What Are Single-Issue Political Parties?


Quick Answer

Single-issue political parties form in response to a particular problem that their members want to change in society. One early example in American history was the American Party, also called the Know-Nothing Party, which sought an end to immigration into the United States during the 1850s.

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Prohibition of alcohol is an issue that galvanized some of the American public from the 1800s up through the 1950s. Indeed, two constitutional amendments dealt with it ? one making alcohol illegal and the other repealing that amendment. The Prohibition Party supported candidates for public office whose sole platform was removing alcohol from society.

Ideological parties generally form around a very specific philosophy but have positions about multiple issues. The Green Party in the United States, led by Ralph Nader, focuses on issues dealing with the environment and consumer safety. The Libertarian Party opposes government intervention in just about every sphere of life. The Socialist Party sought to create the same sort of nationalization that took place in the Soviet Union, China and Cuba during the 20th century and garnered at least 400,000 votes for their presidential candidate in every election between 1904 and 1920.

Because single-issue and ideological parties have such a narrow focus, their candidates generally don't win office because their presence in the race is a protest. Often the two major parties adopt planks in their platform that co-opt the ideas of the smaller parties in response to public pressure, making the candidates less viable in general elections.

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