5 Third-Party Candidates (And What They Did After They Lost)

Ralph Nader and Bob Barr couldn't gain any electoral traction on Tuesday. But in honor of their campaigns, let's look back at some notable third-party candidates.

1. John B. Anderson, 1980: Doonesbury's Choice

For most of the century, third-party candidates attracted the disaffected fringe voter. John Anderson—until his 1980 run an unknown Republican congressman from Illinois—drew from the center.

Anderson began his career as a conservative, but gradually became a progressive on social issues and foreign policy. Anderson was the first Republican congressman to call for Richard Nixon's resignation. By 1980, after dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, he was enough of a maverick to declare an independent candidacy.

"He is running in what he has called a "˜crazy' year, one in which the Democrats and Republicans seem about to nominate candidates so unpopular that more than half the potential voters have been telling pollsters they wish there were another choice," Time magazine wrote that spring, referring to Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan.

Anderson made an appearance on Saturday Night Live and received the endorsement of cartoon character Mike Doonesbury. "He has become a cult figure on campuses and with show-biz liberals," Time wrote "That is the strangest irony of all, because Anderson is just about the reverse of a trendy personality."

Reagan won the presidency with just over half the popular vote. Anderson finished a distant third with 5,719,437 vote—or 7 percent of the popular vote—and then dropped out of sight.

He spent the following years as a visiting professor—Stanford University, University of Illinois College of Law, Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Oregon State University, University of Massachusetts. He now is a visiting professor at the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University. Anderson also is chairman of the Center for Voting and Democracy and was president of the World Federalist Association, which lobbied to strengthen the institutions of the United Nations and for the creation of an international criminal court.

2. George Wallace, 1968: The "Law & Order" Candidate

wallace-for-prez.jpgAfter being elected Governor of Alabama in 1962, in a speech written by a known Ku Klux Klansman, George Wallace famously declared, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." The next year, the Democrat Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to block two African-American students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.

By 1968, the country was deeply divided over the Vietnam War, and reeling from anti-war protests and race riots. Much of the country wanted a president who would restore "law and order." Running against former Vice President Richard Nixon (Republican) and sitting VP Hubert Humphrey (Democrat), the bulldog Wallace tapped into a deep well of white disaffection in the North as well as the South. Macho movie star John Wayne reportedly inscribed a check to Wallace with the words, "Sock it to 'em, George."

Nixon won the election, but Wallace received 9,906,473 votes—5.53 percent of the popular vote—and overwhelming majorities in Alabama and Mississippi. He took 46 electoral votes.

Alabama reelected Wallace governor in 1970. In 1972, he began a strong run for the Democratic presidential nomination, campaigning against school busing. The day before he won the Michigan and Maryland primaries, Wallace was shot and paralyzed while stumping at a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland.

The assassination attempt ended Wallace's campaign. He was reelected Alabama governor in 1974 and the next year announced another bid for the presidency. But another Southern governor, Jimmy Carter, drew Wallace's regional support and he dropped out of the race.

george-wallace.jpgWallace was barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term as governor. In 1978, he was divorced from his second wife. (His first wife had succeeded him as governor in 1966 and died of cancer in 1968. A third marriage ended in divorce in 1987.)

Time effected a change on the old segregationist. In 1979, he contacted civil rights leader John Lewis—who was severely beaten by Wallace's state troopers during a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965—and a number of other African Americans to ask their forgiveness for his past actions. He returned to the governor's office in 1982, on the strength of Alabama's majority black vote. And in a speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he confessed that his opposition to school integration was wrong.

Wallace retired at the end of his term in January 1987 and died in 1998, at age 79.

3. Eugene Debs, 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920: The 5 Timers Club

Debs.jpgEugene Debs had been a railway union organizer in the 1890s. While in prison for his union activities, he read the works of Karl Marx for the first time. In 1905 he helped found the Industrial Workers of the World, which became known as the Wobblies.

In the 1912 election—Debs' fourth campaign for the presidency—Debs won 901,551 votes, just short of 6 percent of the popular vote, but a distant fourth behind Taft. Debs finished third in his 1920 run, with 913,693 votes—3.41 percent of the popular vote. That isn't bad, considering the Socialist leader was in prison at the time.

