Third parties. We’ve actually got ‘em in America. They’re disrespected. They get little to no media attention most election years. They have to fight for ballot access. And they are not welcomed into the debates. In 1996 one segment of The Simpsons Halloween special involved candidates Bob Dole and Bill Clinton being taken over by the aliens Kang and Kodos. Homer’s “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos” punchline has become sort of an internet joke, but the moment when Homer reveals the true form of the candidates remains one of the best pieces of political commentary of all time.

No matter how bad the mainstream candidates are, the one unthinkable thing is to vote for anyone else running. But this year is a little different, and it’s thanks to Trump and a little bit thanks to Sen. Bernie Sanders. The dominance of the Republican and Democratic mainstream is more in doubt than it has been since 2000 when Ralph Nader went all in against a sitting vice president, Al Gore. This year people are swearing that third parties could really change the outcome in November.

The Big Little Parties

The Libertarian Party is getting a surprising amount of mainstream press attention thanks to the seemingly high potential for disaffected NeverTrumpers to cross over to it. The largest third party in the nation is into free markets, freedom of speech, legalized consensual activities from prostitution to drug use, and it has been anachronistically pro-gay, unlike two major parties we could mention. Usually it’s antiwar, but sometimes it forgets about that. In spite of being on the ballot in all 50 states, the LP cannot get its shit together. When it nominated former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in 2012 it had its best year since 1980. That translated to…one percent of the vote. If this is truly the year of the LP, that might mean repeating or slightly beating that count with a redo of Johnson. Or it might go full crazy and nominate John McAfee, the weirdly charismatic, slightly alarming former software engineer.

For people who still can’t get over Bush v. Gore, and therefore curse the name Ralph Nader, turn away, it’s–the Green Party. The socialist-lite party that loves the environment and various peacenik attitudes tries hard and occasionally gets somewhere. And yeah, there are those who think it gave us George W. Bush (as well as those who say it did not), but Nader in 2000 was kind of an awesome proto-Bernie Sanders in his complete disinterest in stepping aside for the good of Democrats who just wanted to trample him into the ground. The Greens have picked Dr. Jill Stein as their candidate in 2016.

The Constitution Party is one of those sneaky parties that seems to be small government, and in fact began as the Taxpayer’s Party in 1991, but oops, it’s also full of theocratic and paleoconservative yearnings. It’s not overtly racist, though it is rather xenophobic, and it’s more honest about its theocraticness than a lot of parties. But it’s still scarily convinced that the U.S. is a Bible-based nation. The Constitution Party’s nominee for 2016 is one Darrell Castle, who wants to “defend Western civilization.”

Sen. Ben Sasse., GOP mainstream savior?

Sen. Ben Sasse., GOP mainstream savior?

The Party That NeverTrumpers Want to Exist

Donald Trump panic among the Republicans has not yet dissipated. Previously upstanding members of the GOP, such as 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and consistently wrong pundit William Kristol, have threatened to either start a new party, run as independents or take over an existing third party. Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor, seems to have committed to making the “Renegade Party” a real, presumably grossly neocon thing. Kristol has been cooing over the possibility of Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse making an independent run.

The Blessedly Unpopular Third Parties

It’s not all earnest, optimistic alternatives to the tiresome status quo. Third parties are also where you find the crazies, the archaic nerds and the actual Nazis. The American Nazi Party is a thing, unfortunately. Its website (which we’re not linking to) has a lot of caps, and at one point autoplayed audio, in case the whole Nazi thing wasn’t already a dealbreaker for you.

The Prohibition Party has been in existence since 1869. It was seriously ahead of its time back in the 19th century in terms of welcoming women into the fold and advocating for their right to vote because many women supported temperance. Which is all well and good, sure, but that whole failing to learn from alcohol prohibition, and wanting to make sure the drug war stays a thing also makes it backward. Thankfully, the Prohibition Party gets about 500 votes every four years. Its 2016 convention was canceled for lack of interest in teetotalling. How the mighty have (thankfully) fallen.

Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party USA? It was founded in 1919, and it’s still here. People were mean to the commie party from the Red Scare through McCarthyism, but it also pretended Joseph Stalin was neat and the Soviet Union was swell. Fuck ‘em.

Hey, more Nazis. The National Socialist Workers Movement was founded in 1974, and as of 2011 was “the largest supremacist group, with about 400 members in 32 states.” That about sums up its power and influence.

Oh, and don’t forget the Trump delegate of choice’s white nationalist party, the American Freedom Party. It’s too wussy to be overtly Nazi, too stupid to be anything besides bargain-basement Nazis. It has existed for six years, and most people only know about it thanks to the Trump campaign’s delegate blunder.

The ‘Wait, That Exists?’ Third Parties

Guys, there’s an Objectivist Party. It has conventions and everything. It was founded in 2008. According to Wikipedia, founder Tom Stevens has declared the following to be Objectivist holidays: Free Trade Day, Space Exploration Day and Individual Rights Day. I mean, those sound like fun holidays and all, but somehow that’s still awkward. Also, Ayn Rand, man.

The United States Marijuana Party was founded in 2002 and endorsed the LP’s Gary Johnson for president in 2012. Basically, it would be easy to mock it for being so on-the-nose with its stoner goals if the war on drugs wasn’t really fucking important. It supports anti-prohibition candidates for various offices, and its only crime is not hiring a copy editor for its site.

It’s not so weird that there’s a Peace and Freedom Party. It’s weird that its 2012 pick was actress Roseanne Barr for prez and antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan for VP and I 100 percent do not remember that being a thing. Before that, it had Ralph Nader for prez in 2008, and in 2004 it ran imprisoned American Indian movement member Leonard Peltier, whom many people believe was wrongly sentenced for the murder of two FBI agents in 1975. He actually got on the ballot in California and received more than 25,000 votes. Basically, it’s a precious relic of the 1960s, literally and ideologically. You do you, Peace and Freedom Party.

Zoltan Istvan, humankind

Zoltan Istvan, humankind’s savior?

Zoltan Istvan is exactly the right name for someone who founded the Transhumanist Party. People named Zoltan just seem more credible when they tell you they want humans to live forever. Actually, it’s more than that. Istvan, who founded the party in 2014 and is its 2016 candidate, has a whole platform, and some of it’s kind of legit. When we’re all glowing, immortal orbs, we’ll probably have Zoltan Istvan to thank.

When I searched for the Reform Party, Google advised me “this site may be hacked.” But rest assured, the party invented by businessman Ross Perot in 1995 still exists. During the 1996 election Perot got a staggering eight million votes, and the party still has conventions and candidates. (Some of those candidates were Ralph Nader.) Amazingly, then-wrestler, now-conspiracy theorist Jesse Ventura actually ran on the ticket and won the Minnesota governorship in 1998.

In short, even if your website is possibly infected, with enough money you can potentially change presidential outcomes or make wrestling stars governor. Anything is possible, after all, in a nation that might just elect Donald Trump its next president.

Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Twitter: @lucystag.

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