Call them Whigs and Tories, Federalists and Anti-Federalists, or most recently, Republicans and Democrats; however they're divided, two parties have generally dominated the electoral system of the United States. That's not to say that there cannot be more than two, as there most certainly have been and are. But parties existing outside of the prevailing monolithic dichotomy tend to be so hopelessly overmatched, their efforts ultimately so ineffective, that they are typically herded together under a single label. We call them, all of them, “third parties”.
The alternative, of course, is to be without affiliation, to accept no label other than the liberating moniker “Independent”. While traditionally unsuccessful, arguably even spectacularly so, those identifying as Independents have without question at least one great winning champion to whom they can appeal to lend themselves relevance and credibility: The nation's first President, George Washington.
Not only did Washington refuse to align himself with any political party, he was an enemy of the very notion, believing that it would give rise to partisanship and division in the federal government that would hurt its ability to effectively manage the nation's affairs. He held to this view throughout his administration, and delivered a scathing indictment of parties in politics during his farewell address.
As a rule, the United States of America has chosen not to follow its father's advice. Today, only Republicans and Democrats are taken seriously as contenders for the presidency; third party nominees are at best parasitic ticks drawing off useful votes and at worst utter comedy, while Independent candidates barely register at all. Washington would roll over in his grave: The two-party system runs the show.
Nevertheless, Independents can have a major impact on American politics. Many minor candidates who run for President, be they third party or no party, do so with the full knowledge and understanding that their chances of actual victory and ascension to the White House are virtually nonexistent. Instead of hoping to win, they are there to champion their causes, and most crucially, to provide the people with an opportunity to cast “message votes” that warn their usual party – Republican or Democrat – that they've strayed from their principles and had best clean up their act in the future. And of course, Independent candidates can, and do, win election to congress on at least some occasions.
All of which is aside from the fundamental fact that the United States, in theory at least, is a republic of open debate and exchange of ideas. The electoral system turns on two parties, but no political contender has to identify with either one. All are free to choose their own party - or, if they wish, to choose none at all.
1st Independent Presidential Debate January 28th, 2016 | Lake Charles, Louisiana
Art Drew is a Vietnam veteran who has owned his own business. He's also from a rural farming area, where he learned hard work and an appreciation for people who cultivate the land. His policies are non-extreme, and find their most comfortable reception in the political center.
Without going into details, Jeremiah Pent speaks at length about solving the nation's problems, especially social disunity and the staggering national debt. Like many other independents and third-party candidates, he worries that the Republicans and Democrats have become too powerful.
With extensive experience working with money on Wall Street, as well as a prolific businessman, Scott Smith wishes to enact economic policies that veer right even of most dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. His goals are dubious, but his confidence is unshakable.
Mark Pendelton is a man of the people and a person of great faith. He has stumbled and made common mistakes, and that gives him the ability to connect with ordinary Americans. His mantra is “give me one term and I will put the government back in the hands of the people.”
Daniel Zutler is not optimistic about the structure of the United States – he believes we live under a system that is irrevocably broken, impossible of repair. As such, he calls for starting over completely, based on the Constitution as it was originally written and intended. Most of his policies come down right-of-center.
Jim Mitchell, Jr is a pro-life, pro-gun rights conservative from Illinois. He's got a bone to pick with crime, and his methods are as novel as they are aggressive: mandatory military service for young people to starve off gang recruitment, and free government-distributed narcotics to collapse the illegal drug trade.
Robert Dionisio is a prolific business owner, starting as a little boy when he would collect forgotten litter and earn money turning it in for recycling. A critic of both major political parties, he\'s nevertheless a right-leaning presidential candidate, with budget reform intentions and a strong support of gun rights.
John Fitzgerald Johnson, also known as “The Real Grandmaster Jay” to fans of his musical work, is a civil rights activist with strong feelings on addressing police brutality. Politically left of center, he's also an advocate of woman's rights and greatly sympathizes with the plight of illegal immigrants.
Mark J. Dutter is an Independent from Spearfish, South Dakota with a strongly centrist platform, he is disappointed in both the Republican and Democratic parties, believing that candidates from each caucus put party before country, are beholden to big business interests, or both.
Dissatisfied with the job done by entrenched career politicians from both parties, Ed Baker has bold ideas to resolve a variety of issues including crime, spending and immigration. Conservatives, independents and progressives can all find common ground with at least one of Bakers positions.
Benjamin Weigel is a Marine who saw action in Iraq, and retired from service due to his injuries. He remains strongly pro-military and believes the nation would be best served by a President who has served – which, he notes, most of Congress has not done. He is a right-of-center candidate.
After living in nine different states, visiting twenty-nine countries all over the world, and living and studying in Africa for more than five years, the independent candidate Tami Stainfield is definitely an Anti-Globalist who has traveled the globe.
Lynn Sandra Kahn boasts over 30 years of experience in the fields of government reform and conflict resolution. She touts a comprehensive 7-track strategy for achieving the goals of her platform: Fix government, build peace.
Shawna Sterling has opinions all her own, even on matters which might not generally be considered up for debate. She blames GMOs above all else for childhood obesity, and pledges to eliminate their use in school cafeteria food. Otherwise, she is generally conservative, with a strong faith and strict opposition to abortion.
David Boarman has always believed in the Christian God – he just never acted like it until the age of 44, when a personal crisis brought on an intense devotion to his faith. Today, he's running for President because he's convinced that's what Gods wants him to do. He's a right-wing candidate with a strong emphasis on religious freedom.
Perry Morcom is no fan of the Electoral College; the Texas working man wants it eliminated, and the President chosen strictly by popular vote. He's also against congressmen and Senators serving more than eight years in office. Driven by compassion, he wants to help rather than deport illegal immigrants.
Residing in Springfield Nebraska, David is a lawyer who specializes in family law. Holcomb describes himself as conservative, Christian, pro-life, and pro-Second Amendment. His presidential run as an independent didn't gain much traction in 2012.
Having spent most of his life in the service of God, Julian Lewis, Jr places his faith before all else. He believes that the will of God can and does inform a leader's policy decisions, and he has even spoken unfavorably about the separation of Church and State.
Brian Briggs fancies himself the “average guy” that America needs as President. An Independent, he is beholden to neither major party, and his platform borrows from both. He's on the right side of the spectrum on gun control and his feelings towards Obamacare, but he has leftist attitudes on workers' rights.
Terry Wheelock is a former competitive gymnast who believes he's got the moves to be the next president. He's his own candidate, running on a platform that fits on neither the left nor right side of the political spectrum – instead, he borrows ideas from each.
Samm Tittle is an advocate for everything that made America great. As an experienced entrepreneur, Tittle understands that when given a job and an equal playing field, an individual can achieve great things. As a citizen politician, she believes in truth in government and equal rights for all.
The Delaware-born Chehade is an idealist. A successful entrepreneur, Mr. Chehade is also the chairman of the non-profit organization Solidary Foundation, which is dedicated towards providing food, education and other critical support services to needy communities the world over.