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2008, the Year the Major Parties Started to Catch Up with Minor Parties on Candidate Diversity

Published on August 30, 2008, by in General.

The first major party to nominate a woman for vice-president was the Democratic Party, in 1984. Now, in 2008, the Republican Party is also about to name a woman vice-presidential nominee.

The first major party to nominate a black for president or vice-president is the Democratic Party in 2008.

On the matter of diversity for presidential and vice-presidential nominees, the major parties are decades behind minor parties. The first minor party to name a woman for vice-president, and to actually receive valid votes, was the Prohibition Party in 1924. It named Marie Brehm for vice-president. The first minor party to name a woman for president, and to actually receive valid votes, was the Communist Party. It named Charlene Mitchell in 1968.

The first minor party to name a black for either president or vice-president, and to actually receive valid votes, was the Communist Party in 1932. It names James Ford for vice-president. The first minor party to name a black for president was the Socialist Workers Party, which nominated Clifton DeBerry in 1964.

Many have asserted that the Equal Rights Party of the late 19th century was the first minor party to set these records. But the Equal Rights Party did not actually nominate any candidates for presidential elector and then print up ballots naming those candidates for presidential elector. The party was free to do that, but did not do that. Svend Petersen, author of A Statistical History of the American Presidential Elections, meticulously went through the records of the vote for presidential electors, sent in by each state to the National Archives. He found records for minor party tickets that polled as few votes as 72 votes in the entire nation. That was the national vote total for Gerrit Smith, the 1852 presidential nominee of the Liberty Party. But he found no votes for an Equal Rights ticket in either the 1870’s or the 1880’s. Other researchers came to the same conclusion.

7 Responses

  1. Jonathan

    My assessment on McCain and Obama’s cat and mouse game:

    http://www.nolanchart.com/article4643.html

    give it a thumbs up if you like

  2. ken in st. l, mo

    rich —
    Your historical synopsis is great and proves once again that minor parties are ahead of the curve.
    Should you add to this entry: Ms. Toni Nathan (Libertarian from Oregon). I think that (in the early 1970s) she was the first woman to get electoral college votes.

  3. Ken in St. L., your right. The first women to receive votes in the electoral college was Theodora Nathan in 1972, the Vice Presidential running mate of John Hosper. The Libertarian ticket did not win any states, but a disloyal Republican elector voted for Hosper and Nathan rather than Nixon / Agnew. Four years later, that disloyal elector, Roger MacBride was the nominee of the Libertarian Party.

  4. Ya mean that Reform Party necasent, Beverly Kennedy of Taxes, was wrong?

    Political parties are not just existing to win elections?

    Parties can influence via their very presence?

    But Bev is never wrong —-just ask Charles Foster!

  5. And it might be nice — even polite — to mention the ways that the smaller minority parties (no party has a majority of the people in it) are staying ahead of the curve. My own Green Party, for example, this very year has nominated what I believe is the first national ticket with two women of color: Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. So Obama wasn’t the first African American nominee for President on enough ballots to win the election — not even *THIS YEAR*. Nor was Palin the first female nominee for Vice President — not even *THIS YEAR*.

    As I say, it would be nice if more of the media actually admitted this. I say “admitted” because the smart/alert reporters are careful to qualify their proclamations of firsts with “major party” — but then they very rarely finish the story by explaining why the qualifier is necessary.

    I hope BAN sets a better example for them hereafter.

  6. Alex

    John, the Fulani/Munoz New Alliance Party ticket of 1992 would (I believe) be the first qualifier for ‘two women of color’, with Moorehead/La Riva for the Workers World PArty in 1996 being another.

  7. Going back over my comments the past 6-7 months or so, I ran into this item. I should have said before that I didn’t mean to step on anyone’s toes. . . .

    Not disputing, just asking: how “national” were Fulani/Munoz ’92 and Moorehead/La Riva ’96? I tend to think of that as referring to a campaign on enough ballots to at least theoretically win the election, but that’s hardly a universally-recognized definition.

    If either or both of the 1990s two-women-of-color campaigns ran actively across the whole country, that might well “count” as national, too. And anyway, both of them are certainly worth remembering.

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