Category Archives: third parties

“Kennedy and West third-party ballot drives are pushed by secretive groups and Republican donors”

AP reports: “With early voting for the November presidential election set to begin in late September in some states, there are signs across the country that groups are trying to affect the outcome by using deceptive means — and in most cases in ways that would benefit Republican Donald Trump. Their aim is to to whittle away President Joe Biden’s standing with the Democratic Party’s base by offering left-leaning, third-party alternatives who could siphon off a few thousand protest votes in close swing state contests.”

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“Paid operatives linked to a GOP firm are helping Cornel West in Arizona”

NBC News:

A dozen paid operatives registered with Arizona’s secretary of state on Sunday to collect signatures on behalf of left-wing presidential candidate Cornel West, listing their employer as a Republican-leaning firm that recently worked for GOP House candidate Blake Masters.

Arizona, unlike most states, requires paid or out-of-state petition-gatherers to register with the state. On their public registrations, some of circulators working to help West get on the ballot in Arizona struggled to spell his name, listing it as “Carnel west” or “Cornelle West.”

All checked boxes indicating they are out of state and that they are being paid. All listed Wells Marketing LLC — or some variation, with a few misspellings — as the company they are working for.

It’s unclear who is paying them. Wells Marketing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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“Joe Manchin leaves the Democratic Party, files as independent”


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) officially left the Democratic Party on Friday and registered as an independent.

Why it matters: Manchin, who flirted with an independent presidential bid earlier this year, has said he’s not running for Senate re-election. But leaving the party could give him the flexibility to change tack and run for Senate or West Virginia governor as an independent.

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“Libertarians Skip Over Trump and R.F.K. Jr. for Chase Oliver”


The Libertarian Party chose one of its own as its presidential nominee on Sunday night, capping a grueling day of elimination voting and a boisterous four-day event, where both Donald J. Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. unsuccessfully sought to court the group’s backing.

The nominee, Chase Oliver — an openly gay former Democrat who in 2022 forced a runoff in a race for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia — beat out nine other candidates at the party’s national convention in Washington, including Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy, who was a late addition to the official list of potential nominees on Sunday morning, was eliminated in the first round of voting Sunday afternoon, with 19 votes — just 2 percent of the total. Mr. Trump, who was not an official candidate, received six write-in votes in the first round.

The Libertarian Party is among the better-established minor parties, with name recognition and placement on the majority of state ballots in November. The Libertarian nominee is guaranteed to be on the November ballot in at least 37 states, a number that party leaders say they expect to grow in the coming months….

A theme of the party’s convention, displayed proudly on badges and signs at the convention, was: “Become Ungovernable.”

On Sunday, it almost was. The party took more than seven hours, and seven rounds of elimination voting, to get a presidential nominee — and even then the party nearly ended up without any candidate at all, as more than a third of the final voters cast ballots for “none of the above.”

Had the party failed to nominate a candidate, it would have likely lost ballot access in many states.

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“Historians and the Strange, Fluid World of Nineteenth-Century Politics”

ERIK B. ALEXANDER AND RACHEL A. SHELDEN have published a blog post reflecting on the significance of their recent article, which I mentioned a few weeks back in a post on the history of third parties in the United States.

For more than half a century, historians have relied (often implicitly) on a model of organizing U.S. political history around distinct and separate “party systems,” pitting two competitive, stable, national parties against one another for long stretches of time between short bursts of realignment. In the context of the shifting political landscape of 1868, however, explaining the partisan politics of the Johnson impeachment through the party system model is the equivalent of forcing a square peg into a round hole.

They then apply this to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment vote.

How, then, are we to understand the partisan breakdown of the 1868 vote to impeach? If we conflate the Union Party with the Republican Party, was Johnson a Republican? He may have flirted with the Democrats in pursuing a revived Union Party, but he was not a Democrat. And while Democrats certainly supported Johnson’s vision for Reconstruction over that of the Republicans, they did not view him as a member of their party either. In other words, including Johnson in any kind of accounting of the partisan politics of impeachments is confusing at best.

. . . .

We argue that it is high time to shed the confines of that model. Nineteenth-century politics are better described as fluid, unstable, and federal, operating through a series of mechanisms—networks, newspapers, customs, and laws—unique to that era. Political actors used these mechanisms to address the most pressing ideological and constitutional conflicts of their era, often in concert with broader political activism. They could quickly organize new parties to address problems as they arose, and just as quickly discard parties when the issues were resolved (or when absorbed by another party). In this way, parties were deeply integrated into the broader fabric of American political life, rather than serving as its organizing structures.

