All national US political parties whose presidential candidate received at least 100,000 votes in the 2012 electionwere included in our presentation. Data for registered members of each party and independents were compiled by Ballot Access News.
Background of Political Parties in the United States
"Political parties are groups of individuals organized for the purpose of electing candidates to public office. The Constitution contains no mention of parties and the Framers regarded them as undesirable or even dangerous. Nonetheless, the federal structure and electoral institutions they created give ample incentives for party building.
The first American parties formed during the first few decades of the Republic as congressional members attempted to build stable coalitions to control the machinery of government. These attempts quickly spilled over into the electoral arena. With the plurality voting rule penalizing all but a few serious candidates for each office, the two-party pattern of electoral competition quickly emerged."
Source: Samuel Kernell, Gary C. Jacobson, and Thad Kousser, "The Logic of American Politics: Ch. 12. Political Parties," college.cqpress.com (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
Political party committees are required to register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) when they reach certain thresholds for spending or contributions. According to the FEC: "The Commission determines whether committees meet the criteria for state or national party committee status through the advisory opinion process. For state committee status, the Commission has generally looked to see if the committee engages in activities that are commensurate with the day-to-day operations of a party at the state level, and if the committee has gained ballot access for its federal candidates. For national committee status, the criteria include:
Nominating qualified candidates for President and various Congressional offices in numerous states;
Engaging in certain activities--such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives--on an ongoing basis;
Publicizing the party's supporters and primary issues throughout the nation;
Holding a national convention;
Setting up a national office; and
Establishing state affiliates."
Source: Federal Elections Commission (FEC), "Quick Answers to Party Questions," fec.gov (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
Constitution Party 76,425 registered members
History of the Constitution Party
"1992: A coalition of independent state parties united to form the U.S. Taxpayers Party at its first national convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. Among the notable convention speakers was former Congressman Ron Paul. The party’s founder, Howard Phillips of Virginia, Chairman of the grass-roots lobby, the Conservative Caucus, was nominated to be the party’s first candidate for President with retired Army Brigadier General Albion Knight of Maryland nominated as the party’s first vice-presidential running mate. The US Taxpayer’s Party secured ballot position in 21 states.
1996: The Constitution Party became recognized by the Federal Election Commission as a national party, bringing the number of nationally recognized parties to five. Howard Phillips was again nominated to be the party’s presidential candidate for the 1996 campaign at the party’s national convention held in San Diego, California. Attorney and writer Herb Titus of Oregon was the Constitution Party’s Vice President nominee. Ballot access was achieved in 39 states for the 1996 elections, representing over 80% of the Electoral College votes available.
2000: Delegates attending the National Convention in September 1999 voted to change the name of the US Taxpayer’s Party to "Constitution Party" to better reflect the party’s primary focus of returning government to the U.S. Constitution’s provisions and limitations. For a third and last time, Howard Phillips was nominated to serve as the standard bearer for the newly named Constitution Party for the 2000 election. Missouri surgeon Dr. J. Curtis Frazier was the nominee for Vice President. The convention was held in St. Louis, Missouri.
2004: The Constitution Party achieved ballot access in 41 states and, at its convention in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, it nominated Maryland lawyer Michael Peroutka, founder of the Institute on the Constitution, as its presidential nominee with Florida minister and commentator Chuck Baldwin as its nominee for Vice-President.
2008: Although the Constitution Party was on fewer state ballots in 2004, the vote tally increased by 40 percent compared to the 2000 elections while other ‘alternative’ parties lost ground or barely matched their 2000 vote totals. At its Kansas City, Missouri national convention, the Constitution Party nominated its 2004 nominee for Vice President, Chuck Baldwin of Florida, to be its 2008 nominee for President, selecting attorney and Constitution Party activist Darrell Castle of Tennessee, to serve as the Vice-presidential nominee.
2012: Former six-term Virginia Congressman, Virgil Goode, was nominated for President at the Constitution Party National Convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. Three-term Constitution Party National Chairman, attorney Jim Clymer of Pennsylvania, was nominated to serve as Goode’s running mate."
Source: The Constitution Party, "History of the Constitution Party," constitutionparty.com (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
Among the issues addressed in the 2016 Constitution Party National Platform are:
"For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights, health care, Social Security, workers' rights, and women's rights. We are the party of Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, FDR, and the countless everyday Americans who work each day to build a more perfect union...
In the 1930s, Americans turned to Democrats and elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end the Great Depression. President Roosevelt offered Americans a New Deal that put people back to work, stabilized farm prices, and brought electricity to rural homes and communities. Under President Roosevelt, Social Security established a promise that lasts to this day: growing old would never again mean growing poor...
