American Third Parties Essay, Research Paper
America?s Third Parties ? which one is biggest?
America currently has five nationally organized third parties: Reform, Libertarian, Green, Constitution (U.S. Taxpayers), and Natural Law. Each of these five parties has received 100,000 votes for at least one of its candidates in the past 20 years. No other currently existing third party in America has done so. Which of the five is the biggest and strongest is difficult to say.
The Reform Party can claim dominance in a few recent elections. In the 1996 Presidential campaign, Ross Perot spent more money and received more votes (8.39%) than all other third party candidates combined. The vote totals were: Reform (Ross Perot) 8,085,403, Green (Ralph Nader) 685,128, Libertarian (Harry Browne) 485,798, U.S. Taxpayers (Howard Phillips) 182,820, and Natural Law (John Hagelin) 113,671. The Reform Party is the only third party to currently have an elected governor (Jesse Ventura in Minnesota). In 1998 it became the first third party since 1914 to receive more than one million votes for all of its gubernatorial candidates combined. (Over half of those votes were for Jesse Ventura.)
The Libertarian Party, founded in 1971, is the oldest of the five nationally organized third parties. The US Taxpayers Party was formed in 1990, Natural Law in 1992, and Reform in 1995. The Greens began organizing nationally in 1984 with the formation of the Green Committees of Correspondence. This organization was replaced by the Green Party USA in 1991, but it never had the support of many state Green Parties. A new organization, the Association of State Green Parties, formed in 1996, has the support of 23 state parties, and is currently in the process of trying to form a national party.
There have been many different third parties in American history, but most disappeared relatively quickly. The Libertarian Party is one of only six third parties in U.S. history to have lasted 25 years. If history is any indication, most of today?s third parties will probably not be around in another 10 or 20 years. One factor that increases the chance of long-term survival for a third party is not relying too heavily on any one individual. The Libertarian Party is the only one of the five parties to have run more than one person for President, and they have run a different candidate in each of the past 7 Presidential elections.
In 1998 the Libertarian Party ran more candidates (833) at all levels than all other third parties combined. The Natural Law Party ran 141 candidates, and the Greens ran about 120 candidates in 1998. The number of Reform and U.S. Taxpayers candidates is believed to be lower. (If you have a list of candidates for these parties, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
In 1998 the Libertarian Party became the first third party since 1948 to receive over 1% of the total U.S. House vote. (They received 906,808 votes, or 1.36% of the total U.S. House vote cast.) They also received more total votes for their U.S. Senate candidates than any other third party.
The Libertarian Party has the most current officeholders. There are 261 Libertarians holding elected or appointed (mostly non-partisan, local) public offices. The Greens are in second place with 59 officeholders. The remaining parties have very few. (The Reform party has 6 elected officials.)
The Reform and Libertarian parties were the only two third parties that succeeded in getting 1996 Presidential candidate ballot access in all 50 states (plus DC). The Natural Law Party was on the ballot in 43 states (plus DC), the U.S. Taxpayers in 40 states (plus DC), and the Greens in 23 states (plus DC). (There were 14 additional third party and independent candidates, each having ballot access in less than 15 states.) The Libertarian Party is the only third party in American history to achieve 50-state ballot status two presidential elections in a row.
The Libertarian Party is organized in all 50 states (plus DC). The Reform Party appears to be organized in all states except Wyoming. There are state Green Parties in 28 states (plus DC), and state Green organizations in 35 states (plus DC). The U.S. Taxpayers Party has 26 state party affiliates with Websites; it is unknown how many others they have. I do not know how many states have a Natural Law Party.
Widespread public support for the Green Party can be seen in the fact that Ralph Nader, their1996 Presidential candidate, took fourth place behind the D?s, R?s, and Reform, in spite of spending very little money and being on the ballot in only 23 states. Almost 5% of his votes were write-in votes!
Strong support for the U.S. Taxpayers Party can be seen in the fact that they have the most registered voters. The numbers as of the November 1998 election were: U.S. Taxpayers 317,510, Reform 244,356, Libertarian 182,481, Green 118,537, Natural Law 70,032, and others totaling 424,616. (Note that only about half of the states register voters by party.)