What Could An Actual Third Party Look Like?

If you're gonna do something different, by god, do something different

Imagine you lived in a rural area and you had two choices for your shopping needs: Walmart and Target.

After trading them on and off for years, you realize that neither one of them is a good place to shop. Sure, Walmart’s a little cheaper, you think, but it’s an awful experience and the merchandise sucks. Meanwhile Target’s stuff is better, and the store is less of a nightmare, but the customer service gets worse every year, it’s too pricey and they still don’t have what you want half the time.

And so after years of going back and forth in dismay, you hit upon the idea: It’s time for a new store! A better store! You start telling everyone, shilling it on social media, and then you finally, fiiiiinally unveil your big idea and it’s … another soulless big-box store called Walget.

If that sounds crazy and stupid, then please allow me to introduce you to the new Forward Party

The brainchild of failed Democrat Andrew Yang, it’s a party that looks at red and blue and shouts “We’re Purple!” I commented yesterday that third parties in America suffer from the problem of always being just like the major parties, and this is particularly true of this quixotic little plan from Yang. I’m trying not to make the “Forward? Don’t You Mean Backward?” joke about his 1950s centrism, but he clearly isn’t a political scientist. Or even someone who pays more than glancing attention at what the two major parties, y’know, actually do. 

But it did get me to thinking: What would a real third party with potential to survive more than one or two electoral cycles look like in America? 

I came up with basically two different paths to survive. The first is to take an issue of great national importance and run the hell out of it as a single-issue monomaniacal campaign, a la 1860s Republicans and slavery. Funny enough, this is how Yang achieved enough notoriety to launch this endeavor in the first place — by running his presidential campaign of 2020 on the novel idea of a universal basic income payment plan. Unlike his new party, that’s an interesting idea!

The second is to actually differ, clearly and effectively, with the two major parties on things that they agree on. So let’s start with that: What are the things the parties agree fully on? I’ll note here that some of these are not necessarily true of all party voters, however, these are items that the parties themselves do without major disagreement on either side. In short:

  • deregulated capitalism 
  • heavy military spending
  • private health care and insurance
  • heavy spending on police/prisons
  • low corporate taxes, large outlays/tax credits for major corporations
  • massive infrastructure spending for roadways
  • drawing electoral boundaries that will help their own party
  • partisan judicial system with lifetime appointments
  • climate change as a minor issue
  • individual solutions to all problems

Yang, who is a Silicon Valley tech millionaire, wouldn’t rock the boat much on any of those. Which is to say: Even in his wildest, standard-bucking dreams, he would do exactly the same shit that Democrats and Republicans already do! He’s not actually pitching a third party at all; he’s looking for a unitary party of Centrist Republicrats. To me, that’s weird, because the existence of the party is predicated on it being different … but it’s not different at all.

Moreover, Yang seems to believe that a lack of civility is the deepest problem facing America, and that political bickering is the root cause of this problem. That diagnosis isn’t entirely incorrect, I suppose, but for most Americans, a lack of civility is like the 97th biggest issue on their plate. Moreover, there’s a pretty deep inequality between the major parties and their political beliefs, something Yang can’t get into because he’s trying to draw voters of both parties. Hating Mango Unchained has certainly melted some liberal brains; calling every gay person a “groomer” of children is, in fact, a much darker and more actionable level of hatred. That’s a hell of lot more than a “civility” problem.

But enough about Yang and his bad ideas. Given what I wrote above, what might a REAL third party look like? I came up with three good ideas:

1. The People’s Health Care Party: So like the old Republicans, this would be a single-issue party, and as the name suggests, it would be health care reform. Nationalize private insurance and health care and make it so everyone gets care, nobody goes bankrupt over medical bills and we end the idiocy of employer-provided insurance. Why health care? Because it’s a desperate need for millions of people, it’s wildly popular, and it’s extremely doable given enough political power in a way some other issues would be a lot trickier to untangle. I suspect people who would vote for this would also be in favor of some other actual populist policy — and I mean actual populist stuff, not “The Tea Party, sponsored by Koch Inc.” shit that pundits blather about — but the key is to start with one issue and build.

