In 2016, a junior minister in the government of France formed a new political party – En Marche! The party considers itself “radical centrist” and is drawing ideas from both the left and the right. The initial response from established politicians, journalists, and the other political parties was, not surprisingly, dismissal. The new party was written off as incapable of being a force in French politics. After all, France had a political party system that had lasted for decades. How could this new party shake up that entrenched system?
Yet, it did. Emmanuel Macron, the presidential candidate of En Marche! won the presidency of France in May of this year. Then, on June 18, the party won 53 percent of the seats in the French National Assembly. A party that did not exist two years ago now controls the French presidency and the equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives.
En Marche! is just one example of the changes in political party systems around the globe. In Italy, many voters frustrated with the left-right ideological divide formed the Five Star Movement. This new party describes itself as populist and anti-establishment and therefore neither left-wing nor right-wing. It favors environmental sustainability, as well as more popular involvement in governance. In its first election in 2013, the Five Star Movement became Italy’s third largest political party and won 25 percent of the vote. Similarly, in Finland, the Finns party, a centrist party around since 1995, became suddenly popular as voters began rejecting politics as usual in Finland. In the last elections, the party won 17 percent of the vote.
In the United States, there are signs of similar rumblings regarding the two major parties. One example is some prominent politicians are moving away from the two major parties. Ohio Governor John Kasich recently hinted he may abandon the Republican Party. The former chair of the Washington State Republican Party announced this month that he was no longer a Republican. And there are signs the two parties are losing voter support when a viable alternative is available. In Maine, Angus King won a U.S. Senate seat as neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but as an independent. Similarly, Bill Walker, a former Republican, became an independent in 2014 and won the governorship of Alaska.
A similar phenomenon is occurring in Utah. Former Republicans, Democrats, and independents are bonding together to form the United Utah Party. This new party perhaps fits Macron’s description of a “radical center.” Uniters want practical, not partisan solutions to the problems that face the state and the nation. We believe the Democrats and the Republicans both have good ideas that neither side will admit about the other. We plan to take those good ideas and merge them with new ideas that lack the overpowering ideological slant of the two major parties.
We may be radical in the sense that we want dramatic change in how politics is conducted. We support term limits because we think rotation in office is healthy. No politician should make a lifetime career of an elective office. We also want stricter campaign finance limits. Utah’s loose laws are an invitation to corruption. Without campaign finance limits, candidates can be bought by special interests. We want to put an end to that.
As an indication of how we are not a traditional political party, we favor more non-partisan elections. County commissioners, school board members, and the attorney general should be non-partisan offices. We also favor a truly independent redistricting commission that ends gerrymandering. Voters should pick their representatives and not the other way around.
We recognize that change does not happen overnight. But those of us in the United Utah Party do believe that, as more Utahns realize who we are, support will continue to grow. As awareness increases that there is a centrist alternative to the two partisan extremes that have so long dominated American politics, more and more centrist Utahns will realize they have a political home and do not have to choose between two parties they do not like.
Richard Davis is chair of the United Utah Party.