Third Parties in the United States Government

Third parties have existed in the U.S. since the country’s early days, but have rarely had any success in electing officials. Some well-known third parties include the Progressive Party in the early 20th century and the Green Party in the early to mid-2000s. Although these parties never won elections for executive positions at federal or state levels, they are often vital at raising key issues facing society. There are multiple reasons as to why third parties struggle. The structure of American politics is the primary indicator, with the U.S. government based on a two-party system, reflected in all levels of government.

The fact that the elections in the U.S. operate under a winner-take-all system is the biggest contributor to the lack of third parties. The executive office or seats in Congress are awarded to the candidate or party who wins the most votes. This contrasts with Europe (most countries with multiparty systems), where one party may win the executive position and then the legislative seats are split based on the proportion of the vote received by the parties. It provides some influence for even the smallest parties as the ruling party and opposition have to form coalitions. In the U.S. that is not the case, and third-party candidates often lack the name recognition, organizational support, or funding to actively recruit enough voters to win majority votes anywhere. A lot of this has to deal with tradition, from which the U.S. is slow move away from, but there are also structural barriers such as the number of voters and funding required to even enter the race.

A political party is a public organized body with common principles and objectives that operates by forwarding candidates to win elections and focusing on a broad range of issues. Meanwhile, an interest group is a formal, often closed, association created with the aim of addressing a specific objective and focus on a narrow issue. An interest group operates by influencing policy and government officials through lobbying and campaigns. The Forward Party established by Yang seems more reminiscent of an interest group. The group is hyper-focused on the specific issue of election reform. Yang is encouraging Democratic and Republican parties to work with the Forward Party, almost as partners but in a way, the organization is trying to influence other parties and officials. Finally, they are not in any way involved in the conversation for national participation, with the only hopes to potentially get to the ballot in New York State (Holzberg, 2021). It seems that it would be more effective for Yang to pursue these reforms and passions as an interest group lobbying for specific changes.

In the current political climate and context, I would support closed primaries. The fact is that most people currently are deeply embedded in their respective party beliefs. A very small percentage of voters still votes based on candidate alone. When holding open primaries, voters of the opposing party can influence the outcome. Arguably, sometimes it may be to select a candidate that is more favorable to both parties, but it can also be sabotage to select a weaker candidate that will lose the general election (FairVote, n.d.). In a closed primary, only voters affiliating officially with the specific party can vote for the candidate. This is the best approach as it allows voters who will vote for that party both politically and on the issues at hand, to select the best candidate which fits their beliefs and representation.


FairVote. (n.d.). Primaries. Web.

Holzberg, M. (2021). Yang leverages name recognition, fundraising power to launch Forward Party. OpenSecrets. Web.

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1. DemoEssays. "Third Parties in the United States Government." October 27, 2022.


DemoEssays. "Third Parties in the United States Government." October 27, 2022.