The Prohibition Party of the United States was formed in 1869. Before the civil War (1861-1865) temperance groups had promoted voluntary abstinence from alcoholic beverages. That great conflagration had diverted national attention to other matters and the movement fell into abeyance.
Moral suasion had proved to be both difficult and frustrating. Following the Civil War, temperance groups increasing called for the power of the state to be used to prohibit the legal production and consumption of beverage alcohol.
The Prohibition Party found early success in pressuring towns and counties to enact prohibition laws. While other prohibition groups such as the Anti-Saloon League were non-partisan and supported dry (pro-prohibition) candidates regardless of party affiliation, the Prohibition Party ran candidates on its own ticket.
The Party’s success in getting candidates elected to political office has been very limited. Sidney J. Catts was elected governor of Florida in 1916, the highest office ever achieved by a Prohibition Party candidate; he was blatantly racist and anti-Catholic. Beginning in 1914, Charles H. Randall was elected from California to the U.S. House of Representatives for three successive terms on the Prohibition Party ticket. In his first re-election campaign in 1916, he successfully ran as the candidate of the Prohibition Party as well the candidate of the Democratic, Republican, and Progressive parties to defeat a candidate running as an independent. Susanna M. Salter, the first woman mayor in the U.S., won on the Prohibition Party ticket. The only successful Prohibition Party candidate in the 21st century has been the tax assessor of Thompson Township in Pennsylvania.
Following the implementation of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) in 1920, the Prohibition Party pressed for strict enforcement of the law. However, problems created by National Prohibition grew ever more serious as it contributed to burgeoning organized crime; gangsterism; political corruption; bootlegging even within the halls of Congress; violence, blindness and deaths caused by illegally produced alcohol; law enforcement corruption; disrespect for law, and binge drinking.
Popular support for Prohibition collapsed after the mid-1920s and anti-Prohibition groups sprouted and grew quickly. By 1932 the platform of the Democratic party contained an anti-Prohibition plank.
Following Repeal in 1933, the Prohibition Party began its long decline. Although it has run a candidate for the presidency of the U.S. in every election since 1872, the number of votes its candidates have received have dropped precipitously. For example, the votes won for its presidential/vice-presidential candidates numbered 270,770 in 1892, 103,489 in 1948, 23,266 in 1964 and 140 in 2004.
The declining fortunes of the Prohibition Party can be seen in the venues of its conventions over time. In the early years they were held in such places as the opera house in Columbus (OH), the Exposition Hall in Pittsburgh, and the First Regiment Armory in Chicago. In later years, they have been held in such places as a motel in Birmingham (AL), an unknown location in Bird-in Hand (PA), and in a private living room in Lakewood (CO).
When it briefly changed its name to the National Statesman Party in 1977 (it changed it back in 1980), Time magazine suggested that it was “‘doubtful’ that the name change would ‘hoist the party out of the category of a political oddity.'”
The Prohibition National Committee is the governing body of the Prohibition Party. A faction of that body asserts that it operates the official web site of the PNC at prohibition.org.
A majority group operates another site (prohibitionists.org) in which it asserts that it represents the Prohibition National Committee. In making its claim, the majority group states that
All actions of the private, invitational meeting of selected Prohibition National Committee members, held last June, held at Lakewood, Colorado, were declared null and void by an absolute majority of PNC members, meeting at Fairfield Glade, Tennessee on 5-6 September 2003.
It states that
An alleged “2003 nominating convention” of the Prohibition Party was held at the Chairman’s home in Lakewood, Colorado on June 12-13, 2003. Some members of the National Committee were not notified in advance that the meeting was being held, and others were told by Chairman Earl F. Dodge that they would not be admitted. Eight people were present: Chairman Dodge, his two daughters, and five other members supportive of Dodge. In addition to failing to observe the By-Laws requirement for prior notification, there was not a quorum.
Allegations that Earl Dodge had misused Prohibition Party funds, kept secrets from party members, stole property from party members, and other problems apparently led to the party split.
In the 2004 election, the majority faction ran Gene Amondson as its presidential candidate. With the death of Earl Dodge in 2007, Amondson was the sole Prohibition Party candidate for that office in 2008.
With the death of Amondson in 2009, the future of the Prohibition Party remains uncertain.
Despite it’s later right-leaning ideology, the Prohibitionist Party early in it’s founding:
The Prohibition Party had supported woman suffrage since its founding in 1872. Its 1912 Platform said “We favor suffrage for women on the same terms as men.” Although the party had declined considerably by 1912, women were integral; a woman defeated an incumbent man for election as secretary of its national committee. (The Washington D.C. Evening Star 7/13/12, 7:6)
I wanted to look at the more detailed reasons relative to Massachusetts, and I did find some things that would have been disruptive to achieving ballot status, for not only this party, but also the Socialist Labor Party.
According to this Boston Globe article,”Court alters rules for getting on Mass. ballot” (February 19th, 1972), there was a court ruling, called Baird v. Davoren that created a problem in getting enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. This ruling specified two important things:
- That “nominations of candidates for any offices to be filled at a state election may be made by nomination papers, stating the facts required by section eight and signed in the aggregate by not less than such number of voters as will equal three per cent of the entire vote cast for governor at the preceding biennial state election in the commonwealth at large or in the electoral district or division for which the officers are to be elected“;
- And that “the case of offices to be filled by all the voters in the commonwealth, no more than one third of the required number of signatures shall be from any one county.“
There, however, is more, as stated in this article, “US court says proposed Mass. vote laws unfair” (February 22nd, 1972).
And this article, “Mass. voting residency not resolved” (March 31st, 1972) probably had some contribution to that as well. At the time residency requirements were a topic on the agenda that did affect the Massachusetts Presidential Primary.
These signature requirements lead to them not being present on the ballot, described in this Boston Globe article, “Prohibitionists off Bay State ballot” (July 4th, 1972).
As to what the Prohibition Party was about, this Boston Globe article, “Constitution and Bible form basis of 1976 Prohibition Party platform” (June 18th, 1976) does give that some body.