Third Parties and Local Elections: A New Beginning?

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November 6, 2023

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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Polarization and gridlock dominate American party politics. As an alternative to the traditional groups, entrepreneur Andrew Yang founded the Forward Party in 2021 to advocate for ranked choice voting, inter-party compromise, open primaries, among other reforms. Yang, a 2020 Democratic primary candidate, merged the fledgling party with the Republican-affiliated Renew America Movement in 2022, creating a big-tent coalition.

Volunteers staff the party, including in the nation’s capital. Since late 2021, Ryan Prince, a DC resident and bartender, has volunteered as a community organizer for the Forward Party’s DC chapter. He meets with local community organizations, campaigns on behalf of independent and Forward-aligned candidates, and helps to raise funds and find new volunteers for the party in the District.

Q: Why did you join the Forward Party?

A: I was a part of it pre-merger. Once I heard Yang was involved, I asked how I could help out. I’ve always been politically homeless and interested in a third party, so, let’s jump right in.

Q: Why did you feel “politically homeless”?

A: I grew up in the Bay Area, so I’ve always been socially liberal, but I was a Never-Trump Republican. I go left on most social issues and right on fiscal issues. I’m a bit of an iconoclast and motivated by the idea of disturbing the current system; I just want to end the “culture war” and make government boring again.

Q: You have said that both parties have gone too far to the extremes, and the reason for that is the primary system.

A: Absolutely. Ranked choice voting, open primaries, everything. Democracy needs to be re-emphasized in so many ways. I want Congress to be bigger, I want money out of politics; I just want common sense solutions. Term limits is another one. Three terms in the Senate, six terms in the House maximum. I would say the same about the Supreme Court. If you can’t get the job done in so much time, then what are you doing?

Q: How does the current political situation make it difficult for new, independent candidates?

A: It’s always obvious. Look at Norton Holmes – she’s been DC’s Delegate to Congress for thirty years now. Sixteen terms is an outrageous span of time to hold that position, but everyone knows her. With all her funding for advertisements, her name recognition makes her unbeatable. Everyone knows her, so no one else stands a chance.

Q: What exactly is your role as a community organizer?

A: I’m a bartender, so I’m good with people. Whenever something comes up – we’re working on a ballot issue now – I just talk to people on the street, calling them up, getting them on board. When I find volunteers, I try to match them with their strengths and put them in a role that would best suit them.

Q: What is the ballot issue the party is working on in DC now?

A: Ballot Initiative 83 in DC would allow for ranked choice voting and open primaries for City Council elections. It would have a modifying effect on the City Council. DC is a Democratic stronghold, so if you’re not a registered Democrat – and I am an independent – you effectively have no vote. Initiative 83 would permit everyone to register to vote in the primary up to two weeks before the election, regardless of party registration.

Q: Another Forward Party goal is to get money out of politics, but you need money to get the message out there in the first place.

A: We need money for advertisements, signage, websites, everything, just to spread the word. It’s been a tough challenge, but I think we’ve been overcoming it and making good progress regardless.

Q: What have been the strategies for the Party to get these funds?

A: So far, it’s been grassroots movements. Volunteers, small donors, community organizations. We are trying to build a foundation. We focus on local issues in the areas where we have a presence. Nobody gets excited about local elections – school boards, city bills, that sort of thing. It’s so important because your schools, your roads, your local restaurants, they all ride on local politics.

Q: What are the next steps, and what does the future hold?

A: Right now, we are focusing on some battleground states. California, Maine, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington, and soon to be Virginia are the main ones. We’re working there, building up our local contacts, supporting candidates, and getting the word out to see where things go. It was a tough decision to not run someone for President but getting 1% of the vote wouldn’t have helped anyone. This isn’t a two-year plan; this is a ten-to-twenty-year plan. The road is challenging, but someone has to do it; democracy reform is desperately needed, and that’s my only goal.

The conversation with Prince is edited for length and brevity; we spiraled into discussions about current political events multiple times during the interview.

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