No. There has never been a third major party in the United States for reasons of very simple math.
Todays two partiesuh, the Republicans and Democratsare really extensions of original early 19th Century politics. The Republicans are basically the Whigs (with some additional coalitions), who came out of the National Republican Party, who split from the Democratic-Republican Party, who came from the Federalist party that went back to 1791.
The Democrats were a reaction to the start of the Federalist party, and took the name Democratic-Republicans. When the Federalists folded, the more bigger-government Andrew Jackson reformed the Democratic-Republicans under his wingcausing the more right-wing members to form the National Republicans. Got it?
The point is that there has always been a left-wing/right-wing component to American politics. Todays parties are just continually evolving variants of previous parties.
Meanwhile, third parties have never succeeded. And while some third parties get more votes than others, they have always done so at the expense of a second party. A lot of bad American history has resulted from third parties: Wilson got in thanks to a third party siphoning off votes from the Republicans; Perot did the same thing to the Republicans that gave us the ongoing Clinton power dynasty. Were still paying for both of those. Democrats suffered too: had Ralph Nader not run in 2000 as a third party, Al Gore probably would have won the presidency. Carter had a snowballs chance of winning in 1980, but John Andersons vampire-like sucking of Democratic voters certainly set Carter back a bit more.
One of the PBS quote sources has it exactly right: third parties are all the talk of political science when people are unhappy with Congress.
Let us not fool ourselves. The GOP is significantly more unified than the media believes, even though there are some very interesting and serious and even useful differences between Tea Party reformers and more moderate Republican old guards. While Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell might not agree on tactics or strategy, at least they understand the benefits of lower taxes and business deregulation.
And the Democrats are also quite stressed as well. While the public likes to pretend that Democrats are all outraged progressive liberals, the reality is quite different. The Obama camp does not particularly care for the Clinton camp, and vice-versa. Many blue dogs hate their owners, and a lot of red-state Democrats are playing very delicate politics. The Democrats are just as dividedand divisiveas their Republican comrades, and probably more so.
If Mitt Romney had won in 2012 as he should have, it is likely the Democrats would be talking third parties as they did during the Bush years. But its all a farce. In fact, you should be very skeptical if not outright suspicious of third party discussions: when Republicans are mulling over a third party, it might just be because Democrats are seeding the discussion in fear of a strengthening GOP. When Democrats talk of third parties, it might just be because the Republicans are hoping to identify and isolate Far Left wingnuts and want to see who steps up.
The day in which a third party candidate wins a major election will probably never happen. And if you think gridlock is a problem with two parties, wait until parliamentary-style governance hits with three.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.