Is Andrew Yang’s Forward Party a good idea?

Andrew Yang is taking an enormous risk by leaving the Democratic Party and forming his own third party, the Forward Party.

Predictably, the media is mocking Yang for taking this move. I’ve seen headlines branding Yang a useful idiot, branding the Forward Party a “political stunt,” a “farce” and “directionless.” Incredibly, the Forward Party has The Jacobin and MSNBC in agreement for a change.

The Jacobin rants about the “farce of radical centrism” while MSNBC dismisses the Forward Party as an “uninspiring mess lacking vision or purpose.” I think both these criticisms are unfair and confusing.

To explain, I do not consider Yang a radical centrist. Instead, Yang is a recovering centrist who has become radicalized by events. Similarly, it is obvious nobody at MSNBC has read the text on the Forward Party website. In the text, Yang lays out a coherent vision.

The Madness of American Politics

The ideologues at MSNBC and The Jacobin hate Yang because they cannot pigeonhole him with a simple stereotype. Yang does not fit their sick world view of insane leftists and crazy right wingers. So they mock him.

Moreover, Yang is embarrassing journalists and politicians by pointing out an obvious truth they ignore. That truth is, our broken political system breeds madness by rewarding polarization and extremism.  

For example, primary elections reward the craziest candidates with victory. Hence, former moderates such as Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) become crazy to appease the primary voters. Graham, once an advocate of “immigration reform” now rants and raves about immigrants with Gucci bags traveling to Connecticut. Don’t ask me that means but it is what Graham is talking about.

Similarly, they rewarded Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) with the greatest prize in American politics, the president and leadership of the Republican Party. Notably, Trump is often the craziest and most extreme person in American politics.

I suppose one reason the media hates Yang is that he is not crazy or extreme. Hence, Yang is not entertaining, but he appeals to ordinary people. I think the media is punishing Yang for his reasonableness, kindness, and honesty – traits that make lousy clickbait.

Politics are Drives us Mad

Hence, politics is driving America mad. So what are Yang’s solutions to this insanity and will they work?

The Forward Party website offers a mix of political philosophy and specific reforms they label “our core principles.” The core principles include:

  • Rank choice voting and open primaries
  • Fact-based governance
  • Human-Centered Capitalism
  • Effective & Modern Government
  • Universal Basic Income
  • Grace & Tolerance

Yang offers offer a rational philosophy of government and a sensible political program in his principles. Yang recycles some of these principles from his famous 2020 presidential campaign, in particular, basic income.

What is new is the emphasis on electoral reform. Like me, Yang thinks the electoral system itself is the problem.

Consequently, Yang promotes open primaries in which all parties participate as a solution. Primaries breed extremism because only a tiny minority of the most partisan voters participate in them.

Are Primaries the Problem?

For example, Nick Troiano claims just 10% of Americans participated in the 2020 primaries despite a record general election turnout. Hence, 31 million primary voters can override the votes of 158.4 million Americans. Troiano is executive director of the Unite America election reform group.

Moreover, around 10% of the nation’s population sets its political agenda, if Troiano is correct. To explain, just 43 of 435 US House of Representatives elections were competitive in 2020 because of gerrymandering, Reuters estimates.

Hence, primaries are the important election in 90% of US House races, yet only 10% of the population votes in them. Thus, Congress is no longer a democratic institution.

Yang wants to fix this problem by holding open primaries in which all parties participate. I think that will help, but it does not go far enough. Troinao estimates that turnout in two states with open primaries is higher but still under 50%. To elaborate, 45% of Washington State voters and 34% of California voters cast ballots in the 2020 primaries.

I think a better system could be the abolition of primaries. I believe a century of experience shows primaries nullify the votes of the majority.

On the other hand, I think Yang’s other solution of ranked choice voting could fix the problem. To explain in ranked choice voting, people rank their candidates on a one to five scale. The candidate who appears on the most ballots wins. Strangely, ranked-choice voting probably cost Yang victory in the 2021 Democratic Primary for Mayor of New York.

Ranked choice voting could help fix the system by allowing voters to cast ballots for both the acceptable alternative and their favorite candidate. One problem in elections is that many voters cast ballots, not for the candidate they want, but for the tolerable individual they consider electable. Hence, the constant reelection of mediocrities such as Joe Biden (D-Delaware).

I think Yang does not far enough on electoral reform. I think America will need other reforms such as proportional representation, abolition of the electoral college, changes to the courts, and a population-based US Senate to restore democracy. Enacting those reforms will be difficult because they will require Constitutional Amendments.

Does Yang have the Answer?

Conversely, I think Yang’s Forward Party could be the answer to America’s political madness.

To explain, I think we need a widespread bipartisan movement to reform the electoral system and restore democracy. The Forward Party could be that movement.

In his Forward Party video introduction, Yang correctly notes that the words Democrat and Republican turnoff millions of Americans. The parties have become so corrupt and extreme many Americans want nothing to do with them.

Moreover, the political process is now so partisan many Democrats and Republicans are afraid to have anything to do with people with from the other party. Yet, tens of millions of Democrats and Republicans agree on electoral reform. There are also millions of Americans who sanely avoid both parties.

Hence, I think Yang is building the movement America needs. Yang told The Realignment that many reform groups are reaching out to him.

Yang correctly believes this movement must reject both parties. Therefore, he left the Democratic Party.

I think Yang’s Forward Party could transform American as the Progressive movement did in the 20th Century. Yet will be a tough battle because our corrupt media will fight any effort to chance the insane system it profits from.

A Man Chastised

So how can we classify Andrew Yang? I consider Yang a recovering politician. Yang is a man who was humiliated and chastised by America’s political system.

In 2019 and 2020, Yang had some success in the Democratic Presidential Primary and got some fame. Hence, the Democrats embraced him to attract votes then threw him away. For example, President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) reached out to Yang and there was talk of a post in the administration.

Instead, the Democratic establishment abandoned him once Biden was in office and sabotaged Yang’s New York Mayoral run. Hence, Yang experienced the political system and realized that the system itself is the problem.

I do not know if Yang will launch a nationwide reform movement. However, I think Yang resembles a similar figure from the early 20th Century: President Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York). Like Yang, Roosevelt was a member of the establishment who went off the reservation and became the champion of radical reform.

In the final analysis, Yang could be the leader America needs. The question we need to ask is: will America embrace Yang, or let the political class and its servants in the media destroy him?