Andrew Yang’s Forward Party is dead. In its place, rises … the Forward Party but with Republicans. In this newly announced mega-group, simply called Forward, Yang is joined as co-chair of the hopeful third party contender by former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Former Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., and former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor are also involved in the new project, which seeks to upend America’s two-party system.
But in reading through their manifesto of moderation, I am forced to wonder if their supposed thinking outside the box is really thinking inside a much larger box? If that’s the case, does this amalgam, this neutron star born of a collapsed political spectrum, go far enough in its mission? Or do we need to move past the tired idea they’ve latched on to, that a “third party” is what’s needed to shake up our system? The answer becomes clear once you take Forward’s views to their obvious terminus: What America really needs to grow and thrive is a fourth party.
Yes, it’s true that Forward “has no specific policies yet,” as Reuters reported Wednesday. It is truly a blank slate on the issues facing the U.S., prepared to plant its flag in whatever a majority of Americans believe in the latest polling. This is befitting a party that holds “moderation” and “centrism” as core tenets. Only in comparing itself to the other two parties’ stances can it ever know what it believes, as a Washington Post op-ed describing the party’s vision outlined.
What America really needs to grow and thrive is a fourth party.
“On guns, for instance, most Americans don’t agree with calls from the far left to confiscate all guns and repeal the Second Amendment, but they’re also rightfully worried by the far right’s insistence on eliminating gun laws,” Yang, Jolly and Whitman wrote in the Post. “On climate change, most Americans don’t agree with calls from the far left to completely upend our economy and way of life, but they also reject the far right’s denial that there is even a problem. On abortion, most Americans don’t agree with the far left’s extreme views on late-term abortions, but they also are alarmed by the far right’s quest to make a woman’s choice a criminal offense.”
Not once do they seek to clarify what the middle stance actually is on each of these issues and how that differs from what the Democratic Party is offering. They don’t note how popular each of the ideas they list are within either party, nor that “late-term abortion” is not a medically accepted term. They don’t bother to make clear that the far right holds one party firmly within its grip while the “far left” views they list are not embraced by any of the party’s leaders. And even this morass of ambiguity does not do enough to decouple this new party from the divisions that grow deeper each day.
The problem with Forward is that it is still limited in how inclusive it can truly be. America requires a fourth party, one that doesn’t just hide in the center, catering to the median voter; a party that is truly universal and doesn’t shy away from encompassing literally all sides of an issue. Think the multiverse hijinks of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” but with the limitless possibility of policy all flowing through a single party.
A fourth party will bridge divides by including both the far right and far left under its umbrella, upholding even the most contradictory of views in the name of unity and freedom. America’s voters deserve nothing less than the “I don’t know, whatever you want for dinner is fine with me” of politics. They demand the most “meh” of options, like the choice between a lukewarm salad and a sandwich where one side is the heel of the loaf. Americans don’t need “leaders” with “detailed ideas” and “specific policy goals that ensure the basic rights of every American.” They need whatever makes them feel the least bad about putting their own interests first.
As Yang’s hero Abraham Lincoln understood, a house divided among itself cannot stand. That’s why Lincoln and his running mate, Andrew Johnson, ran on a third-party ticket in 1864, a decision that had absolutely no negative consequences. Lincoln knew that only in trying to please literally everyone at all times can politicians heal our wounded country and make this broken-down house into a home.
To do that, we must eschew the sort of biased and binary labels that permeate our politics at every level: left and right; conservative and liberal; racist and not racist; basic human dignity and all-encroaching fascism. Only then can our country get back on the right track.
A fourth party would transcend politics by being truly apolitical.
A fourth party would transcend politics by being truly apolitical. For example, it would look at the divide on the matter of transgender rights and correctly diagnose that trans people clearly exist and should be allowed to thrive in peace. But it would also see that maybe we just shouldn’t talk about them in public, like ever. A firm wag of our fingers at anyone who disagrees with either side of this matter would be appropriate. A big tent requires a big rug to sweep all of life’s pesky problems under in the name of civility.
This fourth party could be a true home for all disaffected independents who wish that the Democratic Party was just a bit more libertarian and that the Republican Party was just a bit less vocal about its willingness to let children go hungry rather than increasing taxes on the wealthy. It can be a place for the pro-business community members who are tired of former President Donald Trump and the pro-business community members who are tired of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A fourth party can be a place where wealthy donors are free to set their money on fire at a monthly pace that befits their own individual hedge fund stakes.
America is at a tipping point. Only through bold, daring inaction can our great experiment possibly hope to survive. Yang and his former GOP cohorts are thinking too small in their attempt to replace the status quo with an even statuser quo. We must commit ourselves fully to a policy of treating even the most heinous ideas as legitimate discourse and respecting all lives devoted to twirling toward freedom. Only then will we live in a country where all Americans can feel the smug sense of superiority that comes with voting for a candidate that has no chance of winning.
Hayes Brown is a writer and editor for MSNBC Daily, where he helps frame the news of the day for readers. He was previously at BuzzFeed News and holds a degree in international relations from Michigan State University.