Third Parties in American Politics

3 Political Parties

About a quarter of Americans say having more major political parties would make it easier to solve the nation’s problems. But 24% think it would make it harder.

A centrist group called No Labels is trying to set up a third party that represents the middle. But it faces obstacles such as ballot access and the Electoral College.

The Libertarian Party

Libertarians believe that the government should intervene as little as possible in citizens’ lives. They are opposed to any form of coercion or forced behavior, including wars and foreign aid, and advocate a fully free market economy. They also believe that people should be able to travel freely, as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of others, and that schools should be managed locally.

They support abolishing income taxes and laws against victimless crimes, and they oppose farming subsidies. In terms of foreign policy, they support disengagement from agreements with foreign countries and a cessation of supplying foreign economic aid.

They also oppose military interventions in foreign countries and would withdraw all troops from overseas. On the social level, they support legalizing same-sex marriage, and would end the drug war and other forms of government-mandated discrimination. They also believe that parents should be able to choose how they raise their children. Despite its lack of popularity, the Libertarian Party continues to be an important third party in the United States.

The Constitution Party

The Constitution Party is a conservative third party founded in 1991 and FEC recognized national party. It advocates a strict reading of the US Constitution and smaller government. The party opposes any federal law that authorizes or defines marriage contrary to the Bible and believes that “The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman.” The party also supports local and state laws prohibiting sexually offensive behavior, and opposes federal sponsorship or involvement in gambling.

The party supports a non-interventionist foreign policy and advocates reduction and eventual elimination of the United States’ role in world policing, nation building, and foreign financial aid. The party supports mercantilist positions in international trade and supports the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which allows Congress to tax income derived from interest, dividends, and capital gains, and the Seventeenth Amendment, which requires the direct election of Senators.

The party opposes abortion and euthanasia, and supports a strong national defense. The party supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The party has flirted with extremist elements of the antigovernment militia movement and Christian Reconstruction, a radical theology that calls for Old Testament laws such as stoning adulterers to death.

The Green Party

Green parties are generally concerned with the environment, social and economic justice, and government accountability. They often reject the hierarchical structure of established parties and seek to relaunch the idea of internal party democracy.

Founded in the 1970s, they have developed into a large group of political movements with varying ideologies and goals. They have been able to draw support from disaffected voters across the traditional left-right spectrum.

In Europe, green parties have taken on a growing role in governing coalitions. The most prominent example is Germany’s Greens, who have risen to prominence since 1998 and are now junior coalition members with center-left parties. Nevertheless, the party’s commitment to nonviolence and disarmament has not always been consistent with its position in government. For example, it has supported military intervention, including Western support for Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion. The party is also split over the role of the European Union, with some skeptics within the movement.

The American Progressive Party

Led by President Theodore Roosevelt, the 1912 Progressive Party campaign turned into a passionate contest for the soul of the nation. The party’s platform called for a revision of the political nominating machinery and an aggressive program of social legislation that some saw as socialist.

Milkis describes the conflict between the party’s three closely related factions. At one pole stood the admitted Communists and their fellow travelers; at another were those who, despite disavowing Redbaiting, failed to differ noticeably from them on policy or principle.

In the middle were those who, while denying that they had any such affinity with Moscow, nonetheless feared that Roosevelt’s policies would lead to war with the Soviet Union. They favored high-level international conferences, supported rights for minorities and political groups, and sought curbs on large corporations, such as a call for trust-busting. They were, as a result, largely ignored by voters and eventually died out. The only surviving materialization of the Progressive Party was the 1948 effort to run Henry Wallace for president, and that party died in 1952.

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