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What’s the Story Behind Third-Party Candidates?

August 29th, 2012

The U.S. has had a two-party political system for hundreds of years — ever since the Federalists and the Republicans started duking things out in 1791.

But every now and then, a third-party candidate comes along and shakes things up.

In 2012, Ron Paul certainly made a splash — even though the Libertarian technically ran as a Republican.  Now that he’s out of the race, Gary Johnson is trying to mount a campaign against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Before that, we had Ralph Nader in 2000.  And, of course, who could ever forget Ross Perot in 1992?

Historically, third-party candidates don’t get a ton of votes in Presidential elections, but they can do a lot to derail the other guys.

Just look at what Ross Perot did…

Even though he officially dropped out of the race in July of 1992, he clearly siphoned off votes that would have otherwise gone to George H.W. Bush in November.  But even more importantly, Perot spent his entire campaign drawing lots of attention to the national debt — something that incumbent Bush was responsible for.  So, when Bill Clinton came along and said tax increases were the only way to close the deficit, people were more willing to listen.

So, where did the idea of third-party candidates come from?

The names may change over the years (after all, America has seen everything from the Free Soil Party, to the Southern Democrat Party, to the Reform Party, to the Green Party, to the Libertarian Party), but the purpose is always the same — to focus on what they believe are the “right” issues and to make sure that these issues are dealt with properly.

What do you think?  Do these parties deserve more credit?  Do you think they could ever replace one of the “mainstream” parties?

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