Saturday, July 09, 2005

Old idea ... new package?

"Third parties" have been a feature of American politics since at least -- and this is off the cuff, so please feel free to take me to school on history -- 1839, when the anti-slavery Liberty Party held its first convention in Albany, New York. In 1844, the Liberty Party's presidential nominee, Thomas Morris, was blamed for "costing" Whig candidate Henry Clay the presidential election in favor of Democrat James K. Polk by swinging the outcome in New York.

Through the 1840s and 1850s, the "third party" movement grew as the Anti-Masonic Party (i.e. the "Know-Nothings") and the Free Soil Party merged with disgruntled Whig elements to form the Republican Party. The Republicans displaced the Whigs, putting Abraham Lincoln in the White House in 1860.

Since then, it's been mostly Republicans and Democrats at the federal level, although various third parties -- from the Socialists in the early 20th century to the Libertarians and Greens at the beginning of this one -- have elected candidates to office at various levels and have definitely influenced the process (the Socialists pulled the Democrats "Left" in the 1930s; in New York, the Conservative and Liberal parties can make or break Republican and Democratic candidates for federal office by co-nominating -- or not).

Now, there's at least one local third party.

I won't say that "New Milford First" is the only or first animal of its kind, because I don't know, but it sounds like a promising idea to me. Ballot access laws vary, but it seems like a "micro-party" trend with a local focus could achieve political realignments that have thus far eluded national and state-based parties. Food for thought at any rate.

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