By Christopher Moloney
The Whigs were a major political party of the United States from the 1830s to the 1850s.
Two of the party's candidates – William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor – were elected president, though both died during their terms.
The party eventually splintered over the issue of slavery in 1852 and, four years later, the Whig Party disappeared for good.
Or did it?
In 2008, a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans began meeting to discuss what they saw as the "bickering and divisive nature of the American political system" and the need for a group that was focused on "public service before self."
A year later, that veteran's advocacy group became the Modern Whig Party.
"We are committed to the American Whig Party of the 19th century in that we realize that we need to reinvigorate the American citizenry and reinvigorate the American economy," Andrew Evans, the chairman of the Modern Whig Party, told OutFront. "The American Whig Party developed the “American System” to promote the growth of American infrastructure and economic development. The Modern Whigs are working on a “renewed American system” which will work to do the same thing only with approaches that work for Americans in the 21st century and beyond."
Evans says the new/old party is committed to the idea that "debate and collaboration" are essential when it comes to government, but admits it is sometimes difficult to find consensus, particularly when faced with issues "such as homosexual rights and reproductive rights" that are "divisive issues today like slavery was in the 1800s."
This desire for debate led the Modern Whigs to launch the Whig Roundtables, an online discussion where "members, citizens, independent experts, candidates and elected officials can come together and debate, research, collaborate and innovate on issues that affect all Americans."
"The Whig Roundtables will focus on issues from a federal government perspective," Evans says. "Our state chapters have a lot of autonomy, and they may address state issues differently from other states or a federal way. This works because each state has its own issues. It is a message that is not designed by party insiders but designed by party members and even citizens who are not members."
The Modern Whig Party has more than 30,000 registered members in all 50 states. Evans says the bulk of its new members are voters who are looking for an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.
"The biggest problems with the Democrats and Republicans are not the Democrats and Republicans themselves, Evans notes."They are our friends, family members and neighbors, and we must always respect and remember this. There is nothing wrong with good honest debate, but the current battles of ideology between the Democrats and Republicans has consumed those two parties. The key to our continued growth is reaching out to Americans who are fed up with ideological-focused parties but have not yet looked for an alternative."
The party has had some success. In 2010, Time named the Modern Whig Party one of the "Top Ten Alternative Political Movements," and members have been elected to city councils and town advisory commissions.
So far, success on the state and federal levels has been harder to come by.
The biggest hurdle, Evans says, has been ballot access.
"The ballot system is designed by the Republicans and Democratic representatives. They hold the keys, and they essentially make the system extremely difficult to impossible for alternative parties. Is it a fair system where an independent candidate has to gather tens of thousands of signatures when the Republican and Democratic candidate only have to gather a few hundred?"
That hasn't stopped the Whigs from running candidates again this year.
"We have one member running for city council and two members running for U.S. Congress, and they are Pat Martin running to serve Oklahoma’s 5th district and Joe Brown who is running to serve Missouri’s 7th district."
The Whigs have yet to announce which candidate they will support for president, though they have been officially contacted by the Buddy Roemer and Andre Barnett campaigns.
"So far these are the two candidates that we are officially looking at supporting. We are aiming to work with whatever presidential candidate our members choose to support to help build a coalition of support from various groups and parties in order to have the candidate elected president."
What do you think of the Modern Whig Party? Would you consider voting for a third party? Would you be more or less inclined to vote for a candidate like Buddy Roemer if he had the backing of a political party?