Daniel Zhao

This winter, the previously defunct Yale Progressive Party rejoined the Yale Political Union as one further step in establishing its campus presence.

Sarah Strober ’20 invited classmates last January to discuss reconvening the Progressive Party, an organization that had previously been inactive for around a decade. Although the party was active in YPU debates last semester, it was not an official party until the final week of last fall term. Progressive Party members signed in to debates as “unaffiliated” participants, and its leaders could not deliver brief remarks before YPU debates or take part in its Executive Board meetings. The Progressive Party met formal requirements for YPU membership after submitting a petition signed by 35 party members, 25 of whom had attended at least two Union debates over the semester.

“The Prog Party is a space where people across the left can come to discover what they believe, why they believe it, and be able to more effectively defend their beliefs,” Strober said.

According to current chair Andrew Sorota ’22, the Progressive Party draws students from a wide range of beliefs across the left. Last fall, when the Liberal Party rebranded itself as the Socialist Party and seceded from the Union, only the Party of the Left and the Progressive Party represented liberal and leftist thought. By contrast, four parties in the YPU — the Conservative Party, the Tories, the Federalists and the Party of the Right — feature a spectrum of student conservative perspectives. This difference “didn’t make sense” to Sorota, considering the “large contingent of the student population who identify on the left.”

In the span of a year, the Progressive Party has gained nearly 40 active members, making it one of the largest parties within the YPU. President of the YPU Lucas Ferrer ’21 was elected to his current post after serving as chair of the Progressive Party in the fall.

“I decided to run because I thought the model of the Prog Party works, and we’re bringing new blood into the YPU that I think we needed,” Ferrer said.

Since its founding in 1962, the Progressive Party has been a part of the YPU. However, the 2000s saw the party troubled with internal dissatisfaction and declining membership, eventually leading to its dissolution. Strober, alongside Ferrer and several others, decided to revive the Progressive Party last January, because she realized that “one of the best ways to figure out what you believe, why you believe it and how to defend those beliefs is through debate.”

While Sorota observed that YPU is a platform through which “productive discourse can take place,” he acknowledged that speakers “may sometimes say things that make people feel offended or uncomfortable.” But members agreed to rejoin the YPU out of a desire to engage with dissenting ideologies and legitimize the party as an institution.

Yale Progressive Party leaders agreed that the party prides itself in creating a distinct community, outside of the YPU. According to Sorota and Strober, the party also emphasizes activism and community engagement outside of their weekly speech and debate events.

“A lot of the critiques leveled by YPU is that it’s a little insular,” said Speaker of the YPU and former chairman of the Conservative Party Tommy Schacht ’21 said. “One of the nice things about the Prog Party is, sure, they occupy a particular ideological position by nature, but they also bring in people who haven’t come to the door of the YPU in the first place.”

The sole remaining distinction between the Progs and other standing YPU parties is that the YPU can remove the former without a probationary period if they do not meet membership requirements at the semester’s end. But this exception does not concern Sorota, who explained that more students are petitioning to join this semester.

The YPU, founded in 1934, is an umbrella organization of seven parties.

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu

Correction, Feb. 7: A previous version of this article misstated the title of former chairman of the Conservative Party Tommy Schacht ’21 as the chair of the party.