America has an ingrained two party system. Third parties (or minor parties) seldom make a difference in presidential elections. The largest third party is the Libertarian Party with a membership of about 0.65 million. Compared to the Democratic Party (47 million) and the Republican Party (35 million), the Libertarian Party is small potatoes. Its presidential candidate did take 1.77% of the presidential vote in 2020. Yet it is big compared to the next largest party, the Green Party, which has a membership of 0.25 million and took 0.255% of the presidential vote.
I think it makes sense that the Libertarian Party is the largest third party. Right now the guiding concept for many Americans is individual rights. And that is what defines the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party ideology is to let the individual (or corporation) do what they want without any government interference. They want a small government that leaves the individual (or corporation) alone. They are more like the Democrats with liberal social policies, and more like the Republicans with the economic and business policies.
The last third party to take a significant portion of the presidential vote was the Reform Party. In 1992, Ross Perot took 19% of the presidential vote, and in 1996 he took 8% of the vote. Since then no third party has taken 5% of the vote or more. Ross Perot was a character, a maverick, and he had money. I think those two things set him apart to allow him to be noticed by the voting public. It may be that character and money is what the next third party presidential candidate needs to have to collect a significant percentage of the vote.
So what good are third parties? I think they tell the two major parties what people are thinking. If the third party gets a significant percentage of the vote, the Democrats and Republicans need to take a look and see what was the reason behind the third party receiving a significant number of votes and then adjust their policies to reflect the needs of the people.
I am an Independent. I am not a member of any party. There are some ideas I like from the Democrats and some ideas I like from the Republicans. I am a social conservative which means on those issues I lean Republican. I believe in a good social safety net so on those issues I lean Democratic. I am also a fiscal conservative. Neither party has been good at attempting to balance the budget. The Republicans have been good at talking the talk but poor at walking the walk. Actually I think Democrats may be better at paying for what they spend. I took a survey which told me how much of a Democrat or Republican I am. I pretty much ended up in the center, neither left nor right. (The questions asked by these surveys are always frustrating because it is never as black and white as the question indicates. The “center” ranking was correct, I think, but the characteristics of the group I was placed in seemed wrong for me.)
This last election I took a closer look at several third parties. I found one that for the most part fit my political beliefs. I don’t fully agree with the party platform but it seems to come the closest to what I believe politically. So for the 2020 presidential election I voted for Brian Carroll of the American Solidarity Party. The platform espouses the political ideology called Christian democracy. I would place it as center-right for social issues and center-left for economic and environmental issues.
So did I throw away my vote on someone who will never be elected? No, I instead made a statement of what I want both parties and the new administration to consider. Living in Colorado, I knew that the state was clearly going Democratic for president, so the Electoral College votes were set. If I was living in one of the purple swing states, I would have considered that my vote could have made a difference in the outcome, and I may have voted for one of the two major party candidates. So if you are not in a purple swing state in 2024 and you feel that the two major parties don’t fit with what your political beliefs are, I would check out the third party platforms and choose a third party that best fits your political beliefs. Here are the platforms of the four third parties that “The Gospel Coalition” covered this last fall.
- American Solidarity Party Platform
- Constitution Party Platform
- Libertarian Party Platform
- Green Party Platform
PS Yes, posting this post might have been better before the election instead of after the election. I have been thinking about this post for 6 months now. It is just that I was not ready to write the post until now.
2 thoughts on “American Third Parties”
Jim Found wrote a great article where he lays out his reasoning behind his political beliefs. He says,
Paul, Thank you for publicly stating your political views. I think my views are compatible in many ways. I have stated them at this link
I am not at the point yet where I would vote for a third party, because I still am afraid it would skew the results of the two main parties.