Monday, December 8, 2008

Know Your Third Parties: Part 6 - the Prohibition Party

The Prohibition Party is the oldest existing third party in the United States. It has always been a single-issue party, fighting against liberal consumption and commerce of alcohol.

Prohibition has been over for three quarters of a century now, and the Prohibition Party has significantly decreased in size and influence, but they still manage to run a nation ticket every four years.

Since 2003, there have technically been two national parties - the Prohibition National Committee and the National Prohibition Party. For all intensive purposes, they are still one party.

Membership: Less than 60 registered (as of November 2006)

Members Holding Office: 1

Jim Hedges, the Tax Assessor for Thompson Township, PA, is the only known Prohibitionist currently holding public office. He is also the leader of "Action! Prohibitionists", the party's candidate-recruitment organization, and the current Executive Secretary of the party as a National Committeeman. He was first elected in 2002.


The Prohibition Party was founded in 1869 at its first National Convention in Chicago. In 1972 they ran their first presidential campaign, with James Black of Pennsylvania earning 2,100 votes. By 1888 the party's nominees were earning a quarter of a million votes.

By the turn of the century, the Prohibition Party had succeeded in turning many communities dry. Candidates, however, had less success. Only three were elected before Hedges. California Congressman Charles Hiram Randall from 1915-1921 (also served before in the California State Assembly and later on the Los Angeles City Council), Florida Governor Sidney Johnston Catts from 1917-1921, and Argonia, Kansas Mayor Dora Salter - the first woman elected mayor in the U.S. - who served a one year term in 1887.

All three candidates also ran under other tickets. Catts originally ran as a Democrat, only to join the Prohibition Party when losing the Democratic nomination. Salter also ran as a Republican. Randall frequently took advantage of obscure election laws and ran under multiple tickets at the same time (including combinations of the Republican, Democratic, Socialist, Progressive tickets at different times) for his various seats.

The Prohibition movement was part of the greater Progressive Era movements of suffrage and workers' rights. As a result, many of these reforms got passed together, including the 18th Amendment, banning everything alcohol related for 14 years.

After Prohibition finally ended, the party slowly dwindled into obscurity. They changed the name to the National Statesman Party briefly from 1977-1980. In 2008 the party's national chairman, Gene Amondson - a painter, lecturer, and Evangelist from Alaska - ran for President under the Prohibitionist ticket, earning 639 votes nationally.

On the Issues:

The Prohibition Party is very conservative across the board. You can read the full platform here.

Fiscally: They believe in minimizing income and property taxes, promoting excise taxes, and ending the estate tax. They also believe in eliminating the Federal Reserve and restoring an independent Treasury. They prefer a balanced budget, and an end to agribusiness subsidies. On issues of trade, commerce, and labor they are fairly moderate, unless the business is immoral - in which case it should be heavily taxed or banned.

Socially: Obviously, the party supports the prohibition of alcohol, as well as tobacco products, gambling, pornography, illicit drugs, and other "commercial vice". They are also pro-life, pro-second amendment, and pro-states rights. While they are against taxes going towards "sectarian purposes", they oppose the separation of church and state.

Foreign Policy: Their platform is not very specific on these issues, although they do mention that most foreign aid should be ended, with the exception of humanitarian aid.

Other: They believe that it is the responsibility of individuals, and state and local governments to protect the environment.

Final Thoughts

The Prohibition Party today would hardly be worth mentioning if it were not for their long and impressive history. The significance of their impact on American politics during the Progressive Era cannot be understated. Without their influence, the dream of suffrage may have taken much longer to become reality, and the rights of workers might have gone undermined for decades.

Today it is very difficult for Prohibitionists to make any significant gains in American politics - even with Evangelicals - because of modern views towards alcohol consumption. There is simply no serious base for a movement to outlaw such an important product in American life.

Coming Thursday - the Modern Whig Party.

No comments: