All national US political parties whose presidential candidate received at least 100,000 votes in the 2008 election(162KB) were included in our presentation. Data for registered members of each party were compiled by Ballot Access News, with the exception of the Constitution Party. Ballot Access News had combined the Constitution Party with the American Independent Party, so we took the registration numbers directly from the Constitution Party's website. The number of registered independent voters was taken from USA Today. Sources: Constitution Party, "Media Information: The Constitution Party," www.constitutionparty.com (accessed Oct. 24, 2011) Ballot Access News, "Ballot Access News December 1, 2010: October 2010 Registration Totals," www.ballot-access.org (accessed Oct. 28, 2011) USA Today, "Voters Leaving Republican, Democratic Parties in Droves," www.usatoday.com, Dec. 22, 2011
Background of Political Parties in the United States
"Political parties are groups of individuals organized for the purpose of electing candidates to public office. The Constitution contains no mention of parties and the Framers regarded them as undesirable or even dangerous. Nonetheless, the federal structure and electoral institutions they created give ample incentives for party building.
The first American parties formed during the first few decades of the Republic as congressional members attempted to build stable coalitions to control the machinery of government. These attempts quickly spilled over into the electoral arena. With the plurality voting rule penalizing all but a few serious candidates for each office, the two-party pattern of electoral competition quickly emerged."
Source: Samuel Kernell, Gary C. Jacobson, and Thad Kousser, "The Logic of American Politics: Ch. 12. Political Parties," www.logic.cqpress.com (accessed Oct. 28, 2011)
Political party committees are required to register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) when they reach certain thresholds for spending or contributions. According to the FEC: "The Commission determines whether committees meet the criteria for state or national party committee status through the advisory opinion process. For state committee status, the Commission has generally looked to see if the committee engages in activities that are commensurate with the day-to-day operations of a party at the state level, and if the committee has gained ballot access for its federal candidates. For national committee status, the criteria include:
Nominating qualified candidates for President and various Congressional offices in numerous states;
Engaging in certain activities--such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives--on an ongoing basis;
Publicizing the party's supporters and primary issues throughout the nation;
Holding a national convention;
Setting up a national office; and
Establishing state affiliates."
Source: Federal Elections Commission (FEC), "Quick Answers to Party Questions," www.fec.gov (accessed Oct. 28, 2011)
"1992 A coalition of independent state parties united to form the U.S. Taxpayers Party. The party's founder, Howard Phillips, was on the ballot in 21 states as its first presidential candidate.
1995-99 Party recognized by Federal Election Commission as a national party bringing the number of recognized parties to 5. Ballot access achieved in 39 states for the 1996 elections, representing over 80% of the electoral college votes available.
1999 Name changed to 'Constitution Party' by delegates at the National Convention to better reflect the party's primary focus of returning government to the U.S. Constitution's provisions and limitations.
2000 & 2004 The party achieved ballot access in 41 and 36 states respectively. Though the party was on fewer state ballots in 2004, the vote tally increased by 40% compared to the 2000 elections while other ‘alternative' parties lost ground or barely matched their 2000 vote totals.
2008 The Constitution Party was on the ballot in 37 states. Presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin and vice-presidential candidate Darrell Castle, endorsed by former GOP presidential candidate, Congressman Ron Paul, polled a higher percentage of the vote than any other Constitution Party presidential ticket in 27 states for a total of 199,314 votes."
Source: The Constitution Party, "The Constitution Party: History," www.constitutionparty.com(accessed Aug. 30, 2011)
"The mission of the Constitution Party is to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity through the election, at all levels of government, of Constitution Party candidates who will uphold the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It is our goal to limit the federal government to its delegated, enumerated, Constitutional functions."
Source: The Constitution Party, "Constitution Party," Constitution Party Facebook page (accessed Aug. 30, 2011)
Among the issues addressed in the 2012 Constitution Party National Platform are:
"Founded more than 200 years ago, the Democratic Party was born in response to the idea that government should represent the people and that wealth and status should not be an entitlement to rule...
