Much like a gust of wind, fledgling U.S. political parties often ready to blow the hat off your head one minute, and barely a breeze the next.
Though there currently exists only two major parties in the United States, the country’s history is rich with political movements and unique political groups. From The Federalists, to the Readjusters, to the “Know-Nothings,” and even modern day manifestations of The Whigs, defunct political parties have ranged from the fanatical, to the comical, to the surprisingly revolutionary.
Below is a chronological list of six of the United States’ most obscure defunct political parties then and now.
THEN (Late 19th Century to early 20th)
Spawned from a nationalist and staunchly anti-immigrant sentiment during the 1840s, the Know-Nothing Party, or American Party, was formed. Fear of the mainly Irish Roman Catholic immigrants during this period lead to the creation of this anti-immigrant group which also earned the name Nativists for their xenophobic beginnings.
During the Know-Nothings’ active period, violence sometimes erupted. In 1844 two Catholic churches were burned to the ground following rioting between Nativists and immigrants.
After the parties’ dissolution in in the late 1860’s a New York Times obituary stated that the former leader, James W. Barker, disassociated himself with the party in the 1850s to follow then Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln (who was adamantly opposed to Know-Nothing ideals).
The term Greenback refers to the issuance of a paper receipt for gold (the genesis of the American paper dollar) which rose to prominence following the Civil War and subsequent economic downturn in the 1870s.
Supported by mostly agrarian workers who were economically distraught during this period, the Greenback movement advocated the transition from a gold and silver backed currency to a solely paper-based currency in hopes that it would have an inflationary effect on the U.S. dollar. Additionally, their Party leader James Weaver who lobbied against powerful banks, and contended that major parties had lost sight of the original intent of the Founding Fathers.
By the time the Greenback Party dissolved in 1884, the movement had all but withered and died. Most Greenbackers would merge with the Democratic Party following their decline and some would go on to form the Populist movement, which Weaver denounced.
The Independence League
This blip on the political map was punctuated by none other than newspaper mogul and tycoon William Randolph Hearst. As an alternative to both the Republican and Democratic Parties at the time, and precursor to the modern day Independent Party, the United States Independence Party, or Independence League, was formed.
Hearst, who was both a founder and candidate for the League, helped create the Independence League after his loss running for the Governor of New York in 1905. By merging with other Populist movement candidates like Thomas Watson and leveraging both his wealth and media monopoly, Hearst hoped to gain some momentum towards a bid for the Presidential election in 1908.
Though the Independence League never won any major elections, Hearst was partially fruitful in his run for a seat in the Democratic House of Representatives.
NOW (Late 20th Century and onwards)
The Natural Law Party
Through transcendental meditation and alignment with the laws of nature, the Natural Law Party was determined to win a Presidential bid, and maybe even create some spiritual harmony while they were at it.
In 1992, shortly after the Party’s inception in the U.K., a branch of The Natural Law Party sprang up in Fairfield, Iowa. Stemming from Maharishi International University in Fairfield, where Maharishi Mahesh’s method of transcendental meditation is taught, the principles behind The Natural Law Party were formed.
Behind their presidential candidate Dr. John S. Hagelin in 1992 and 1996, The Natural Law Party pushed for an array of progressive political ideas from transcendental meditation as a form of criminal rehabilitation, to preventative healthcare, and even renewable energy.
Though branches of the Natural Law Party still exist on a state-to-state basis, the national headquarters were shut down in 2004.
Personal Choice Party
Represented by a smiling yellow emoticon, the Personal Choice Party (PCP) advocated for free choice and free reign for all.
Based on mainly libertarian principles, the Personal Choice Party, which was founded by Utah Libertarian and former Governor of the state Ken Larsen, advocated freedom to do just about anything that didn’t harm others. Two notable candidates for the Personal Choice Party’s Utah Senatorial bid in 2004 were on and off libertarian and boxing aficionado Charles Jay and former adult film actress Marilyn Chambers Taylor.
The Party eventually dissolved in 2006 with virtually no mainstream recognition–aside from voters who mistakenly picked the party on their virtual ballots.
The Boston Tea Party
Not to be confused with the Tea Party, this political flash in the pan was named after the historical event in 1773. Created by former members of the Libertarian Party in 2006, this Party was deeply disaffected by current Libertarian leaders at the time.
The Boston Tea Party advocated for smaller government, ending foreign war, and major budget reforms such as cutting social welfare programs and federal salaries.
Though the Party achieved little in the way of political success, accruing just 2,422 votes nationwide in the 2008 election, they may still take the cake for best party tagline–“It’s time to party likes it’s 1773.”