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The Forward Party Promises an Alternative to Bipartisan Dysfunction. Some Harvard Students Remain Ambivalent.

Andrew Yang, a co-founder of the Forward Party, speaks at a presidential campaign rally in Cambridge in September 2019.
Andrew Yang, a co-founder of the Forward Party, speaks at a presidential campaign rally in Cambridge in September 2019. By Amy Y. Li
By Isabella B. Cho, Crimson Staff Writer

In late July, a few dozen former partisans convened to deliver an ambitious promise to scores of disillusioned American voters: an alternative to bipartisan dysfunction by way of a new political party called Forward.

It remains to be seen how the Forward Party will court a key voting bloc: young people. While some Harvard students cited concerns with Forward’s dearth of specific stances on key policy issues, others said they were grateful to see politicians try something new in a stagnating climate.

Despite differences in opinion, many agreed on one point: It is too early — and the party’s stances too vague — to determine Forward’s future.

Former president of Harvard Undergraduates for Bipartisan Solutions Jack A. “Alex” White III ’23 said there is a likelihood of Forward playing “spoiler” — taking away votes from a major candidate, thereby aiding in the victory of an opponent — rather than carving out a distinct political legacy.

“There’s always that big risk of playing spoiler,” he said. “If something like Forward could stake out new territory and make the contrast between them and the existing system clear — and do that in a compelling way — maybe they have a shot.”

“On the other hand, you don’t want mushy middle spoiler effect at a time when the stakes are pretty high on both sides,” White added.

Forward is a merger of three political movements: the Renew America Movement, founded in 2021 by former Republican government officials; the Forward Party, a precursor to the current party founded by New York millionaire and former Democrat Andrew Yang following his unsuccessful presidential bid; and the Serve America Movement, a group of Democrats, Republicans, and independents helmed by former Republican Florida congressman David Jolly.

Self-described as a centrist party determined to “reintroduce choice and competition,” Forward features two inaugural co-chairs: former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Yang.

“Today’s outdated parties have failed by catering to the fringes,” Whitman, Yang, and Jolly wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post last month. “As a result, most Americans feel they aren’t represented.”

Political fatigue has seeped into younger voting blocs as well. President Joe Biden’s approval rating among young Americans fell to 41 percent, a youth poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics found in April.

Incoming freshman Allen Y. Zhang ’26 called Forward’s emergence “exciting news” in a time of intense polarity between the two established parties.

“I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” he said. “Somebody’s actually doing something, instead of just being a spectator.”

Another student pointed to Forward’s pledge to increase electoral choice as a boon.

“One platform that I really appreciate about the Forward Party is the idea of running nonpartisan primaries, which is an incredible way for people to get civically engaged early,” said Harvard Votes Challenge Co-Chair Pratyush Mallick ’25.

Not all Harvard affiliates, however, are hopeful about Forward’s future.

“This is nothing but a personal vanity project,” Harvard Professor of Government and Sociology Theda Skocpol wrote in an email. “It will go nowhere, and if it did succeed in attracting votes in states it would simply help elect extreme right wingers.”

The Forward Party did not respond to requests for comment.

Leaders of the Forward Party have said they plan to invite individuals to participate in collaborative discussions about how to refine the party’s stances on key issues. Harvard Professor of Government and the Press Thomas E. Patterson said the media will likely sink its teeth into Forward as its platform accumulates clearer policy positions.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” Patterson said of Forward. “They’re either going to be able to attract a certain small percentage of the vote, but if anything, their chances of success lie in being a spoiler, not actually winning anything.”

Harvard Political Union Chair Carter G. Demaray ’25 wrote in an email that Forward’s pledge to build consensus through advancing centrist stances may serve to reinforce, rather than abate, recent threats to democracy.

“I think it’s important to note that taking the centrist position on issues does not equate to taking the morally correct position,” Demaray wrote.

“The United States democratic system of governance is under threat right now — largely due to the actions of one political party. If you take a centrist and/or status quo stance on democracy, then you are only aiding those who wish to dismantle democracy,” he added.

For some students who supported key leaders in the Forward Party in previous elections, it remains to be seen how the party’s ideals will translate into real impact. White, who canvassed for Yang in New Hampshire during the 2020 presidential primaries, said he is unsure of how the politician’s ambitions will pan out.

“Trying to helicopter yourself into a New York mayoral race, and then trying to launch a third party — extremely bold,” he said. “I don’t know how it’ll work out for him.”

Patterson had another way of characterizing Yang.

“He’s a politician in search of a job,” he said.

​​—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

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