Vice Squad
Thursday, August 19, 2004
The Prohibition Party

In 1892, the Prohibition Party's US presidential candidate received 270,710 votes. In 2000, the Prohibition Party's presidential candidate received just 208 votes. The recent poor performance of the party has contributed to a schism, with two nominees emerging from PP "conventions" this year: the August 23 New Yorker tells the story of the old, but let's face it, decrepit, party. (The article is in the "Talk of the Town" section, so it is brief.)

It might be thought that the Prohibition Party was a major force leading up to national alcohol Prohibition in 1920, but by and large that was not the case. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union and (especially) the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) proved to be much more politically influential. Rather than promote its agenda through a third party, the ASL supported candidates from either major party who were most sympathetic to its dry stance. Will Baude has suggested a similar approach for libertarians today (see question 9 in the link).

Alcohol prohibition is not a thing of the past in the US, of course: many counties and municipalities remain dry. Chicago has a system that may be unique -- at least I haven't heard of its use elsewhere. An electoral precinct can vote itself, or a portion of itself, dry. Many have done so. Currently the electoral option is being considered in a dispute involving a loud, popular nightclub and some neighbors who moved into a newly-constructed nearby building. The club has reportedly spent more than $200,000 to muffle its noise, but with little effect. But one neighbor's comment, as reported in this Chicago Tribune article, has not done much to elicit Vice Squad's sympathy: 'Our granite counter tops are shaking.'

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