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“RFK Jr. uses major cash infusion from his running mate to fund ballot access efforts”

Politico. RFK, Jr.’s campaign currently depends on money from his VP, Nicole Shanahan. In April, she contributed $ 8 million. Independent presidential candidate + wealthy donor as VP is a well-established pattern to avoid campaign contribution limits. In 1980, David Koch ran as the VP for the Libertarian Party for the same purpose. More interestingly, the article notes:

“Kennedy’s campaign received $843,000 from unitemized donors — those giving less than $200 — in April, down from $1.3 million from such donors in March. It was the lowest unitemized donor total for him for any month this calendar year.

Small donor money may not be necessary to fund Kennedy’s campaign if Shanahan keeps cutting big checks. But funds from donors giving only a little are also one gauge of grassroots support.”

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Fusion as a Party-Centric Reform to Empower the Center-Right

What does it take to get a lefty union organizer and former director of the Working Families Party on stage with neo-liberals? Donald Trump. In “The Power of Fusion,” Dan Cantor provides a great overview of how fusion works and how it could empower the center-right. If we care about the future of democracy, he argues, our key goal should be to find a party home for the “politically homeless anti-Trump, pro-Constitution Republicans who continue to stand for democracy and freedom.” They still make up one-fifth of the Republican Party. What they need is a mechanism for leveraging those numbers. Fusion voting is that mechanism. The article is also just a great read.

“But here I was on a panel with a former Joe Manchin staffer and a former executive director of the Michigan GOP. I wasn’t sharing the stage with them because I had altered my views on the policies I’d like to see our government enact. But I’m traveling in more mixed company these days because I’m convinced that the threat of ethnonationalist authoritarianism must take precedence over everything else. My views on Reaganism, Bushism, and neoliberal corporatism haven’t changed, . . . But for the moment, I’m more interested in building bridges than barricades. The only way to defeat authoritarianism is with an electoral coalition that includes the center-right.”

. . . .

“If fusion voting were the norm today, it would provide a way for Republican and unaffiliated moderates and centrists to cast a vote for Biden without endorsing a Democratic party they mostly disagree with. . . . In the current moment, it will force GOP leaders to make a choice: risk more and more defections to a center party currently favoring Democrats, or change your behavior enough to warrant your share of a center party’s nominations. Either outcome should be welcomed by all supporters of pluralism and liberal democracy.”

Disclosure: I serve on the Center for Ballot Freedom’s voluntary Advisory Board and view fusion as a meaningful and achievable party-centric reform worthy of serious consideration for a variety of reasons.

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Will Anti-Abortion Presidential Candidate Randall Terry, on the Constitution Party’s Ballot Line in at Least 12 States, Be a Factor in 2024?

With so much attention focused on RFK Jr., Cornell West, etc., don’t sleep on this news, via Ballot Access news.

If ever there was an election year to move to ranked choice voting for President so that third party candidates don’t affect the outcome between the top two contenders, this would be it.

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Third-Party Politics in American History—A Response to Ned Foley

In The Tyranny of the Two-Party System, Lisa Disch writes that the pervasive narrative that the United States is, and will always be, a two-party system is a product of “a reading of history that selects for continuity.” Indeed, historians Erik B. Alexander and Rachel A. Shelden would absolutely agree with both Disch and the Washington Post’s recent assertion that “[f]or much of U.S. history, there were more than two major political parties.”

The prevalence of third-party politics in American history is far greater than many educated observers of American politics today appreciate. In a fascinating new article, Alexander and Shelden argue that the two-party system remained fluid longer than traditional scholarly accounts suggest. The 1850s certainly did not mark the high water mark for third-party politics in the United States. In 1890, as Disch reminds us, the People’s Party won three gubernatorial races and achieved majorities in seven state legislatures. In Congress, a Populist fusion alliance held fifty-two of the 332 seats in the U.S. Congress and three in the Senate. The People’s Party would continue to be a significant player in American politics through the election of 1896.

Returning to this history teaches us both that minor parties have played an important role in American politics, even when they did not win a majority of offices, and that a fairly modest difference in the election system of the 1800s, the ability of parties to cross-nominate, or “fuse” together on the same candidate, enabled the proliferation of ongoing, minor parties that took their role in the process seriously, frequently parlaying their ability to rally a bloc of like-minded voters into political alliances that changed the course of American history.  At this moment when American politics is failing, it is foolish to dismiss, out of hand, this history of third-party politics in America. It is also a major mistake to suggest that the only role that third parties have played in American politics is a spoiler role.

