The Prohibition Party is a conservative political party in the United States. Known best for its historic opposition to the manufacture and sale of alcohol, this party has traditionally supported a variety of conservative-leaning policies as well, including opposition to the sale of tobacco, distribution of pornography and legalization of gambling. It is generally credited as being a major force behind the 1919 Prohibition Act in the U.S., which banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol and which was repealed in 1933.
Founded in 1869, the Prohibition Party enjoyed significant influence and growth in its first half century of existence. The party’s presidential nominees won more than 100,000 votes in each U.S. national election between 1884 and 1920. This is generally considered to be the high point of the party’s influence, which most consider to have peaked with the 1919 passage of the Prohibition Act.
The U.S. political scene has largely been a contest between two major political parties. Many third parties have had an impact, and the Prohibition Party is considered by many to be the first of the significant third party movements. In the early and mid-20th century, the Prohibition candidate won the governorship of the state of Florida and a congressional seat from California. A Prohibition senatorial candidate from California lost the 1932 election but earned more than 500,000 votes.
Following the 1933 repeal of the Prohibition Act, the party’s membership and influence began to decline. The party continues to hold national party conventions on odd-numbered years and continues to nominate candidates for office, but voting success has been nominal at best with candidates getting a few thousand votes rather than the half million during and pre prohibition.
The Prohibition Party suffered a split in 2003. The National Prohibition Party was formed by a former Prohibition Party candidate and subsequently ran its own candidate for president. In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, the candidates for both parties won fewer than a combined 2,000 votes.
In terms of the party’s political platform beyond the socially conservative issues such as alcohol, tobacco, pornography and gambling, the party also has taken traditional stands on economic and foreign policy. Typically, the foreign policy stand of the Prohibition Party has focused on free trade, non-involvement in other countries except for humanitarian emergencies and support of worldwide human rights. On economic policy, the party traditionally has supported a balanced budget, limited taxation and an end to inheritance taxes.