It's official! The South Carolina Independence Party has merged with the National Forward Party creating the Forward Party of South Carolina, an officially recognized third party in South Carolina with ballot access. Click here to read the official press release. Check out our interview with Wayne Griffin, chair of the SC Independence Party, and Clint Eisenhauer, who leads the Forward Party of South Carolina, to learn more!
South Carolina Independence Party and Forward Party Unite
Why are these two entities merging? What’s the benefit?
The best way to work together is to get together.
The South Carolina Independence Party has been a recognized and active political party in South Carolina since the late 60s. The national Forward Party was founded in October of 2021. As the two entities got to know each other, they saw how much common ground in terms of values, principles, and vision they had. Over the past seven months, the leaders of both parties have gotten to know each other well and came to the joint conclusion that the groups can be more effective working as one rather than individually.
What is the structure and name of the merged entity?
Effective now, the merger result is the Forward Party of South Carolina, an officially recognized third party in South Carolina with ballot access.
The South Carolina Independence Party has absorbed the South Carolina Forward Party community and assets. Wayne Griffin, previously the SCIP Executive Committee Chair, will be the Chair of the new entity, and the new executive committee will be composed of leaders from both parties. The name of the new entity has been changed to the Forward Party of South Carolina.
Can you be more specific in describing the “shared values, principles and vision” mentioned earlier?
That sounds great but how do you expect to change the political dynamics?
For better or worse, politics doesn’t really change until candidates run and win elections. We are starting at the ground level—local and municipal races—and building up from there. We are laser-focused on finding high-quality candidates who, by the way, are not required to sign a litmus-test pledge to abide by party positions. But they are required to commit to shared values and priorities.
Starting at the municipal level we will win with better candidates.
Does that mean you are not running a presidential candidate in 2024?
That race—even when added to all federal races—represents less than 1% of the elections across America. There are 500,000 races down the ballot (many of which are uncontested) that determine the kitchen-table issues that really affect the lives of Americans. To build a political party to last into the future, that is where we believe we have to start.
But wait a minute… third parties have come and gone because they are typically seen as “spoilers” and/or they can’t compete with the Republicans and Democrats.
That’s why we are maniacally focused on a basket of electoral changes that offer voters more choice and a real voice like instant runoff voting, independent redistricting commissions, term limits, campaign finance reform.
We know that right now more Americans identify as Independent than Republicans and Democrats combined. But Independents are discounted by the media and the major parties. We are a big-tent political home for people—all people—who feel disenfranchised, unheard, taken for granted, uncomfortable and totally exhausted by the toxic atmosphere created by the “Political Industrial complex” in America. The major parties have gamed the system to eliminate competition for so long that voters only have the illusion of choice. That’s why Congress has an approval rating around 20% yet 92% of incumbents get re-elected. So voter turnout is low and people have lost trust in their government. If that strikes a chord in your gut then we are the party for you.
What does the new party stand for?
That question implies the old binary thinking that we want to disrupt. The cultural, societal and political issues we are wrestling with today are complex. And solutions will not be found solely on the right or the left. Our community brings a very broad mosaic of experience and ideas. So, our solutions will inevitably be human-centered, data-driven, bottom-up solutions built on reasoned compromise by reasonable people using grace and tolerance. And our priorities in South Carolina may be different than the priorities in California or Michigan or Pennsylvania. So candidate campaigns may look different accordingly. And we believe that’s how it should be.
We are a South Carolina home for sane Republicans, Democrats who haven’t given up, and Independents who still want to matter.
The SCIP has ballot access. Is that why South Carolina Forward wanted to merge?
This is a symbiotic relationship with far greater potential together than apart.
The ability to run Forward candidates is something that both legacy entities view as very valuable. However, if the values and priorities are not shared then the merger result will not last. And if the leadership of both parties is not in sync, then the party will not be successful. Luckily, the Independence Party and Forward Party are in lock-step with our shared values.
Do you expect the merger to be challenged by either or both of SC’s dominant parties?
We are carefully following the same protocol with the SC Election Commission that was used when the SCIP changed its name once before. The State Election Commission makes allowance for name changes.
While we understand that the large parties don’t like competition, our focus is on making sense to the majority of voters.
How many supporters does the SC Independence Party have? The SC Forward Party?
We have a 46-county strategy for this state. We have a good start in numbers and quality of supporters and volunteers but we must continue to work on that.
Combined we have about 4,000 supporters in our database. It’s a good start but we obviously have a long way to go. We are working shoulder to shoulder with many other organizations—both partisan and nonpartisan—on different initiatives in the state. So, our numbers clearly multiply that way.
Have you talked with any existing officeholders about running under the FWD label? What has been the reaction?
For sure. And we are very excited about the receptiveness we have heard from non-partisan, Democrat and Republican office-holders who are just as tired of toxic politics as voters.
How many SC races will sport a Forward label in 2024? Who are the candidates?
We are not ready to discuss that yet but we have our goals in place and the early indications are that our messaging is resonating with both potential candidates and voters.