A third party that claims its focus is on putting good government over ideology is starting to gain support in Pennsylvania.
The Serve America Movement, known as SAM, is a party founded by David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida. That movement has now reached the commonwealth, with state chair Ethan Demme leading the way.
Demme, who has experience working in the Lancaster County Republican Party, said he was disillusioned by former president Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 and that the so-called “Big Lie” in 2020 and the Jan. 6 insurrection that followed were the last straw for him. Now, he wants to push for proper representation over party politics.
“I think people are disenchanted with the process in America, and specifically in Pennsylvania, people don’t think that their vote matters,” Demme told City & State. “How do we make it so more people participate in that process? How do we make it easier to vote? How do we make it worthwhile for people to vote, and how do we make people think that their vote matters?”
Demme said he and other Republicans in Lancaster thought not only that their party was “not reformable from within” but also that the entire system needed major reform. In conversations about how to combat polarization and get more people involved in democracy, they came across SAM.
SAM began in 2017 out of Colorado, making its way to states like New York and Connecticut before growing into Pennsylvania. The party’s website says they want candidates who “rely on proven problem-solving principles to understand the challenges facing their communities.”
“[It’s] that problem-solving, consensus-based governing approach that the SAM Party has mixed with wanting to reform the system to make it more accessible,” Demme said.
With the “good government” approach comes a potentially diverse party. Demme said former Republicans, Democrats, and independents have expressed interest in SAM, and that the party would look to endorse reform-driven candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who are truly looking out for their constituents.
He added that although he’s heard from potential candidates seeking a third party run, SAM doesn’t want to play “spoilers” in any race.
“I’ve actually had more people reach out to me, just in 2021 about running for office as a third-party than I have in years running as a Republican,” Demme said. “I would say we’re actively looking at [the statewide races], but it really depends on who the Republicans and Democrats run as their candidates after the primary.”
With increasing polarization, and growing animosity toward party extremes, more people are speaking out against the status quo. In May, former Gov. Tom Ridge and former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent joined more than 100 GOP officials in a “Call for American Renewal” within the party.