2. American Labor Party: A Labor Party here in the U.S. would do what the British Labor Party was meant to do, namely, be on the side of labor against capital. We’re so Reagan-pilled at this point that it sounds unimaginable, but this was pretty much the Democratic Party 50-ish years ago: pro-union, pro-worker, skeptical about big money and big corporations, nativist without being openly racist, interested in class fairness. What would it be for today? Well, for starters, it would want to abolish a LOT of corporate welfare. It would press for better worker protections (whether through unions or better laws) and fewer international trade agreements. No doubt things like Social Security would be considered sacrosanct. And even as I list the good things, I’m pretty sure this party would be for some stuff I would not like. I doubt they’d be interested in changing the way we approach infrastructure; climate change might be a tough one for them, too. Pretty sure military and police spending wouldn’t change a ton either. But a party for labor does not exist in America. This would be an actual different flavor from the two capital parties!

3. AALPOMSAG (An actual left party, oh my stars and garters): I don’t have a good name for it, but what the hell, if I can suggest a center-left party then I can suggest an actual left party, too. A party that doesn’t treat street crime as a thing only evil monsters do that can only be stopped by Good Guys With Guns but considers crime to be a societal failure (and also considers white-collar activities to be criminal as well). A party that didn’t center cars, capital or connections. A party that did not give the military or police a blank check. A party that did not shrug its shoulders and say “You’re on your own” to every problem but urged collective solutions. I get ya; completely unthinkable in America in 2022. But it is something not currently available in our system, which would at least give it a chance to stand out from the pack.

There are (bad) fourth and fifth options, which would be something something libertarian and a true fascist party. I think the libertarians proved in 2016 that they will never get their shit together. And I’d argue that we already have a lot of the latter in the GOP — but either of those would at least be slightly bigger variants from the norm than this Forward Party crap. 

But I dunno, maybe people are just dying to shop at Walget (or Tarmart?) with Andrew Yang.

About Clever Name Here dba "Black Rod" 86 Articles
Vell, Clever Name Here just zis guy, you know? Sometimes funny. Often annoyed. Once I saw a blimp.


  1. As a nation with 3 actual political parties

    1) Any 3rd Party needs to show in smaller localities they’re viable and can govern. The NDP won in Sask and pushed universal healthcare which was “borrowed” by the Liberals and implemented nationally.

    2) Develop grass roots.  The NDP leaned heavily on unions to build their base.

    3) Cash donations from supporters. Thanks to Citizens United, any billionaire with a bone to pick and some fucking moronic idea can spend whatever the fuck they want. However, they’re usually spending that cash on RW assholes.

    4) Realize that no brain dead hardcore RWer is ever going to vote for you.  Part of the reason  why Cons win elections here is when one or both of the two LW ish parties (Libs and NDPs) are run so ineptly lead so they end up attacking each other because they know their swing voters aren’t dumb and won’t vote Con while the Con voter base is too dumb and self assured to vote anything but Con (to be fair applies on a smaller scale applies to both the Libs and NDP voter bases.) Instead they end up splitting the oppo vote and killing their own supporters enthusiasm.  Happened in 2018 and 2022 in Ontario (and in 2011 in Canada.)

    Hard to reach out over to the aisle at right wingers who think you’re the devil incarnate.

    • Regional parties can work as power brokers if there is actual regional identity and interests. I agree though that without grassroots first this stuff is a bust.

      A big problem with most third party movements is they’re reactionary and focus on being different from whatever the other parties are, and they end up putting grassroots issues last.

    • And the U.S. has already seen this recently! Ross Perot got 19% of the vote in ’92 and by ’96 he struggled to stand out because the GOP-led Congress adopted a bunch of his most popular ideas as their own. That’s why it would have to be something different or something so big that they couldn’t just grab it.

      The grass-roots thing is really important, too. It’s insane that the libertarians and greens run a presidential candidate but have fuck all in any other race. It’s the least impactful way to spend money and time! Go win some mayorships and state races and then we can talk about what your party might be able to accomplish nationally.

