Political Party Project Identify the major ideas of the two major parties


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PARTY OF SOCIALISM AND LIBERATION - The Party of Socialism & Liberation (PSL) is a revolutionary Marxist party created "to be a vehicle for the multinational working class in the struggle for socialism ... Only a multinational party can create the unity necessary to defeat the most powerful capitalist class the world has ever seen ... We aim for revolution in the United States." Additionally, the PSL explains that "the most crucial requirement for [PSL] membership is the dedication to undertake this most important and most necessary of all tasks: building a new revolutionary workers party in the heart of world imperialism." The PSL was founded in 2006 by a breakaway faction of the communist revolutionary wing of the Workers World Party. The PSL espouses a pro-Cuba/pro-China view, and the iconic Che Guevarra's call for continual world revolution against capitalism. The PSL fielded its first candidates in 2008: a Presidential ticket and Congressional candidates. The PSL (and PSL leaders) also sponsors or directs numerous popular front groups including VoteNoWar.org, International ANSWER, International Action Center, Stop War on Iran, Troops Out Now Coalition, No Draft No Way, People Judge Bush, Sept15.org, and many others. Other related PSL websites include: VotePSL.org (party campaign site); Liberation (party newspaper) and Socialism and Liberation (party magazine).

PEACE AND FREEDOM PARTY - Founded in the 1960s as a left-wing party opposed to the Vietnam War, the party reached its peak of support in 1968 when it nominated Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver for President. Although a convicted felon and odious personality, Cleaver carried nearly 37,000 votes (ironically, Cleaver ultimately became a Reagan Republican in the early 1980s, and was later a crack cocaine addict in the late 1980s, before emerging as an environmental activist in the late 1990s). Famed "baby doctor" Benjamin Spock -- a leftist and staunch opponent of the Vietnam War -- was the PFP Presidential nominee in 1972. Since then, the small party has largely been dominated by battling factions of Marxist-Leninists (aligned with the Workers World Party), Trotskyists and socialist democrats. The PFP today is small, with activities largely centered only in California. In 1996, the PFP successfully blocked an attempt by the WWP to capture the PFP's Presidential nomination (and a California ballot spot) for their party's nominee. In a sign of the party's serious decline in support, the PFP's poor showing in the 1998 statewide elections caused the party to lose its California ballot status. The PFP finally regained California ballot status in 2003 -- and immediately fielded a sizable slate of candidates. Native American activist Leonard Peltier -- an imprisoned cop killer (or innocent political prisoner, depending on your views) -- was the PFP nominee for President in 2004 (ballot status in one state - 27,500 votes).

PROHIBITION PARTY - "If you are a reform-minded conservative and a non-drinker, the Prohibition Party wants you," exclaimed an official party message in 2002. The Prohibition Party -- founded in 1869 and billing themselves as "America's Oldest Third Party" -- espouses a generally ultra-conservative Christian social agenda mixed with anti-drug and international anti-communist views. The party's strongest showing was in 1892, when John Bidwell received nearly 273,000 votes (2.3% - 4th place). Long-time party activist Earl F. Dodge ran as the Prohibition Party's presidential nominee in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and again in 2004 -- and was already running again for the next race when he died in 2007. The party also fields a few local candidates from time to time -- but 2002 was the first time since the 1860s that the party failed to field any candidates for any public office. An additional party-related organization is the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society, a group of party activists that want to turn Prohibition Party policy into law. The anti-Dodge folks -- led by National Chairman Don Webb -- wrested control of the party by fall 2003. Control of the party ended up in court, but Dodge died before the court ruled. The 2004 rival ticket led by temperance lecturer, minister and artist Gene Amundson -- supported by the anti-Dodge party leadership -- appeared on the Colorado ballot under another party name. Now, with Dodge dead, Amundson is the party's undisputed nominee for 2008.

