A Centrist Party is Necessary to Gain Fair Representation
The reality is that, without a national centrist party, the political center will never be fairly & equally represented in government.
Parties Build the Tent We Work Together Under
No other form of organization can build a tent that groups and campaigns can work together under to organize and rally to.
No Org can do All that Parties Do for Candidates
No other form of political organization can do all of the things that parties can do to help their candidates get elected.
THREE TRAILBLAZING CENTRIST PARTIES WE IMPLORE YOU TO SUPPORT
Initially launched in 1992 as a state chapter of the Reform Party, supporting the first presidential campaign of Ross Perot, the Independence Party of Minnesota has been representing centrist and moderate voters for over 25 years now. They’ve run candidates up and down the ballot for most of those years, and their members have held offices including members of the US House of Representatives (Dean Barkley, from 2002-2003) and even the Governor (Jesse Ventura from 1999-2003). Like many in the center, and unlike irresponsible Democrats and Republicans, they support balanced budgets, and have been forward thinking in areas like GLBT rights and marijuana legalization.
Steadily growing since launching in 2007, the Independent Party of Oregon is now the third biggest party in Oregon and has had periods of faster growth than the major parties. Even while new and small, the IPO championed reforms to the electoral system, including succeeding at arguing for fusion voting (candidates can run on multiple party lines) and helping to repeal a bill that made it harder for independents to run for office. As they’ve grown, they’ve begun to work up to running more centrist and moderate candidates of their own for state-level races and are pioneers in making voting easier by holding their fully open primaries entirely online since 2011.
The youngest centrist party we can recommend readers, having been launched in 2013 by one Democrat and one Republican frustrated by the lack of fiscal responsibility, resulting federal government shutdown that year, partisan transparency and poor governance by the major parties, the party promised to nominate moderates to fill the gap in representation as the parties have moved farther from center. As they grow and get better organized, they’re working to prepare to run several serious state legislature campaigns this election cycle, running on a platform “attacking from the center instead of the left or right”, supporting term limits and common sense campaign finance reform.
How We Select Which Centrist Parties to Focus on Helping
Especially while we’re still growing, we only can do so much to help other organizations working to help centrists and moderates, so we need to focus our work toward helping those that are doing the best work – where our help is likely to have the greatest positive impact for the political center.
Before looking into how well an organization is put together, we first need to make sure they represent the views of what we call the ‘big tent center’ – views of the underrepresented centrists and moderates we aim to represent here.
Once we know we’ve found a political party that is at least mostly in agreement with centrists & moderates on the issues, we then look at how well they’re organized, if they look like they’re going to be around for the long term and if they’re running campaigns intelligently, with viable and serious candidates.
The unfortunate truth is that most moderate “parties” are little more than online clubs calling themselves a centrist party, run by people who don’t know how to run an organization very well, using plans rife with misconceptions and fairy tales about how political organizing works, with no real fundraising strategy and that run largely quixotic candidates with little to no chance of winning.
Long story short – we’re not going to recommend that you support a centrist party if they aren’t worth the investment of your hard earned money.
As for candidates and campaigns, we’re looking for parties that run people for races they have a realistic chance of winning. Running non-famous first time candidates for US Congress – or higher office – tells us that the party is not based in reality – those sorts of candidates need to run for state legislature or lower and work their way up to high office, or all you’re doing is throwing away resources.
Next we look to make sure that their candidates do the hard work of fundraising (asking everyone they know & supporters they meet for money) and treat the campaign like it’s a 20-30+ hour a week part-time job. If they’re treating their campaign like a hobby, they won’t win and don’t deserve your hard-earned money.
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It’s hard to find centrist candidates and parties like this if you don’t follow political news like we do here (obsessively, like an addict – the term “news junkie” is pretty close to reality). That’s what we’re here for – to help you make sure that you support those few (more and more each year, though) campaigns and organizations that will use your donations wisely.
The first step in deciding if a group calling themselves a moderate party should be among the short list we recommend to readers to support is the most obvious; are they, in fact, a centrist party – do they represent the views of the center range of the American political spectrum?
