ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Third parties in the U.S. have often tried and failed to break through the traditional Democratic-Republican divide. The co-founders of a new political party insist this time will be different. Forward describes itself as a home for centrists who reject extremism. Two of the co-chairs are former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former Republican governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman. Good to have you both here.
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: Good to be with you.
ANDREW YANG: Great to be here, Ari.
SHAPIRO: You've been promoting Forward as a party that does not adhere to a strict ideology. And the flip side of that is that people are struggling to figure out what you would do, if you win elections, on some of the issues that are most important to Americans. I know you've planned a listening tour for next year to hear from voters. But if you're looking at running candidates in the 2024 elections, do you owe it to voters to tell them what your proposed policies would actually be?
YANG: We're backing candidates right now in local elections in the midterms. We're building a 50-state national party from the ground up. But the slogan - not left; not right; forward - speaks to tens of millions of Americans because there's actually a commonsense consensus on the vast majority - even all - of even the most divisive, polarizing issues in the country. You can see it in poll after poll.
SHAPIRO: I know you've been asked many times, but it seems that you prefer not to articulate specific policy positions on guns, on abortion, on some of these key issues.
TODD WHITMAN: These are issues that, when you get into them, you find that there's actually a middle ground here. Most people don't want to do away with the ability to own firearms. But on the other hand, they don't think it ought to be wide open and everybody should have as many as they want, as young as they want.
SHAPIRO: So would you support, for example, a ban on assault-style weapons?
TODD WHITMAN: The point is, here, not what I would support.
SHAPIRO: Would your party support expanded background checks?
TODD WHITMAN: Right now, we don't have those positions because what we're going to do, starting this fall, is do this listening tour to listen to the people - to say, what do you want?
SHAPIRO: But you're putting people on the ballot this fall. Shouldn't voters know what your party represents on some of these issues?
TODD WHITMAN: They will. Once we have had our convention - which we will have next year - we will adopt a platform, but it will be based on what the public tells us they're concerned about and how they want problems approached.
SHAPIRO: The presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted this. He said, remember that, historically, third parties sometimes have the effect of tipping a close election to an existing party's nominee, who is the opposite of what the third party stands for. That's the history. How realistic is it to ask people to ignore that track record?
YANG: So the fact that people are jumping to the presidential - that's not where our attention is. The fact is, anyone who's concerned about the spoiler effect at any level should simply advocate for ranked-choice voting, and then anyone can vote for whomever they want according to their true preferences, and no one will be accused of spoiling an election for anyone else.
SHAPIRO: Well, you could push for ranked-choice voting without creating a third party.
TODD WHITMAN: Not with the same kind of impact that we can have from the number of people we have joining us right now in our state-by-state buildup. So - because it's a decision that's going to be made at the state level, and so we need to have people educated and to start to have their voices heard.
YANG: And Ari, you can say in the abstract, oh, you can be for open primaries and ranked-choice voting from within the two-party system. But the fact is, if there's one thing that the parties can agree on, it's that any competition is bad. So neither party is going to do something in a particular area that is against their political interests unless pushed to do so by the people of this country who are fed up and want better.
SHAPIRO: I know you've both been clear that your focus is not on the 2024 presidential race. There's a distance to go between now and then. That said, should we expect to see a Forward party candidate for president on the ballot in 2024?
TODD WHITMAN: It's far too early to say - to respond to that. We may or we may not, depending on who the parties have - depending on where we find ourselves at that particular time. But I know it's hard to believe for everybody who wants to just focus on the presidential. We really are determined to build this from the ground up - the mayors, the town councils, secretaries of state, states' attorneys general, governors - because they are the ones that impact people the most every day. And so that's where we're focusing. And 2024 - we'll see when we get there.
SHAPIRO: Former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang are two of the co-chairs of the new Forward party. Thank you both.
TODD WHITMAN: Thank you.
YANG: Thanks. Great to be here.
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