In the 1930s, Americans turned to Democrats and elected President Franklin Roosevelt to end the Great Depression. President Roosevelt offered Americans a New Deal that put people back to work, stabilized farm prices, and brought electricity to rural homes and communities.
Under President Roosevelt, Social Security established a promise that lasts to this day: growing old would never again mean growing poor.
In 1944, FDR signed the G.I. Bill -- a historic measure that provided veterans with the opportunity to go to college and help move our country forward...
Harry Truman helped rebuild Europe after World War II with the Marshall Plan and oversaw the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. By integrating the military, President Truman helped to bring down barriers of race and gender and pave the way the way for civil rights advancements in the years that followed.
In the 1960s, Americans again turned to Democrats and elected President John Kennedy to tackle the challenges of a new era. President Kennedy dared Americans to put a man on the moon, created the Peace Corps, and negotiated a treaty banning atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.
And after President Kennedy's assassination, Americans looked to President Lyndon Johnson, who offered a new vision of a Great Society and signed into law the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
President Johnson's enactment of Medicare was a watershed moment in America's history that redefined our country's commitment to our seniors—offering a new promise that all Americans have the right to a healthy retirement.
In 1976, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Americans elected Jimmy Carter to restore dignity to the White House. He created the Departments of Education and Energy and helped to forge a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt.
In 1992, after twelve years of Republican presidents, record budget deficits, high unemployment, and increasing crime, Americans turned to Democrats once again and elected Bill Clinton to get America moving again. As President, Clinton balanced the budget, helped the economy add 23 million new jobs, and oversaw the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in history.
And in 2008, Americans turned to Democrats and elected President Obama to reverse our country's slide into the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression and undo eight years of policies that favored the few over the many.
Under President Obama's direction and congressional Democrats' leadership, we reformed a health care system that was broken and extended health insurance to 32 million Americans."
Source: Democratic National Committee, "Our History," www.democrats.org(accessed Aug. 31, 2011)
"The history of our country is a history of change. Year after year, we have evolved, innovated, and overcome the major challenges of our time. America's genius throughout has been its ability to renew our promise to provide citizens the opportunity for a better life - and though our own history isn't perfect, the mission of the Democratic Party has been to make that promise a reality."
Source: Democratic National Committee, "Our History," www.democrats.org (accessed Aug. 31, 2011)
Among the issues addressed in the 2008 Democratic National Platform are:
"We are a confederation of Green Parties from states around the country. We are also the recognized partner of the European Federation of Green Parties.
The Green Party of the United States began as the Association of State Green Parties. The ASGP was formed after the 1996 elections to fill a void in national Green politics and to help existing state parties develop.
Our 2000 Presidential Nominating Convention in Denver, CO., nominated Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke for President and Vice President. In 2004, our Presidential campaign ticket was David Cobb and Pat LaMarche. The 2004 Green National Convention was in Milwaukee, WI.
In July, 2008, in Chicago, we nominated Cynthia McKinney for President and Rosa Clemente for Vice President."
Source: Green Party of the United States of America, "A Brief History of the Green Party," www.gp.org (accessed Oct. 28, 2011)
"The mission of the Green Party of the United States is to build the Green Party into a viable political alternative in the United States, and our operating principle has been to keep it simple and focused. Our support comes from thousands of volunteers at the national and local level and from small contributions from individual citizens. Our growth plan includes managing our national office as a focus for national organizing and hiring field organizers to work with local groups and parties to help mobilize greens in voter registration drives, election activity and daily citizen action. Our preference is to leave most decision making and financial resources at the state and local level, minimizing our budgetary needs. This method has met with wide acceptance from Green groups around the country and is what has fueled our growth so strongly."
Source: Green Party of the United States of America, "A Brief History of the Green Party," www.gp.org (accessed Oct. 28, 2011)
"The Green Platform presents an eco-social analysis and vision for our country... We submit a bold vision of our country's future, a Platform on which we stand:
Our Ten Key Values as a guide to a politics of vision and action:
"The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in the United States. Millions of Americans have voted for Libertarian Party candidates in past elections throughout the country, despite the fact that many state governments place roadblocks in our path to keep our candidates off the ballot and deprive voters of a real choice...
