VALDOSTA — Dr. Bernard Tamas of Valdosta State University has been studying third parties in American politics for almost a decade. His book, The Demise and Rebirth of American Third Parties, published in 2018, positioned him as a sought-after authority on the subject.

Tamas was recently featured in The Conversation’s “A New Third Party for US Politics: Three Essential Reads on What That Means,” C-Washington Span’s Journal with Bill Scanlan, CNN’s Full Stop with Mark Preston, where the other guest was former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and The Guardian’s “Forward!” Is America’s New Third Party on the Road to Power — or Oblivion?”

Tamas was motivated to create The Demise and Rebirth of American Third Parties after reading Election Law Journal’s article “Ballot Access Laws and the Decline of American Third Parties” in 2014. He “gathered a vast quantity of electoral data since the 1890s and evaluated accepted ideas on why third parties are weaker today than a century ago” for the article, he explained.

“My findings demonstrated that these current ideas were mainly incorrect, and that third parties in the United States were really strengthening, which opposed most of what prior theories indicated.”

Tamas predicted a moderate third party will arise soon in a 2021 post on The Conversation.

Forward, a formal merger of the Forward Party, the Renew America Movement, and the Serve America Movement, was announced to the public in late July. Tamas claims that Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who lost her primary election in August, is considering a third-party run.

“Historically, when the two major parties are severely polarised, third parties in the United States have been the most active and powerful,” Tamas noted. “Because the two parties are philosophically so far apart, many moderate voters are left without a party to represent their ideas, which opens the way for a prospective third party to garner public support.”

“This might trigger a process known as’sting like a bee,'” he explained. “This is when a new third party arises swiftly and draws people away from one or both big parties, hurting them severely at the polls.” In response to this new threat, one or both main parties migrate back to the middle. Usually, the third party dies off, much like a bee after it stings. However, it has had enough of an influence on the process that the major parties have reversed their radical stances.”

As Tamas has already stated, sometimes the final aim is more than just winning an election.

“The most successful third parties in American politics do not often climb to dominance, but rather challenge the major parties sufficiently to force them to alter course,” he stated.

Tamas referenced the Progressive Party of 1912 as an example of how third parties may win without really winning in a recent interview with The Guardian.

The Progressive Party, founded by 26th President Theodore Roosevelt after he lost the Republican Party presidential nomination to incumbent President William Howard Taft, advocated for child labour laws, improved working conditions, such as the eight-hour workday and a day off to rest, and other causes. Although the party did not win the election, the reforms it advocated were subsequently implemented.

“They wanted structural reform,” Tamas stated. “They pushed for this, and this is what they got. This contributed significantly to their success.”

Forward appears to be primarily interested in electoral reform, including ranked-choice voting, nonpartisan primaries, and independent redistricting commissions.

Gallup pollsters recently questioned Americans about their political party affiliation: “In politics, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent as of today?” According to the findings of that June poll, 43 percent of respondents identified as independent, 27 percent as Republicans, and 27 percent as Democrats. Tamas, on the other hand, believes that independence is insufficient. His study reveals that third parties are created on popular fury, and Forward does not appear to have sufficiently tapped into that anger thus far.

Tamas joined the Virginia State University faculty in 2014 and is now an associate professor of political science in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He worked as a visiting research fellow at Columbia University and taught at Brandeis University, Williams College, and Illinois State University before joining the Blazer Nation family. He obtained a Fulbright scholarship to Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and completed a postdoctoral programme at Harvard University. In addition to being a political scientist, he has a passion for software development and formerly worked as a software engineer at Princeton University. In 2019, he was awarded a research grant from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab to investigate voter underrepresentation and electoral prejudice in American elections.

Tamas likes teaching advanced election classes and preparing students to perform their own research, which includes gathering data and utilising statistics to address real-world issues and concerns. American government is his favourite topic to teach because it introduces “students with no political science background to the importance of politics and how it persists in practically every aspect of life.” I teach it as an engaging, high-energy class that stimulates student involvement and participation.”