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.