In 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill—a historic measure that provided unprecedented benefits for soldiers returning from World War II, including low-cost mortgages, loans to start a business, and tuition and living expenses for those seeking higher education. Harry Truman helped rebuild Europe after World War II with the Marshall Plan and oversaw the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. By integrating the military, President Truman helped to bring down barriers of race and gender and pave the way the way for civil rights advancements in the years that followed.
In the 1960s, Americans again turned to Democrats and elected President John F. Kennedy to tackle the challenges of a new era. President Kennedy dared Americans to put a man on the moon, created the Peace Corps, and negotiated a treaty banning atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.
And after President Kennedy's assassination, Americans looked to President Lyndon Johnson, who offered a new vision of a Great Society and signed into law the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act...
President Johnson's enactment of Medicare was a watershed moment in America's history that redefined our country's commitment to our seniors—offering a new promise that all Americans have the right to a healthy retirement.
In 1976, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Americans elected Jimmy Carter to restore dignity to the White House. He created the Departments of Education and Energy and helped to forge a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt.
In 1992, after 12 years of Republican presidents, record budget deficits, and high unemployment, Americans turned to Democrats once again and elected Bill Clinton to get America moving again. President Clinton balanced the budget, helped the economy add 23 million new jobs, and oversaw the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in history.
And in 2008, Americans turned to Democrats and elected President Obama to reverse our country's slide into the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression and undo eight years of policies that favored the few over the many.
Under President Obama's direction and congressional Democrats' leadership, we've reformed a health care system that was broken and extended health insurance to 32 million Americans...
We've reined in a financial system that was out of control and delivered the toughest consumer protections ever enacted.
We've reworked our student loan system to make higher education more affordable.
We passed the Recovery Act, which created or helped to save millions of jobs and made unprecedented investments in the major pillars of our country.
From America's beginnings to today, people have turned to Democrats to meet our country's most pressing challenges—and pave the way for a future that lifts up all Americans."
Source: Democratic National Committee, "Our History," democrats.org (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
Among the issues addressed in the 2016 Democratic National Platform are:
Raising Workers' Wages
Protecting and Expanding Social Security
Fostering a Manufacturing Renaissance
Creating Good-Paying Clean Energy Jobs
Reining in Wall Street and Fixing our Financial System
"The First National Green Gathering was held July 1987 at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and was entitled Building the Green Movement—A National Conference for a New Politics. Over 600 were in attendance...
In September 1988, Northern California Greens hosted a Greening the West conference, attended by more than 1,000 people...
The Second National Green Gathering was held in June, 1989 in Eugene, Oregon...
On the local level, between 1985 and 1989, a total of 25 U.S. Greens ran for local office, mostly in rural Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Connecticut, with seven elected.
In 1990, 21 Greens ran for office nationwide, with nine elected, including six in California, coinciding there with the new state party’s ballot drive...
In 1994, NM Greens got 10% of the vote for their Gubernatorial ticket of Roberto Mondragon/Steven Schmidt, and 33% for their Treasurer candidate. And in 1995, they elected Cris Moore to the Santa Fe City Council, and convened the next national Green Gathering...
In mid-October 1995, Ralph Nader told the Chicago Tribune he was considering being on the California ballot for President, because of President Clinton’s vacillation on deregulatory measures covering securities fraud, telecommunications, legal services and welfare...
Nader ultimately appeared on the 1996 Presidential ballot in twenty-two states and received 685,297 votes, or 0.7 percent of all votes cast. He ran a limited campaign and chose Native American activist Winona LaDuke as his vice-presidential candidate...
After the election, 62 Greens from 30 states gathered in Middleburg, VA over a weekend in November, 1996, to found the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP)...
The ASGP nominated Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke at its June 23-25, 2000, presidential convention in Denver. The convention also officially approved a national platform as a basis for the campaign.
Nader/LaDuke appeared on 44 state ballots in November 2000, and received nearly 3 million votes, 2.7 percent of all votes cast...
A wave of new members also came into the party through the Nader 2000 campaign, including many of the party’s future leaders.
A record 282 Greens ran with 46 elected in the 2000 elections, including a second Green City Council majority, this time in Sebastopol, California...
At its July, 2001, meeting in Santa Barbara, CA, the ASGP voted to change its name to the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) and apply for recognition of National Committee status by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which it was granted later that year, and has retained ever since."