1971 - The Libertarian Party is founded December 11, in the home of David Nolan. Disillusioned Republicans, Democrats and political newcomers hope to create an alternative to the old parties...
1978 - Ed Clark receives 5 percent of the vote in his race for governor of California. Dick Randolph of Alaska becomes the first elected Libertarian state legislator. Presidential nominating convention held in Los Angeles. Ed Clark and David Koch named presidential and vice presidential candidates. Permanent ballot status achieved in California as more than 80,000 voters register Libertarian...
1988 - Ron Paul, on the ballot in 46 states and the District of Columbia, comes in third for the U.S. presidency. He receives more than 430,000 votes – almost twice the total of any other third party candidate...
1996 - The Libertarian Party becomes the first third party in U.S. history to earn ballot status in all 50 states two presidential elections in a row. The presidential nominating convention in Washington, DC, chooses best-selling author Harry Browne, who goes on to win nearly 486,000 votes – the second-best showing in party history. LP candidates for statewide and federal office alone win 5.4 million votes, and seven Libertarians are elected or re-elected...
2008 - The LP nominates former congressman Bob Barr for president at the national convention in Denver. The presidential ticket gets 523,686 votes in November. 50 Libertarians are elected or re-elected to public office. Two Libertarian candidates in Texas and Georgia each receive over one million votes. Libertarians running for U.S. House receive over 1,078,000 votes, breaking the congressional million-vote threshold for the fourth time...
2010 - Over 800 Libertarian candidates run for office in November... 38 Libertarians are elected or re-elected to public office, and by the end of the year there are 154 Libertarians holding elected office."
"Our vision is for a world in which all individuals can freely exercise the natural right of sole dominion over their own lives, liberty and property by building a political party that elects Libertarians to public office, and moving public policy in a libertarian direction."
"It all started with people who opposed slavery. They were common, everyday people who bristled at the notion that men had any right to oppress their fellow man. In the early 1850’s, these anti-slavery activists found commonality with rugged individuals looking to settle in western lands, free of government charges. 'Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men,' went the slogan. And it was thus in joint opposition to human enslavement and government tyranny that an enterprising people gave birth to the Republican Party.
In 1856, the Republicans became a national party by nominating John C. Fremont for President. Four years later, with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the Republicans firmly established themselves as a major political party. The name 'Republican' was chosen because it alluded to equality and reminded individuals of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party...
In 1861, the Civil War erupted, lasting four grueling years. During the war, against the advice of his cabinet, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. The Republicans of the day worked to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed equal protection under the laws; and the Fifteenth, which helped secure voting rights for African-Americans...
Presidents during most of the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were Republicans. The White House was in Republican hands under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the United States won the Cold War, releasing millions from Communist oppression, in true anti-big government Republican spirit...
The symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant. During the mid term elections in 1874, Democrats tried to scare voters into thinking President Ulysses S. Grant would seek to run for an unprecedented third term. Thomas Nast, a cartoonist for Harper's Weekly, depicted a Democratic donkey trying to scare a Republican elephant - and both symbols stuck. For a long time, Republicans have been known as the 'G.O.P.' with party faithful believing it meant the 'Grand Old Party.' But apparently the original meaning (in 1875) was 'gallant old party.'"
"Republicans believe individuals, not government, can make the best decisions; all people are entitled to equal rights; and decisions are best made close to home. These basic principles are as true today as they were when the Party was founded. For all of the extraordinary leaders the Party has produced throughout its rich history, Republicans understand that everyday people in all 50 states and territories remain the heart and soul of our Party."
Source: Republican National Committee, "Our History: Free from Oppression," www.gop.com (accessed Nov. 1, 2011)
Among the issues addressed in the 2012 Republican Party Platform are:
"[Thomas] Jefferson's supporters, deeply influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution (1789), first adopted the name Republican to emphasize their antimonarchical views. The Republicans contended that the Federalists harbored aristocratic attitudes and that their policies placed too much power in the central government and tended to benefit the affluent at the expense of the common man. Although the Federalists soon branded Jefferson's followers 'Democratic-Republicans,' attempting to link them with the excesses of the French Revolution, the Republicans officially adopted the derisive label in 1798...
