California's third-largest political party, after the Democrats and Republicans, isn't the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party on the left of this lefty blue state, or Libertarians, who most often find solidarity on the right.
It is, by far, the American Independent Party (AIP), which carries the banner of now-deceased 1960's Alabama segregationist governor and presidential candidate George Wallace. The party has 472,833 registered voters, four times as many as either the Greens or Libertarians.
So, has California tacked to the right in a subterranean movement that doesn't bother to surface in elections, when AIP candidates consistently draw miniscule support?
Probably not, according to Paul Mitchell and Michael Vargas, two political operatives who have started a website and a campaign, “AIPrl Fooled,” to inform AIP members that they probably registered with the group by mistake, thinking they were declaring as Independents. “People just assume they see the word 'independent' and they say, 'That's right, I'm independent,' then click the box on American Independent Party,” Vargas told KPCC.
Mitchell thinks 95% of the party faithful are there by mistake. As evidence, Mitchell and Vargas point to an analysis of voting in 2012. The vote totals for all of the parties exceeded their registration numbers—thanks to ballots cast by those with no party preference—except for the AIP. Libertarians were up 96%, Democrats 34% and Republicans 19%
The AIP was down 88%, netting 38,372 votes out of 314,414 of the registered faithful.
And then there's the party demographics. It seems unusual that a party hostile to immigration and dedicated to the principles of a Southern segregationist would have a membership that is 25% non-white and more than 10% foreign-born
Mitchell and Vargas sent out 220,000 mailers to AIP registrants on April 1 warning them about who they were affiliating themselves with and telling them how to reregister if they've made a mistake. Vargas is a Los Angeles real estate development consultant and Democratic appointee on the California Coastal Commission. Mitchell is vice president of Political Data Inc., a business that sells voter and demographic data to political campaigns.
The AIP's political platform is to the right of the Tea Party. The party is anti-gay marriage, anti-immigration and pro-gun and the platform is loaded with 18 references to Christianity. “The Republic established by our Constitution is the greatest of all pro-life institutions,” the platform informs, which must be “freed from the lawless oppression of Liberal rule.”
The party claims to have abandoned its racist roots and points to their 2012 presidential candidate, Alan Keyes, an African-American, and his running mate, Native American Robert Ornelas.
AIP officials disagree that they are the party of the mistaken and welcome the publicity the “AIPrl Fooled” campaign will bring them. “We would probably like to enhance his email list with our own,” party Executive Chairman Markham Robinson told the LA Weekly. “Nothing could rain on his parade more than our smiling indulgence.”