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Are Americans Ready for a Third Major Political Party?

Monica is a political science student and a writer on Medium.

“We need a third party in this country!” is an ever-growing narrative in America. This occurs for a few reasons. First of all, we have an extremely dysfunctional two-party system. There used to be the left and right, and between both sides, there was a middle ground in which compromises could be made and deals could be struck.

The middle ground no longer exists. The right and the left have become so extreme that the middle ground has disappeared and anyone who tries to rebuild the foundation for a middle ground is accused of being a traitor to their respective parties.

We’re left with a seemingly unfixable divide, with two sides who refuse to budge for the other. The gridlock in Washington must be solved if we ever intend to get anything done in this country, and believe me there is much that needs to be done.

I was surprised to learn recently that a new political party has been created with the intent of attempting to attract moderate voters on both sides of the aisle. The party was founded by former 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang and a group of former Republican and Democratic officials. It’s called the Forward Party.

David Jolly, a former Florida representative, Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey, and Andrew Yang wrote a compelling op-ed in the Washington Post explaining why their party won’t fail like most third parties do.

They acknowledged that the January 6th hearings provided us with the strongest evidence yet that democracy is in jeopardy and neither political party has the answers on how to solve this imminent danger. In fact, one of the two political parties is sliding towards authoritarianism.

Extreme polarization has led to perilous political intimidation and sometimes violence toward judges, Congresspeople, and other government officials. This type of environment prevents our government from doing what needs to be done without fear of retaliation against them and their families.

Over 30 million Americans have admitted that they believe that violence is justified against our current government. Eight out of ten Americans believe that our country is headed in the wrong direction and two-thirds of respondents believe that neither Democrats nor Republicans have the solutions to get our country back on track.

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Because both parties are pandering to the most extreme members of their groups, the Yang/Whitman/Jolly Washington Post op-ed claims that most Americans are in the center and are excluded from political discourse. They believe that most Americans are hungry for a legitimate, moderate third party.

They explained that their policy positions would remain down the center of the two current party narratives. For example, on abortion rights, the Forward Party doesn’t support late-term abortions as some far-left activists want, but they do believe in a woman’s right to choose, especially in the case of rape or incest.

They believe that most Americans find this middle ground appealing as opposed to siding with one of the two parties that pander to the most extreme views in their base.

Aside from stating that they’ll claim the sensible middle ground, the Forward Party hasn’t gone into detail about a specific policy platform. They will need to be clearer on their priorities if they expect votes from the same Americans that currently identify as Democrats or Republicans.

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Also, the current electoral system in America does not support having a viable third party. Many countries that have multiple political parties use something called ranked-choice voting.

Ranked-choice voting is an electoral system that allows voters to rank candidates based on their personal preferences. If a candidate wins the majority of first preference votes, they are declared the winner of the election. If no candidate wins the majority of first preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first preference votes is eliminated.

First preference votes for the eliminated candidate are discarded, elevating the second preference candidates on those ballots. Next, a new tally is conducted to see if anyone holds a majority on first preference votes. The process is continued until one candidate holds a majority of first preference votes.

The Forward Party would also have to contend with states that have closed primaries and districts that are gerrymandered. It will take a long time and a lot of work to dismantle the two-party monopoly on the election system. Democrats and Republicans will fight tooth and nail to prevent the Forward Party from emerging into a viable contender.

While it does seem appealing to have a center party that would focus on compromise and sane policy platforms, it’s difficult to see this effort being successful anytime soon. It’s been more than 50 years since a third-party candidate has garnered any electoral votes.

The most successful third-party candidate in modern times is Ross Perot, who obtained 19% of the vote when he ran as an Independent in 1992 against Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, who went on to become President.

Though it may be a very difficult undertaking, in a Gallup poll last year, a record of 62% of Americans said that the two major parties are doing such a terrible job that a third party is needed.

But will people actually back that sentiment up with action? Many people, including myself, have become disillusioned with the corrupt two-party system that exists today. Both parties are bought and paid for by powerful lobbyists in just about every industry.

I think most Americans are feeling that it’s been a long time since politicians were actually concerned with the people in this country instead of their corporate donors.

Most politicians spend a large chunk of their time calling donors for money and campaigning for reelection. How can we possibly believe that they’re doing what they were elected to do when they spend so much time doing self-serving activities?

As an average, white, 39-year-old suburban mom of three, I’ve been voting Democrat since I started voting in 2012. Even if I saw an authentic and dynamic candidate in the Forward Party, it would be hard for me to vote for them because I’d be afraid that I was helping the Republicans achieve an electoral victory. I think many people like me would also feel this way.

It had also occurred to me that maybe the Forward Party and the Democratic Party could work together to prevent the anti-democratic ways of the Republican party. Let’s face the facts, only one party is supporting a man who tried to overthrow a free and fair election and who lies about it every day since.

We need adults in the room and maybe the Forward Party and the Democratic Party could compromise in order to get some work done in Washington, D.C.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Monica Leigh French

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