Politics & Government

It's a big election for the little parties, too

WASHINGTON — The Boston Tea Party may sound like a piece of American history, but it's also a political party spun off from the Libertarian Party, with a slogan — "Time to party like it's 1773" — and a presidential candidate on the ballot in Colorado, Florida and Tennessee.

Fans of Rep. Ron Paul, the former Republican presidential candidate who was an Internet sensation, can still vote for him for president — in Montana and Louisiana.

The candidates of the three "major" third parties — the Libertarian, Green and Constitution — and independent Ralph Nader are on the ballot in a majority of states. There are a number of obscure third parties, however, that are also on the ballot in multiple states.

Nader, whose third presidential run is based on his anti-corporate mantra, is on the ballot in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, who's also on the ballot in 45 states, is a former Republican congressman from Georgia who's backing the party's small-government credo.

Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, a former Democratic congresswoman who's also from Georgia, is touting the party's environmental, antiwar platform and is on 31 state ballots and D.C.

Chuck Baldwin, a conservative Florida minister, is the Constitution Party's nominee, on the ballot in 37 states. An opponent of legal abortion, Baldwin wants to end the federal income tax and stop U.S. military intervention.

Paul, the Libertarian Party standard-bearer in 1988, is a congressman from Texas who, having failed to win the Republican nomination, didn't support having his name placed on ballots for president, but some admirers persevered anyway.

Perhaps the smallest but most enduring third party is the Prohibition Party. Founded in 1869, it's the same party behind the temperance movement that led to the 1919 prohibition of alcohol with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

"It's easily the most ancient third party in American history." said Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, which tracks third parties.

Although it's now down to about 12 active members — with 200 on a mailing list — the Prohibition Party has a presidential candidate, Gene Amondson, on the ballot in Colorado, Florida and Louisiana. The traveling evangelist lives in Alaska and Washington state.

Jim Hedges, a lifelong party member, said that Prohibitionists were originally very "progressive" but were now conservative, having lost their force after the constitutional amendment was rescinded in 1933.

Then, as now, the party's centerpiece is the prohibition of the sale, transport and public consumption of alcoholic products.

"It is the root of social evils," said Hedges, of Thompson Township, Pa. Making alcohol and consuming it in the privacy of one's home, however, is all right, he said.

On the left, the Socialist Workers Party, founded in 1938, has presidential candidate Roger Calero on the ballot in 10 states. The Party for Socialism and Liberation is on 12 states' ballots.

As for the Boston Tea Party, co-founder Thomas Knapp said that several Libertarians who attended the party's 2006 convention were angry that 45 planks of the party's platform had been eliminated. They then formed their own party, which has a one-sentence platform to reduce "the size, scope and power of government at all levels."

Knapp said members were inspired by the Boston Tea Party because "we kind of look to that grass-roots citizen activism."

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