How to Start a New Political Party in the United States

The Democratic Party proudly offers economic security and more benefits for the poor and working class – in return for more taxes, more regulations, and forfeiting our personal and local community independence. The Republicans offer to protect us from the Democrats and then turn around and grant subsidies for the super rich and build prisons for the poor. The resulting wealth gap creates more demand for the moderate socialism offered Democrats. And then we have the big government Republicans like George Bush who offer us the worst of both worlds…

Year by year we lose we lose freedom and independence to the one-two punch of government and corporate bureaucracy. Politicians promise change, but actually offer the same two stale options: moderate socialism or wage serfdom.

We need a new political party to stop these baneful trends. We need a new party to offer a combination of smaller government and a smaller wealth gap. We need a party that rules morally, while letting people exercise personal choice on personal moral decisions. We need a new political party that recognizes the additional need to protect the environment in the face of a growing population while understanding the power of market-based incentives to accomplish this aim with a minimum of red tape.

The People are ready for new ideas. Many Democrats understand that government is too big and expensive. Many Republicans understand that the wealth gap is excessive and the environment needs protecting. Millions of independents and non-voters are equally disgusted with the offerings of both major parties. A party which taps into these sentiments could quickly grow into being a new major party, possibly eclipsing either the Democratic or Republican parties.

Our main problem is systemic, not ideological. The People as a whole are not demanding bigger government with a bigger wealth gap. On the contrary! We get bigger government with a bigger wealth gap because of the current alignment of the two major parties. Lovers of individual liberty are split over which is the greater enemy if individual liberty: big government or concentrated wealth. Each faction is dependent on special interests and authoritarians to bolster its coalition. As a result, the parasites and authoritarians win, and the people lose.

True, we have some work to do on ideology. Most people do not realize that an Upper Left agenda is possible. But they respond positively when they hear the good news. We do not have to change underlying values. We do not have to ram a new philosophy down people’s throats. We just need to explain some economics and political science, to let people know how to get where they already want to go.

Our main task is to get freedom lovers talking and voting together. We need to get the free spirits away from the socialists and the free enterprisers away from the corporatists. Put both types of freedom lovers under the same roof long enough and a coherent ideology of freedom will thrive. We do not need an ironclad, permanent set of principles to keep such a party “pure.” We just need to get the party set up and going.

But that’s the hard part. Launching a real political party in the United States is no small task.

The Third Party Challenge

Let us be honest here: third parties almost invariably fail in the United States. The game is rigged. We have plurality-take-all district-based elections. We have ballot access requirements that are burdensome to small parties. We have media that focus on the horse race aspect of elections vs. the principles at stake.

The last truly successful third party was the Republican Party! OK, some minor parties have been able to affect policy while winning few elections; c.f. the Prohibition Party. But for the most part, minor parties fall prey to the lesser of two evils dilemma. And when they fail to win partisan races, they then fail to get much press coverage. And don’t tell me that minor party politics is a good way to get the message out. If you cannot win, you won’t get much coverage. The free coverage you get as a minor party candidate is far less than you could buy with the overhead of being a political party. Man hours spent doing ballot access petitions could be better spent waving signs and doing street theatre.

So why am I calling for a new political party? Why am I writing a manual on how to start a new political party? Answer: this manual is not about starting yet another minor party. This is about starting a new major political party. This is about winning!

Consider the following statement:

It is impossible for Man to fly.

This statement used to be true! It was true for thousands of years. Though many dreamed of flying, few bothered to try. Those who did looked silly or even killed themselves trying.

Today, human flight is commonplace. Note how we got here. We fly today not because more people started trying to fly, or that people tried harder. A million people attaching eagle feathers to their arms would get the same results as the first. And trying harder would avail little as well. Even a trapeze artist on crack would lack the upper body strength to flap his way into the air. And we certainly don’t fly today because our ancestors did a better job protesting the unfairness of the system of gravity.

We fly today because we use new technology: high power/weight engines, lightweight construction, etc. And we fly because inventors studied the underlying science. The Wright Brothers studied the shapes of bird wings and built wind tunnels to test different airfoil shapes. They studied the laws of aerodynamics and worked within those laws.

Likewise, I have been studying the laws of political science as they apply to third parties in the United States. These laws do rule out success by a party that demands all its members be recalcitrant anarchists, or unshaven hippies, or fanatical theocrats. The existing third parties in this country ignore the basic laws of political science and fail accordingly.

The U.S. political system is rigged against minor third parties, but does not rule out third parties entirely. I have come across two separate loopholes which allow a new political party to win nontrivial elections. A party that wins elections gets free publicity. A party that wins elections and gets free publicity gets new members, which allows it to win yet more elections… By working with the laws of political science, we can create a new major political party! In Part 1, I describe what those laws are, and the two loopholes in those laws.

The loopholes make success possible, but not inevitable. Launching a new political party is still difficult – very difficult. The rest of this document looks how to get around these difficulties.

An Invitation to Victory

In theory, the ideas in this document could be used by one or more of the existing minor parties.

The Libertarian Party could opt to fill the large market niche in the Upper Left, become a major party, and in the process move this country towards smaller government and more freedom. Likewise, the Green Party could opt to fill this market niche, become a major party, and in the process clean up the environment and reduce corporate power. The Constitution Party could make use of the second loophole and give the Republicans some much needed competition in conservative districts.

When I wrote the first edition of this document, I intended to hawk it to the leaders of the existing minor parties, especially the Libertarians, in order to avoid the trials and risks of starting from scratch. Experience has taught me that this is suboptimal. The membership of existing minor parties has been filtered down to those who believe in their respective strategies. Moreover, these parties have built up negative brands over the years that would take a decade to live down. Starting from scratch is the easier option. For example, the LP went from its first convention to its highest presidential vote total in less than ten years.

If you are committed to an existing minor party, feel free to prove me wrong. If you want to take your minor party up to next level, read, learn and apply. I am going to take my time launching the new party, so you have time to beat me to the optimal market niche.

For the rest of you, sit back and read up on how to start a new political party from scratch. Herein you will find both theory and nitty gritty details gained from years of experience in the field.

Organization of this Document

This document is organized into four parts:

  1. Political Science and Third Parties. Why third parties have failed in the past and the special cases where success is possible. Here you will find the loopholes mentioned above.
  2. Strategic Framework for Third Parties. What are the bottlenecks to third party success? This chapter provides a framework for strategic planning for any third party at any stage of its growth. This framework will be referenced in the next two
  3. Starting a new Political Party from Scratch. Starting a new party is hard. You have limited resources to get the message out, and those who hear your message don’t take you seriously since you are small. Here are some thoughts on how to bootstrap starting with very limited resources. Included are some specific proposals for a new party to unite all freedom lovers.
  4. Lessons Learned in the Libertarian Party. Theory is important, but is no substitute for the nitty-gritty details learned in the field. I was an LP member for a quarter century, and extremely active during the last seven years. I worked on campaigns, worked booths, served as county chairman, and served on the national committee. In the process I learned some very important lessons particular to third party politics.

These major sections have multiple chapters within. This is a big document. Launching a new political party is a big task.

[Note: as of 11/16/2008, I just have Part 1 posted. The remaining parts will be posted over time.]

Next: Part 1. Political Science and Third Parties

Previous: Start a new Political Party?

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