To compete with the Democrats and Republicans, the long term goal is to have a national centrist party, with chapters in every state and locality – just like the two major parties have today, so we’re looking for organizations that are welcome to the three primary segments of the center: the moderate/center-left, centrists and moderate/center-right.
It’s important that all three are included, as if we’re going to build an opposition to the two major parties, we have to unite the whole center. These are also the three biggest segments of the electorate that the Democratic and Republican parties have abandoned.
While many left and right leaning moderates are still with the parties, more will leave as they get more extreme, and we need to organize so they find a home with us in the center.
Ultimately, the whole point is so we will see our views fairly represented in Washington, so naturally we need to make sure centrist parties we look at represent the views of the centrist big tent I spoke about in the above.
The sorts of views we’re looking for are the same we explore in the Centrist Political Views section of this website, for example:
- Anti-Corruption: do they take a stand on issues related to corruption, such as election reform and transparency, or do they seem like they want to just be a centrist version of the corrupt major parties?
- Do they have good ideas that will boost the economy, plans to put Social Security and Medicare on stable footing and improving healthcare without adding even more to the national debt?
- Do they back plans that would make our country more secure, while avoiding unnecessary wars and wasteful foreign policy blunders?
- Do they support our individual rights, while looking for evidence-based ideas on how to lower crime and drug addiction?
- Do they overtly say that they aim to represent centrists & moderates, and are they open to both the center-left and center-right?
The ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality is unfortunately endemic among independent political efforts. One of the ways this manifests is in leaders of groups believing they can challenge the the two major parties with a few hours of free time invested, when it’s convenient.
Much like running for office, leadership of political parties is a part-time job most of the time, with periods (near elections) where it is a full-time job. If you don’t treat it as such, you’re not taking the position seriously, and have no business being in that role.
When deciding whether or not to highlight an organization, on this point we’re looking for organizational leadership that understands the level of commitment necessary to do the job right, as well as a solid grasp of political organizing – from candidate and volunteer recruitment to grassroots to grasstops organizing, PR, fundraising and budgeting.
In time we’ll have parties with the budget to hire professional organizers, but until then, we need volunteer leaders with the commitment to invest the necessary time and professionalism to run organizations effectively.
The natural next place to look at is their results, and how long an organization has been active. We cannot fly around the country to shadow them, and make sure they’re doing what they say they’re doing, but we can look at measurable results, and if they’ve been around for years, we can safely assume they wont go away anytime soon.
The proverbial proof is in the pudding – if they’re doing all of the right things, then their centrist party will be showing results.
The Independent Party of Oregon is an illustrative example, as recent news showed that their party added more members than either the Democratic or Republican parties last year. It naturally follows that an organization that accomplishes that on the relative shoestring budget that they have now would do even better with more resources, so supporting them would be a good investment.
Results are the ultimate goal – electing people, growing in membership and passing legislation. Regardless of weakness in other areas, if an organization is succeeding, then they’re at least doing something right.
As the ultimate goal is to see our views fairly represented in the halls of government, naturally one of the most pivotal elements of whether a party is effective or not is whether they’re running candidates in races that they have a realistic chance of winning, or whether they’re throwing resources away on races impossible to win.
Another endemic problem among centrist party organizations is that they run candidates well above the level they should be running, and in so doing rob themselves of potential state legislature seats, because they run candidates nowhere near ready to run for high office for US Congress, Senate or for Governor, in races they have no chance of winning.
Our support is going to be focused on helping centrist parties grow, and viable candidates win – not waste your hard earned money on quixotic losing campaigns and ineffective plans.
The candidates we highlight and ask you to support, will be the ones who fit similar criteria as you see here. Enough time and money has been wasted on losing – it’s long past time we started focusing on winning.
The newest centrist party to begin making waves, the ‘Party of the Center’ launch was announced in November. Given that I live a mere two miles from the Kansas border (on the Missouri side of Kansas City), I reached out to the founder and was happy to hear some very promising things from him that make me hopeful that the party will grow. I’ll be meeting with them, and post a profile shortly after, but for a taste of who they are and what they plan to do, the founder produced a booklet (click here to download the PDF) that contains some good ideas. Their first test will come in a few months, when they need to collect about 20,000 signatures to validate their new centrist party – I’ll be volunteering personally, and will report back on what I see then.
