Book Review: Challengers to Duopoly

Dr. J. David Gillespie is a political science professor at the College of Charleston and the Citadel. He has written a number of articles on third parties and independent candidates over the years, including a new book entitled “Challengers to Duopoly: Why Third Parties Matter in American Two-Party Politics“. The book, published the University of South Carolina Press, is a clearinghouse for information about third parties in the United States.

Challengers to Duopoly is a well crafted book that offers information on even the most obscure parties in the modern U.S. politics and in American history. Gillespie does not seek to falsely amplify the role that third parties have played in the American political system. Instead, he wisely recognizes the foibles of third parties, while recognizing the important role many of them have played. It is not often that you can find an honest text which acknowledges the futility of many third parties and the paranoia or egoism that’s so common amongst it’s candidates, while also highlighting the fact that third parties have been on the cutting edge of most political evolutions in U.S. history–including breaking race, gender, and sexual orientation barriers and being the first parties to promote abolition of slavery, suffrage for women, child labor laws, and a national healthcare system. Challengers to Duopoly is brimming with interesting accounts of the exploits of major political figures like Jesse Ventura, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and parties like the Charter Party, Right to Life Party, and American Nazi Party.

Challengers to Duopoly is a book any third party aficionado should look into.

The Cover of Challengers to Duopoly


20 thoughts on “Book Review: Challengers to Duopoly

  1. Peter Gemma

    I’m a strong believer in and armchair historian of 3rd parties so I’ll definitely get this book. Also, I have a small political button collection – obscure or fringe candidates mostly so I’ll need it for research. There are a wide range of pins: Lightburn-Billings: Constitution Party ’64 (only on the ballot in TX – rec’d 6000 votes) to lots of Prohibition Party candidates, to any number of offshoots from the Communist Party – Socialist Workers, etc., and one of my favorites: George Lincoln Rockwell, American Nazi Party write-in candidate in ’64 (I believe he rec’d about 212 votes). I’ll buy the book for sure.

  2. Gene Berkman

    NF – The slogan was “Let a Lightburn in the White House.”

    This was a reference to Lyndon Johnson – big spender in general – claiming that he was cutting waste by turning off light bulbs in the White House.”

    Another slogan – from Goldwater supporters – was “Turn off Light Bulb Johnson” – a play on LBJ’s initials.

  3. NewFederalist

    Gene- That is not the one I had in mind. The one I was thinking of was “Let the country get well with JBL” which was a play on “All the way with LBJ”. Lightburn was Joseph B. Lightburn. I didn’t remember yours so thanks for playing! I learned something today!

  4. Gene Berkman

    NF – My source for the slogans is the outstanding (but now dated) book “The Farther Shores of Politics” by George Thayer, published around 1967.

  5. Trent Hill Post author

    “Lightburn-Billings: Constitution Party ’64 (only on the ballot in TX – rec’d 6000 votes)”

    I thought I might be the only one who followed interesting little sidenotes like this. Thanks for showing me i’m not alone.

    But seriously, the book is a great reference point.

  6. Darryl W. Perry

    I love finding out the little sidenotes to Presidential Elections. Something else interesting from the 1964 Presidential election Kirby Hensley/John Hopkins (Universal) as a write-in candidate only in California received 19 votes. Based on my research – this is the lowest vote total for any declared general election Presidential candidate.

    Hensley was the founder of the Universal Life Church.

  7. Richard Winger

    Darryl, in the November 1976 election, California let any presidential candidate file as a declared write-in, with no requirement that the candidate file a list of presidential electors pledged to him or her. That was so easy, 23 people filed to have their write-ins for President counted. Five of them were credited with only one vote. They were Wallace Snow, J. Arnold Mobley, J. John Gordon, Edward E. Gentry, and John Hancock Abbott. They are all listed in the Statement of Votes for Nov. 1976. There are also some who got two, or three, votes. None of these people got any votes in any other state.

    After that experience, California changed the law and forced presidential write-in candidates to file a full slate of presidential electors. Each candidate for elector must file a notarized statement of candidacy. That cut the number of declared write-ins down to very few.

  8. Jill Pyeatt

    Richard @ 11: Gail Lightfoot was the one who arranged Ron Paul’s write-in status in California, and I was proud to be the notary. Because of her activism, Ron Paul’s votes counted in 2008.

  9. NewFederalist

    Gene- I found a copy of the Thayer book you mentioned fo 99 cents! The shipping cost was twice that but it’s on its way. Thanks again for the tip.

  10. Steven Brown

    Being familiar with Gillespie’s earlier very fine book (Politics at the Periphery), also about third parties, I am very much looking forward to reading this one.

  11. Precede with Caution, via Lake

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