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Has the Prohibition of Fusion Really Hurt Third-Parties?
Unformatted Document Text:  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this dissent was typically directed against the Republicans. Thus, despite the view of many Populists that fusion aided in the extinction of their party via a full cooptation by the Democrats, restrictions on fusion remained a goal of the Republican Party, as Republican dominance was threatened by the cooperation of their political opponents. The Australian ballot – a secret-ballot format implemented in most states around the turn of the twentieth century to the delight of third-party activists – opened the door for Republican legislatures to eliminate fusion candidacies (forcing third-parties to either nominate their own candidate or express verbal support for the candidate of another party), and with it the cooperation between parties that Republicans believed to be disproportionately harming their own party (Argersinger, 1980). The result of these Republican efforts, according to Argersinger, produced “an end to…the importance and even existence of significant third parties,” including (contra Goodwyn’s account) the People’s Party (Argersinger, 1980: 303-305). According to this account, then, it is not fusion’s use that stultified third-parties, but rather the restrictions that have been placed upon it by (predominantly Republican) state legislatures have led to the disappearance of third-parties. Political scientists have also displayed an ambivalent attitude toward fusion and anti- fusion laws. On one hand, legal restrictions placed upon fusion tickets are, in accord with Argersinger’s historical account, portrayed as strategic efforts to remove third-parties from electoral competition. On the other hand, political scientists have not undertaken any rigorous studies examining the tactic’s effectiveness in building or sustaining third-party movements. Still, the literature provides useful data. As Howard Scarrow (1986) pointed out, fusion was utilized in 31 states in the 1890s. Even as states began to restrict its use – by 1910, twenty states had enacted anti-fusion laws – its overall use reached a peak in the 1910s, particularly with 8

Authors: Tamas, Bernard.
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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this dissent was typically directed against the
Republicans. Thus, despite the view of many Populists that fusion aided in the extinction of their
party via a full cooptation by the Democrats, restrictions on fusion remained a goal of the
Republican Party, as Republican dominance was threatened by the cooperation of their political
opponents. The Australian ballot – a secret-ballot format implemented in most states around the
turn of the twentieth century to the delight of third-party activists – opened the door for
Republican legislatures to eliminate fusion candidacies (forcing third-parties to either nominate
their own candidate or express verbal support for the candidate of another party), and with it the
cooperation between parties that Republicans believed to be disproportionately harming their
own party (Argersinger, 1980). The result of these Republican efforts, according to Argersinger,
produced “an end to…the importance and even existence of significant third parties,” including
(contra Goodwyn’s account) the People’s Party (Argersinger, 1980: 303-305). According to this
account, then, it is not fusion’s use that stultified third-parties, but rather the restrictions that have
been placed upon it by (predominantly Republican) state legislatures have led to the
disappearance of third-parties.
Political scientists have also displayed an ambivalent attitude toward fusion and anti-
fusion laws. On one hand, legal restrictions placed upon fusion tickets are, in accord with
Argersinger’s historical account, portrayed as strategic efforts to remove third-parties from
electoral competition. On the other hand, political scientists have not undertaken any rigorous
studies examining the tactic’s effectiveness in building or sustaining third-party movements.
Still, the literature provides useful data. As Howard Scarrow (1986) pointed out, fusion was
utilized in 31 states in the 1890s. Even as states began to restrict its use – by 1910, twenty states
had enacted anti-fusion laws – its overall use reached a peak in the 1910s, particularly with
8


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