Historically, third parties have sprung up from across the ideological spectrum. The abolitionist movement spawned the Republican Party, and in 1860 Abraham Lincoln triumphed in a four-way race. Although he was the last third party candidate to take the White House, third parties have periodically made an impact by pushing issues into the mainstream that wouldn’t have otherwise received attention.
The abolitionist, women’s suffrage, prohibition, market regulation, pro-labor, anti-war, states rights, anti-federal government, balanced budget, anti-deficit spending movements, have all been on platforms of third party candidates. The major parties preferred to ignore these issues in their “safe” campaigns. When third parties brought these controversial issues to the forefront of public debate, the major parties co-opted these movements as they knew they were supported by public opinion.
In 2011 with several polls suggesting a majority of Americans would vote for a third party candidate, Congress had an 8% approval rating.
The middle class was up in arms, Occupiers camped in public parks, and Tea-partiers distrusted any government program. Pollsters believed it to be a perfect storm for third party candidates.
Americans Elect – Online voting.
The group Americans Elect jumped on this dissatisfaction bandwagon saying, “If the two-party politics system isn’t working for you, change the system.” AE’s plan was to get on all 50 state ballots and hold an online primary. Not a political party, but providing a place on the ballot in all 50 states would guarantee a third party candidate ballot access and to be part of the presidential debates. Getting on the ballot and being part of the debates would allow a third party candidate a good shot at national media coverage.