Notwithstanding the party's anti-elitist foundations, the first three Democratic-Republican presidents—Jefferson (1801–09), James Madison (1809–17), and James Monroe (1817–25)—were all wealthy, aristocratic Southern planters."
Source: History Channel, "Democratic-Republican Party," www.history.com (accessed Nov. 2, 2011)
1795 – Federalist Party:
"Federalism was born in 1787, when Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote 85 essays collectively known as the Federalist papers. These eloquent political documents encouraged Americans to adopt the newly-written Constitution and its stronger central government.
Largely influenced by the ideas of Alexander Hamilton, the Federalists succeeded in convincing the Washington administration to assume national and state debts, pass tax laws, and create a central bank...
Anti-Federalists [Democratic-Republicans] such as Thomas Jefferson feared that a concentration of central authority might lead to a loss of individual and states rights. They resented Federalist monetary policies, which they believed gave advantages to the upper class. In foreign policy, the Republicans leaned toward France, which had supported the American cause during the Revolution.
Jefferson and his colleagues formed the Republican Party in the early 1790s. By 1795, the Federalists had become a party in name as well."
Source: PBS' American Experience, "The Federalists," www.pbs.org (accessed Nov. 2, 2011)
1825 - National Republican Party:
"U.S. political party formed after what had been the Republican (or Jeffersonian Republican) party split in 1825. The Jeffersonian Republicans had been the only national political party following the demise of the Federalists during the War of 1812. During the contested election of 1824, followers of Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams began calling themselves National Republicans, while backers of Andrew Jackson emerged as Democratic Republicans.
By the election of 1828, the Jacksonians were simply called Democrats, though the name was not formalized until later. Opponents of Jackson joined the National Republican coalition and nominated Adams for a second term. Adams lost, but the National Republicans grew stronger. In 1831 they nominated Henry Clay to run on a platform endorsing the tariff, internal improvements, and the Bank of the United States.
Jackson and the Democrats won an overwhelming victory in the election of 1832, and the National Republicans never nominated another presidential candidate. During Jackson's second administration, the National Republicans joined with northern and southern conservatives, supporters of the Bank of the United States, and other anti-Jackson groups to form a new coalition. Claiming Jackson governed as 'King Andrew I,' the new party called itself the Whigs—after the British party that had opposed the power of the monarchy. By about 1834, there was little trace of the National Republican Party."
"The Whig party was formed in 1834 as a coalition of National Republicans, Anti-Masons, and disgruntled Democrats, who were united by their hatred of 'King Andrew' Jackson and his 'usurpations' of congressional and judicial authority... The party took its name from the seventeenth-century British Whig group that had defended English liberties against the usurpations of pro-Catholic Stuart Kings.
In 1836 the Whigs mounted their first presidential campaign, running three regional candidates against Martin Van Buren: Daniel Webster, the senator from Massachusetts who had substantial appeal in New England; Hugh Lawson White, who had appeal in the South; and William Henry Harrison, who fought an Indian alliance at the Battle of Tippecanoe and appealed to the West and to Anti-Masons in Pennsylvania and Vermont. The party strategy was to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where the Whigs would unite behind a single candidate. Van Buren easily defeated all his Whig opponents, winning 170 electoral votes to just 73 for his closest rival.
Following his strong showing in the election of 1836, William Henry Harrison received the united support of the Whig party in 1840... Harrison easily defeated Van Buren by a vote of 234 to 60 in the electoral college.
Unfortunately, the 68-year-old Harrison caught cold while delivering a two-hour inaugural address in the freezing rain. Barely a month later he died of pneumonia, the first president to die in office. His successor, John Tyler of Virginia, was an ardent defender of slavery, a staunch advocate of states’ rights, and a former Democrat, whom the Whigs had nominated in order to attract Democratic support to the Whig ticket...
