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ⓘ American Independent Party




American Independent Party
                                     

ⓘ American Independent Party

The American Independent Party is a far-right political party in the United States that was established in 1967. The AIP is best known for its nomination of former Governor George Wallace of Alabama, who carried five states in the 1968 presidential election running on a segregationist" law and order” platform against Richard M. Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey. The party split in 1976 into the modern American Independent Party and the American Party. From 1992 until 2008, the party was the California affiliate of the national Constitution Party. Its exit from the Constitution Party led to a leadership dispute during the 2016 election.

                                     

1.1. Background Information Wallace campaign and early history

In 1968, the AIP was founded by Bill Shearer and his wife, Eileen Knowland Shearer. It nominated George C. Wallace Democrat as its presidential candidate and retired U.S. Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay as the vice-presidential candidate. Wallace ran on every state ballot in the election, though he did not represent the American Independent Party in all fifty states: in Connecticut, for instance, he was listed on the ballot as the nominee of the "George Wallace Party." The Wallace/LeMay ticket received 13.5 percent of the popular vote and 46 electoral votes from the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. No third-party candidate has won more than one electoral vote since the 1968 election.

In 1969, representatives from forty states established the American Party as the successor to the American Independent Party. In some places, such as Connecticut, the American Party was constituted as the American Conservative Party. In March 1969, the party ran a candidate in a special election in Tennessees 8th congressional district in northwestern Tennessee, where Wallace had done well the previous November, to replace Congressman Robert "Fats" Everett, who had died in office. Their candidate, William J. Davis, out-polled Republican Leonard Dunavant, with 16.375 votes to Dunavants 15.773; but the race was carried by moderate Democrat Ed Jones, with 33.028 votes 47% of the vote.

The party flag, adopted on August 30, 1970, depicts an eagle holding a group of arrows in its left talons, over a compass rose, with a banner which reads "The American Independent Party" at the eagles base.

The American Party, as it was commonly called and legally styled in several states, ran occasional congressional and gubernatorial candidates, but few made any real impact. In 1970, the AIP fielded a candidate for governor of South Carolina, Alfred W. Bethea, a former Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Dillon County. Democrat John C. West defeated the Republican nominee, Albert Watson, an outgoing member of the United States House of Representatives. Bethea finished with only 2 percent of the votes cast. In another 1970 gubernatorial race, the Arkansas American Party ran Walter L. Carruth 1931–2008, a justice of the peace from Phillips County in eastern Arkansas, against Republican Winthrop Rockefeller and Democrat Dale Bumpers. Carruth received 36.132 votes 5.9 percent, not enough to affect the outcome in which Bumpers handily unseated Rockefeller. The American Party had gained ballot access in Tennessee in 1970 as the result of George Wallaces strong second-place showing in the state in 1968, easily crossing the 5 percent threshold required, and held a primary election which nominated a slate of candidates including businessman Douglas Heinsohn for governor. However, neither Heinsohn nor any other candidate running on the American Party line achieved the 5 percent threshold in the 1970 Tennessee election, and it likewise failed to do so in 1972, meaning that the party lost its newfound ballot access, which as of 2017 it has never regained.

In 1972, the American Party nominated Republican Congressman John G. Schmitz of California for president and Tennessee author Thomas Jefferson Anderson, both members of the John Birch Society, for vice president they received well over a million votes. In that election, Hall Lyons, an oilman from Lafayette, Louisiana, and a former Republican, ran as the AP U.S. Senate nominee but finished last in a four-way race dominated by the Democratic nominee, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr.

                                     

1.2. Background Information After the 1976 split

In 1976, the American Independent Party split into the more moderate American Party, which included more northern conservatives and Schmitz supporters, and the American Independent Party, which focused on the Deep South. Both parties have nominated candidates for the presidency and other offices. Neither the American Party nor the American Independent Party has had national success, and the American Party has not achieved ballot status in any state since 1996.

In the early 1980s, Bill Shearer led the American Independent Party into the Populist Party. From 1992 to 2008, the American Independent Party was the California affiliate of the national Constitution Party, formerly the U.S. Taxpayers Party, whose founders included the late Howard Phillips.

