Fist Of History

Posts Tagged ‘Presidential Election’

George Wallace and the 1968 U.S. Presidential Election – spoiling for a fight

Thursday, September 24th, 2015


The thing about third party politics in the United States is that often the efforts are wedge issue politics designed to enrage a population, and bring out the vote.  Such is the case in 1968 with the United States Presidential campaign of George Wallace, who ran for the Presidency as the official candidate of the American Independent Party.  The American Independent Party was a conservative party with fairly extreme views, Wallace ran on a platform aimed at addressing the social issues of 1968, with its central theme being a movement against racial integration, social justice, and civil rights expansions taking place throughout the United States.


Running under the slogan “Stand Up For America” Wallace campaigned throughout the United States but aimed to gather his strongest support in the southern United States.  Wallace had no pretensions he’d actually win the 1968 United States Presidential election, his goal as a third party candidate was instead to run a “spoiling campaign” – gain enough votes to prevent either of the two major candidates getting the necessary votes in the Electoral College and then having the Presidential election be decided in the House of Representatives.  Had his strategy worked Wallace hoped to use the votes of Southern Representatives to sway one of the two candidates political parties – most likely Republicans – to agree to block further racial integration legislation in the United States south.


Wallace ran with Curtis LeMay, a retired Air Force general who had strong views on foreign policy, Wallace lost supporters as the race advanced due, in part, to LeMay making statements about how Americans should not fear nuclear weapons and that the United States should use nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

Overall Wallace did not achieve his goal of “spoiling” in the 1968 election, but he did poll very well.  His sharply racist rhetoric combined with comments on declining American prosperity resonated with Southern voters in the United States, overall he captured 13.5% of the popular vote and carried five Southern states for a total of 45 solid electoral votes.  Wallace got an additional vote from a “faithless elector” in North Carolina who cast a vote for Wallace despite being sent to vote for Nixon.


Wallace’s campaign played to racism and the call for law and order in a restless period in the United States.  Some prime quotes:

When asked the biggest domestic issue facing the United States he replied  “It’s people—our fine American people, living their own lives, buying their own homes, educating their children, running their own farms, working the way they like to work, and not having the bureaucrats and intellectual morons trying to manage everything for them. It’s a matter of trusting the people to make their own decisions.”

Wallace also stated that to his eye “What are the Real issues that exist today in these United States? It is the trend of the pseudo-intellectual government, where a select, elite group have written guidelines in bureaus and court decisions, have spoken from some pulpits, some college campuses, some newspaper offices, looking down their noses at the average man on the street.”

Wallace polled most strongly with males, with strong support from Southern males and also lower class Northern white workers, with an odd appeal to unionized labor.

Sources:  Wikipedia articles on the 1968 United States Presidential Election, George Wallace’s 1968 campaign, George Wallace himself, and finally on the American Independent Party

Presidential Election of 1892 and the People’s Party

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Populist-logoIt is 2015 and with several presidential candidates for the 2016 campaign announcing their intentions already in April, it is time to begin my irregular series of short articles this election season to outline moments in the 19th and 20th century when the United States was rocked by third party and independent candidates.  This is to show people that the modern view of politics in the United States, where two parties dominate the system and independent action cannot have any measurable impact, is inaccurate.  Third party political organizations have dominated local elections and been a presence with force in national politics repeatedly in United States history.  Furthermore history is replete with oddballs, independents, and mavericks that successfully tweaked the system.  My main goal in writing this irregular series is to provide a counter point to the idea that often circulates in social media that “a viable third party is needed but impossible to create/vote for/support because Awful Horrible Thing will happen instead.”  My only point in response to that is your predecessors in the past faced the same problem, often in worse political systems, and yet still managed to kick back.


Meet James Weaver, third party Presidential Candidate in the 1892 election and nominated by the People’s Party.  The People’s Party was a progressive leftist political party that appeared in the late 1880s from an alliance of southern farmers with midwestern farmers who combined around the idea that gold-backed currency was bad, big business even worse, and tariff protection for industry the devil’s work.  They also rallied behind some other wacky ideas, like:  progressive income tax, the eight hour work day, the direct election of United States Senators, civil service reform, as well as nationalizing the telegraph industry and the railroads, and breaking up large banks.

Some of these crazy ideas you might recognize as now being the law of the land, and others as being concepts being bandied around today by modern leftist progressives.  (Although the idea of nationalizing the transportation industries appears to have fallen in favor in the 21st century, probably due in part to how cheap shipping of goods and personal travel are these days compared to the past.)  Weaver ended up doing surprisingly well in the election, capturing 8.5% of the popular vote, 22 electoral votes, and carrying five states in the election.  He was stomped by the other candidates solidly, but his turnout showed a strong sentiment against the viewpoints of the Democrats who gained an unexpected win in this election cycle.


In 1896 and 1900 the Democrats quietly began to absorb some of the platform goals of the People’s Party which, in turn, backed the nomination of William Jennings Bryan for President in 1896.  (Pictured above looking sexy mid-speech at 36 years of age.)

The People’s Party faded after the 1896 election but managed to place Representatives into national office successfully until 1902.  A total of 39 Representatives, 6 Senators, and 11 governors during its period of power served under the banner of the People’s Party.

Sources:  Wikipedia entries on the People’s Party, the United States Presidential Election of 1892, and James B. Weaver

Wendell Willkie – the Progressive Republican candidate of 1940

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Meet Wendell Willkie, one of the oddest figures to be run by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States.  Beyond his name Willkie was an unusual pick for several reasons, first he is to-date the only candidate run by a major party for the Presidency who had previously never held an elected office or military command of any sort.  He was an attorney who rose to run an electrical utility company, the Commonwealth and Southern Company, in the 1930s.  He was a delegate to the 1932 Democratic National Convention and in the early 1930s an outspoken supporter of President Roosevelt and the policies of the New Deal.  Even as the 1930s rolled onwards Willkie’s opposition to the Roosevelt New Deal focused upon only some aspects of the New Deal program – specifically Willkie felt that the government should only intervene in social programs where the private market could not offer solutions.  What made Willkie a Progressive Republican is that he felt the government had a solid role in providing social programs and a social network, he just felt Roosevelt was going too far with his programs.  (Specifically the Tennessee Valley Authority and its ability to use public funds for building a power infrastructure in the southern United States, a source of capital that Willkie felt would drive out any private business in the region.)

Willkie ended up becoming the Republican Party candidate in 1940 due to convention politics, he didn’t have a well run organization, he was a dark horse candidate, but the party needed someone it felt could actually face Roosevelt’s unprecedented third term bid who could offer progressive policies but also could appeal to the private market/isolationist wings of the Republican Party.  Willkie also had a growing grassroots support base for his campaign, these forces combined to make him a late nomination pick for the Republican Party.  His campaign, overall, was ineffective in rallying enough votes to seriously challenge Roosevelt, he only took 44.8% of the total popular vote and only 89 electoral votes.  (Compared to Roosevelt’s 54.7% of the popular vote and 449 electoral votes.)

What happened after the presidential campaign of 1940 though is truly amazing – Roosevelt found Willkie so politically compatible that he appointed him a free-roaming ambassador at large who traveled the globe promoting the United States as a partner in the impending war against Fascism and as an ally/friend to many parts of the world.  Willkie in that role visited Britain, the Middle East, the Soviet Union, and China.  He even wrote a manifesto titled One World calling for a unified global government after the end of World War II.

Wendell Willkie, probably one of the oddest modern choices by a political party to run for the President of the United States.

Sources: Wikipedia entry on Wendell Willkie, The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression