It's More Than a Two-Party System!

It's More Than a Two-Party System!
Rosalynn Carter: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: At least two class periods


Independent and third party candidates have influenced numerous elections, including the election of 1980 that Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan.  Some candidates “outside” of the two-party system of Republicans and Democrats have had more clout than others.  John Anderson, who ran as an Independent in 1980, did not make too much difference in that election, but Ross Perot, who ran as a Reform Party candidate in the election of 1996 did take a significant number of votes away from the major candidates.


The purpose of this lesson is to give students an opportunity to assess the platforms and measure the impact of modern independent and third party candidates.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print reference materials; art supplies.


Ask students if they know the difference between independent political parties and third parties (third parties are those who had a real chance of achieving ballot status for their candidates in sufficient states that election is at least a possibility; independent political parties are those that are neither Republican nor Democratic; so third parties are independent). 
Divide the class into at least 5 groups.  Assign or allow groups to choose one of the following parties.  It is their task to create a poster that names their party, identifies its major beliefs, and introduces its most recent candidate for the Presidency.  The poster should also note whether the party is independent or whether it achieved third party status.
The parties are: 

  • Constitution Party (formerly the U.S. Taxpayers Party)
  • Green Party
  • Reform Party
  • Communist Party USA
  • Socialist Labor Party

Extending the Lesson:

The teacher may wish to expand the list of parties to include the two major parties and/or others active locally or within the state.

Sources & Resources:

Web resources for this lesson are numerous and easily accessible through Google or some other search engine.
This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.