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Challengers to Duopoly

Why Third Parties Matter in American Two-Party Politics

J. David Gillespie

Publication Year: 2012

Building on the foundational importance of its predecessor (Politics at the Periphery, 1993), Challengers to Duopoly offers an up-to-date overview of the important history of America's third parties and the challenge they represent to the hegemony of the major parties. J. David Gillespie introduces readers to minor partisan actors of three types: short-lived national parties, continuing doctrinal and issue parties, and the significant others at the state and local levels. Woven into these accounts are profiles of some of the individuals who have taken the initiative to found and lead these parties. Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Jesse Ventura, and other recent and contemporary electoral insurgents are featured, along with the most significant current national and state parties challenging the primacy of the two major parties. Gillespie maintains that despite the infirmities they often bear, third parties do matter, and they have mattered throughout American public life. Many of our nation's most important policies and institutional innovations—including abolition, woman suffrage, government transparency, child labor laws, and national healthcare—were third-party ideas before either major party embraced them. Additionally, third parties were the first to break every single gender, race, and sexual orientation bar on nomination for the highest offices in the land. As Gillespie illustrates in this engaging narrative, with the deck so stacked against them, it is impressive that third-party candidates ever win at all. That they sometimes do is a testament to the power of democratic ideals and the growing disdain of the voting public with politics as usual.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

You are entitled to know something about my approach to the topic of this book. Paraphrasing words from a chilling query from the McCarthy era, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of any third political party. I am interested in them all. ...

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1: Duopoly and its Challengers

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pp. 1-15

The American party system is a duopoly, an enforced two-party system. For a century and a half, the Democrats and Republicans have dominated and shared the coveted center ring of American party politics. These two major parties fight over many things, but they have long been aware of their shared interest in mutual selfprotection, ...

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2: Protecting Major-Party Turf

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pp. 16-36

Over the years some of the most vocal critics of America’s party system have de - clared that there really are not two major national parties. They contend that there are just two branches of one party—two brands in effect, one Democratic, the other Republican, both offering nearly identical products to the voting consumer. ...

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3: On the Outside, Looking In

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pp. 37-53

It was undeniably historic, that 2008 presidential election, and the excitement it generated both in and outside the United States had little to do with the third-party and indepen dent candidates vying far beyond the media spotlights. The historic milestones set in 2008 were being set in the two-party center ring. ...

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4: Constitutionalists, Greens, and Libertarians

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pp. 54-64

Hobbled by duopolistic regulations and other structural and cultural infirmities, people wanting today to build a third-party movement with the strength really to take on the major parties also face a conundrum: where on the ideological spectrum is there sufficient and attractive space for constructing such a movement? ...

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5: The Early Years: Short-Lived Parties before 1860

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pp. 65-78

If ever there were a golden age of third-party politics, it was in the nineteenth century. Party lines and divisions would harden later on—some say they are downright ossified today—but over the first 125 years of American nationhood they remained reasonably soft and subject to change. ...

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6: Union, Reform, and Class: Short-Lived Parties, 1860–1908

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pp. 79-97

A remarkable 81 percent of those eligible turned out for the November 6, 1860, presidential election. The two leading candidates were Illinois politicians who had faced off against each other before. In that contest Abraham Lincoln, the Republican, had thrown down the gauntlet to the Democratic incumbent. ...

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7: Thunder Left and Right: Short-Lived Parties, 1912–1960s

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pp. 98-117

Duopoly has prevailed for more than a century now. Twentieth-century third parties found no opening wedge, no rupture or tear in the hegemony shared by two particular major parties like those which in the nineteenth century fueled Anti- Masonic, Know Nothing, Republican, and Populist hopes of breaking for the long term into national major-party ranks. ...

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8: George Wallace and Beyond: Short-Lived Parties, 1968 and After

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pp. 118-137

Some years are as bland as dry toast. Others spark excitement even long after they have passed. Nineteen sixty-eight excites the memory of those who lived through it, though there are many who recall its torment far more than its triumphs.1 ...

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9: The New Independents: The Anderson and Perot Movements

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pp. 138-151

Not since the election of Zachary Taylor, a Whig, in 1848 has presidential victory gone to anyone running without a D or an R by his name. The dominant pattern of contest between Republican and Democrat was already set by the time of the Civil War. ...

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10: Taking the Less-Traveled Road: Women, African Americans, Latinos

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pp. 152-171

In building and then maintaining a political community that fully encompasses the nation’s uncommon diversity, the United States continues to be, as always, a work in progress. One in eight U.S. citizens today is an African American. Some 16 percent of the population of the United States is Latino. ...

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11: Doctrinal Parties 1: The Socialists and Communists

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pp. 172-187

There are times—rare ones—when a provocative, even outrageous act by a very small group at the distant edge of the political periphery can impact constitutional development and public policy. On June 21, 1989, the United States Supreme Court invalidated a Texas law that had banned the desecration of the American or Texas flag. ...

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12: Doctrinal Parties 2: The Neo-Nazis

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pp. 188-199

Although history never repeats in every detail, what happened one Saturday morning in an African American neighborhood in Greensboro, North Carolina, resembled the pitched battles between Nazis and Communists in German streets during the years leading up to Hitler’s Third Reich. ...

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13: State/Local Significant Others

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pp. 200-222

Over nearly two centuries now there have been parties that established themselves as influential participants in the electoral and policy-making processes of their communities or states. For some the accomplishment has come as a single event: for example Walter Hickel’s 1990 gubernatorial election on the Alaskan Independence Party line. ...

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14: Looking Back, Looking Ahead: The Third-Party Legacy and the Future

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pp. 223-228

Minor parties they are, minor parties they have been, but their collective footprint in American history has been far from minor. Individual third parties have broken down the barriers of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in nomination for high office. ...

Appendix 1: Web Sites of Nonmajor Parties and Related Information Sources

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pp. 229-232

Appendix 2: Minor-Party and Independent Candidates Receiving More Than 1 Percent of Popular Vote for President

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pp. 233-234

Appendix 3: Candidates and Votes for President, 2008

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pp. 235-236

Appendix 4: Third-Party and Independent Gubernatorial Popular Elections

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pp. 237-240

Appendix 5: Third-Party Presence (Excluding Independents) at Opening Sessions of the U.S. Congress

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pp. 241-244

Appendix 6: Post-World War II Third-Party and Independent Members of Congress

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pp. 245-246


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pp. 247-270

Suggestions for Further Reading

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pp. 271-278

Index of Parties, Associations, and People

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pp. 279-290

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171129
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611170146

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2012