There's been an idiot-trap for California voters, in operation for, oh,
call it a half-century. The _Los Angeles Times_ just ran a story
checking on the 3% of registered California voters currently falling
for that trap, highlighting some now-embarrassed celebrities who did the
It has to do with the concept of 'voting independent', and a minor and
extremely far-right party whose name is 'American Independent Party'
Ah, you're way ahead of me, right? Almost every California voter since
1968 who ever registered AIP, did so in the mistaken belief he/she was
I've known about this trap for a long time. Here's the way I explained
it in 2008 to the Ex-VA Linux Systems mailing list:
A few years ago, while researching the "County Political Parties"
entries in http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/household.html
I uncovered something that might amuse:
Ever wonder about why the "American Independent Party" (ex-George
Wallace) remains on all California partisan-office ballots, even though there's
been no such party organisation in the state for 30+ years?
It's because a Bircher outfit called "Constitution Party" (primarily in
Colorado, Montana, and western Pennsylvania) kept it on the ballots (as
a sort of brand name) to function as an _idiot trap_. That is, it's
listed solely in order to attract votes from citizens attempting to vote
"independent" but unclear on the concept of how that actually works.
Said voters see the word "independent" in close association with
nationalism, mark that entry, and never realise they've voted for a
party -- and Constitution Party gets their vote.
In this way, Constitution Party remained (albeit under a different name)
permanently on the California ballot and in the public's eye, even
though they had nothing like the 1% registration statewide that's
required to be _added_ to the ballot: State law requires that a
returning party merely never fall below 1/15% of state registered voters
in any subsequent general election, and accidental votes from morons
helped Constitution Party stick around.
I say "remained", because, in 2006, Constitution Party split because
candidates in several states cautiously allowed as how abortions _might_
be justified in cases of rape, incest, and abortions performed to save
the life of the mother, leading to a big fight and numerous states'
parties disaffiliating because the central organisation isn't wacko
enough. The California branch is one of the many that left, and
re-dubbed itself "America's Independent Party". _It_ now operates the
ex-Wallace American Independent Party "franchise" within California.
(Repeal the income tax, and protect our Precious Bodily Fluids!)
(Post-2008, 'America's Independent Party', the tiny reactionary faction
controlling the AIP brand in California, appears to have renamed itself
a second time to 'America's Party'.)
The actual American Independent Party was a one-shot party formed to
back southern racist George C. Wallace's presidential campaign where
Wallace primarily opposed racial integration, favoured reducing the
size and influence of the US Federal government, and pledged to either
win the Vietnam War in 90 days or withdraw all troops. The party fell
apart at the end of the 1968 campaign (that elected Republican candidate
Richard Nixon), but AIP remained an entry on the California ballot
because of the rules I describe -- an artifact of voter statistics.
I mentioned long ago in the prior thread that my state of California
recognises six political parties:
o American Independent Party (the idiot bait), http://www.aipca.org/
o Democratic Party, http://www.cadem.org/
o Green Party, http://www.cagreens.org/
o Libertarian Party, http://ca.lp.org/
o Peace and Freedom Party, http://www.peaceandfreedom.org/
o Republican Party, https://www.cagop.org/
Minor parties in general are discussed briefly at the end of this post.
What is 'independent', in this context? It means the voter has declined
to provide any party affiliation to the county registrar of voters.
California officials refer to such a voter as a 'no party preference'
voter (formerly 'decline-to-state' or 'non-partisan'). Basically, when
registering to vote, you are asked 'Do you wish to state a party
preference?' You check either 'yes' or 'no'. Under 'yes',
six choices of party as shown in the LA Times graphic -- one of which is
AIP. Thus, AIP is an idiot trap.
And 3% of the California's registered voters fall for it.
