The Maryland Forward Party kicked off the year with its first 2024 tabling signature collection at the Bike Swap Meet & Show at the Howard County Fairgrounds. We saw many motorcycle enthusiasts, rocking their unkempt beards, Harley Davidson attire, leather jackets, chains, sunglasses, who converged onto the fairgrounds from all around Maryland, as well as those from surrounding States - West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Anticipating the reactions of event goers to our message always remains uncertain, especially since this was our first participation at a motorcycle event. In the summer of 2023, when we petitioned at various gay pride events, the expectations were that the crowds would be predominantly aligned with more left-leaning politics. Likewise, at a motorcycle event where a majority of attendees are dominated by the rugged men and women that exude an old school, freedom-seeking, rebellious demeanor, the expectations would be more of a right-leaning crowd. After tabling in both of these dichotomous environments, it remains evident that political inclinations are not strictly bound by the stereotypes associated with these specific events. The reality was that regardless of where event attendees and petition signers fell on the political spectrum, nearly all were starving for a wave of new third parties that seek to loosen the grip of the political duopoly.
Speaking with one woman who signed our petition for party status, she proclaimed that “we needed something like this and I am all for starting anew,” expressing the prevalent opinions and feelings that voters hold in this current political climate, “because democracy has been beyond gamified over the years.” Similar to her beliefs, another man who signed our petition told board member Dave Brown that “we don’t really have a democracy. We have a billionaire’s aristocracy because if I wanted to run for some office, I would need a million bucks,” echoing the sentiment about the problems with money in politics.
Despite an indifferent glance from a mother and her son who passed our table, Dave took notice of that and seized the opportunity to engage with them, sharing the party’s platform. Near the end of the conversation with them, Matt Beyers, chairman of the Maryland Forward Party, stated that “we as Americans agree on more things than we disagree on. I think the current political system is set up to only point out disagreements, and I think that is causing a major divide where it doesn’t need to be that way.” Not only did the mother nod and agree without hesitation, both she and her son eagerly signed our petition illustrating the power of meaningful dialogue. Without Dave’s wit, that would have been two signatures fewer for the day.
While the out-of-state crowd were not eligible to sign the petition, we happily provided information to those eager and receptive about the Forward Party’s principles and platform, and how they could connect with their State’s chapter. A married couple from Virginia, conveyed that the priorities of the Forward Party were a good idea, and that more people would probably want those ideas if they were more exposed to them. Agreeing with their statements, Beyers replied that “what we experienced is once we explain it, we get a lot of positive feedback and very little negative feedback.” As the event wound down, and just as we were nearly heading out the door, one final curious gentleman approached us to inquire about the party. It turned out, he was the father of an elected official in Maryland. While he stated that he resided out of state, and therefore was ineligible to sign the petition, as a former Maryland resident, he offered some political connections he knew in Maryland that could be interested in the Forward movement.
The message about how we seek to reform the election process - by introducing new voting methods, such as ranked choice voting, establishing open non-partisan primaries, and mitigating gerrymandering through an independent redistricting committee, all of which incentivizes candidates to appeal to a broader range of voters - resonates with many Marylanders across the political spectrum when we speak with them in public and online, and we are committed to continuingly disseminating the messages of election reform in the many events to come throughout this election year. If you are a Maryland resident, please consider signing our petition to help the Maryland Forward Party achieve party status!