving the American people.
Our political system is rife with a form of legalized bribery euphemistically referred to as “campaign donations.” The country’s richest and most elite send lobbyists to do their bidding in Washington D.C. This arrangement, where the rich flex their resources to gain political influence is the textbook definition of an oligarchy, where a small number of people control our government, instead of one person one vote like it’s supposed to be. America’s most rich and powerful get laws shaped to their liking and benefit while the common person is left to gather the crumbs.
Andrew Yang, entrepreneur and political newcomer is trying to guide us in a new direction: “Not left. Not right. Forward.”
Yang, a New York businessman, attorney, and 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate, first entered the public political discourse in 2017. Yang has quickly gained an audience as a youngish tech-savvy political outsider who prioritizes the needs of average Americans.
Yang addresses the need for a third party on The Forward Party’s website (forwardparty.com): “I started the Forward Party for a few big reasons. The main one is one we can all see – the current two-party duopoly is not working. While the two major parties have different issues, we can all see that polarization is getting worse and worse, with 42 percent of both parties regarding the other as not just mistaken, but evil. Neither side is able to meaningfully solve problems, so we all get angrier and angrier.”
Yang describes the problem, “We are also left with an out-of-date bureaucracy ill-suited to solve the problems of today. Washington D.C. is painfully behind the curve, in part because of a seniority system that has led to a gerontocracy.”
Yang explains that a majority of Americans think that both establishment Democrats and Republicans are out of touch, and 57 percent say they want a third-party option. So, if this country is supposed to be run by the people and for the people, why are the demands of the majority not being met? Yang explains why a much needed third party has never succeeded, “The main reason is structural – the two parties right now control the primary system, which makes it very difficult for any meaningful third party to emerge. You can’t win races. Imagine a duopoly that prevents any effective competition. That’s what we presently have in the United States.”
William “Boss” Tweed, the man who ran the Democratic Party political machine in New York in the 1800s once allegedly quipped, “I don’t care who does the electing, as long as I get to do the nominating.” The issue with this comment still permeates the political process today. The average voter might be able to pick on the ballot between Candidate A, beholden to Walmart Corporation, or Candidate B, behold to Lockheed Martin Corporation, but neither of them pay anything other than lip service to the needs of the average person, and we weren’t the ones who got them on the ballot in the first place.
The current partisan primary system makes it so that most districts are either safely Democratic or Republican, these candidates often don’t face true competition in elections. Couple this reality with low voter turnouts, and all reigning politicians need to do is speak to their most diehard and extreme voters who will actually show up for lesser attended elections, like congressional primaries. Yang comments, “We need to push for open primaries and ranked-choice voting in Congressional races around the country. This would both diminish polarization by making it so that our representatives answer to the broad majority rather than the partisan few, and enable new parties and perspectives to emerge. It would make our entire country more reasonable.”
This is not a pie in the sky utopian optimistic delusion. California and Washington have already implemented “top-two primaries”, where the two with the most votes continue to the next round regardless of party affiliation, and Alaska has adopted open primaries. Nearly half of the country, including Massachusetts, Missouri, and Michigan, allows voters to gather signatures and propose such a change as a ballot initiative https://ballotpedia.org/How_do_initiatives_get_on_the_ballot. The use of open primaries would require the use of another incredible upgrade to our democracy, rank choice voting, where the issue of “wasting” your vote goes away. Voters number their candidates according to preference, as many as they’d like. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, then the lowest ranked candidate is discarded, and the votes are tallied again redistributing the lowest candidate to those respective voters second favorite choice, and so on, until someone has 50 percent of the total and wins.
These two proposals only scratch the surface of what is going on at The Forward Party, yet they could be huge in bringing back integrity to our democracy. Another innovative idea proposed are “Democracy Dollars”, $100 issued to each registered voter per year to support any candidate of their choice to combat the special interest groups, wealthy donors, and corporate lobbyists flooding the political arena with their seemingly endless supply of cash.
The Forward Party aims to turn down the tempers, invite people from all different political backgrounds to the table for discussion, and make our government work for the people. Yang explains, “I also have a hope for a positive political movement that is not born of rage and demonization, but on optimism and solutions. This is an inclusive movement. You can participate while retaining your current party registration if you’d like, as we know that in many locations de-registering would effectively disenfranchise you from your local politics. Forward is positive and practical. We believe in people of every political alignment that want to help the country.”
Will Yang’s new effort yield fruit? Or is this the latest ill-conceived political stunt making promises it can’t possibly deliver? I for one realize that the people we share this country with, especially those who we most ardently disagree with, aren’t going anywhere. Our fellow countrymen are here to stay, and I wouldn’t mind politics cooling off a bit and returning to the days of reaching across the aisle and working together to make this country better for all people. The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, so where to from here? I say let’s go together, let’s all go forward.