REFORM PARTY - Once a rapidly growing, populist third party, the Reform Party shifted far to the right in recent years -- but then experienced massive waves of conservative defections away into the Constitution Party and the new America First Party in 2002. First, some history: after running as an Independent in 1992, billionaire Texas businessman Ross Perot founded the Reform Party in 1995 as his vehicle for converting his independent movement into a permanent political party. In 1996, Perot ran as the Reform Party's presidential nominee (8,085,000 votes - 8%). Although an impressive showing for a third party, it was much less than the 19 million votes Perot carried as an independent candidate back in 1992. The party traditionally reflected Perot's center-conservative fiscal policies and anti-GATT/NAFTA views -- while avoiding taking any official positions on social issues (although much of this group seemed to hold generally libertarian social views). The RP was plagued by a lengthy period of nasty ideological battles in 1998-2000 involving three main rival groups: the "Old Guard" Perot faction, the more libertarian Jesse Ventura faction, and the social conservative Pat Buchanan faction. A fourth group -- a small but vocal Marxist faction led by RP activist Lenora Fulani -- generally backed the Perot faction during these fights. To make this even more confusing, the Perot faction ultimately turned to Natural Law nominee and Maharishi follower John Hagelin as its "Stop Buchanan" candidate for President. After several nasty and public battles, the Ventura faction quit the RP in Spring 2000 and the old Perot faction lost control of the party in court to the Buchanan faction in Fall 2000 (and Perot ultimately endorsed Bush for President in 2000). That gave the Buchanan Brigade the party's $12.6 million in federal matching funds. Within months, the Buchanan allies won control of nearly the entire party organization. Along with Buchanan's rise to power in the party, the party made a hard ideological shift to the right -- an ideological realignment that continues to dominate the RP. In the aftermath of the 2000 elections, it is clear that Buchanan failed in his efforts to establish a viable, conservative third party organization (comprised largely of disenchanted Republicans). Buchanan was on the ballot in 49 states, captured 449,000 votes (4th place - 0.4%) -- and later told reporters that his foray into third party politics may have been a mistake. His weak showing also meant that the party is ineligible for federal matching funds in 2004. The new RP had the opportunity to become the leading social conservative third party (think of it as a Green Party for the right) -- but more internal conflicts made this impossible. In Spring 2002, former Buchanan VP runningmate Ezola Foster and the California and Maryland RP leaders jumped to the Constitution Party. Almost simultaneously, the entire RP leadership in nearly 20 other states (the core of the Buchanan Brigade folks) defected en masse to form the new America First Party -- delivering a demoralizing and devastating blow the the future viability of the RP. The remaining pieces of the RP appeared to drift away following that implosion. For the 2004 Presidential election, the remaining RP leaders gave their nomination and their ballot status in several states to Ralph Nader's fusion candidacy. The RP was just about bankrupt by late 2004, having less than $50 remaining in its bank account. A few state Reform chapters remain active, but the Reform Party is virtually dead as a national entity. The party went into bankruptcy receivership in 2008.

SOCIALIST PARTY USA - The SPUSA are true democratic socialists -- advocating left-wing electoral change versus militant revolutionary change. Many of the SP members could easily be members of the left-wing faction of the Democratic Party. Unlike most of the other political parties on this page with "Socialist" in their names, the SP has always been staunchly anti-communist. Founded by labor union leader, ex-Democratic elected official and pacifist Eugene V. Debs in 1900, the SP was once a mighty national third party. Debs himself was the SP nominee for president five times between 1900 and 1920. Debs received over 900,000 votes (6%) in 1912 -- the SP's best showing ever. Former minister and journalist Norman Thomas was the SP Presidential nominee 6 times between 1928 and 1948 -- his best showing being 883,000 votes (2.2%) in 1932. The SP also elected congressmen, mayors and other officials throughout the 20th Century (largely during the 1910s through 1950s). The withered and splintered so much that, by the last 1972, it barely existed. The Democratic Socialists of American and the Social Democrats USA --both linked below -- are the other splinter groups from the original Debs/Thomas SP. Activist from the old SP reconstituted the party in 1976 and began to again field SP national tickets for the first time in over two decades. Peace activist and former SP-USA National Chairman David McReynolds was the party's 2000 Presidential nominee, earning ballot status in seven states (7,746 votes - 8th place - 0.01% ...plus a bunch more write-in votes in New York and other states where election officials refused to tabulate individual write-in votes). The 2000 showing was a far cry from the SP glory days, but a major improvement over the party's 1996 showing. In 2004, former Democratic State Senator Walt Brown of Oregon was the SPUSA Presidential nominee. In 2008, progressive activist Brian Moore of Florida is the SPUSA nominee for President. The party's youth wing -- the Young People's Socialist League -- has been in existence since the 1910s. Another official -- and very useful -- SP-USA resource is the Socialist Party USA Campaign Clearinghouse. The SP-USA's Socialist Net is a resource site covering the international democratic socialist movement and the American Socialist Foundation and an SP-USA affiliated educational group.

SOCIALIST ACTION - Socialist Action is a Trotskyist political party originally founded by expelled members of the Socialist Workers Party. While the SA shares the SWP's pro-Castro views, the SA still tries to retain its Trotskyist ideological roots (versus the SWP, which has drifted away from Trotskyism towards a more Soviet communist ideology). The SA states that they "oppose the Democrats and Republicans, all capitalist political parties, and all capitalist governments and their representatives everywhere ... [and] Stalinist and neo-Stalinist regimes from the ex-Soviet Union to China." To date, this group of communists have fielded some local political candidates in San Francisco and a few other communities. Youth for Socialist Action is the youth wing of the party.

