Liberal party, in U.S. history, political party formed in 1944 in New York City by a group of anti-Communist trade unionists and liberals who withdrew from the American Labor party when that party became pro-Communist. Among those responsible for its creation was Reinhold Niebuhr. The original party platform called for a strong United Nations, extended civil rights, and support of the American trade-union movement. Rather than attempting to elect its own candidates, the Liberal party generally seeks to influence the candidate choice of the major parties by promises of support or nonsupport. Although the party operates almost entirely in New York state, its endorsement of presidential candidates is sometimes significant. In its first year of existence it was responsible for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's carrying New York state and in the 1960 presidential election it provided New York's margin of victory for John F. Kennedy. In state and local elections the party sometimes nominates its own candidates. In 1969, John Lindsay, having lost the Republican nomination, won reelection as mayor of New York City on the Liberal ticket; the Liberal party has also elected its own U.S. congressman, a president of the New York City Council, and numerous other local officials. Although the Liberal party has generally supported Democratic candidates, it claims to stand for broader social and economic reforms than the Democratic party. Criticized for having too close ties with the Democratic party, its support of John Lindsay, the Republican mayoral candidate in 1965, and of Republican Senator Jacob Javits, tended to quell such criticism. In 1980 it split the progressive vote when Alfonse D'Amato won the Republican endorsement and Javits ran as a Liberal. Since the 1980 election the party has largely declined in political importance in New York State.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.