Winning is not the only way to measure the value of third parties. Beyond the relationship of the Liberty Party, Free Soil Party, and Anti-Nebraska Party to the antislavery movement’s success, I can say, based on my research, that the Populists were key to the passage of the direct primary and the initiative and referendum in Western states like Colorado. I suspect historians of the period would give the party a good deal of credit for the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and those early labor laws that the U.S. Supreme Court routinely struck down during the period. More recently, the Working Families Party and Conservative Party have each won significant policies for their core constituencies by delivering crucial votes in close races.

We should also not dismiss this history or denigrate its significance because its greatest potential is at the state level. For one, to measure the importance of third parties in terms of their national success is anachronistic. State and local politics was where governance happened in the nineteenth century.  Even today, it is a mistake to dismiss state and local politics. For workers paid by the hour, where you live matters. Only five states lack their own minimum wage statute. The same is true of paid sick leave and free college tuition. In the two states where fusion voting remains viable, New York and Connecticut, those parties have been critical to the passage of reforms that matter to the sort of people who have real needs and are not preoccupied with politics.

Nothing in this post is meant to take issue with Ned Foley’s basic point: It is preposterous to hope that a third-party candidate will win the presidency in 2024 and save our democracy. But even here, analytic caution is called for. We should not confuse independent candidates with a third-party label with third-party candidates such as James B. Weaver, who, running on a fusion ticket, carried five states on Election Day 1892 on the backs of the People’s Party, which itself became the second-largest party in four states that year, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oregon.

My point is this: We may differ about how exactly to characterize the democratic failures in the United States or their causes, but we cannot deny a few basic facts. Public trust in government institutions is at an all-time low. Authoritarianism is on the rise, as are partisan polarization and unapologetic racism and xenophobia. And the major political parties bear significant responsibility for this state of affairs. This is a time to think big (third parties) and be realistic, prioritizing achievable party-centric reforms—like relegalizing fusion.

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“Trump Allies Have a Plan to Hurt Biden’s Chances: Elevate Outsider Candidates”


Allies of Donald J. Trump are discussing ways to elevate third-party candidates in battleground states to divert votes away from President Biden, along with other covert tactics to diminish Democratic votes.

They plan to promote the independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as a “champion for choice” to give voters for whom abortion is a top issue — and who also don’t like Mr. Biden — another option on the ballot, according to one person who is involved in the effort and who, like several others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.

Trump allies also plan to amplify the progressive environmental records of Mr. Kennedy and the expected Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, in key states — contrasting their policies against the record-high oil production under Mr. Biden that has disappointed some climate activists.

A third parallel effort in Michigan is meant to diminish Democratic turnout in November by amplifying Muslim voters’ concerns about Mr. Biden’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza. Trump allies are discussing running ads in Dearborn, Mich., and other parts of the state with large Muslim populations that would thank Mr. Biden for standing with Israel, according to three people familiar with the effort, which is expected to be led by an outside group unaffiliated with the Trump campaign….

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Embracing Spoiler Role: “RFK Jr.’s New York state director says her ‘No. 1 priority’ is preventing a Biden victory”


A New York-based campaign official for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is pitching Republican voters to support his independent presidential bid by arguing that Kennedy will help Donald Trump defeat Joe Biden if he’s on the ballot in New York.

Rita Palma, the Kennedy campaign’s state director in New York, has repeatedly made the case, including in a meeting with Empire State Republicans, that efforts to put Kennedy on the ballot in New York will help “get rid of Biden,” which she called her “No. 1 priority,” and make it easier for Trump to win the historically Democratic state.

“The only way that Trump can even, remote possibility of taking New York is if Bobby is on the ballot. If it’s Trump vs. Biden, Biden wins. Biden wins six days, seven days a week. With Bobby in the mix, anything can happen,” Palma said in a video of the meeting with Republicans in New York viewed by CNN.

“The only way for him, for Bobby, to shake it up and to get rid of Biden is if he’s on the ballot in every state, including New York,” she continued.

Palma’s comments come as the Biden campaign has argued that Kennedy’s campaign is a spoiler that will ultimately benefit Trump at the ballot box in November.

Palma confirmed to CNN the legitimacy of the video. CNN has reached out to the Kennedy campaign and American Values 2024, the super PAC backing his campaign, for comment.

In the video of Palma’s presentation to Republican voters, which was initially posted to YouTube but has since been removed, she referenced a series of slides summarizing her argument for backing Kennedy, which included a slide listing action items Republicans could use “to block Biden from winning the presidency.” Among the actions listed were “Collect signatures for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.,” “Go to Pennsylvania to help Trump,” and “Vote RFK Jr. for President!!”….


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