SOCIALIST EQUALITY PARTY - The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) was originally named the Workers League (WL). The WL was founded in 1966 as a Trotskyist communist group closely associated with the electoral campaigns of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The goal of these Trotskyist groups was a build a working-class labor party in the US affiliated with the International Committee of the Fourth International (the global Trotskyist umbrella network). They believe that "the egalitarian and internationalist legacy of the Russian Revolution" could have succeeded, but was "betrayed by Stalinism" and its progeny. When the SWP drifted away from Trotskyism in the early 1980s, the WL broke with the SWP and began fielding its own candidates. The WL fielded its first Presidential ticket in 1984. The WL later renamed itself as the Socialist Equality Party in 1994. The Michigan-based SEP regularly fielded Congressional and local candidates in several states in the late 1980s and 1990s. 1996 SEP Presidential nominee Jerry White was on the ballot in only three states and captured just 2,400 votes. After 1996, the SEP failed to field any candidates for any office until an SEP member competed in the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election (6,700 votes - 14th place out of 135). The SEP subsequently fielded a 2004 Presidential ticket and a few other candidates. The SEP was very realistic about its chances for success in the election, acknowledging that they would "win only a limited number of votes." To the SEP, the campaign was an opportunity to "present a socialist alternative to the demagogy and lies of the establishment parties and the mass media." The SEP fielded only one write-in congressional candidate in 2006, and is running '06 nominee Jerry White as the SEP's write-in Presidential candidate in 2008. The SEP's news site -- the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) -- is updated daily with articles, analysis, history, etc., written with a hardcore internationalist, Trotskyist perspective.

SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY - Founded in 1877, the SLP is a militant democratic socialist party. More moderate members of the SLP bolted to create the Socialist Party USA in 1901. The SLP ran Presidential tickets in every election between 1892 and 1976 (the SLP's final presidential candidate won 9,600 votes in the 1976 race). The high cost of fielding a Presidential ticket and restrictive ballot access laws caused the SLP to abandon fielding Presidential tickets after 1976, and instead concentrates on nominating candidates for lower offices. The SLP -- which bills itself as the party of "Marxism-DeLeonism" -- still fields a few local candidates (mainly in New Jersey). The site features party history, info on Daniel DeLeon, a Marx-Engels archive, links and more. The SLP newspaper The People, first printed in 1891, also publishes regularly updated online editions.

SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY - Originally a pro-Trotsky faction within the Communist Party USA, the SWP was formed in 1938 after the CPUSA -- acting on orders from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin -- expelled the American Trotskyites. The SWP was for many years the leading voice of Trotskyism in the USA. Since the 1980s, the SWP has drifted away from Trotskyism and moved towards the brand of authoritarian politics espoused by Cuban leader Fidel Castro's style of Marxism (the SWP sites calls Castro's Cuba "a shining example for all workers"). The SWP has run candidates for President in every election since 1948 -- plus federal and local candidates in various states. Marxist political organizer James Harris was the SWP Presidential nominee in 1996 (ballot status in 11 states - 8,500 votes - 0.01%) and 2000 (ballot status in 14 states - 7,378 votes - 9th place - 0.01%). You can also read the SWP's newspapers The Militant (English) and Perspectiva Mundial (Spanish) online. Marxist political organizer and journalist Róger Calero was the SWP Presidential nominee in 2004 -- ballot status in 14 states - 10,791 votes - 9th place - 0.01% -- even though he was constitutionally ineligible as a foreign citizen living in the US as a Permanent Resident Alien. Calero's ineligibility forced to party to field James Harris as a surrogate nominee in several of those states. The SWP again nominated Calero as their Presidential nominee in 2008.

U.S. MARIJUANA PARTY - Founded in 2002, the US Marijuana Party (USMJP) is -- as you would expect -- a marijuana legalization entity espousing generally libertarian views. "The civil rights of Americans have been compromised by the war on drugs. Because the vast majority of citizens who use any illegal substance use only marijuana, the war on drugs is basically a war on marijuana. If you can pull the plug on the war on marijuana, you end the war on drugs as we know it. You shut down the prison industrial complex, and you restore the liberties that have been eroded because of this futile war on marijuana," explains the USMJP. The party -- which already has chapters formed in several states -- is seeking marijuana legalization on a state-by-state basis. The USMJP has fielded a few candidates on state ballots under the party banner starting in 2004 -- but most USMJP nominees to date have been relegated to running as write-in candidates. .

U.S. PACIFIST PARTY - This tiny political party fielded a write-in candidate for President in 1996, 2000 and 2004, and a US Senate candidate in Colorado in 1998. In 2008, for the first time, the USPP Presidential nominee achieved ballot status in one state (Colorado). The USPP opposes military actions in all circumstances and wants to transform the US military into "a non-violent defense and humanitarian service corps." The USPP platform advocates generally left-wing political stances and slashing the military budget to "zero." Staunchly opposed to nuclear weapons, the USPP believes that "unless nuclear weapons are deactivated, and nonviolent means developed to take the place of military violence for achieving justice and peace, civilization is doomed." To date, the USPP has run party founder Bradford Lyttle -- a lifelong activist for pacifism -- as a Presidential candidate four times.

