Document Type

Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Abstract

This paper will examine how third party efforts can gain influence in politics to make American democracy more representative. It will answer the question: how can third party efforts build political power at the federal, state, and local level? Data was collected through interviews with current staff of the Working Families Party and former staff of a Tea Party organization, FreedomWorks. The two organizations share many striking similarities despite their political differences. These similarities include: cultivating organizational and individual membership, budgets in the tens of millions of dollars, organizing around issue and electoral campaigns, focusing on economic issues, training members, and the goal of pushing the mainstream parties they operate within to represent the values they claim to represent by electing their own candidates. The analysis found that these two groups both represent a renewal in making government accountable to the people through active democratic participation and that they utilize populist resentment of the two mainstream political parties. It is recommended that third party efforts seek to reform policies that create obstacles for their participation, while mostly working within and around the existing two party system. It is also recommended that third party efforts take active steps to maintain their political independence, continue to utilize public opinion in their favor, cultivate individual grassroots members and create leadership structures around them, and seek new funding sources. !

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