In the coming 2012 U.S. presidential election, it is likely that several minor political parties will run candidates. The Libertarian Party will probably nominate Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, as its candidate, and Americans Elect, may have Buddy Roemer, a former governor of Louisiana, heading its ticket.
Minor parties have been around for a long time in the United States. And they have sometimes had an impact on elections and policies.
In this blog post, I'll focus on the two minor parties in the 1888 election and one in 1892. They all issued interesting posters, too.
The Prohibition Party, which had been established in 1869 to pressure state legislatures to ban “the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages,” had done poorly in four prior presidential elections, getting less than 1.5 percent of the popular votes in each of them. It did a little better in 1888, with its ticket, headed by Temperance leader Clinton Fisk, receiving 2.2 percent. One of its posters illustrated the party’s moralistic principles in a unique way, suggesting that prohibition would lead to a better, religious America (an insane asylum, grave, and distilleries are seen in the foreground; a church and Sunday school in the background). Although the Prohibition Party did not gain many votes nationally, it did influence state party platforms, and eventually helped encourage support for the Twenty-first Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
The Union Labor Party was formed in 1888, and got only 1.3 percent of the popular vote, doing best in states with few industrial areas, most notably Kansas (11.4 percent), Texas (8.2 percent), and Arkansas (6.8 percent). Its platform attempted to appeal to both American farmers and laborers by opposing land monopoly and calling for a limitation on land ownership, nationalization of communication and transportation systems, the free coinage of silver, equal pay for men and women (as well as demanding women’s suffrage), a service pension bill, a graduated income tax, the direct election of U. S. senators, strict enforcement of laws prohibiting the importation of foreign workers, and the passage of specific legislation to prohibit immigrants from China. The poster for the Union Labor ticket (shown above), headed by Alson Streeter, was beautifully done by the Chicago firm of Kurz & Allison, and obviously targeted laborers and farmers—showing them, their implements, and featuring the slogan, "The Product of Labor Belongs to the Producer."
The People’s (or Populist) Party
(established in 1891) did quite well. It made many of the same
proposals that had been in the Union Labor Party’s platform
in the previous election, and issued conventional posters (with
symbols of workers and the slogan "Equal Rights to All; Special
Privileges to None"), but its ticket, led by James Weaver, was more
successful in delivering its message, getting 8.5 percent of the
popular vote (and 5 percent of the electoral vote), probably due to
the increased economic difficulties of many farmers. Its fiery
platform charged that governmental policies had “bred”
“two great classes—tramps and
millionaires,” with “the fruits of the toil of
millions…badly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a
few….” In 1896, the Populists nominated
the Democratic Party's candidate, William
Jennings Bryan (who espoused many of their