The Portland Phoenix

Politics & Other Mistakes: No Direction

If you’re sick of political parties, here’s some good news. There’s another political party for you to be sick of.

OK, that’s not exactly good news. The appearance of an additional coalition of quacks could be regarded as just another virus variant causing much the same symptoms as the Republicans, Democrats, Green Independents, Libertarians and a host of other officially unrecognized amalgamations of kooks that fester across Maine’s political spectrum. If you’ve seen one of these diseases, you’ve seen them all.

Well, not quite. Each of the aforementioned parties has some sort of platform, collections of positions they know they’ll never actually get around to implementing. If it’s action you’re looking for, there’s a new Black Panther movie that’ll probably fulfill your expectations. Political parties are more about making promises that won’t get kept.

Except the Forward Party. It doesn’t make any of those phony promises. That’s because it doesn’t make any promises at all. There’s no platform. There’s no agenda. If you want to get technical about it, there’s no reason the Forward Party should even exist.

But it does, and according to its website, it “stands for doing, not dividing.” What does that mean? “That means rejecting political extremes and working together to take real action on every important issue for the unrepresented majority in American politics.” And, uh, what does that mean? “Not left. Not right. FORWARD.”

OK, maybe a little history would help sort this out. The Forward Party was founded by former Democrat Andrew Yang, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2020 and equally unsuccessfully for mayor of New York City in 2021. Yang, the Forward Party co-chair alongside former New Jersey Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, did have a few definite positions: ranked-choice voting (we already have that in Maine for lots of races), an end to partisan gerrymandering (Maine’s system of redistricting makes that all but impossible) and nonpartisan primaries (hey, that’s one we don’t use, but it probably works great someplace). He’s also for “free people” and “vibrant democracy.”

“We are much closer than we think on a lot of these issues,” former independent state Rep. Owen Casas of Rockland told the Bangor Daily News. Casas is sort of organizing the Forward Party in Maine, which so far has resulted in 60-odd people signing up on its website. His goal is to get the Forwards qualified for the 2024 ballot.

The fledgling party’s utter lack of definable purpose would appear to align well with the current gubernatorial campaign of independent Sam Hunkler, whose approach to every controversy is no approach at all. Hunkler promises to find common ground by “doing the hard work of negotiating.” Then he admits, “You’re not going to find common ground on abortion or gun control.”

Hunkler seems like a prime candidate for the Forward Party, but he’s less than enthusiastic about joining forces. “I’m leery of parties,” he told me. “When you join a party, they kind of own you.”

He seems to be even more forward than the Forwards. I don’t mean that as a compliment.

Currently, only the Dems, GOP, Greens and Libs have official status in Maine, but after an unfavorable court ruling about overly restrictive and arbitrary rules, the state is in the process of revising its standards for allowing fringe parties to place their candidates’ names on the ballot. So, the Forward Party may find it slightly easier to gain public attention by the time the 2024 election rolls around. All it’ll need are some candidates who don’t believe in anything.

Most recent polls have shown Hunkler attracting support from about 1% of voters. If that’s the base for the Forwards, it leaves them far behind all the official parties, except maybe the Libertarians, although it should be noted that Yang earned a little less than 3% of the vote in the 2020 New Hampshire Democratic primary.

I suppose that indicates some sort of untapped potential for political hopefuls with no interest in taking a stand on anything.

But if that’s what forward looks like, then there’s a lot to be said for backwards.

Anybody interested in forming the Standing Still Party? Email me at

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