The Reform Party came well before it’s time, during an era where partisan corruption and divisiveness was less pronounced and candidates run by the major parties were more representative of the American people. With an inexperienced candidate touching on centrist themes quite prescient and forward thinking for the time, the Reform Party pulled a loose national centrist party together relatively overnight and shook the boat more than anyone had since Theodore Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party roughly three generations earlier. Currently working to rebuild their national network, we hope to see chapters organize as the three parties above have, and this time during an era far more amenable to what they have been pushing all these years.
The second newest party added here, the center-right United Utah Party is the brainchild of Brigham Young University political science professor Richard Davis, who had considered the idea of starting a moderate party for years. After meeting more who supported the idea (namely Jim Bennett, son of former GOP Senator Bob Bennett, who ran under the party’s flag during the special election to replace Jason Chaffetz in late 2017) they launched in May of 2017. Presumably because it was launched by a political scientist, and one of the leaders is the son of a congressman, the UUP displays a level of organization unusual for such a new party. They aren’t accurately labeled a ‘centrist party’, as they have aligned themselves with conservatives like Even McMullin and Mitt Romney, and their platform and messaging shows a clear rightward lean.
Modern Whig Party
Technically started in 2007, primarily by members of the military, the Modern Whig Party has gone through a reorganization and relaunched in 2015. Not strictly a centrist party, their tent pole stands more in a zone with elements of the center-right and moderate classical liberalism (which itself is a more moderate form of libertarianism). We’ve followed this group for years, and they struggle with the same issues that groups led by politically inexperienced have had to work through, but unlike so many others that have dissolved, they’ve stuck at it for a decade now. The MWP represents an element of the political ‘Big Tent Center’ that a national centrist party will need if we want to succeed, so we hope they find their footing soon too.
Unity Party of America
There have been a number of groups online that have used this name, but here we refer to the centrist party announced by Bill Hammons in the summer of 2016. Most of the activity of this new group is in Colorado, where The Centrist Project is also focusing in 2018. Like groups not mentioned here, they aren’t well organized (yet?), but they do show a level of commitment that tells us that they likely will keep at it long enough to evolve into an organization at the level of those at the top of this page, and start to form an effective opposition against the two major parties.
We cannot be satisfied with merely being a centrist version of the corrupt major parties of today – we can, and must, innovate by building a national centrist party that puts up institutional hurdles that makes it harder for corruption to take hold, as it has in the two major parties.
Ours Must Be Better Than Just a Centrist Version of Existing Parties
There are a great many reasonable criticisms of the two major parties that those of us in the political center have leveled in recent years, and if a new centrist party is to be worthy of support by enough of the American people to elect a significant number of representatives into local, state and national offices, we need to not just be a centrist version of the corrupt parties on the left and right.
We need to be better, not just on policy, but in ways that transcend policy stances, that should matter regardless of where one stands on the political spectrum.
Chief among these nonpartisan / transpartisan reforms to the existing model, a new national centrist political party should, among other reforms, work to:
1 – Institutionalize impediments to the creeping influence of monetary corruption
2 – Be more accessible and accountable to rank and file centrist party members
3 – Have high standards for what candidates the party will endorse and support
4 – Support and hold open primaries and condemn anti-democratic election rules
To be a truly centrist party, an organization would have to genuinely represent the people in the center – not just the rich, politically connected or otherwise powerful centrists and moderates. To do that we need to have safeguards baked into the very foundation of the party structure – ideally in it’s founding documents and core bylaws, with a difficult set of rules as to what it would take to change them.
If we succeed in our effort to form and build a national network of political centrist grassroots groups in cities and states around the country, one of many things those groups will work to do is not only welcome it’s members to join and help build centrist parties in their areas, but also keep them accountable to both the general political stances of the center, and also push to keep the pressure on to do better.
In the end, a healthy American democracy would result in several parties, each that represents a different area of the political spectrum. As much as we’d love to see a centrist party become the predominant party in the country, the left and right deserve representation too, so if we do help bring about a national centrist party that does better on these transpartisan organizational areas, we hope they’ll be adopted by the other parties too, and result in a fairer, less corrupt political landscape for the whole country.