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Bizarre Political Parties in U.S. History

Updated on January 21, 2013
"Know Nothing" Party artwork representing their concept of an ideal citizen.
"Know Nothing" Party artwork representing their concept of an ideal citizen.

There have been many political parties in American history, but only a select few have made a significant impact. Here is a sample of the myriad of unusual and obscure political parties in U.S. history, both past and present . All of these political parties have run candidates for office, although not necessarily for president. They are in no particular order.

A cannabis legalization march in 2001
A cannabis legalization march in 2001 | Source

U.S. Marijuana Party

One of two currently active parties on this list, the Marijuana Party obviously advocates for the legalization of cannabis use. They argue that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol and nicotine. Since those two substances are legal, they believe pot should be too. They may have a point (I don’t know enough about narcotics to have an opinion), but they make this list for being a single-issue party devoted to a very minor political issue. Why aren’t their single-issue parties devoted to economic growth, health care, education, etc.? The U.S. Marijuana Party has run candidates for state-wide office, but so far they do not seem to have a 2012 presidential candidate. They espouse views that generally correspond with those of the more well-known Libertarian Party.

1892 Prohibition Party Convention
1892 Prohibition Party Convention

Prohibition Party

The oldest and most durable party on this list, the Prohibition Party (as its name suggests) advocates for the criminalization of all alcoholic beverages. It also wants stronger reinforcement of laws against other drugs. I bet a debate between these folks and the Marijuana Party would be entertaining! This remarkably resilient party has nominated a presidential candidate every cycle since 1872, including this year, although their 2008 candidate received only a few hundred votes nationwide. By comparison, their 1904 candidate received over 250,000 votes despite a much smaller voting pool. They are the oldest third party in U.S. history.

John Hagelin
John Hagelin | Source

Natural Law Party

This party believed that transcendental meditation was the key to solving the country’s problems. They advocated government subsidization of expert meditators to teach people their techniques. This “New Age” party ran physicist John Hagelin for president in 1992, 1996, and 2000. He failed to make a significant electoral dent and the party gradually faded away, although a tiny splinter group still endures in Michigan.

Anti-Masonic symbol
Anti-Masonic symbol | Source

Anti-Masonic Party

Yet another single issue party, the Anti-Masons believed the organization known as the Free Masons (which still exists today) were a secret society aiming to take over the country and eliminate its democratic principles. Ironically, many of the founding fathers themselves had been Free Masons, including George Washington. The party existed during the 1830’s. They won two gubernatorial elections (in Vermont and Pennsylvania) and ran a candidate for president in 1836. The Anti-Masons were later absorbed by the Whig Party.

Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore

Know Nothing Party

Officially named the American Party, the Know Nothings were essentially a glorified hate group that were politically relevant in the mid-19th century. They were xenophobes who wanted to restrict immigration, especially from countries with large Catholic populations like Germany and Ireland. They believed that only white male Protestants should be able to run for office. The party was very controversial even by 1850’s standards. Future president Abraham Lincoln was one of many who were disgusted by them. They ran former president Millard Fillmore as their presidential nominee in 1856. He captured one state (Maryland) but failed to seriously complete. The party had dissolved by the 1860’s. The Know Nothings are the least unusual party on this list, however, as many other political parties have adopted their basic ideology over the last 150 years.


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    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Yes indeed! Good point. Thanks for the votes and the comment.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      These certainly are/were bizarre political parties in the U.S. It is even more weird that they thought that they could actually garner enough votes for a serious run. Voted up and interesting.

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks, I recently wrote a sequel to this one called "more bizarre u.s. political parties." Actually I should probably put a link to it on this one!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I really enjoyed reading this hub and always like to learn new things.

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Joespivey - that is a great name for a political party! Thanks everyone for your comments!

    • profile image

      rickylicea 5 years ago

      It's interesting that that none of the ideologies behind these parties have died down, except the prohibitionists.

      However that seems to have shifted on to the War on Drugs.

      Good Hub.

    • joespivey profile image

      Joe Spivey 5 years ago

      The most bizarre political party in the UK is the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. The name is a bit of a giveaway!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Another Very Interesting Hub!!! Thanks for sharing!!!