      • …was going to say something along similar lines…there are more parties in the UK than I recall there being “when I were a kid”…but even then there were more than just the two…even if you restricted it to ones that ran candidates in england you had the SDP & what-have-you…but the lib dems (who iirc were formed by amalgamating the SDP which had split itself off from the labour party with what called itself the liberal party) were very nearly a viable party for a while there…& the SNP (which started as a pretty single-issue scottish independence effort) came close to sweeping the board north of the border in terms of MPs it could ship down to be a thorn in the side of the government in westminster as well as having the whip hand in hollyrood…& both of those built themselves up to that point by actually doing a decent job at the local council level & rolling that up to getting elected as MPs for constituencies that they actually served

        …it’s not a swift process by any means…but it can work

        …or you can wind up being like the green party, who just about manage to hold on to their one seat in the commons despite some decent showings at local council levels…presumably because any decent, workable ideas they come up with get co-opted by more electorally successful counterparts

        …the thing that strikes me as arguably irresponsible about this forward party lot is their attempt to lay claim to the center ground, though…their spiel is about how both parties are in hock to their extremes & thus that center ground is up for grabs…but that’s basically bullshit…the GOP is an extremist party at this point but the mainstream of the democratic party is in no way captured by the most leftward-leaning components it can lay claim to…pretty much the reverse, really

        …an actually-left-wing-in-the-way-people-mean-that-outside-the-US party might struggle to gain much traction but I could see it being a worthy endeavor…bernie might never have been in danger of becoming president but he’s done yeoman’s work trying to hold that left edge of the overton window & keep some things at least up for debate that might have fallen by the wayside otherwise

        …shaving votes from the center-going-left while making no discernible dent on the reliably right-of-centre blockof the electorate…perhaps especially at this particular juncture but possibly at any time in living memory…that only seems to do a service to the folks to the right of that line…at least the way the math seems to shake out in my head?

  2. I tended to be a Centrist in my early political days. Unfortunately that was when the RW wasn’t a bunch of theocratic fascist morons but arrogant country club types. I was raised fervently anti-communist (hey the NoKos tried to kill my family of aristocratic wannabes) and figured out that running a nation based on ideology is stupid. However, since the 1980s we’ve seen the same from the right as the morons led by rich assholes took over.

    Now I’m more lefty than I could ever believed I be.

    Centrism only works when both left and right are both “rational” OR both “irrational.”  As much as the Dems can be inept and feckless as their GOPer counterparts. I don’t see the Dems going down the lefty crazy rabbit hole.

    • I think a lot of people have been radicalized left because [waves hands vaguely at literally everything wrong and atrophied since 1980].

      But I also think there’s a not-insignificant number of people who are not necessarily leftists but simply do not have an outlet to vote for candidates who might properly represent them. Democrats are a center-right party, and they are the best current hope but have shown they’ll repair some of the worst damage and go no further. That’s not really a great movement-starting position!

  3. I remember reading about the announcement of this Great New Third Party, and they were saying things like how the two major parties were catering to the “extremes”.  I actually laughed out loud.  The Republicans, sure.  But the Democrats aren’t even remotely “extreme.”  If anything, they are 1960’s Republicans now and doing everything they possibly can to kill the actual liberal movement trying to get out of the crib before it gets smothered with a pillow stuffed with hydrocarbons and private insurance paperwork.  What Yang is proposing is, literally, what the fucking Democrats are doing now.

    The biggest hurdle that a viable third party needs to clear in this country isn’t getting voters on board with policy ideas.  The biggest hurdle is finding a way to dismantle the duopoly that the two majors have constructed in order to make damned sure that 3rd parties don’t pose a threat to their power.  That’s the other thing the Republicans and Democrats broadly agree on.

    • The 3rd way seems to me for “centrist” GOPers who don’t want to be Dem and don’t want to give up the shit that country club GOPers love like low taxes and deregulation.

    • 100% this, it was never not funny to see the not-Rumpers rend garments over switching parties and then suddenly realize that the Dems weren’t, like, gonna tax them at 88% to fund abortion clinics/trans-only interpretive dance studios in inner cities, because that’s what they’d heard in their bubble.

    • In terms of dismantling the duopoly, I think an absolutely critical piece is fixing the press. We have a situation right now where to a large extent Fox News is the kingmaker for the GOP, demanding and evil but smart and reliable, while the Democrats have a fickle, ineffective and stupid mess as an alternative.

