In History: Third party and independent candidates


This list is filled with failed efforts of politicians stepping away from the two-party system. George Washington would applaud these efforts after refuting said system in his farewell address. Today, third party candidates have little hope without pursuing a Democratic or Republican nomination.

Theodore Roosevelt formed the progressive Bull Moose Party. He won the most ever electoral votes for a third party candidate, and led the polls numerous times during his campaign. He garnered 27.4 percent of the popular vote, winning 88 electoral votes from six states.

Another progressive, Robert M. La Follette, a Senator from Wisconsin, ran in 1924.  He ran against American imperialism and child labor, promoting unions, farm credits, and federal ownership of railroads and electric utilities.  He ran while pneumonia stricken, stealing votes from both major parties. Many called him a hopeless reactionary. La Follette won only Wisconsin and 16.6 percent of the popular vote.

The States’ Rights Democratic Party, also known as the Dixiecrats, only existed briefly. It stemmed off the Democratic Party to preserve the Southern way of life. They opposed racial integration and federal overreach. Strom Thurmond emerged as their contender in 1948. He didn’t gain much national support, but came away with only 2.4 percent of the popular vote. But he did win South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, giving him 35 Electoral votes.

The notorious, civil rights era, Alabama Governor, George Wallace ran a third-party campaign with the American Independent Party. The former democrat ran on a pro-segregation campaign refuted by the majority of Americans, but gained substantial support in the South. He also had significant support from blue collar workers. His popularity peaked at about mid-September polling around 45 percent. In the election, Wallace received 45 electoral votes winning five states in the South and nearly 10 million votes.

In 1992, an American businessman took America by storm. Ross Perot, an Independent from Texas had never held office. He spent over $12 million of his own money while campaigning. By June, Perot led in a Gallo Poll with 39 percent support. In the 1992 election, Perot won the highest percentage of presidential votes since Teddy Roosevelt, but failed to win a single state.   He ended with nearly 20 million votes and 18.9 percent of the popular vote.

For the last decade, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is one of the most prominent American politicians who strays from the two-party system. Technically he was only a Libertarian from 1987 to 1996, but his views differ from the party’s core. He ran as a Republican in 2008 and 2012 in the primaries. In 2008 he came in fifth place in Iowa’s 2008 caucuses, but third in 2012 where he carried over 20 percent of electorate. Paul retired from congress in 2013, but his son Rand Paul is currently seeking the Republican bid for 2016.

Thursday, the longest serving independent in the history of congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. It remains to be seen how successful his campaign will turn out, but he has significant ground to make against the favorite Hillary Clinton.