- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

Republicans and Democrats not getting the job done? No worries. There are hundreds of other political parties from which to choose on local, state and national ballots, ranging from the serious to the offbeat to the obscure.

For example,there is the Rural Party, which focuses on preserving the rural economy.

“The backbone of the economy is the rural economy, is the self-employed,” said founder Mark Dunau. “The reason that the Rural Party was created … is that there’s no party speaking for the self-employed right now in this country.”

Members of the Natural Law Party believe American politics does not follow the laws of nature. The party says on its Web site (www.natural-law.org) that perfect government is possible “by accessing the full range of nature’s intelligence and harnessing its power.”

Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and an observer of third parties, said they are organized “around what they think to be a critical issue.”

Some draw inspiration from social movements of the past.

The Prohibition Party promotes a moral society and opposes the use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, pornography and other “commercialized vice.”

“Alcohol is a terrible blight on our country,” Prohibition Party presidential candidate Earl Dodge said. “It hurts people, it causes them to die, and we believe as citizens we need to battle it.”

Reaching even further into the past is the Southern Party, which, more than 140 years after the South’s failed attempt at independence, thinks it is time to give it another try.

An alternative is the Southern Independence Party, which seceded from the Southern Party over personal disagreements.

The Constitution Party favors drastic reductions in the size and power of the federal government.

“We need to restore the constitutional basis for law and public policy,” said James Clymer, the party’s national chairman. “Both of the major parties have strayed far from the Constitution.”

At least three parties have been formed to legalize marijuana: the Grassroots Party, the U.S. Marijuana Party and the Pot Party.

More than a dozen parties follow communist and socialist doctrine.

Robert Bills, national secretary of the Socialist Labor Party of America, said his is “the oldest Marxist party in the whole wide world.” Other groups, he says, are misled.

“These people are totally confused about what socialism was all about,” he said.

One of the more eccentric parties is the Christian Falangist Party of America, which endorses the ideology of 20th century Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled until 1975 and was an ally of Adolf Hitler.

The Multicapitalist Party supports “capitalism for all people equally,” says its Web site (www.oicu2.com/afc/). Its philosophy is vague, but the party’s faithful seem to believe laws can be arranged to prevent any entity, public or private, from becoming too powerful.

The Third Party has the goal of becoming “a viable alternative” in politics but has no platform or candidates.

Members of minor parties often complain that they aren’t taken seriously. Presidential write-in candidate Jeffrey Peters of the We the People Party, for example, got his 15 minutes of fame in 2000 by throwing television sets into the harbor at his “Boston TV Party.”

History has shown, however, that when an issue resonates with the people, it quickly ascends into the news.

In 1992, Ross Perot of the Reform Party received almost one-fifth of the popular vote nationwide after he promised fiscal responsibility and a balanced federal budget.

“The significance of third parties is that they frequently raise issues that the two major parties are afraid of or nervous about,” Mr. Jillson said. “When that issue begins to catch on, one … of the major parties will adopt it.”

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