An eager reader asks what I think about Andrew Yang’s Forward Party, an attempt to unite disaffected Republicans, Democrats, and others under a new banner. The eager reader suggests “there would be significant interest for that type of party here” in South Dakota.
I am dubious. In 2020, Scyller Borglum said 80% of South Dakota Republicans constituted an “exhausted middle” that was ready for something new. She won less than 25% in the primary against Senator Mike Rounds.
Aaron Aylward chaired South Dakota’s Libertarian Party and ran as a Libertarian for District 6 House in 2018. He won a sixth as many votes as the Republican winners and less than a third as many votes as the Democratic challengers. Aylward quit the Libertarians and ran as a Republican in 2020, and now he’s a District 6 Representative.
Republicans in South Dakota have no reason to run under a different party banner, because 9 times out of 10, that Republican banner guarantees they’ll win. Democrats in South Dakota have no reason to run under a different party banner, because their Republican party opponents will sniff them out and brand them as Democrats, liberals, progressives, baby-killers, or whatever other words they need to use to keep their locally inattentive but Fox/Breitbart-obsessed audience voting against any challenge to the status quo.
“Not Left. Not Right. Forward,” is a clever slogan, but it also perpetuates the false both-sidesism that claims Democrats are equally as radically extreme and out of touch as Republicans. In South Dakota in particular, that message is wrong: Democrats just want to solve policy problems, while Republicans seek a radical one-party theocracy. A Forward Party movement in South Dakota won’t peel Republicans away from their safe brand; it will only divide whatever sensible, pragmatic opposition is out there and ensure ongoing Republican domination of the Legislature.
Nuts and Bolts: The Forward Party is currently endorsing candidates in existing parties. None of those endorsees have scored victories at the ballot box yet. If Yang and friends want official party status in South Dakota, they’ll need to collect 3,392 signatures from registered voters (that number will change after this year’s gubernatorial election: the signature threshold is 1% of the votes cast for Governor in the last general election).