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Third parties rarely win in presidential elections because the Republican and Democratic parties have long dominated the American political landscape Since 1856 every president elected by US voters has belonged to one of those two parties Almost every states governor members of Congress and state legislators are also members of these two political groups But they are not the only political parties active in the United States There are more than 30 others which are referred to as third parties Third parties have always been a part of Americas political process and although a third-party candidate has never won the presidency the organizations play several important roles -- from educating voters on specific issues to affecting real change in government policy For example Ralph Nader in 2000 entered the Presidential race in Spring 2000 claiming that his economic policies could solve the deficit problem created by Reagan and Bush He was way ahead in the polls at first and this caused the Democrat Party to adopt his policy While Third Party presidential candidates stand little chance of being elected members of Americas third parties have historically promoted concepts and policies that have been incorporated as important parts of peoples social and political lives For example both the Prohibition and Socialist Parties promoted womens suffrage during the late 1800s but it was only in 1916 that this movement gathered the support of the both the Democrats and Republicans the Populist and Socialist Parties reduced working hours to achieve the 40 hour working week and it was the Populist and Socialist Party coalition that first supported a progressive tax system that would base a persons tax liability on their amount of income in the 1890s Third Parties can also swing elections Their potential importance is shown in fact that 5 out of 9 presidential elections between 1968 and 2000 a third party played a significant role On three of those occasions - 1968 1992 and
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