Source: Green Party of the United States of America, "History," gp.org (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
The Ten Key Values of the Green Party are as follows:
"The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in the United States. Millions of Americans have voted for Libertarian Party candidates in past elections throughout the country, despite the fact that many state governments place roadblocks in our path to keep our candidates off the ballot and deprive voters of a real choice...
1971 - After meeting several times in the home of David F. Nolan, eight activists decide to found the Libertarian Party on December 11 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
1978 - Ed Clark receives 5 percent of the vote in his race for governor of California. Dick Randolph of Alaska becomes the first elected Libertarian state legislator. Presidential nominating convention held in Los Angeles. Ed Clark and David Koch named presidential and vice presidential candidates. Permanent ballot status achieved in California as more than 80,000 voters register Libertarian...
1988 - Ron Paul, on the ballot in 46 states and the District of Columbia, comes in third for the U.S. presidency. He receives more than 430,000 votes – almost twice the total of any other third party candidate...
1996 - The Libertarian Party becomes the first third party in U.S. history to earn ballot status in all 50 states two presidential elections in a row. The presidential nominating convention in Washington, DC, chooses best-selling author Harry Browne, who goes on to win nearly 486,000 votes – the second-best showing in party history. LP candidates for statewide and federal office alone win 5.4 million votes, and seven Libertarians are elected or re-elected...
2008 - The LP nominates former congressman Bob Barr for president at the national convention in Denver. The presidential ticket gets 523,686 votes in November. 50 Libertarians are elected or re-elected to public office. Two Libertarian candidates in Texas and Georgia each receive over one million votes. Libertarians running for U.S. House receive over 1,078,000 votes, breaking the congressional million-vote threshold for the fourth time...
2010 - Over 800 Libertarian candidates run for office in November... 38 Libertarians are elected or re-elected to public office, and by the end of the year there are 154 Libertarians holding elected office...
2012 - The LP nominates former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson at the national convention in Las Vegas. The LP presidential ticket gets a record 1,275,951 votes in November. Six other Libertarian candidates also break the million-vote threshold. During the year, 30 Libertarians are elected or re-elected to office, and by the end of the year, there are 139 Libertarians holding elected offices."
"The Party was formally organized in July 1854 by thousands of anti-slavery activists at a convention in Jackson, Michigan. And it was no accident that two years later, in 1856, the first Republican National Convention took place in Philadelphia, where the Constitution was written...
Though popularized in a Thomas Nast cartoon, the GOP’s elephant symbol originated during the 1860 campaign, as a symbol of Republican strength. Republicans envisioned 'free soil, free speech, free labor.' Under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, the GOP became the Party of the Union as well.
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but it was the entire Republican Party who freed the slaves. The 1864 Republican National Convention called for the abolition of slavery, and Congressional Republicans passed the 13th Amendment unanimously, with only a few Democrat votes.
The early women’s rights movement was solidly Republican, as it was a continuation of abolitionism. They were careful not to be overly partisan, but as did Susan B. Anthony, most suffragists favored the GOP. The 19th Amendment was written by a Republican senator and garnered greater support from Republicans than from Democrats...
Low taxes, sound money, regulatory restraint: these were among the commonsense economic policies established by the GOP that brought about decades of prosperity after the Civil War. Republicans encouraged innovation and rule of law. Buttressed by Republican control in Congress, the McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Taft administrations cleared away obstacles to economic growth.
President Dwight Eisenhower and congressional Republicans appreciated the fact that the private sector, not government, is the engine of wealth creation. With his bold tax-cutting agenda, President Ronald Reagan revived the economy after years of Democrat malaise...
Theodore Roosevelt embodies our Party’s traditional concern for the environment, but the Republican commitment to the environment actually goes back much further than that. For example, the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, was established during the Ulysses Grant administration.
President Eisenhower advocated groundbreaking civil rights legislation and vigorously enforced the Brown v Board of Education decision, sending the 101st Airborne to Little Rock when chaos erupted following integration at Central High.
Ronald Reagan explained the difference between Democrats and Republicans in a way that cannot be improved upon: 'Two visions of the future, two fundamentally different ways of governing – their government of pessimism, fear, and limits, or ours of hope, confidence, and growth. Their government sees people only as members of groups. Ours serves all the people of America as individuals.'
President George H.W. Bush championed community and volunteer organizations and the tremendous power they have for doing good. He famously described them as 'a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.'
In the first decade of the 21st century, President George W. Bush made an unprecedented commitment to helping those in need beyond our shores through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an aid program for countries devastated by HIV/AIDS. Since its inception, PEPFAR has saved over a million lives and currently provides over 5 million people with life-saving treatments...
