If forming a third party sounds like a tall order, it is—especially in Utah. While the group originally started in Colorado in 2004 and has now spread to 27 states, the Unity Party will have to recruit 2,000 members to get established in Utah and on the 2012 ballot. Kyle Moon, a West Jordan entrepreneur and recent convert to the ideal of centrist politics, is leading the charge for the party in Utah.
“When you encounter another third party, they’re usual left or right of the existing political parties,” Moon says. “They go more to the extreme. We’re focused on promoting ideas in between the two parties.”
A look at the Unity Party of Utah platform shows a pretty straightforward agenda, with planks including a balanced budget amendment, replacing the federal income tax with a carbon tax, term limits on U.S. Senators and Congressman and political boundaries drawn by retired judges, not parties. What won’t be found on the platform are positions on divisive issues such as immigration or abortion. Party founder Bill Hammons says this is an intentional move that is probably the greatest strength of the party. “I don’t see any benefit in addressing some issues,” Hammons says. “Our platform is very simple and it’s one that everyone can agree on without qualms.”
Hammons got his start in politics by applying his physical drive to his political passion. In 2004, Hammons, a veteran runner and ultra marathoner, formed the group Runners for General Wesley Clark to raise money for Clark’s presidential campaign. When Clark dropped out of the race, Hammons decided to use the momentum behind the group to push for a new kind of political party.
“We had members listed on our site in 19 different states before [Clark] bowed out,” Hammons says. “Eventually, we became the Unity runners, and then the Unity Party of America, the day after the 2004 elections.” Since 2004, the Unity Party has had its strongest presence in Colorado, and while they have yet to elect a candidate to public office, the party pushes on and is officially recognized as a Qualified Political Organization by the state. Hammons himself has run for the party’s bid for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. Hammons sees partisan politics in the country as neglecting a silent majority of centrist individuals looking for something different. “Both major parties don’t appeal to the center,” Hammons says.
Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Center for Politics at the University of Utah, says most Americans aren’t ready for a new party, however.
“The public feels that partisanship has prevailed over problem-solving,” Jowers writes via e-mail of the current political climate. “Unfortunately for the Unity Party, however, the public does not seem to want another party, just better candidates.”
For Utah Unity Party leader Kyle Moon, being a champion for Unity is more than just a political stance. It’s almost a way of life. Having lived his whole life in the conservative Intermountain West, Moon considered himself a lifelong Republican until four years ago when he decided, “I was going to be fiercely independent of either political party.”
“It’s kind of a liberating experience to say, ‘I’m not a member of either party. I’m going to think through individual issues with my own personality plugged into it,’ ” Moon says. “Liberating—but not a very powerful position to be in when it comes to changing policy.”
That was how Moon became a convert to the Unity Party approach of a simple, common-ground approach to issues both parties identify as priorities. “On the news, we don’t just see people frustrated, we see people downright angry,” Moon says. His answer, and the party pitch: more unity, less shouting. “You can remain a member of a political party, and you’re just one of hundreds of thousands of voices of those groups—your voice isn’t going to be heard. If you come and join the Unity Party, your voice in this party is going to be heard. You’ll have input on what our platform is, and the direction we take the party.”
For more information, visit UnityUtah.com.