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A Historical Look at the Agenda-Setting Role of American Minor Parties
Unformatted Document Text:  Even though the election did not work out as Perot had hoped, in regards to the future, the dye for another famous and/or wealthy third candidate has been cast. These types of candidates often have the ability to gain the American electorate’s attention and these types of candidate-centered third party threats could potentially threaten the less dominant major party for their seat in the two-party American system. The third reason that the less dominant major party should take a third parties’ issue cleavage seriously is because in the early part of the twentieth century, a third party was able to gain more popular and electoral votes than the second major party in a national election. The minor party was the Progressive Party in 1912, and it was led by Theodore Roosevelt. With that being said, if the second major party is not careful and does not strategize properly, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a rich and/or famous independent or minor party candidate could establish and develop a political organization that could potentially displace it as one of the two major parties, which happened to be the unfortunate plight of the Whig Party before the Civil War. This issue co-optation dataset will also be able to test a new theory about the demise of “significant” third parties in the United States called the dynamic of third parties. The dynamic of third parties basically states that a third party that threatens the two major parties by receiving at least 5% of the presidential popular vote during the previous election will not survive and remain viable enough to threaten the major parties again during the following presidential election (Rapapport and Stone 2005, 4-6). The 5% threshold was taken from Walter Dean Burnham’s (1970) definition of a successful minor party. The idea is that the 5% cut-off point is a good indication that a political realignment is occurring and there are new issues in the country that the political parties are not addressing. Burnham suggests that the 5% threshold indicates that the minor 14

Authors: Russell, Eric.
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Even though the election did not work out as Perot had hoped, in regards to the
future, the dye for another famous and/or wealthy third candidate has been cast. These
types of candidates often have the ability to gain the American electorate’s attention and
these types of candidate-centered third party threats could potentially threaten the less
dominant major party for their seat in the two-party American system.
The third reason that the less dominant major party should take a third parties’
issue cleavage seriously is because in the early part of the twentieth century, a third party
was able to gain more popular and electoral votes than the second major party in a
national election. The minor party was the Progressive Party in 1912, and it was led by
Theodore Roosevelt. With that being said, if the second major party is not careful and
does not strategize properly, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a rich and/or
famous independent or minor party candidate could establish and develop a political
organization that could potentially displace it as one of the two major parties, which
happened to be the unfortunate plight of the Whig Party before the Civil War.
This issue co-optation dataset will also be able to test a new theory about the
demise of “significant” third parties in the United States called the dynamic of third
parties. The dynamic of third parties basically states that a third party that threatens the
two major parties by receiving at least 5% of the presidential popular vote during the
previous election will not survive and remain viable enough to threaten the major parties
again during the following presidential election (Rapapport and Stone 2005, 4-6). The
5% threshold was taken from Walter Dean Burnham’s (1970) definition of a successful
minor party. The idea is that the 5% cut-off point is a good indication that a political
realignment is occurring and there are new issues in the country that the political parties
are not addressing. Burnham suggests that the 5% threshold indicates that the minor
14


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