President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush led western democracies to victory over Soviet tyranny in the Cold War. The George W. Bush administration maintained the military second-to-none and projected that power in the fight against international terrorism."
Source: Republican National Committee, "History of the GOP," gop.com (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
Among the issues addressed in the 2016 Republican Party Platform are:
Rebuilding the Economy and Creating Jobs
Fair and Simple Taxes for Growth
A Winning Trade Policy
Freeing Financial Markets
Small Business and Entrepreneurship
The Federal Reserve
Reducing the Federal Debt
Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary
Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Protecting Human Life
Honest Elections and the Right to Vote
A New Era in Energy
Balancing the Budget
Preserving Medicare and Medicaid
Saving Social Security
Immigration and the Rule of Law
Audit the Pentagon
Crony Capitalism and Corporate Welfare
Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians
Choice in Education
Restoring Patient Control and Preserving Quality in Healthcare
Criminal Justice and Prison Reform
Honoring and Supporting Our Veterans: A Sacred Obligation
"[Thomas] Jefferson's supporters, deeply influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution (1789), first adopted the name Republican to emphasize their antimonarchical views. The Republicans contended that the Federalists harbored aristocratic attitudes and that their policies placed too much power in the central government and tended to benefit the affluent at the expense of the common man. Although the Federalists soon branded Jefferson's followers 'Democratic-Republicans,' attempting to link them with the excesses of the French Revolution, the Republicans officially adopted the derisive label in 1798...
Notwithstanding the party's anti-elitist foundations, the first three Democratic-Republican presidents—Jefferson (1801–09), James Madison (1809–17), and James Monroe (1817–25)—were all wealthy, aristocratic Southern planters."
"Federalism was born in 1787, when Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote 85 essays collectively known as the Federalist papers. These eloquent political documents encouraged Americans to adopt the newly-written Constitution and its stronger central government.
Largely influenced by the ideas of Alexander Hamilton, the Federalists succeeded in convincing the Washington administration to assume national and state debts, pass tax laws, and create a central bank...
Anti-Federalists [Democratic-Republicans] such as Thomas Jefferson feared that a concentration of central authority might lead to a loss of individual and states rights. They resented Federalist monetary policies, which they believed gave advantages to the upper class. In foreign policy, the Republicans leaned toward France, which had supported the American cause during the Revolution.
Jefferson and his colleagues formed the Republican Party in the early 1790s. By 1795, the Federalists had become a party in name as well."
Source: PBS' American Experience, "The Federalist Party," www.pbs.org (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
1825 - National Republican Party
"U.S. political party formed after what had been the Republican (or Jeffersonian Republican) party split in 1825. The Jeffersonian Republicans had been the only national political party following the demise of the Federalists during the War of 1812. During the contested election of 1824, followers of Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams began calling themselves National Republicans, while backers of Andrew Jackson emerged as Democratic Republicans.
By the election of 1828, the Jacksonians were simply called Democrats, though the name was not formalized until later. Opponents of Jackson joined the National Republican coalition and nominated Adams for a second term. Adams lost, but the National Republicans grew stronger. In 1831 they nominated Henry Clay to run on a platform endorsing the tariff, internal improvements, and the Bank of the United States.
Jackson and the Democrats won an overwhelming victory in the election of 1832, and the National Republicans never nominated another presidential candidate. During Jackson's second administration, the National Republicans joined with northern and southern conservatives, supporters of the Bank of the United States, and other anti-Jackson groups to form a new coalition. Claiming Jackson governed as 'King Andrew I,' the new party called itself the Whigs—after the British party that had opposed the power of the monarchy. By about 1834, there was little trace of the National Republican Party."
"The Whig party was formed in 1834 as a coalition of National Republicans, Anti-Masons, and disgruntled Democrats, who were united by their hatred of 'King Andrew' Jackson and his 'usurpations' of congressional and judicial authority... The party took its name from the seventeenth-century British Whig group that had defended English liberties against the usurpations of pro-Catholic Stuart Kings.
In 1836 the Whigs mounted their first presidential campaign, running three regional candidates against Martin Van Buren: Daniel Webster, the senator from Massachusetts who had substantial appeal in New England; Hugh Lawson White, who had appeal in the South; and William Henry Harrison, who fought an Indian alliance at the Battle of Tippecanoe and appealed to the West and to Anti-Masons in Pennsylvania and Vermont. The party strategy was to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where the Whigs would unite behind a single candidate. Van Buren easily defeated all his Whig opponents, winning 170 electoral votes to just 73 for his closest rival.
