On July 8, 1967, formal organization of California's American Independent Party was completed at a convention held in Bakersfield. A constitution and declaration of principles were adopted, and officers were elected. The declaration of principles proclaimed:
"A new party is urgently needed today because the leaders of the two existing parties, Democratic and Republican, have deserted the principles and traditions of our nation's founding fathers. Both of the existing parties have become the proponents of big government, crushing taxation, dictatorial federal power, waste and fiscal irresponsibility, unwholesome and disastrous internationalism, compromise with our nation's enemies, and authoritarian regimentation of the citizens of this Republic. Control of the government, under the domination of these two existing parties, has left the hands of the people our government was created to serve."
The declaration pledged the support of the American Independent Party to "limited constitutional government, with emphasis on the rights of the several states to govern their own local affairs and educational systems without federal bureaucratic or court interference." As to foreign affairs, the declaration stated that "the American Independent Party supports a foreign policy based on America's best interests, not world opinion," and "preservation of our national sovereignty."
In 1967, Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama was on the move to run for President on a new party ticket. Second only to Alabama, California was the most important state in the Union in the eyes of the Wallace campaign. Wallace supporters greeted with enthusiasm the formation of the American Independent Party. Not only was California the most populous state, but it was also the jurisdiction with the earliest legal deadline by which ballot qualification had to be achieved for the 1968 presidential election.
The procedures for qualification in California were extremely difficult. To qualify a new party for the ballot required either 66,059 voter registrations showing affiliation with the new party, or a petition with over 660,000 valid voter signatures. Deadline for securing the registrations was January 2, 1968. Securing registrations was much more difficult than securing signatures on a petition. In 1967, California had no registration by mail system. And, every registration form had to be executed in the presence of a person designated by county election officials as a deputy registrar of voters.
By mid 1967, in spite of the best endeavors of American Independent Party coordinators, the pace of registration acquisition did not appear to be adequate to achieve ballot qualification by the January, 1968 deadline. In October, to bolster the effort, Governor Wallace came to California for a week of rallies and speaking engagements. Simultaneously with the Governor's appearances in California, the Wallace Campaign unleashed an all-out effort to qualify the American Independent Party for the California ballot. Registration headquarters—ultimately 46 in number—were opened in every major population center in the state. An advertising campaign was launched in support of the registration drive, including radio, television, and newspaper advertisements.
After his initial campaign tour in California in early November, Governor Wallace returned to Alabama. But he was back in California on November 20, and from then until December 17, he sustained a backbreaking schedule of rallies throughout California in support of the registration drive. Never less than three rallies per day were held, with the number frequently rising to four or five. On December 15, Governor Wallace delivered a major television address urging California voters to register with the American Independent Party. Much of the final registration effort was conducted during inclement weather which struck in December, and made registration efforts more difficult. Against overwhelming odds, the pace of AIP voter registration accelerated. On December 28, the "Los Angeles Times," carried a banner front page headline in its preview edition, proclaiming: "Wallace Does It—Party Registration May Hit 75,000." The actual registration total exceeded 100,000. The California victory gave inspiration to Wallace supporters throughout the country, and, in 1968, building on the California foundation, Wallace was able to qualify his presidential candidacy in every state in the nation. He owed this success in large part to the founder of the AIP in California, William Shearer.
A three year period of turbulence followed the January 2, 1968, qualification of the American Independent Party for the California Ballot. The Alabama leaders of the Wallace Campaign decided that the party should have no separate existence from that of the campaign. They believed the party should be put quietly on ice after the 1968 election, only to be revived if Governor Wallace should again seek the presidency on a third party ticket in a subsequent election. But the California leaders of the AIP— particularly William Shearer its founder and Wallace point man for the organization of State party efforts nationwide—had a very different view. They wanted the new party to be a permanent vehicle for political participation in California and the nation, and they wanted all necessary steps taken to assure that the party was organized and structured to achieve this objective. A costly three year battle between the AIP and Wallace Campaign ensued.
History repeated itself after the death of our revered founder, William Shearer in early 2007. Once again outside forces sought to determine the AIP's future, but this time it was the Constitution Party that sought to dominate the American Independent Party of California though surrogates, a misguided rump faction that came to be known as "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight." Defeating this assault on the independence of the AIP also took three long and costly years from 2008 to 2011. After illegitimate attempts to eject Edward Noonan from the Chairmanship by the daughter of the late founder William Shearer failed, the rump faction she led sought aid from the founder of the Constitution Party, Howard Phillips, to deny the American Independent Party its rightful voice at the Presidential nominating Convention in 2008 by a series of dastardly tricks. After successfully maintaining its right to vote on the Presidential nomination, the AIP was subjected to a further attack when the rump group held its own "Convention" and elected its own officers, entirely without authorization and contrary to both AIP Bylaws and the California Election Code. A legal battle for control of the Party ensued, which was finally resolved in favor of the legitimate party leadership on August 29, 2011.