      You can’t help but look at how much the deck is stacked against even the modest national health care or climate measures. Even beginning a debate is a nightmare because paying a dollar more per gallon for gas is presented as a bigger outrage than being burned to death in wildfires or drowned in floods. Having insurance copays shifted to a tax bill is presented as madness. Getting vaxxed is presented as just as political and judgmental as not getting vaxxed.

      And I think to a large extent we have a crummy duopoly because the press wants one. It makes life a whole lot easier for a lot of dumb, lazy hacks if things never change, and they will do everything they can to make sure they don’t change, even though the ground is eroding under the status quo faster and faster.

  4. I think an interesting thought experiment (super premature, to be sure) is what if Trump splits the GOP?

    What if he becomes too toxic for even McConnell to tolerate, the GOP leaders coalesce around an alternative goblin, but Trump refuses to go along, pushing for a full pardon and other grift?

    While it’s true that he has zero organizing skills on his own, I could see grifters seeing him as a golden opportunity raise a ton of money and get various toadies elected.

    Or, what if the fundamentalist apocalyptics get even more emoldened but alienate enough non-fundamentalists to finally cause a rift in the alliance?

    I am fully aware of how deeply, horribly complicit the typical profit seeking corporate Republican is with the fundamentalist nuts. But it’s not 100% clear to me that they can continue to stick together — I think deep down the apocalyptics want the US to blow up tech and the economy and go to the stone age, but I don’t think half of the GOP wants that.

    Do we see a fundamentalist apocalyptic third party? I think there are reasons to look at Pat Buchanan’s third party run in 1992 and say no. But I also think the apocalyptics are even bolder and crazier now than 30 years ago  and I’m not sure they don’t persevere rather than bargain with the GOP establishment like they have before.

    To be clear, neither scenario is necessarily good news for anybody, even liberals or mainstream Democrats.

    • Look at Canada’s Fed Conservatives. Country Clubbers have the cash and brains, but not the footsoldiers.  The zealots have the footsoliders but not as much cash and definitely not brains.

      They end up muddling up and infighting with inept leaders trying their best to patch it all together.

      The worst alread split off with Mad Maxine Burnier, but the Cons know their big tent of big money and big gawd is a circus tent.

      Having them constantly fighting amongst themselves is probably the best solution to neutralizing the hard right wing.

    • I suspect Trump is mostly a spent force beyond the GOP at this point. I would be mildly surprised if he won the nomination, but if he lost, I would be shocked if he had the wherewithal to actually run third party. And not unlike Yang, he’d have nothing new or interesting to offer because he’d be running against a version of himself (DeSantis, most likely) from the GOP.

      At least for me, the breakup between the country club set and the evangelicals seems far more likely a scenario. Racism and abortion have kept it stitched together for a long time, but I dunno if that’s gonna work forever.

      • I think one possible challenge is Trump may want public commitments to a pardon more than he needs a legal fund. He’s at the point in his life where a protracted legal battle, court appearances, and the damage they could do to his real estate financing could make a pardon much more important to him.

        It’s easy for Republicans to funnel money through a third party to a legal defense fund, but a blanket pardon commitment is potentially a bigger risk if the evidence becomes damning enough.

        Unless of course the Russ Doubthats of the world unite and give cover to the GOP by declaring Biden needs to heal America by pardoning Trump.

        • I mean, that shit is already starting in centrist circles, which is kinda funny and also, I think, a total nonstarter. Too many normie Democrats loathe Trump, and it’s not 1973 any more. The “good of the country” argument isn’t going to work the same way these days. Even Merrick Garland — the most timid squirrel imaginable — is feeling tangible pressure to do something about it. I ultimately don’t know what happens, but I could absolutely see a path forward where he’s wrapped up in litigation for years while his business withers even further before a Filet O’Fish finishes the job in his aorta.

