Western New York and Third Parties
- I was born and bred in the cradle of minor partyism, so I suppose the blood—the ichor? the fever?—of electoral rebellion washes through my veins. Besides McGovern in 1972 and Goldwater in 1964, the last major-party candidate I might have voted for would have been Al Smith in 1928.
The nation’s first third party, the Anti-Masons, arose in my backyard in 1826 after a footloose drunken apostate Mason, Captain William Morgan, spilled the secrets of the craft in his book Illustrations of Freemasonry and wound up missing in the Jimmy Hoffa sense. (Some local Masons long contended that the sot Morgan hightailed it to Canada and lived out a bibulous life. His ghost can be seen staggering about the stripjoints which stipple the Canadian side of the Niagara border.)
The first third party I’d have supported without reservation, the anarchist-tinged Liberty Party, was born 20 miles down the road in Warsaw, New York. (Reading a biography of John Greenleaf Whittier, who was forever whinging about his ailments as most poets do, I was amused to see him tell Gerrit Smith in 1840 that he planned to vote for Liberty Party candidate James Birney “if my life is spared” through November of that year. Like most hypochondriacs, Whittier lived forever, finally taking his leave 52 years later and entering the valetudinarian Hall of Fame.)