VETERANS PARTY OF AMERICA - The Veterans Party was founded in 2003. The party vows to "give political voice for the first time since 1776, to the men and women who were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for this country. No longer will they have to grovel and beg and fill out paperwork for years just to get what they proudly earned and were promised." The VPA fielded a few candidates in 2004, including a US Senate candidate in Florida. The party is not limited only to veterans, but is also intended to advocate for the families of US veterans. The centrist party has already registered in eight states, and is in the process of attempting to organize in dozens of additional states. As for issues, the party avoids many of the social/morality issues. "If you want religious issues, go to your congregation and discuss it there ... Morals and morality come from your family not the govt. so if you want to tell other people how to live their lives, how to think, how to dress or what they can and cannot do to their bodies, then become a prison warden, or a political party in some middle eastern country and rule there," explains the party's platform preface. The Veterans Party wants to represent the rights and needs of veterans across the political spectrum -- which is why the party's top priority is improving the lives of those who served. Bitter in-fighting caused the party to split into two rival factions in 2006, and showed little sign of life in 2008.

WORKERS WORLD PARTY - The WWP was formed in 1959 by a pro-Chinese communist faction that split from the Socialist Workers Party. Although the WWP theoretically supports worker revolutions, the WWP supported the Soviet actions that crushed worker uprisings in Hungary in the 1950s, Czechoslovakia in the 1960s and Poland in the early 1980s. The WWP was largely an issue-oriented revolutionary party until they fielded their first candidate for president in 1980. WWP Presidential nominee Monica Moorehead was on the ballot in 12 states in 1996 (29,100 votes - 0.03%) -- and was again the WWP's Presidential nominee in 2000 (ballot status in 4 states - 4,795 votes - 10th place - 0.004%). The militant WWP believes that "capitalist democracy produces nothing but hot air" and that "the power of the workers and the oppressed is in the streets, not in Washington." FBI Director Louis Freeh attacked the WWP in his May 2001 remarks before a US Senate committee: "Anarchists and extremist socialist groups -- many of which, such as the Workers World Party -- have an international presence and, at times, also represent a potential threat in the United States" of rioting and street violence. The well-designed site features regularly updated news stories from a pro-Cuba/pro-China communist perspective, so expect lots of dogmatic stories denouncing the US government, sexism, racism, the police and capitalists. The revoltionary wing of the WWP broke away in 2006 to form the Party of Socialism & Liberation. While the WWP formerly sponsored or directed numerous popular front groups -- including VoteNoWar.org, International ANSWER, International Action Center -- those groups all appear as of 2008 to be aligned instead with the rival PSL. As for the 2008 Presidential race, the WWP declined to field a Presidential slate and instead endorsed Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney. The WWP described McKinney's campaign as "Black-led, anti-imperialist, working-class-centered and has a multinational radical base with the potential of unlimited growth."

(Parties that have yet to field or endorse any candidates for office)

American Patriot Party - The The APP, established in 2003, was "founded on the basic principals set forth by our founding fathers, that the federal government should only have the powers set forth in the framework of the Constitution and all other power to be delegated back to the states. Although everyone has thier own opinions on all issues, we believe it is up to the states to decide what should and should not be mandated, banned or regulated." The APP supports a crackdown on illegal immigration, making English fluency a requirement of US citizenship, abolishing the IRS and repealing the federal income tax, imposing steeper taxes and tariffs on imported goods, abolition of the centralized Federal Reserve System, withdrawing the US from the Untied Nations, imposing a foreign policy of non-interventionism, and ending federal involvement in education. No candidates fielded to date, but the APP have formed party chapters in several states -- with the Oregon state party group taking the lead in attempting to organize a national effort. The APP vows that their candidates will be "statesmen, not politicians."

American Socialist Party - Despite the word "Socialist" in their title, this new group, founded in 2004 and based in Arizona, is far out of the traditional definition of socialist parties. The ASP denounces "immorality, and materialism," supports "the removal of illegal immigrants ... [and the imprisonment of] businesses/officials who hire, or allow them to enter," sees capitalism as "failing," and -- in a language that make them sound more like a crypto-fascist group -- promises to "defend you and your family if faced with government officials intimidating you, or, violating your rights, with the same force." From the ASP website's repeated attacks the problem of illegal immigration (an "invasion"), that is clearly a top concern. However, the platform comes off more like a vanity thing a few friends threw together one night over some beers, as it appears somewhat incoherant and largely inconsistent with any recognizable socialist ideology.

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