American Independent Party
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The American Independent Party was the third-party electoral vehicle for the 1968 presidential campaign of George Wallace, who carried five southern states running on an openly segregationist platform, and split the vote enough in several other states that typically voted Democratic to throw the election to Richard Nixon. His main goal was to throw the election to the House of Representatives, which has not happened since 1824, where he would give his votes to whichever candidate promised to stop desegregation.
Because it failed to do this Wallace returned to the Democratic Party and sought the Democratic nomination unsuccessfully in 1972 and 1976, while the American Independent Party (AIP) became an increasingly fringy hangout for John Birchers and washed-up segregationists in subsequent presidential elections. In 1972 the American Independent Party nominated Bircher John G. Schmitz of California, who did poorly and carried no states at all, with his highest vote percentage being 9.3 percent in Idaho. The AIP split into two factions (southern segregationists in the American Independent Party, Birchers in the American Party) for the 1976 and 1980 elections and faded off into history. New Right leader Richard Viguerie, disillusioned with the Republican Ford/Rockefeller ticket, tried taking over the AIP in 1976 and ran for its presidential nomination. Still, the nomination instead went to segregationist and former Georgia governor Lester Maddox. Their 1980 candidate was former Louisiana congressman John Rarick. Both campaigns went nowhere. Meanwhile, the splinter American Party nominated another Bircher, Thomas J. Anderson, as their 1976 nominee, and Percy Greaves in 1980.
The American Independent Party is still active only in California and gave Alan Keyes their ballot line in 2008. A related "Independent American Party" has ballot lines in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah and now serves as the state chapter of the radical conservative Constitution Party. The Nevada IAP was founded by AIP founder Bill Shearer, who also led the California AIP during the 1980s and was chairman of the Constitution Party from 1996 to 1999. The Arizona and Utah IAP is a different party founded in 1998, which also claims its roots in the original AIP but no actual succession from that party. The "America's Independent Party" is a new party founded by Alan Keyes supporters in 2008. It is separate from any of the above AIP/IAP organizations. Still, its presidential ticket, Keyes, and vice presidential running mate Wiley Drake, were placed on the California AIP ballot line much to the frustration of Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin, who sued the California AIP over giving their ballot line to Keyes instead of himself.
In the 2012 Presidential election, they were equally confused. Tom Hoefling of America's Party (and the former political director of Alan Keyes' America's Revival, for additional apostrophe sales) took the party's place on the ballot in California, Colorado, and Florida, with a write-in candidacy possible elsewhere; he came 8th nationally. In 2016 they sounded out Donald Trump in case he didn't quite make the Republican #1 spot.
Many members of the current American Independent Party, probably even most of them, are registered by accident. These are people who tried to sign as an independent (as in unaffiliated with any political party) but checked the wrong box and accidentally joined a wingnut far-right party. Whoops.
- See the Wikipedia article on Tom Hoefling.
- There's Still Time for a Serious Third-Party Presidential Run (sic), Russell Berman, The Atlantic, April 6, 2016