Opinion Most third parties have failed. Here’s why ours won’t.

(The Washington Post; images by iStock)
(The Washington Post; images by iStock)

David Jolly is a former Republican congressman from Florida and is executive chairman of the Serve America Movement. Christine Todd Whitman is a former Republican governor of New Jersey and co-founder of the Renew America Movement. Andrew Yang is a former Democratic presidential candidate and is co-chair of the Forward Party.

Political extremism is ripping our nation apart, and the two major parties have failed to remedy the crisis. Last week, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol led us to relive one of the darkest days in U.S. history. The chilling culmination of an attempted electoral coup in the United States was the strongest evidence yet that we are facing the potential demise of our democracy.

Polarization is fueling a spike in political intimidation. In the past two years, we’ve seen death threats and assassination plots against members of Congress, governors, Supreme Court justices and even the vice president of the United States.

If nothing is done, the United States will not reach its 300th birthday this century in recognizable form. That’s why we are coming together — Democrats, Republicans and independents — to build a new, unifying political party for the majority of Americans who want to move past divisiveness and reject extremism.

Americans have lost faith in government. Nearly 8 in 10 say the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a recent survey, and two-thirds of voters think neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have the right priorities.

Shockingly, roughly 30 million Americans believe violence against the current government is justified. The same number want to forcibly return former president Donald Trump to the White House. This is what happens when democracies fail: People feel their voices are not heard and radicalize to take up arms, leading to mainstream talk about “civil war.”

How do you remedy such a crisis? In a system torn apart by two increasingly divided extremes, you must reintroduce choice and competition.

The United States badly needs a new political party — one that reflects the moderate, common-sense majority. Today’s outdated parties have failed by catering to the fringes. As a result, most Americans feel they aren’t represented.

Most third parties in U.S. history failed to take off, either because they were ideologically too narrow or the population was uninterested. But voters are calling for a new party now more than ever.

Perry Bacon Jr.: The U.S. has four political parties stuffed into a two-party system. That’s a big problem.

For the first time in modern history, roughly half of Americans consider themselves “independents,” and two-thirds say a new party is needed (and would vote for it). Surprisingly, a majority of Democrats and Republicans say they want another option, too.

As leaders and former elected officials, we’re tired of just talking about a third way. So this month, we’re merging our three national organizations — which represent the left, right, and center of the political spectrum — to build the launchpad for a new political party called Forward.

The two major parties have hollowed out the sensible center of our political system — even though that’s where most voters want to see them move. A new party must stake out the space in between. On every issue facing this nation — from the controversial to the mundane — we can find a reasonable approach most Americans agree on.

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. 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.

To succeed, a new party must break down the barriers that stand between voters and more political choices. Accordingly, we will passionately advocate electoral changes such as ranked-choice voting and open primaries; for the end of gerrymandering; and for the nationwide protection of voting rights and a push to make voting remarkably easy for anyone and incredibly secure for everyone.

Without such systemic changes, Americans will be left with a closed system and fewer options on the ballot. These reforms go hand in hand with a new party.

Some call third parties “spoilers,” but the system is already spoiled. There are more than 500,000 elected positions in the United States, but a recent study found more than 70 percent of races on ballots in 2020 were unopposed or uncontested. A tiny sliver of U.S. congressional seats will have close races this November. The two major parties have shut out competition, and America is suffering as a result.

That’s why we’re proposing the first “open” party. Americans of all stripes — Democrats, Republicans and independents — are invited to be a part of the process, without abandoning their existing political affiliations, by joining us to discuss building an optimistic and inclusive home for the politically homeless majority.

Our merged organizations are just the starting point, the launchpad for this movement. We are planning liftoff at a national convention next summer and will soon seek state-by-state ballot access to run candidates in 2024 and beyond. We are actively recruiting former U.S. representatives, governors, entrepreneurs, top political operatives and community leaders to make it happen.

America’s founders warned about the dangers of a two-party system. Today, we’re living with the dire consequences. Giving Americans more choices is important not just for restoring civility. Our lives, our livelihoods and our way of life depend on it.

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