An opponent of America's participation in World War I—he saw it as a boon to capitalists—Debs had been jailed in 1918 for making a speech against the war. He was charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which made it a crime to interfere with the war effort.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and his citizenship was revoked. Debs appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction. In his majority opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. declared free speech does not include "the right to shout 'fire' in a crowded theater."

In 1921, President Warren Harding commuted Debs' sentence to time served. Some 50,000 followers welcomed him home on his release. He died of heart failure in 1926, at age 70. His citizenship was restored posthumously in 1976.

4. Norman Thomas, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948: The Losingest Candidate

norm-thomas.jpgSocialist Norman Thomas was perhaps America's losingest third-party candidate, but he lived long enough to become an American institution. Of his six consecutive runs for president, his best showing was in 1932, when he received 884,781 votes.

He was the Socialist successor to Eugene Debs, but unlike Debs, Thomas did not have a working-class background. He began his career as a clergyman, the son and grandson of clergymen.

Today he probably would be called a social democrat, and his radical platform—low-cost housing, the five-day work week, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, minimum-wage laws and the prohibition of child labor—were absorbed into President Roosevelt's New Deal.

Thomas was neither a Marxist (Leon Trotsky quipped, "Norman Thomas called himself a socialist as a result of a misunderstanding") nor was he satisfied with the two major parties. (Anticipating Nader, he called it the "Tweedledee and Tweedledum" choice.) He opposed America's entry into World War II, protested the internment of Japanese Americans during the war, and denounced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the war's end.

After his final presidential run in 1948, Thomas maintained his membership in the Socialist Party. "I enjoy sitting on the sidelines and Monday-morning quarterbacking on other people's performances," he said. He wrote several books in the 1950s and "˜60s and pursued efforts toward international peace. On his 80th birthday, in 1964, he received a check for $17,500, "raised by the dwindling Socialist faithful," Time reported. "Thomas said he would divvy up the money among his favorite left-wing causes: "˜It won't last long, because every organization I'm connected with is going bankrupt.'" He died in December 1968, at age 84.

5. H. Ross Perot, 1992, 1996: He Had $3 Billion Sitting Back Home

Perot.jpgIf Washington were the problem, and if politicians lacked the mettle to lead, the solution had to come from a straight-talking political outsider who had proved his leadership qualities by running a successful corporation and making himself wealthy in the process.

In 1992, 19,742,267 Americans agreed that man was Texas data processing tycoon Henry Ross Perot, who focused his campaign on trade and campaign finance reform. America's industrial base was shrinking quickly, and Perot warned of "a giant sucking sound" of American jobs moving south to Mexico if the North American Free Trade Agreement were enacted.

The 19 percent of the popular vote the Texas billionaire received was enough to deny reelection to Republican President George H.W. Bush and send Democrat Bill Clinton to the White House.

How'd Perot make his fortune? He began his business career as an IBM salesman, founded Electronic Data Systems in 1962, and sold the company to General Motors in 1984 for $2.5 billion. He resigned as EDS chairman in 1986 and founded the competing Perot Systems two years later.

perot.jpgBuoyed by his strong showing in 1992, Perot established the Reform Party in 1995 to institutionalize a platform calling for balancing the federal budget, overhauling the health-care and income-tax systems, and placing restrictions on lobbying.

As the party's 1996 nominee for president, Perot received 8,085,402 votes, or 8 percent of the popular vote. In 2000, Perot declined to run again and worked to undermine conservative pundit Patrick Buchanan's candidacy on the Reform ticket. In the general election, Buchanan took 0.4 percent of the popular vote and dealt the Reform party a death blow.

At 79, Perot remains chairman emeritus and a board member of Perot Systems. His pet cause is securing special medical care for injured members of the U.S. military. He also heads the Hillwood real estate firm in Dallas, owns the money management firm Perot Investment, and is principal investor in the intellectual property fund IP Advantage. He is the author of seven books and, according to the Perot Systems website, was named by MSNBC.com as one of "History's Ten Greatest Entrepreneurs" of the last 1,500 years.

* * * * *
There have been many more notable third-party candidates, including Teddy Roosevelt (in 1912), Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, "Fighting Bob" La Follette, James Birney, Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond. We'll save those stories for 2012.

David Holzel has a thing for presidents. He is editor of the Franklin Pierce Pages.

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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