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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Brief Look At Political Third Parties In The U.S.


by Pedro Vega

For a good deal of American history, the nation's politics have been controlled by two parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. Most people assume this is really all there is, but they couldn't be more wrong. The United States is home to a whole host of "third" political parties covering a wide ideological range. While many people consider third party voting to be a "wasted vote", the current state of the country under the rule of the usual two parties makes one wonder if a vote for either D's or R's might not be an even bigger waste. Below we highlight some of the more notable third political parties in the United States:

Libertarian Party

Traditionally billing itself as "America's Largest Third Party" (they are indeed #3, as far as number of party members), this fiscally conservative/ socially liberal party was founded in the Colorado home of activist David Nolan in 1971. The LP supports privatizing many government services, including Social Security, and lowering or eliminating taxation wherever possible. They are also known for opposing criminalization of drugs, prostitution and gambling, and have long been for gay marriage and generally against war, foreign intervention and foreign aid. The LP's membership is often split on the issue of abortion. Their biggest presidential vote-getter has been former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, with almost 1.3 million votes. They have organizations in most states and 144 Libertarians hold office across the country, mostly at the local level (as of fall 2014). Their website can be found at www.lp.org.

Green Party

This left-leaning party was inspired by the Green parties which were formed in Europe and Australia in the late 1970s. The modern Green Party of the US spun-off from a less formal group which formed in 1984 (eclipsing the rival and somewhat more radical Greens/Green Party USA), with the actual Party forming in 1991. The Green Party has as some of its central tenets ideas like participatory democracy, caring for the environment, opposition to war, gender and racial equality and social/economic justice. Their most successful candidate for President has been Ralph Nader, who was accused of tilting the election in favor of George W Bush in 2000, after receiving 2,882,955 total popular votes. The Greens have organizations in almost every state, with a few exceptions, such as Alabama, Indiana and Wyoming. The party counts with 131 office holders across the U.S. as of fall 2014, mostly in local and county positions. The Green Party's 2012 Presidential nominee, Dr. Jill Stein, garnered 469,628 votes in 2012. Their website is at www.gp.org.

Constitution Party

A heavily right-wing party founded by conservative activist Howard Phillips in 1992, the Constitution Party started out with the name U.S. Taxpayer's Party, which it kept until 1999 (some state affiliates operate under completely different names). Constitutionalists are for abolishing the income tax and getting rid of Social Security, and have a generally non - interventionist view on foreign policy. They are also anti-abortion, anti-gambling, anti- pornography, anti-gay marriage and heavily biased towards Christianity. They are supporters of gun rights and increased controls on immigration into the United States. Some major political figures have flirted with the CP over the years, and former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo ran for Governor of Colorado in 2010 under their ticket, garnering almost 37% of the vote. Their 2012 Presidential nominee was former Republican Congressman Virgil Goode, who received 122,388 votes. Their biggest vote-getter has been the Ron Paul-endorsed radio host Chuck Baldwin, who got 199,750 votes in 2008. Their website is at www.constitutionparty.com.

Socialist Alternative

A Trotskyist-leaning democratic socialist party started under the name Labor Militant in 1986, they are fairly active and succeeded in getting economics professor Kshama Sawant elected to the Seattle City Council in 2013. Their platform includes ideas such as: nationalizing the top 500 corporations in the country, creating more living-wage unionized jobs, instituting public universal health care, slashing the military budget, fighting discrimination and police brutality, among many others. Socialist Alternative has been involved in many broad left-wing campaigns, such as Occupy Wall Street. They seem to not have run any Presidential candidates as of yet, and it is unknown if they will be running anyone in 2016 (they have supported Ralph Nader's Presidential runs in the past). Their focus seems to be more on local races. Their website is at www.socialistalternative.org.

Modern Whig Party

This centrist, military-oriented political party was founded in 2007, and claims to have over
25,000 supporters. According to its website "...among its founding members were Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans dissatisfied with the deep ideological divide between the Republican and Democratic parties." The Whigs' six-tenet philosophy consists of "fiscal responsibility, energy independence, education /scientific advancement, states' rights, social progression and veteran's affairs". In 2013, the party succeeded in getting Robert Bucholz elected as Judge of Election for the Fifth Division in Philadelphia, making him the Whigs' second elected officeholder. They have chapters in a few states, and have a website at www.modernwhig.org. T.J. O'Hara was their Presidential nominee in 2012, but doesn't seem to have been on the ballot in any state.

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