Before we get to the Doberman, the lion, and the squirrel, here is Trey Beck on Andrew Yang’s Third Party.

I’m a proud Yang fan.  I’ve hosted him for dinner.  I’ve recommended both his books.

But I’m also a Beck fan — and on this, Beck is 100% right:

Hard Pass on Andrew Yang’s Third Party

I respect Andrew Yang’s energy, intellect, and sense of humor. And yet I feel obliged to say that his third party, which he announced has merged with the efforts of other self-styled moderates like Christine Todd Whitman, is dumb.  At best, it will be ineffectual.  At worst, it will be actively unhelpful in accomplishing the “moderate” goals they claim to champion.

Others have set out how American history shows this newish political party they variously call Forward, the Forward Party, or Forward America is, er, unlikely to work, a challenge even Yang acknowledges in the title of his Washington Post piece announcing the merged party.

I have two more immediate beefs with Yang’s Forward, though. (Actually, three, because the name itself is terrible, given the inevitability of confusion with the eleventy thousand progressive groups with the name “Forward” in it.)

Let’s start with the fallacy of its fundamental premise, which is that millions of Americans in the “moderate, common-sense majority” are faced with a hopeless choice between two parties offering equally unpopular, radical programs. According to Yang and his allies, “far right” Republicans ban abortions, block voting rights, and oppose gun safety measures, while “far left” Democrats want to defund the police, ban all guns, and allow late-term abortions.

No. This is complete “both sides”-ist bullshit. Yang himself participated in multiple Democratic presidential debates with a comically large gaggle of candidates, precisely zero of whom advocated a single one of the things he cites in his WaPo piece as examples of radical Democratic policies. Voters who wanted moderate positions were ultimately given a choice between Donald Trump and Joseph Biden, not an angry sophomore at Oberlin. Voters chose Biden in part because he was the flaming centrist Yang says they deserve.

It is hilariously unself-aware that Andrew Yang, a guy who was proposing a form of universal basic income for every American (a perfectly worthy idea to discuss, and also not high on the list of the average voter’s priorities), is implicitly saying the Democrats who trounced him in the primary are too radical. Yang and Whitman are maddeningly silent on the fact that so much progress on voting, child poverty, climate, and such has been tragically thwarted by the centrist triangulations of a mere two U.S. Senators whose names rhyme with Schmanchin and Schminema. (Yes, Schmanchin sorta showed up this week.)

No. It is the Republican establishment alone that has come unmoored. It is not some fringe wing of the GOP proposing outlandish things. It is great heaps of Republicans in positions of immense power doing outlandish things. It is party leadership, governors, state legislators, and partisan Supreme Court justices who have for the first time ever revoked a constitutional right, who are trying to make it hard for poor people to vote, who say the answer to shootups at schoolhouses is to arm teachers, who punish corporations for criticism, and who deflect or lash out at critics when confronted with the inevitable real-world consequences of abortion being made inaccessible in dozens of states. Republicans—not far right Republicans, but Republicans broadly—now by and large reject the outcome of the 2020 election, and they condemn a legitimate inquiry into a violent break-in of the U.S. Capitol as a witch hunt. It is huge numbers of Republican, not Democratic, voters who say political violence is now justified.

The second, and bigger, problem here is that running third-party candidates, as Yang et al pledge they’ll do, will give us really bad electoral outcomes. His “we need another option” argument in 2022 is essentially the same one Ralph Nader, and to an extent Bernie Sanders, has used. It’s just that instead of the pitch being there’s no real distinction between two parties captured by corporations and elites, we’re now hearing that the two parties are just different flavors of bonkers. In either case, the invitation is to vote for some magic independent who will whisk us off to the Place of Achievable Solutions If Only We Had the Will. We saw how that worked out in 2000. And Sanders did HRC no favors in 2016.

Now, it is a credit to Yang and his partners that they profess, I am sure sincerely, to want to protect voting, promote ranked choice voting, and end gerrymandering, and they’d be doing something useful if that was the extent of their program.

The bitter irony, though, is that running moderates against both Republicans and Democrats is directly counter to the defense of democracy. Our elections are mostly built for a two-party contest, and ignoring that is folly. In most states, our primary system, our first-past-the-post voting that allows winning with a mere plurality, the winner-take-all Electoral College, and campaign finance rules mean that running third-party candidates as an “alternative” to “extreme” Dems and Republicans will just give us more Republicans.

It is fantasy not to see that third-party moderates will disproportionately siphon votes away from Democrats who are, for all their warts, generally on the side of democracy and against authoritarianism. If Andrew Yang or a surrogate were actually to run as a bona fide third-party presidential candidate in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2024, I can pretty much guaran-damn-tee you a Republican president, and the Rs won’t even have to cheat. Considering how thin the margins tend to be in those states, I think the damage may be done even if such a candidate just gets on the ballot but later endorses a Democrat after seeing, all too predictably, how the winds are blowing.

Come on, Andrew, the name alone—Forward!—is inherently attractive to progressives and repellant to conservatives. Talk to your messaging people!

There already exists a party whose rank-and-file members and leadership are advocating for policy reflecting what Americans broadly want on, say, guns. It is the Democratic Party. It is Republicans, armed with anti-democratic tools like the Senate filibuster, who stop them. And then the government does little and the GOP says, “Look, the government is useless!”

Hard pass. Shelve this terrible third-party idea, Andrew, and roll up your sleeves to get Democrats elected and to protect that endangered species of pro-democracy Republican.

Amen.  But read Andrew’s books.  They offer important ideas.

And now (unattributed, sadly) . . .

An old Doberman starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he’s lost.

Wandering about, he notices a young lion heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old Doberman thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep dodo now! Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. 

Just as the lion is about to leap, the old Doberman exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious lion! I wonder, if there are any more around here?

Hearing this, the young lion halts his attack in mid-stride, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees. “Whew!,” says the lion, “That was close! That old Doberman nearly had me!

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the lion. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the lion, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the lion. The young lion is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!

Now, the old Doberman sees the lion coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?,” but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet. Just when they get close enough to hear, the old Doberman says, “Where’s that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another lion!

Moral of This Story

Don’t mess with the old dogs. Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery!



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