By Joshua Peters
I never took a meaningful interest in realpolitik, never voted, never advocated for any issue, and never affiliated myself with the two major parties as a young man. In my youth, I perceived the postmodern left as cultural bourgeois idiots and the religious right as capital bourgeois morons. To me, real progress meant the ruthless revaluation of all values within our social institutions, rather than engaging in the silly political games played by the duopoly. This was the first massive miscalculation in the development of my political outlook.
The 2007 financial crisis was starting to become apparent, and by 2008, the Great Recession was upon us. It was a sobering experience to witness so many individuals around me lose work or have to drop out of school to help their families by taking whatever jobs they could find to pay the bills. My family’s situation was no different. My father was in and out of work due to the trickle-down effects of the financial crisis, and my mother, who had been a stay-at-home mom, entered the workforce by working at a call center.
I received Pell grants and discretionary scholarships for college at the time, so dropping out was not an option for me; I would use whatever was left over after tuition and fees to help my family. Additionally, I worked three gig jobs to earn recurring income while I was in school, further supporting my family’s financial needs. The 2008 Great Recession was a wakeup call, shaking me from my dogmatic naiveté and exposing the consequences of political incompetence and a lack of governmental accountability.
In response, I made a significant shift, changing my major from the philosophy of science to mathematical finance with the goal of enhancing my employment opportunities in a high-paying and in-demand profession. The transition was relatively seamless due to my background in science and mathematics. After graduating, I began working at one of the Big 4 Accounting firms, specializing in banking and insurance audits for publicly traded companies, utilizing data and analytics. Subsequently, I pursued graduate school to study data science. Having a viable career path eased my existential dread and anxiety about my family’s well-being. At this stage of my life, everything was going well, and I felt content with the direction I was heading.
I didn’t pay much attention to the 2016 presidential election, which ultimately led to the surprise victory of Donald Trump. I was one of the millions of Americans who didn’t even bother to vote. From my perspective, Trump embodied the American political landscape defined by a postmodern attitude toward the world. It was all about “my truth,” which merely entailed controlling a narrative for some personal or institutional ego trip. I remember thinking that Trump was not the president we wanted, but he was the one we deserved. (I was very cynical about politics.)
Despite all the excitement in politics, my cynicism led me to completely ignore it. What little I heard and saw on social media, I recall discussing with my friends and family about how much Trump epitomized postmodernism, and I eagerly anticipated the end of his four-year term. At this point, it was mostly casual coffee-talk. I had a life filled with family, friends, and personal projects—activism and politics were not part of it. However, everything changed with Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing in 2018.
I recall watching in horror how Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford were dragged through the mud by the Democratic Party simply because they did not want to give Trump a Supreme Court appointment. From the Democratic Party’s perspective, human dignity, due process, and ethical conduct be damned. Kavanaugh and Ford were treated as mere means in this morally reprehensible political game. Recalling Kant’s teachings that individuals should never be treated as mere means—individuals are ends unto themselves. What happened during that confirmation, in my opinion, was a violation of human dignity. It was a disgusting display of politics. Like the religious right that abandoned their principles to give Trump political cover, the left privileged political power—by any means necessary—and demonstrated a willingness to dehumanize an individual to infringe on their human dignity.
Shortly after Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, I became politically active. I attended social events and meetings of the Wake County Young Democrats, Wake County Young Republicans, and the Wake County Libertarian chapters. I started emailing my representatives and contributed opinion pieces in the form of letters to the editor and feature articles. While I met some activists and leaders in the North Carolina Democratic Party whom I respected for their contributions to their communities, I ultimately found most of them to be too dogmatic. They viewed the world through the lens of marginality and victimhood, giving them a bizarre, ignorant sense of moral authority that locked them into their dogmatism. In a little experiment, I asked one of the leaders how they would feel if I were a Christian conservative. Their response was, “I would feel threatened and ask you to reconsider being part of the Democratic Party.” That’s when I knew this was not the party for me.
In contrast, I found the Wake County Young Republicans to be more tolerant of various political perspectives at the time. The group included libertarians, free-market conservatives, Christian conservatives, Burkean conservatives, LGBTQ Republicans, pro-Trump, anti-Trump individuals, techies, blue-collar workers, and more. To gauge their response to a progressive humanist among their ranks, I posed the question and received the following response: “Don’t care as long as you’re not a whiny leftist.” To which I responded, “Fair enough.”
A year later, I held the position of 2nd Vice Chair for the Wake County Young Republican chapter. Additionally, I served on the policy committee for the North Carolina Federation of Young Republicans, where I advocated for education reform (enhanced STEM literacy), criminal reform (expungement laws and marijuana legalization), and healthcare reform (repeal of CON laws).
While there were a few instances where my particular political disposition created consternation for Republican leadership, I generally felt the party gave me the flexibility to express myself as a progressive. For instance, I was invited to sit on a panel discussing politics and religion, where I openly expressed my existentialist ontology, much to the horror of a fellow panelist who happened to be a prominent Baptist in North Carolina. However, all this changed after January 6, 2021.
The January 6 insurrection marked a structural change in the Republican Party. Now, party loyalty was no longer a preference but a demand. While I had met many individuals within the North Carolina Republican Party whom I respected, I could never bring myself to commit my entire system of thought to political tactics and strategic messaging campaigns that prioritized winning at the expense of being honest and useful to my community. For this reason, I chose not to seek advancement within the party, effectively becoming politically homeless.
Believing there was more that I could contribute to push back against the corrupting force of political postmodernism, I discovered that a new party, the Forward Party, had a chapter in North Carolina. Upon reaching out, I was quickly invited to join a town hall on Zoom. What I saw on that Zoom call wasn’t professional politicians or career activists, but everyday people trying to do some good in their communities. While the North Carolina Forward Party was structured as a party challenging the duopoly, I observed within the leadership team reformists starting a movement. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel quite as cynical about politics. Progress was possible.
I have no idea how this journey will end, but I will be on the bus when it makes its last stop. Everyday Americans deserve better than what our current institutions and government are providing them. I joined the Forward Party because I believe the political system should be reformed for progress to continue. The far-left and the far-right manipulate the current political system to force their dogmatic views onto everyone else—whether through outright violence in some cases or through subversive language games in others. I want society to move away from this postmodern condition, and I see the Forward Party as a vehicle to advance pluralism, reason, and understanding back into society again.
“Be useful,” my father would often tell me. I aspire to integrate this family philosophy into the culture of the Forward Party. So, when someone asks a Forwardist how the party would feel about having someone with a particular political disposition, we respond, “Great! How can your ideas be useful in solving problems within our community, so we can move forward into a better future?” To me, being a Forwardist means having the opportunity to be useful and create something new, thereby improving our political system and demonstrating that progress towards a better future is still possible.