                                     

1.3. Background Information 2007 leadership dispute

A split in the American Independent Party occurred during the 2008 presidential campaign, one faction recognizing Jim King as chairman of the AIP with the other recognizing Ed Noonan as chairman. Noonans faction claims the old AIP main website while the King organization claims the AIPs blog. Kings group met in Los Angeles on June 28–29, elected King to state chair. Ed Noonans faction, which included 8 of the 17 AIP officers, held a convention in Sacramento on July 5, 2008. Issues in the split were U.S. foreign policy and the influence of Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips on the state party.

The King group elected to stay in the Constitution Party and supported its presidential candidate, Chuck Baldwin. It was not listed as the "Qualified Political Party" by the California Secretary of State and Baldwins name was not printed in the states ballots. Kings group sued for ballot access and their case was dismissed without prejudice.

The Noonan group voted to pull out of the Constitution Party and join a new party called Americas Party, put together by perennial candidate and former United Nations Ambassador Alan Keyes as a vehicle for his own presidential campaign. Since Noonan was on record with the California Secretary of State as outgoing party chairman, Keyes was added to the state ballots as the AIP candidate. This group elected Markham Robinson as its new chair at the convention.



                                     

1.4. Background Information Presidential tickets

Since the fracture of the American Independent Party between the King and Noonan factions, control of the State Party, and thus the ballot line, has been in the hands of the Noonan faction. Attempts to nominate Chuck Baldwin the 2008 Constitution nominee or Virgil Goode the 2012 Constitution nominee were unsuccessful, as were their independent efforts to make it onto the California presidential ballot.

                                     

1.5. Background Information Nominee

The King faction website is now billed as the Constitution Party of California, stating "Vote Constitution Party--the only party fighting for a return to Constitutional government!" Its blog provides a list of "2010 California Candidates: We endorse the following candidates who are running under the "American Independent" banner in California for 2010!"

                                     

2. Chairmen/Vice-Chairmen

  • Jim King/Reed R. Heustis: 2002–2004
  • Nathan Johnson: 1999–2002
  • Bill Shearer: 1967–1999
  • Edward C. Noonan/Mark Seidenberg: 2006–2008
  • Disputed: Jim King and Markham Robinson claim chairmanship: 2008–present
  • Nancy Spirkoff: 2004–2006
                                     

3. Membership and accidental-membership phenomenon

As of 2016, about 3% of Californias 17.2 million voters are registered with the AIP, making the party the third-largest of Californias political parties, although it is far behind the numbers registered with the Democrats 43%, Republicans 28% and those stating "no party preference" 24%.

However, it has long been thought by political analysts that the party, which has received very few votes in recent California elections, maintains its state ballot status because people join the American Independent Party mistakenly believing that they are registering as "independent" voters. This was confirmed in a Los Angeles Times investigation in 2016, which found "overwhelming" and "indisputable" evidence that thousands of California voters who are registered as affiliated with the American Independent Party on voter forms in fact intended to be registered as "no party preference" i.e., as independent voters. A 2016 poll conducted of California voters registered with the AIP showed that 73% identify themselves as "no affiliation" and 3% identify themselves as "undecided." Upon learning the AIP platform, 50% of registered AIP voters wanted to leave the AIP. A Times review of voting records revealed a wide array of Californians have fallen victim to this error, including celebrities such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Demi Moore and Emma Stone, and Kaley Cuoco. Similarly, in 2008, Jennifer Siebel, fiancee of San Franciscos liberal Democratic mayor Gavin Newsom, attempted to change her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated, but "checked the American Independent box thinking that was what independent voters were supposed to do."

This confusion results in accidentally registered AIP members being unable to vote in presidential primary elections and, in prior years, in all partisan primary elections other than those of the AIP. A number of California registrars of voters had expressed concern over the confusion that the partys name causes. Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said that the California voter form was "confusing and somewhat misleading." However, since the advent of the "top-two" blanket primary in California in 2012, all voters may participate in non-presidential primary elections where nominations for public office are to be made. Presidential nominations and elections of members of party county central committees are still restricted to voters registered in the party where such contests are held, but a party may choose to allow voters with No Party Preference to vote in their presidential primary.



                                     
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