Why would an intelligent California voter _truly_ register independent
(i.e., no party preference)? I cannot for the life of me figure out a
single compelling reason, as doing so has no functional advantage. As
an interesting quirk, three of California's parties permit
no-party-preference voters to vote their ballots, and three do not. For
Given the USA's severe (and little-recognised) Duvenger's Law problem, at
any given time over the centuries there have almost always been just
_two_ dominant political parties that win almost all elections -- except
on some interesting occasions where 'party realignments' occurred, and
sometimes entire parties fragmented and dissolved.
o Federalist Party (1792): lost strength when its leaders died around
1800, never regained power. Discredited and dissolved in 1815 because
of a fatal political faux pas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartford_Convention
o Democratic-Republican Party (1799): Thomas Jefferson's party, rival to
the Federalists, and opposed to strong central government power.
Splintered in 1824 over a highly dysfunctional Presidential election where
the Electoral College deadlocked and Congress had to pick a President and VP
(widely condemned as a 'corrupt bargain'). One fragment (that backed former
general and charismatic populist Andrew Jackson) became the Democratic Party
(1832), which survives, much changed, to this day. The other became the
Whig Party (1833).
o Whig Party (1833): Received diverse collections of Andrew Jackson
opponents. Self-destructed over the slavery issue in 1856. The
anti-slavery northern faction split off as the Republican Party
(launched in 1854). The pro-slavery southern faction briefly split off
(1845) as a nationalist/nativist party under a series of now-obscure
names and is now commonly known as the Know Nothing Party, which
dissolved during the American Civil War (1861-1865) over slavery.
I assume former members in the South mostly became southern Democrats,
an odd regionalism that persisted until the late 20th Century.
The American Civil War left two surviving major political parties, the
same ones that exist today (Democratic and Republican) -- though the
tenets of both have changed _very_ radically since 1865.
The legacy of slavery did not go away, of course, and a major realignment
_without_ party dissolution occurred after President Lyndon B. Johnson
(Democrat, and from Texas) coaxed Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act
of 1865, enacting long-overdue major protections of voting rights, and
mostly having the effect of [re-]enfranchising black voters in the South.
According to legend, President Johnson said to observers when he signed
the bill that it would cost the Democratic Party the South for a
generation. If anything, he underestimated. Southern Democrats slowly
trickled to the Republican Party after '65, and moved there en-masse
under Ronald Reagan (1980s).
Part of the reason the partisan divide has become so intense and angry
is a growing (and IMO correct) perception that the Republican Party has
become (starting in the Reagan era) the party of racism and xenophobia,
starting with its absorption of most Southern Democrats. But the
greater part is, of course, the Republican Party veering ideologically
away from the mainstream more generally under the influence of Tea Party
radicals, while Democratic Party politics has changed very little since,
say, around 1970, remaining fractious and diverse.
Meanwhile, there _have_ been a number of interesting _minor_ political
parties. Although kept from winning significant numbers of political
office races by the distortive effect of first-past-the-post voting
(Duvenger's Law), they have had a vital role in promoting ideas later
adopted by the major parties.
For example, several democratic-socialist parties, sometimes regional,
sometimes national, promoted the idea of nationally organised old-age,
survivors', and disability insurance for at least 20-30 years before
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law
in 1935. Pretty much every significant social welfare, social
insurance, or political reform idea traces back to one or more of these
now-obscure minor parties.
Mr. Bernie Sanders, whom I intend to vote for in the California
Democratic Party primary election on June 7th (and who will lose
nomination to Hillary Clinton, later this summer), describes himself as
a 'democratic socialist', which is basically just branding and owes to
some of his fights with the Democratic Party establishment earlier in
his career. Notably, though, the term 'socialist' is political poison
in many parts of the USA, where low-information voters cannot quite get
their minds around the reality of mixed economies, and cannot
disambiguate 'socialist' from 'Communist'. Sad.
 Its nickname 'Grand Old Party' or GOP originated in a bit of
passing publicity in 1875, even though the USA's Democratic Party is, in
fact, 22 years older.
 It's not for nothing that several black Americans I know, who were
born around 1965-6, were named 'Lyndon' by their parents.
 Thus, early 20th Century entertainment figure and political humourist
Will Rogers's famous quip: 'I am not a member of any organized
political party. I'm a Democrat.'