    • …I think trump found the presidency to be the greatest grift he’d ever come across & that if it weren’t for the part where he’d need to be a serial loser he’d kind of love to eternally campaign without ever having to do the job again because that’s the part that’s been his most profitable business venture ever

      …unfortunately his solution to that seemed to be to claim he won the election he lost…which has probably corroded the political structures of the US more than even his actual tenure did…which is saying something

      …but he has a pretty hefty chunk of the GOP’s potential voter base hooked on his own brand of delusional kool aid…so if the GOP give him their ticket all those votes that are basically an attempt to lash out at a society that isn’t pandering to them sufficiently & which they want to teach a lesson even if it’s more painful to the voters than the establishment they feel has let them down…they get to count as theirs

      …if he tries to run his own ticket he could still grift a fair bit…but there’s a decent chance that at this point his spite-voters are a big enough block of the GOP “base” that they know without them their ticket would be holed below the water-line…& the bulk of what has them feeling like all their christmases have come at once doesn’t really require the president to be theirs…so they might be ok with that if he’d leave the down-ticket stuff to them…but he seemingly won’t so long as people are prepared to literally pay him for endorsements…which they seem to be willing to(…I forget who it was that wasn’t who put a rough guide to that process on twitter but it involved a hefty contribution to his PAC…I want to say a cool million bucks?)…so I suspect that your mcconnells are going to circle those wagons & keep him on the inside pissing out

      …I can not adequately express how much I would love to see hair furore run on his own ticket in parallel with an official GOP one

      • I said I would be surprised if he won the nomination in 2024, but even if he didn’t run, I could very well see him throwing such a snit over it that some people would stay home on his behalf. Not even to get into the damage he’s already done by saying that voting doesn’t matter because the elections are rigged anyway. All it takes is 1% of his voters to stay home and North Carolina also goes blue and it ends up being 321 EVs and an ~8 million vote popular loss for them.

  5. I don’t see the Democrats splintering at this point. There are far too many people that are angry about abortion and the Supreme Court. They’re not going to give up their best hope of fixing that mess.

    I absolutely could see a moderate Republican third party. Even the most brazen capitalist fuckwit is getting embarrassed by the likes of MTG, Gaetz, Hawley, and Trump. The reality is that those batshit crazy fuckers threaten the social order. It’s best for rich people to have the moderates vying with conservatives. Nobody’s going to go too crazy on taxing the ultra-rich.

    Smart billionaires would be investing money in Democrats right now as a hedge against November. They’d be having meetings saying, yes, fix this abortion mess, and then stop. right. there. Supporting the batshit got us Trump and all his associated fuckups. Ideally the super-rich will want to pull back to the stasis point, where people aren’t angry enough to fuck with their billions but are sufficiently pacified to calm things down.

    • …& yet none of the wing-nut brigade seem to have trouble fund-raising

      …m-t greene & boebbels might as well cut out the vestigial fig-leaf of political office & just run themselves some sort of only fans type of direct subscription model for whatever batshit cosplay thing they think amounts to politics…near as I can figure anyone still advocating support for either clearly wouldn’t give a shit that they weren’t accomplishing squat beyond irresponsibly running their mouths specifically to push buttons that are either tuned to idiots or flat out make people dumb like it’s some kind of virus

      …I see this shit still working for these people…I know in the academic sense that it’s technically true they occupy positions of supposed responsibility…but at a visceral level some part of me simply can’t come to terms with the manifest degree to which they’re not only unfit but actively destructive of the authority & institutions they “serve” to an extent that makes the emperor’s new clothes seem substantial by comparison…so they continue to suprise me by their next bout of god-awfulness

      …selling “I’m a christian nationalist” t-shirts might actually top those “better russian than a democrat” ones for sheer mœbius-strip-circular-logic, though…stridently denying that it’s reasonable for people to describe you as a nazi while self-identifying as a christian nationalist with a preference for white people of western european descent…is…something that shouldn’t be in any position to gain the traction it demonstrably has in a nation that prides itself on having been the thing to turn the tide & prevent that shit coming out in top in WWII

      …it’s absolutely beyond fucking crazy that this is the shit we’re forced to contend with when the array of stuff there needs to be something done about includes the shit that it does…& part of me feels like it resemble a convoluted & protracted sort-of-gestalt form of suicidal tendency…there’s literally no future in it?

Leave a Reply