Online Newshour Interview with Historian Michael Beschloss
The Role of Third Parties
LEAH CLAPMAN, Online Newshour: In less than a week, there are going to be over a million Reform Party members meeting in Long Beach, California to select their candidate. Do Americans pay attention to third party conventions?
Michael Beschloss discusses:
The origins of the convention process
Memorable platform fights and floor speeches
Bob Dole and the Presidential election of 1980
June 4, 1979:
The MacNeil/Lehrer Report profiles Senator Bob Dole
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: They really don't because third party conventions in this century have tended to be outgrowths of one personality--Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrats in 1948. Ross Perot in 1996, although this is a candidate with an opponent, this is probably very much in the tradition of someone who is involved in the party that is partially a reflection of this.
LEAH CLAPMAN: Perot has been successful, though, at continuing his candidacy over two elections. Has anyone else been able to do that, any third party candidate?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: It's very rare that a third party candidate lasts more than one election. There are a couple of exceptions. Norman Thomas of the Socialists ran in 1932 against Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover got millions of votes and ran in a number of other elections in which he had some support, although it was never in contention for the presidency. So it is possible that the general tradition in American history is that these third parties are organized around usually a single person or a single issue or both, and usually that does not extend to a long period of time.