The Development of a Progressive Third Party

by Pranay Somayajula

With the volatile political climate of 2016 and the deep rift in the Democratic Party between its far-left and more moderate members, there have been numerous talks of the formation of a viable third party in the United States. Unfortunately, attempts to do so in the past few decades have never met with any major success, largely because of the way our governmental system has molded itself to fit the two-party system. The way things are now, it looks as though a revolution would be needed to make change. However, that is not the case. There is a simple solution to the problem that is staring us in the face as we speak.

The Green Party is currently the fourth-largest political party in the United States of America, with almost 250,000 members. Falling on the progressive left end of the spectrum, the party promotes LGBT rights, racial justice, environmentalism, democracy, and gender equality, among other issues. Given the fact that it is the largest progressive third party, it makes sense that the Green Party would be the most logical starting point for the formation of a viable third party. Unfortunately, many liberals are turned off by the name "Green", as it implies that the party prioritizes environmentalism and lets other issues fall to the wayside. This, of course, is not true, but to many liberals who are sick and tired of the Democratic establishment, it appears to be so. By changing the party's name to the "Progressive Party", the Green Party will make itself appear broader and more intersectional to a huge number of voters, especially the 33% of Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to vote for any other Democratic candidate (according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll). This proposal is not trying to effect change of party platform; rather, it is simply changing the name to make the party more appealing to liberal activists who support other issues (the political equivalent of "New look, same great taste!"). Voters who were once turned off by the heavily environmental name will now have a chance to reexamine the platform, and they will then see that the party is a very progressive one on all fronts and issues. By changing the party's name, the Green Party will broaden its support base while maintaining the platform and policies that are the basis of its existence.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the American population currently registered to vote is 142.2 million. Of those, 43% are independent, or around 61,146,000 voters in total. Senator Bernie Sanders, the most progressive of all mainstream candidates in the 2016 presidential election, has the support of 44.7% of independent voters, or 27,332,262 voters. Assuming that these voters would all align with the Progressive Party, the party's membership would buoy to 27,580,451, already making the Progressive Party the third largest party in the United States by a huge margin. Add to this the 14% of Democrats who would not support Hillary Clinton, and the party's membership rises to a whopping 33,614,451. This places the Progressive Party above the GOP as the second largest party in the United States, securing its place as a viable third party.

Granted, these numbers run on the assumption that all Bernie-loving independents will join the Progressive Party and that all Democratic Bernie-or-busters will switch as well. Is that likely to happen? No. However, as the younger liberals who currently support Bernie become more mature and reliable voters, and current teenagers who sympathize with the progressive movement come of voting age, it is likely that there will be a rallying cry for the end of establishment politics and the formation of a truly progressive political party. The Greens are best poised to become that party, and by rebranding themselves as the Progressives, they are sure to secure that position.

Pranay Somayajula is a 10th-grade student at Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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commented 2016-09-11 15:29:02 -0400 · Flag
“A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” I am skeptical that the term “Progressive” will be welcomed more than “Green” by the electorate at large. “Progressive” implies progress, but the meaning of “progress” is as much of a moving target as is “liberal.” (Just consult history; a liberal in the time of Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t identify with its contemporary meanings.) The meaning of “Green,” by contrast, has remained remarkably constant over time, and the Green Party has an international presence. A main feature of Jill Stein’s campaign is her “Green New Deal,” which marries economic imperatives with the biggest imperative of all, saving our planet from destruction. I doubt that such a name change will be welcomed by current Greens, certainly not in the middle of a presidential campaign.