Today The Takeaway devotes the show to a Third Party Convention, an hour of presidential candidates running outside the two-party system. From Socialist Eugene V. Debbs in the early 1900s, to the Green Party’s Ralph Nader in the 1990s and 2000s, the American political system has launched its share of third party iconoclasts.
While third party candidates are rarely successful in attaining office, they can have quite an impact on their mainstream counterparts. That was certainly the case with Strom Thurmond, the legendary politician from South Carolina who ran for president in 1948.
Like most Southerners, Strom was a life-long Democrat, until President Truman sent "To Secure These Rights," his seminal report on racism in the United States, to Congress. In 1948, Thurmond broke from the Democrats to run on the States Rights Ticket, otherwise known as the Dixiecrats.
In accepting the Dixiecrat nomination, Thurmond claimed Civil Rights supporters were simply Communists sympathizers in disguise. But his speech became infamous for its virulent racism, as Thurmond told his audience: "Ladies and gentleman, there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to breakdown segregation and admit the n------ into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches." His supporters cheered wildly.
A new biography of Strom Thurmond examines the Senator’s influence on the modern Republican Party, and explores how third party candidates who may seem extreme often have serious influence on the two-party system.
Joseph Crespino is the author of "Strom Thurmond’s America" and a professor of history at Emory University.