Third-Party Candidates from Lincoln to Nader

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Abraham Lincoln — who ran as a Republican during the era of Whigs and Democrats — was America’s last third-party candidate to successfully win the presidency. Although the two-party system leaves third-party candidates little hope of being elected into office, such candidates have continued to run — and by doing so, have sometimes influenced the outcome of elections and shifted the national conversation.

Use the small arrows below to view some of the most famous third-party candidates, their words and their impact while trying to change American politics and the country from the outside in.

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  • LeMoyne Castle

    H. Ross Perot’s candidacy also focused on NAFTA and the ‘great sucking sound’ of job loss due to outsourcing + off shoring of jobs. Perot’s prescient warning made him a clear alternative to both the major parties.

  • Virginia

    Nader warned of the brewing Corportacy in 2000 and was laughed at. He is a giant unmong small minds. He is a national treasure.

  • Maralyn Chase

    Rocky Anderson, Presidential Candidate of the Justice Party, is a prime example of the value of third parties. The former mayor of Salt Lake City, Anderson is raising the issues in the polity that Bill Moyers raises on PBS.

  • grandmas

    Perot did offer hope.He was the last candidate I think to explain himself in great detail.

  • Jerry Fair

    I agree with Virginia. Nada is great. He warned us we would be disappointed with Obama and I am disappointed to say the least. I am not going to vote to put back in the corrupt republican party. As bad as Obama is at least he means well. I will be voting for Gary Johnson and I hope he is our next President.

  • Seorges

    Not exactly true that Lincoln was a third party candidate. The 1860 Election was about the strangest in U.S. history. The Whig party had fallen apart by that time. The Democratic party was cleaved in two, had two separate conventions and nominated two separate candidates, Douglas and Breckinridge. The Bell Constitutional Union party was probably the last remnant of the Whigs. So it could be said there were four major presidential candidates that year. Source: Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson

  • ElectionsAboutPeople

    I like Gary also but I dont think we even have to agree on who to vote for, if we could agree that we really don’t want either Obama or Romney. Since everyone’s so willing to vote against what they don’t want, that shouldn’t mean we have to settle for something else we also don’t want.

  • ElectionsAboutPeople

    I wish we had more candidates explain themselves, quality debates about the issues not practically same thing being said a different way.

  • moebears

    Ron Paul…nuff said.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just the two party system that is probematical. It’s the endless primaries and campaigning. Most Americans belong to the “Idunno and Idontcare” party by November. With the electoral college the way it is, neither Obama or Romney bothered much to come to Texas. Even with the dramatic differences between the two, come 2013 Washington DC will be business as usual no matter the victor.

  • Anonymous

    YouTube search these vids:

    Insist Obama & Romney Debate 3rd Party Opponents

    6 Easy Steps To End The 2-Party System

    Top 3 Dumb Excuses To Not Vote 3rd Party

  • 19OBERT63

    Abraham Lincoln was a Whig most of his life and believed in the principles espoused by Henry Cay, who sponsored private enterprises
    through feferal government subsidies. One of the “big secrets” of our history is that Lincoln was an extremely wealthy railroad lawyer from
    Illinois(winning a 50,00 purse in on case when most poor people worked for a $1.00 A DAY.)Lincoln was sponsored by private companies that wanted a northern transcontinnental route with government subsidies. Guess who advocated a southern transcontinnental route?-Jefferson Davis-when lincoln won the presidency, the South knew that they would be destroyed financially and the USA was divided forever. During the Civil War in 1862 Lincoln passed a bill that sponsored a northern route with government subsidies. He also promoted McCellan as commanding General of the Army of Potomac. McCellan was also involved in that 50,000 railroad case. Many historians have wondered why McCellan was not agressive against the South. I suggest that they might find the answers to alot of the Civil War mysteries in railroad dealings . The railroads were the oil companies of today.
    Abraham lincoln is perhaps the biggest American history myth and he probably be the first to admit it . The great emamcipator would be better represented by Martin Luther KIng, John Kennedy or even Lyndon Johnson.The great agitaor of a third party was railroad driven not by (unfortunately) the slavery issue. Lincoln may have had many good attributes and his death was a national tragedy, but like Jefferson and most of our beloved founding Fathers he was a racist through 95% of his life.

  • 19obert63

    Not quite-Ron Paul is very attractive except for his hands off-no regulation economic plan. Is the rest of his ideas a cover to allow unrestricted natural gas fracking and Wall Street gambling?.. Keep in mind the state that elected him and why. Come to think of it(if i’m correct about natural gas, and unrestricted Wall Street
    plundering) Lincoln may have used the same trick in using slavery as a focal point, as Lincoln”s interest (and I do imply money) in a transconinnental railroad probably got him elected,keeping in mind the state that Lincoln hailed from and the property Lincoln owned at Council Bluffs Is it trite and a cliche to follow the candidate”s money source? Perhaps, it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. Hey,
    didn’t Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman solve Watergate for us that way? American politics-you gotta hate it.


    In my opinion, Lincoln was a war criminal. 600,000 people died for what : A ‘nation’ ? Look at the way that turned out. Red states vs Blue states. It would have saved MILLIONS of lives if the southern states had become a country of their own. A backward Capitalistic, slave-owning, dog eat dog country while the northern states would have evolved into a CARING democratic socialyl-concious society, highly productive and wealthy.


    Open the first TV debate to all parties. Then run-off according to newspaper polls for the second and third and maybe even fourth.No rules, just parliamentary debates. Boring but instructive.

  • Philip

    Least we forget……Eugene McCarthy – 1972

  • Robert Brucato

    What about TR when he ran in 1912 on the Bull Moose Party ticket–a very progressive ticket. Had he won, we would most likely have a very different America today. TR was the man

  • Anonymous

    In a sense, one could see Abe Lincoln as the last two third party presidents — Republican in 1860, but in 1864 he ran and was re-elected, under the National Union banner with Democrat Andrew Johnson. The winning ticket — a Whig/Republican/Union Party candidate with a Democrat/Union Party candidate also reflects the fluid dynamics of the day.

  • Anonymous

    Battle Cry of Freedom is a great book and resource. It introduced to me the idea that the Civil War can be seen as having been a rebellion by the modernizing and growing (population-wise, with many free immigrants) North against the more aristocratic and agrarian order.

  • Connie Williams

    I am old enough to remember George Wallace spewing his hatred. The fact that 45 years ago he got 10,000,000 votes for president should give people pause about race relations in America today.