Thursday, June 14, 2012

Third Political Party

The United States is a land of dual political party arrangement that leaves little room for a third force. For a long time, the Democratic and Republican parties have been the only two party juggernauts that held the political mantle in a land that has been described as a ‘melting pot’ and ‘land of opportunities’. It may seem strange how people hailing from all walks of life and living in such a diverse environment fail to cultivate political pluralism as is evident in many other democracies. According to Abramson, Aldrich, Paolino, and Rohde (1995), thirty-six presidential elections were held between the years 1852 and 1984 with the Republicans snatching twenty-one and the Democrats a mere nineteen. Since America’s formation, the political will of the nation was one built on electoral challenges and competition.

Perot, Anderson, and Wallace have in the past competed for leadership roles in the electoral processes as Independents. America has experienced a cornucopia of political parties that had little effect in the governing of the nation. These parties were engineered by people having personal, social, or economic agendas. Despite their struggles to bring their parties to the limelight, in the end they turned out to be ineffective in the nation’s public policy formulations and governance. Sundquist (1988) contends that the formulation of both houses and the presidency are accidental and not necessarily formed as a result of coalition between political parties.

Independent and third-party candidates incur tremendous political hardships because they are restrained by the plurality-vote system instituted by the states. Independent candidates bear the brunt when it comes to dispensation of electoral votes. It is a mechanical effect that leaves little room for independent candidates to emerge victorious and claim majority-vote as demonstrated by America’s electoral system. According to historical electoral records, candidates vying for presidential slots received a mere 5% of the popular votes and 5% of the electoral votes between the years 1832 and 1992. For example, Rose Perot gained 18.9% of the popular votes and absolutely no credible, worth mentioning electoral votes (Abramson, Aldrich, Paolino, & Rohde, 1995). While many would like a third force to counter the existing duopoly in the American political system, it is unlikely that a third major party will be born soon. For now and in the future, Americans will have to learn to become professionals in the art of partnerships and coalition governments.


Abramson, P.R., Aldrich, J.H., Paolino, P. & Rohde, D.W. (1995). Third-party and independent candidates in American politics: Wallace, Anderson, and Perot. Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 110, No. 3, pp. 349-367.

Sundquist, J.L. (1988). Needed: A political theory for the new era coalition government in the United States. Political Science Quarterly, Volume 103, No. 4.

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