Following his strong showing in the election of 1836, William Henry Harrison received the united support of the Whig party in 1840... Harrison easily defeated Van Buren by a vote of 234 to 60 in the electoral college.
Unfortunately, the 68-year-old Harrison caught cold while delivering a two-hour inaugural address in the freezing rain. Barely a month later, he died of pneumonia, and became the first president to die in office. His successor, John Tyler of Virginia, was an ardent defender of slavery, a staunch advocate of states’ rights, and a former Democrat, whom the Whigs had nominated in order to attract Democratic support to the Whig ticket...
In 1848 and 1852 the Whigs tried to repeat their successful 1840 presidential campaign by nominating military heroes for the presidency. The party won the 1848 election with General Zachary Taylor, an Indian fighter and hero of the Mexican War, who had boasted that he had never cast a vote in a presidential election. Like Harrison, Taylor confined his campaign speeches to uncontroversial platitudes. 'Old Rough and Ready,' as he was known, died after just 1 year and 127 days in office. Then, in 1852, the Whigs nominated another Indian fighter and Mexican War hero, General Winfield Scott, who carried just four states for his dying party. 'Old Fuss and Feathers,' as he was called, was the last Whig nominee to play an important role in a presidential election."
Source: Digital History, "The Whigs," www.digitalhistory.uh.edu (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
1848 - Free Soil Party
"In 1848, antislavery Democrats and Conscience Whigs (in contrast to Cotton Whigs) merged with the Liberty party to form the Free Soil Party. Unlike the Liberty Party, which was dedicated to slavery's abolition and equal rights for blacks, the Free Soil party narrowed its demands to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and exclusion of slavery from the federal territories. The Free Soilers also wanted a homestead law to provide free land for western settlers, high tariffs to protect American industry, and federally-sponsored internal improvements.
The Free Soil Party nominated Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate... In the election of 1848, Van Buren polled 291,000 votes, enough to split the Democratic vote and throw the election to the Whig candidate Zachary Taylor."
Source: Digital History, "The Free Soil Party," www.digitalhistory.ud.edu (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)
1859 - Constitutional Union Party
"U.S. political party that sought in the pre-Civil War election of 1860 to rally support for the Union and the Constitution without regard to sectional issues. Formed in 1859 by former Whigs and members of the Know-Nothing Party, the party nominated John Bell for president and Edward Everett for vice president... the Constitutional Union Party was a short-lived vehicle for moderates that collapsed by the start of the Civil War. It succeeded only in helping to disperse the 1860 vote sufficiently to ensure the election of the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln."
"Throughout the 1880s local political action groups known as Farmers' Alliances sprang up among Middle Westerners and Southerners, who were discontented because of crop failures, falling prices, and poor marketing and credit facilities. Although it won some significant regional victories, the alliances generally proved politically ineffective on a national scale. Thus in 1892 their leaders organized the Populist, or People's, Party, and the Farmers' Alliances melted away. While trying to broaden their base to include labour and other groups, the Populists remained almost entirely agrarian-oriented. They demanded an increase in the circulating currency (to be achieved by the unlimited coinage of silver), a graduated income tax, government ownership of the railroads, a tariff for revenue only, the direct election of U.S. senators, and other measures designed to strengthen political democracy and give farmers economic parity with business and industry.
In 1892 the Populist presidential candidate, James B. Weaver, polled 22 electoral votes and more than 1,000,000 popular votes. By fusing with the Democrats in certain states, the party elected several members to Congress, three governors, and hundreds of minor officials and legislators, nearly all in the northern Middle West...
[I]n 1896 the Populists allowed themselves to be swept into the Democratic cause by their mutual preoccupation with the Free Silver Movement. The subsequent defeat of Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan signalled the collapse of one of the most challenging protest movements in the U.S. since the Civil War. Some of the Populist causes were later embraced by the Progressive Party."
"On the evening of June 22, 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt asked his supporters to leave the floor of the Republican National Convention in Chicago. Republican progressives reconvened in Chicago's Orchestra Hall and endorsed the formation of a national progressive party. When formally launched later that summer, the new Progressive Party chose Roosevelt as its presidential nominee. Questioned by reporters, Roosevelt said he felt as strong as a 'bull moose.' Thenceforth known as the 'Bull Moose Party,' the Progressives promised to increase federal regulation and protect the welfare of ordinary people...
Despite an impressive showing in 1912, the Bull Moose Party failed to establish itself as a viable third party. Still active on the state level, Progressives did not put forward a presidential candidate again until Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette's run in 1924."
Source: The Library of Congress, "Bull Moose Born," memory.loc.gov (accessed Oct. 30, 2015)