A group of Las Vegas neo-Nazis has filed papers in Carson City to create a "White People's Party." While the group stands little chance of achieving electoral success, the media coverage they have already received represents an accomplishment for them.
The idea was the brainchild of Michael O'Sullivan, head of the Las Vegas unit of the racist and anti-Semitic National Vanguard, a newly created neo-Nazi group that broke away from the older National Alliance in 2005. Previously, O'Sullivan headed the Las Vegas National Alliance unit. He has appointed himself chairman of the White People's Party as well.
Supporters of the White People's Party now have a year to collect nearly 8,000 signatures (one percent of voters in the 2004 election) in order to qualify as a political party in Nevada for the 2006 ballot. It may be difficult for the small group of neo-Nazis to collect enough signatures, even in a year. However, O'Sullivan has asserted that his group has financial backers that can help pay for signature collectors.
The constitution of the White People's Party declares that "all policies and decisions to be made shall be governed and decided by whether it is good for our people, non-Jewish people of wholly European descent." According to O'Sullivan, "this is just one early step in the process of building real political clout for Whites and working toward our goals of White living space and a society that will, one day soon, advance our race instead of destroy it."
Extremist Parties Rarely Successful
O'Sullivan's initiative is the latest attempt by white supremacists to try to exploit the American electoral process. Though not uncommon in the United States, electoral activity by extremists is far more common in Europe, where parliamentary systems make it more likely that fringe political parties can gain representation at the local or even national level.
The United States, in contrast, has a strong two-party system that presents legal and other obstacles to third parties of any sort. Its winner-take-all nature also poses problems for fringe political parties. Extremists like former Klansman David Duke, who briefly achieved electoral success as a Louisiana state legislator in 1989, are very rare in the United States.
As a result, most American extremists are self-disenfranchised and rarely vote, much less run for office. Few extremist groups ever put forth candidates for office, even those that are nominally political parties, like the American Nazi Party. However, two other white supremacist groups have also recently announced an intention to get involved in political activity.
One is the newly formed National States Rights Party, based in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It formed in June 2005 as a reaction to the manslaughter conviction of Mississippi Klansman Edgar Ray Killen for his role in the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers. Its name is taken from a defunct white supremacist group led by recently deceased J. B. Stoner. The party claims that it is dedicated to "vigorously defending the Rights, Traditions, Heritages and Culture of the White people of America."
The Minneapolis-based National Socialist Movement, a long-standing neo-Nazi group, also recently announced its intention to run candidates for public office, including the 2008 U.S. presidential race. It even formed a political action committee, PAC 88 (the number actually stands for "Heil Hitler"), in March 2005 to pool resources to help elect "pro-White" candidates "who demonstrate a positive concern for the issues relating to the survival and well-being of White American's [sic]."
However, openly extremist—especially white supremacist—candidates rarely have an actual chance at victory. One recent example of their failure at the polls occurred in Bozeman, Montana, where a National Alliance activist, Kevin McGuire, ran for the local school board to "promote white racial identity and pride." His campaign drew considerable media attention for a small town school board race, but McGuire won only 157 votes—a mere 3.6 percent of the total votes cast. Other candidates received over 4,000 votes each.
Platforms over Victories
Because of the low chance of success, most extremists who run for public office do not expect to win an election, but rather run because they will get more public attention and a better platform from which they can promote their extreme viewpoints.
As a result, one tactic that extremists use from time to time is take advantage of elections in which no one from one major political party bothers to run against a popular incumbent of the other political party. In such instances, when an incumbent is essentially unopposed, an extremist will run in the political primary of the out-of-office party, facing no competition, and may actually become that party's nominee.
In this fashion, San Diego white supremacist Tom Metzger became an official Democratic Congressional candidate in the 1980 election. The most recent person to use this tactic was Tennesseean James L. Hart, who won the 2004 Republican nomination for a northwest Tennessee district represented by a popular Democratic incumbent. Hart's platform was to oppose "less favored races" from reproducing or immigrating to the United States. In the general election, his opponent won the great majority of the votes, but Hart received considerable media attention between the primary and the general election.
Some extremists have openly admitted that their goal was not really to win office. Ohio anti-Semite Jim Condit, Jr., for example, ran for Congress in 2002 and 2004. However, his stated goal was really to utilize FCC regulations that limit the ability of radio stations to refuse to play or alter the content of political advertisements in order to air radio messages that tried to link Israel to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to accuse Jews of controlling the media.
The White People's Party, then, is unlikely to achieve any actual electoral success. Unfortunately, however, it might well succeed in drawing additional attention and publicity to O'Sullivan, the National Vanguard, and their racist and anti-Semitic message.