Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Joel Searby on his own Medium page and is being reposted here with his permission.
This week I helped launch a new political party for America — the Forward Party. I hear your skepticism. That’s fine. But let me say a couple things. First, there’s not been a better moment in our lifetimes and probably not for 150 years. Second, the team we’ve assembled is the most serious, credible, and experienced that’s tried in modern politics. How do I know? Because I’ve tried, and mostly failed, for 7 years. I’ve seen, up close, where the challenges are most acute and the opportunities most ripe. Here’s the story of how I ended up helping to found the new Forward Party — why I think we’re going to re-invent American politics — and why I am incredibly hopeful for the first time in many years.
In 2016 I resigned as the CEO of the largest Republican consulting firm in the Southeast, left the Republican Party and worked to recruit an independent candidate for president to oppose the deeply flawed Hillary Clinton and dangerously narcissistic Donald Trump. It cost me dearly.
For the past seven years I’ve been trying to help chart a new way in our politics. I did that mostly through running independent candidates — for US Senate, for Governor, for US House and down the ballot. I also did what I could to oppose Trump in 2020 — primarily among the Christian community as I helped lead Christians Against Trumpism & Political Extremism. These efforts were mostly a run of failures, pain, more loss and frustration. I took almost a year off after the 2020 election. I wasn’t sure what was next.
Then in December of 2021 there was a meeting in New York City of some groups and friends who felt the same way about the future of our democracy and were coming at the problem from different angles — left, right and center. It felt different. There was humility in the room. A willingness to lay aside differences for the good of the nation. An urgency. Someone suggested that maybe, just maybe, all these groups should join forces. A merger.
Mergers are hard. In politics, they’re nearly impossible and never happen. I definitely wanted to keep the conversation going and be a part of it — but I have to admit I thought the most likely outcome would look like other “reform” efforts and end up with disparate groups trying to do good things and never working together.
But as we kept meeting, the relationships just kept getting stronger and stronger. The conversation got more and more serious. The intellectual work got deeper and deeper. Then it happened. We merged. The right of center Renew America Movement (for which I was serving as the national political director alongside my friend Miles Taylor), the left of center Forward Party (under Andrew Yang’s leadership) and the center Serve America Movement (under David Jolly’s leadership) have now merged and formed a new political party for America: The Forward Party.
That’s all fine and well, you may say, but what do you stand for? This is the question I get the most — and one I’m supremely confident in answering and incredibly excited about living out. But it’s not the answer you might expect. I’m not going to list out our top-down national platform on the tough issues — because we don’t have one. If you think about it for a minute, expecting that is actually pretty messed up. The two major parties presume to tell you, no matter where you live or how nuanced your views may be, what you can and can’t believe. Even when they don’t explicitly say it, the “base” enforces certain litmus tests on the left and the right. This isn’t freedom. It doesn’t celebrate the beautiful pluralism of our nation. And it certainly isn’t helping solve our biggest problems.
Instead, the Forward Party has vision, values and practices which will guide us all as we engage in civic life. In preparing how we’d approach issues, we assembled thinkers, operatives and leaders from all spectrums and we’ve landed on what I think is an entirely new way to think about policy and governing — not just a different set of positions. Namely, we will not prescribe positions or a platform from the national party. Rather, we believe that, within a wide set of boundaries outside of which rest the extremes, candidates at the local, state and federal level will decide where they stand on issues and make their case to the voters.
In Belmont, North Carolina, a Forward candidate for city council may well be a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment and oppose banning all assault weapons but believe in new and stronger background checks, age limits and red-flag laws, among others. In Seattle, Washington, a Forward state legislative candidate may well support banning assault weapons and believe there should be further restrictions on the gun manufacturing industry. These views may best reflect their communities as well as their own personal position — and they will have the opportunity to present them to the voters and the voters (we are a democratic republic after all) will decide!
This is not a wishy-washy approach. Nor is it “centrist” or “moderate.” It’s not “left” or “right.” It’s forward.
This is, rather than being weak, the strongest and most difficult of approaches but the one which has the best chance of delivering real solutions to some of our biggest problems because people can feel free to bring their whole selves to their elected office and be unafraid to work with those with whom they disagree, aiming at practical, achievable progress. We call it fearless civic discourse.
As a social “conservative” on some issues but a “progressive” on others — and a Jesus-follower by faith, I can say that I’m not only comfortable in the party, but enthusiastic about helping to lead it. I’m thrilled to work alongside those of other faiths and no faith. Alongside those whose views on the best way to solve big problems are different from mine. We are a beautifully diverse, pluralistic nation. That is not going to change. Instead, we have an historic opportunity to embrace it while simultaneously building a new viable, credible, durable political party for the millions of us who have felt politically homeless for so many years. To you, I say: welcome home.
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