In 1848 and 1852 the Whigs tried to repeat their successful 1840 presidential campaign by nominating military heroes for the presidency. The party won the 1848 election with General Zachary Taylor, an Indian fighter and hero of the Mexican War, who had boasted that he had never cast a vote in a presidential election. Like Harrison, Taylor confined his campaign speeches to uncontroversial platitudes. 'Old Rough and Ready,' as he was known, died after just 1 year and 127 days in office. Then, in 1852, the Whigs nominated another Indian fighter and Mexican War hero, General Winfield Scott, who carried just four states for his dying party. 'Old Fuss and Feathers,' as he was called, was the last Whig nominee to play an important role in a presidential election."
Source: Digital History, "The Whigs," www.digitalhistory.uh.edu (accessed Nov. 2, 2011)
1848 - Free Soil Party:
"In 1848, antislavery Democrats and Conscience Whigs (in contrast to Cotton Whigs) merged with the Liberty party to form the Free Soil Party. Unlike the Liberty Party, which was dedicated to slavery's abolition and equal rights for blacks, the Free Soil party narrowed its demands to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and exclusion of slavery from the federal territories. The Free Soilers also wanted a homestead law to provide free land for western settlers, high tariffs to protect American industry, and federally-sponsored internal improvements.
The Free Soil Party nominated Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate... In the election of 1848, Van Buren polled 291,000 votes, enough to split the Democratic vote and throw the election to the Whig candidate Zachary Taylor."
Source: Digital History, "The Free Soil Party," www.digitalhistory.ud.edu (accessed Nov. 2, 2011)
1859 - Constitutional Union Party:
"U.S. political party that sought in the pre-Civil War election of 1860 to rally support for the Union and the Constitution without regard to sectional issues. Formed in 1859 by former Whigs and members of the Know-Nothing Party, the party nominated John Bell for president and Edward Everett for vice president... the Constitutional Union Party was a short-lived vehicle for moderates that collapsed by the start of the Civil War. It succeeded only in helping to disperse the 1860 vote sufficiently to ensure the election of the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln."
Source: History Channel, "Constitutional Union Party," www.history.com(accessed Nov. 2, 2011)
1892 - Populist Party:
"Throughout the 1880s local political action groups known as Farmers' Alliances sprang up among Middle Westerners and Southerners, who were discontented because of crop failures, falling prices, and poor marketing and credit facilities. Although it won some significant regional victories, the alliances generally proved politically ineffective on a national scale. Thus in 1892 their leaders organized the Populist, or People's, Party, and the Farmers' Alliances melted away. While trying to broaden their base to include labour and other groups, the Populists remained almost entirely agrarian-oriented. They demanded an increase in the circulating currency (to be achieved by the unlimited coinage of silver), a graduated income tax, government ownership of the railroads, a tariff for revenue only, the direct election of U.S. senators, and other measures designed to strengthen political democracy and give farmers economic parity with business and industry.
In 1892 the Populist presidential candidate, James B. Weaver, polled 22 electoral votes and more than 1,000,000 popular votes. By fusing with the Democrats in certain states, the party elected several members to Congress, three governors, and hundreds of minor officials and legislators, nearly all in the northern Middle West...
[I]n 1896 the Populists allowed themselves to be swept into the Democratic cause by their mutual preoccupation with the Free Silver Movement. The subsequent defeat of Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan signalled the collapse of one of the most challenging protest movements in the U.S. since the Civil War. Some of the Populist causes were later embraced by the Progressive Party."
Source: History Channel, "Populist Movement," www.history.com (accessed Nov. 2, 2011)
1912 - Progressive Party (Bull Moose Party):
"On the evening of June 22, 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt asked his supporters to leave the floor of the Republican National Convention in Chicago. Republican progressives reconvened in Chicago's Orchestra Hall and endorsed the formation of a national progressive party. When formally launched later that summer, the new Progressive Party chose Roosevelt as its presidential nominee. Questioned by reporters, Roosevelt said he felt as strong as a 'bull moose.' Thenceforth known as the 'Bull Moose Party,' the Progressives promised to increase federal regulation and protect the welfare of ordinary people...
Despite an impressive showing in 1912, the Bull Moose Party failed to establish itself as a viable third party. Still active on the state level, Progressives did not put forward a presidential candidate again until Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette's run in 1924."
Source: The Library of Congress, "Bull Moose Born," memory.loc.gov (accessed Nov. 2, 2011)