One party rule. The very words may send chills down your spine, or may have you partying in the streets. It all depends whether it’s your party in power – or the other one. In America, one party rule typically means control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches. But after the 2020 election, we saw just how critical Governors and Secretaries of State could be in helping to secure the executive branch. Certification of votes was a process many of us probably never considered before the 2020 elections, but suddenly, that authority seems pivotal on the path to executive power. The tools parties can use to secure their power are many, and we see them expanding those tools right under our noses, even as voters continue to focus on  divisive and emotional issues like gun or reproductive rights. But make no mistake – while we the people are distracted by the shiny headlining policies, political parties have carefully and strategically been focused on the truly powerful policies that pave the path to power.

Ballot access. Voting locations, i.d. requirements, voter roll purges, qualifications to vote. Voting processes, redistricting, control over state election offices and appointment of judges inclined to rule (or abstain from ruling) to affirm partisan legislative powers. Partisan primaries and gerrymandering. These issues are rarely in the forefront of the minds of voters as they head to the polls, but these are the issues that the parties really care about. These are the issues that deemphasize the voter, and engineer victories to achieve the goal for power.

The Forward Party gets that. Now, we face the challenge of convincing Americans that these ARE the shiny issues we should all be looking at. These ARE the issues that voters need to control if they are to elect representatives who will reflect the will of their constituents.

A tug of war is, by definition, a two team game. Unfortunately, in a nation where nearly half of the voters don’t belong to either team, many voters are sidelined. Many simply walk away and this is how America ends up with a voter participation rate far lower than that of other countries with multiple viable parties. This is not a problem either party cares to solve. After all, these are voters whose loyalty to them is minimal. In polls, this population is categorized as “leaning right” or “leaning left.” Unpredictable as this population is, neither party is eager to motivate non-voters or leaners to participate in elections. 

One party rule. That sounds like China, or Russia – not America. But with two parties fighting for ultimate control, the partisan fight for the ultimate, total victory is dragging us in that direction. In the meantime, while we wait and watch the partisan battle, observe the splitting and polarization of our country, and watch our elections, courts and legislative bodies fall to one side or the other, the Forward Party has emerged to give America a choice.

In the weeks following the merger of the Forward Party, the Renew America Movement and the Serve America Movement we’ve received enormous support and outreach from those excited by an alternative. Of course, we’ve had our detractors too. That’s to be expected, even a healthy political system is no place for thin skin.

But the greatest backlash, it seems, comes from people who see the current dysfunctional political environment as an opportunity to cement single party rule by their side, and who see the Forward Party as jeopardizing those prospects.

And fair enough, we are absolutely here to ensure Americans have political choice, and to prevent the other major parties from using their power to marginalize others.

Forwardists come from across the political spectrum. Many are former Republicans turned off by the rise of anti-democracy radicalism. Others are former Democrats tired of dysfunction and looking to solve problems. Still others have never fit into either party. This is a broad coalition, but one bedrock principle for us is support for Vibrant Democracy.

Let’s talk about vibrant democracy vs single party government.

 

Do we want to live in a one party democracy, even if it is your side?

Single party dominance means that partisan primaries determine your representative before you even get to the general election. In over 85% of our districts the outcome of the general election is functionally decided in the primary, where just one-fifth, or less, of a party’s voters participate. What does it mean to vote if the victory is predetermined by partisan manipulation of districts and of primaries?

Furthermore, when one party holds all the power, they often use that power to prevent competition and cement future political wins. From gerrymandering to restrictive election laws, power without any check is dangerous. We’re even seeing cases where state election officials are vowing to not accept elections they lose. While the most rabidly partisan are applauding efforts to weaken or eliminate opposition, it’s a dangerous trend for our democracy.

That’s especially true because the combination of increasingly “safe” political seats, low turn-out partisan primary elections, and a lack of multiple political choices inevitably pushes politics to the extremes. Candidates in places where a single party dominate are incentivized to appeal to the most vocal and active part of their base, or else face their only real political challenge from a more extreme rival in their party. So, to “cover their flank” they move further and further towards radicalism.

A one party state means that a small number of party leaders can steer the agenda, demand loyalty to that agenda, and punish those who push back by withdrawing financial support, access to party voter lists, and by mounting support of a primary opponent. One party can, in this manner, shift the power to a singular dogmatic platform. 

Either way you slice it, single party government is bad for a vibrant democracy. Even if it’s your party who enjoys political dominance, your party will shift further towards radicalism over time, eventually leaving you on the outside with little hope of forcing a change. And, of course, if your party isn’t the one in power, the prospects are even more dim.

That’s why political choice is an essential part of the Forward Party’s mission. Forwardists seek to provide an alternative to the polarized two party system, one where we can find real solutions to major problems. More than that, we offer the hope of real democracy and electoral reforms that can empower voters and prevent the descent into single party dominance. By working across the political spectrum - and even outside of it entirely - we can deliver lasting political alternatives that bring stability and productivity to our government.

In a two party system that has become as polarized as ours is now in America, the presence of an alternative is a bulwark against the extremist attempts to crush the other side. This alternative must grow to be strong enough to prevent the continued corruption of our voting processes, our courts, and our rights.

The current two-party system is unsustainable, and with the temperature of the rhetoric as high as it is at this moment, when up to 49% of the nation’s voters are dismissed we run the terrible risk of violence. We know it’s possible. January 6 proved that the anger and belief that it is not just our right, but our duty, to fight for our republic will lead to violence. 

Whether you see one party as evil, or see both as stains on our democracy, the only way forward is a third viable, credible, durable new party to reengage a forgotten segment of our population who still believes that voting is our most powerful tool for fair, responsible and functional representation.

Laura Del Savio

About

Laura is the Deputy Director, Integration and Operations at Forward Party HQ.