In 1854, a few thousand people gathered in Jackson, Michigan to launch an independent challenge to a national political system dominated by two parties. "Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements," a party leader later recalled, "we gathered from the four winds…[with] every external circumstance against us." This challenge was fueled by the radical abolitionist movement that united white workers and formerly enslaved Africans against the criminal institution of slavery, as a response to the political crisis caused by the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
In just two years, this insurgent third party — created by movement activists — had gained ground across the Northern states, challenging the Whig Party. In short order this insurgent "third party" had become a major opposition party. By 1858 they had won an influential foothold in Congress, and by 1860, that party leader — Abraham Lincoln — was elected President of the United States.
It's painfully obvious that the Republican Party has strayed dramatically from its early radical roots in abolitionism, equality, and peace. But it's also quite fitting that, in 2016, as that party is declining into dangerous reactionary know-nothingism, the opening for a new party rooted in radical equality, environmental justice, and peace to rise up is bigger than ever. Amid the raging flames of austerity, endless war, impending climate change, and the most polarized election in modern memory, a record 57 percent of Americans are yearning for another choice, and for an independent political party that will truly represent their interests, according to a recent Gallup poll.