On August 3, 1968, the delegates to the state convention of the American Independent Party adopted the party's first platform. This document held tremendous significance for AIP activists who had joined the new party because they wanted major changes in public policies. Many AIP leaders had specific legislative proposals which they wanted addressed, and debate and adoption of the platform gave them an opportunity to participate in the decision making process. Further, California party activists needed a rallying point. George Wallace, their presidential candidate, would normally have filled this void, but Governor Wallace had shunned the state party organization. Therefore, the party activists rallied around the platform which they had helped create. The 1968 platform of the California American Independent Party was to become the cornerstone of future national and state party expressions on matters of public policy.
The 1968 election brought Wallace 7 percent of the California vote, a total of over 482,000 votes. Wallace's popular vote in the nation was 9,906,473. The American Independent Party and the Wallace Campaign continued to be at odds until 1971, when the Governor and the state party organization had a complete reconciliation. In 1972, the American Independent Party was once again the potential vehicle for Gov. Wallace in his quest for the presidency. Sadly, the terrible injuries inflicted upon him by a would-be assassin ended his candidacy, and Gov. Wallace played no further leadership role in the AIP. The seed, however, had been sown, and the state party organization was able to cultivate it, enabling the American Independent Party to bloom and survive.
Gov. George Wallace, 1968 AIP Presidential Candidate
There has been remarkable continuity in the party's platforms since the first one was adopted in 1968, but there has been evolution too. One marker of that evolution was the nomination of Ambassador Alan Keyes in 2008 as the AIP Presidential nominee. From a Segregationist Governor to a Black Ambassador to the UN, whose main assignment from President Reagan was, by the way, to throw a monkey wrench in the works! Quite a change. Yet Wallace and Keyes shared many things. They were both strong patriots, Anti-Socialist to the core, dedicated to the principles of limited government, and in favor of Free Enterprise as the practical expression of the Declaration's "pursuit of happiness."
Amb. Alan Keyes, 2008 AIP Presidential Candidate
The AIP has changed from "non-interventionist" to highly selective and intelligently managed intervention, where necessary to American interests and consistent with American principles of liberty. The AIP recognizes the important role of international trade in the American Economy. The AIP favors free, fair and safe trade that takes very seriously national security aspects of trade, particularly self-sufficiency in strategic goods. The fear of entangling alliances appropriate to a young, weak country is inappropriate to the most powerful nation on earth. The Founders were forward-thinkers and realists and would surely have recognized the fundamental change in circumstances occurring in 200 years. However, the AIP remains adamantly opposed to international treaties that exceed the Constitutionally delegated powers of the United States and thereby destroy the hard-won liberties that our Declaration of Independence asserted and our Constitution sought to secure.
The American Independent Party has kept alive the best of the American principles which have largely been abandoned by the Democratic and Republican parties. The American Independent Party of California has been continually ballot qualified since January, 1968. Over the years, it has been affiliated with several national party efforts. From 1991-2008, the AIP was the California affiliate of the US Taxpayers Party, now the Constitution Party. The current national affiliation of the AIP is America's Independent Party, but sentiment is growing for reviving the AIP as a national party. As a viable ballot-qualified party in California, the most populous state in the Union, the American Independent Party has an opportunity to play an important role in the restructuring of the nation's political system. The American Independent Party has survived for over forty years, because the party has had effective leaders, along with a popular platform, emphasizing respect for life, fiscal responsibility, a reduced role of government in people's lives, reduction of the tax burden, control of crime, protection of American businesses, workers, and farmers from unfair foreign competition, and a foreign policy loyal to American interests.
Some have suggested that the American Independent Party may be out of step with young Americans whose views are alleged to be radically different from those of middle aged and older Americans. The commitment of Young Americans to the country's traditional moral, political, and economic values, however, remains comparable to that of other age groups. This fact was confirmed by a vintage Reader's Digest poll which found that: 74 percent of young Americans (18-30) believed that hard work is the key to getting ahead; 72 percent believed that unlimited opportunity is more important than ensuring greater equality of income; 70 percent believed that government poses the greatest threat to the nation's future; and 87 percent have always believed in God. Most people with these views feel comfortable in an AIP gathering. The future of the American Independent Party is assured by a market for its views among young Americans who do not have years of commitment to the dominant parties. Today, the political climate in America is changing. The people are looking for new voices, new choices, new vehicles for political expression. The people are looking to the American Independent Party for leadership.