Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Clifford Brown




party, parties, american, elections, republican


American Politics has been dominated by the Democratic and Republican Parties for much of its history. Third parties, those bodies representing a challenge to the political system from outside the Democratic and Republican structures, have been largely unsuccessful in challenging for power. The sole exception to this rule was the Republican’s ascension to a main party following the collapse of the Whig Party in 1860, no other third party has been able to replicate this maneuver due largely to structural characteristics associated with American politics and the winner-take-all voting system it employs in most elections. Despite not directly posing a threat to major parties in serious elections, third parties have been able to affect change through the increased saliency they give to various issues and their role in turning elections as a result of attracting major party constituents. This paper examines not only limitations that have hampered the development of third parties, but also prominent third party campaigns of the 20th century and their effect on the development of American political history, as well as the trajectory of the Republican Party starting with its rise to main party prominence and ending with its partial takeover by Dixiecrats, Bryan populists, and the Tea Party movement.