Utah Forward Party

Phil's Take

28 April, 2023

Gallup poll on Party Affiliations: https://news.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx


For what it’s worth here’s what I think: I think that whether or not you live in Utah, whether you’re a Democratic, Republican, or like me, a None-of-the-above, supporting the Utah Forward Party at this moment is a fundamentally productive thing to do. Really. A small expression of support here, in this specific moment, could have an outsized impact on the long term health of our country.

Read on if you’re willing to hear me out.

Facing the Problem

Politics is broken, and our broader society has been unduly strained because of it. Everyone feels it in some way or another, and we’re all feeling pessimistic. Here’s why:

  1. Political power is derived from the approval of the masses - that’s a good thing.
  2. The approval of the masses can be manipulated by powerful entities like politicians, businesses and the media - that’s neither good nor bad, it’s just a fact of life.
  3. In the pursuit of power (and wealth), these entities have collectively decided that polarization is an easier sell than cooperation; it’s harder to run a campaign on productive solutions than it is to simply run against the other guys, “This idea might work” has been largely replaced by “That guy sucks.” - that’s a cynical thing.
  4. This polarization has bled out of the Beltway and into our living rooms. Many of us no longer believe in the possibility of compromise; four in ten Americans believe Civil War is at least “somewhat likely” in the next decade. - that’s a dangerous thing.

Combine all this with a cocktail of incredibly volatile new technological advancements, disconcerting shifts in worldwide population density and resource consumption, and the global decline of small-d democratic values…I don’t want to say it’s a powder keg…but it might be a powder keg.

In truth, maybe there’s nothing to be done. If you think nuclear war is already inevitable, or that the next pandemic is going to finish us off, or that we’re all about to become homogenous dehumanized cyborgs whether we opt in or not, then none of this matters and the efficacy of government has no role in any of it. Maybe this is just what it looks like when an empire declines.

But that’s a little fatalistic, yeah? Aren’t some of these solvable problems? Shouldn’t politics be less ugly?

So what do we do?

I’ll start by asking you to listen, really listen, to what my friends at the Forward Party are trying to say:

They’re saying productive political discourse built on compromise won’t exist unless it’s incentivized, and currently, the opposite is true. This is for two reasons:

  1. You don’t need to compromise if there are only two parties. Voter dissatisfaction is inevitable, so if you’re not in power, just spew a bunch of vitriol and wait out the pendulum swing. Eventually your team will take over and you can set your agenda then.
  2. The gerrymandering of districts and closed, simple majority voting systems mean the Primaries are now more significant than the General Election. This produces elected officials who are beholden to a more extreme sub-grouping within their respective parties and who believe that compromise shows weakness. This leaves the moderate center less represented than ever before.

I actually think the solution is pretty straightforward:

More parties means healthier dialogue and progress through compromise, and the path to more parties is through election reform. It also helps if you treat your rivals with a modicum of respect.

I genuinely want both the Democrats and the Republicans to be better versions of themselves. At one time, they were meant to represent both sides of a reasonable philosophical debate about the role of government, not just the misplaced tribalism we see today. But there are no incentives for the parties to change on their own. I’m pretty certain that somebody else will have come along from the outside and save them from themselves.

Why Forward?

I’d rather not wait around for the next great national trauma to befall us before we’re spurred to action. Do we really need a presidential assassination attempt, or a terrorist attack, or for someone to self-immolate on TikTok before we’re spurred to seek solutions? Is that really what it takes to see a paradigm shift?

I think that small moves made by well-meaning nerds have a better chance at really making the world turn. Enter Forward.

I find it’s best to think Forward as both a movement and a political party.

As a movement, Forward’s primary focus is on election reform, or the science and structure of how elections are optimally managed. This means changes to voting methods (Ranked-Choice Voting, Approval, STAR), campaign finance reform, open primaries, etc. A politician or voter therefore doesn’t have to be in the Forward Party to share the principles of the movement.

But without real political power at our backs, we cannot reasonably expect meaningful progress on election reform; hence the Forward Party. It was founded to support candidates dedicated to Election Reform as a policy cornerstone, and to give a home to disenfranchised centrist candidates who’ve opted out of the toxic cycle of business-as-usual. It’s also redefining what a party is supposed to be - rather than a collection of specific stances on hot button issues, it’s a bottom-up framework for approaching those issues.

Forward isn’t built on a radical ideology or as a fringe governmental philosophy, and by design it avoids the hot button issues that divide us, so we instead focus on what binds us. There are no plans to run a presidential candidate in 2024 or beyond and we’ll focus instead on local races, yet it still has a strong national voice. These are good reasons to believe Forward may succeed where third parties have historically faltered.

I wonder if there are millions of Americans, from everyday voters to sitting members of congress, who align with Forward’s principles, but who remain reluctant to step up until this nascent ideology crosses some tipping point, and the experiment becomes viable.

Why Utah?

Like all political movements, Forward needs to be rooted at the local level. I believe Utah is particularly well-positioned to succeed in gaining local traction.

Over the last few election cycles, Utah has also shown itself to be more amenable to independent thinking; let’s call it the frontier spirit. In Utah there are currently more unaffiliated voters than registered Democrats. This is the state where 73% of Democrats support a Republican Senator (Mitt Romney) and 48% of Democrats support a Republican Governor (Spencer Cox).

Utah is just one square on the gameboard, but I believe its position is strategically significant. If you agree with how I define the problem, and you see Forward as a potential solution, the success of our efforts in Utah may have outsized national reverberations. It makes sense, right?

How do we make progress?

The good news is Utah has a comparatively simple process for new political parties to gain legal recognition and ballot access. We need 2000 signatures and to host a convention to elect officers and ratify a party constitution. Those are our crucial next steps. That’s eminently achievable, but that effort requires volunteers and resources.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  • If you live in Utah, sign our petition. If you want to do more, we can give you a signature packet to distribute to your friends and family, or you can simply join our mailing list to stay apprised of future opportunities.
  • If you live outside of Utah, consider making a donation (here’s my fundraising page), and check out the National website to learn more about the Forward Approach and to connect with Forwardists in your state (we’re in all 50).

In the very least, try to not be angry with people about their politics; their truth is not your own, and I’m pretty certain there’s more to be gained from listening than from shouting. Thanks for listening to me.

Phil Boileau
Outreach Lead, Forward Utah