Is Two Parties Enough? The Argument for a True Multi-Party System in the USA (PA)
It’s a relatively normal weekend morning — the alarm rang, you have a few things to look forward to, a couple errands to run. You’re feeling happier than usual, actually, because you’re planning to hang out with an old friend this evening. Your phone buzzes, and you are startled out of your daze. It’s a news article: “The Presidential Election: how it stands today”. You groan, remembering the chaos and emotional minefield of talking to your friends and family last election, but still open it out of curiosity, then sigh again. The likely candidates are total opposites, and most of what you know is based on the questionable sources of either their own party or the other candidate dissing them. I guess I’ll just decide later, you think to yourself, feeling exhausted already. I’ll just make the simplest decision after seeing what my family and friends think. How much of a difference does one vote make, anyway?
Many of you are probably confused by that account. But some people from America might find familiar themes. For people who grow up in the US, there are rarely many choices of people running for president who have any likelihood of succeeding — and all too often, listening to presidential election speeches, presidential reelection speeches, and even election speeches for positions for less power — can start to sound like the same thing repeated over and over. “Vote for me! If the [other person’s name] succeeds in the election, America will go up in flames and 90% of its people will devolve into cavemen!” Honestly, all of the ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘A victory for Science and Reasoning’ (the last two president’s election slogans) is making me a bit concerned as to how incompetent these presidents seem to think the American people are.
But is there a way to end this madness? After so many years of people running mostly on other people’s faults as opposed to their own strengths, it can start to feel like the future of America’s presidential is a dark tunnel going deeper and deeper into the center of the Earth. Yet, I believe there is a solution. The Brittanica article on two-party systems defines a two-party system as a “political system in which the electorate [the voters] gives its votes largely to two major parties and in which one or the other party can win a majority in the legislature”, noting that the US is a prime example of one such political system. In Brittanica’s free-for-non-members introduction, it notes that “[t]he two-party system moderates the animosities of political strife.” But from where I’m sitting, even as rarely as I switch on the news, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The two-party system, as much as it may strengthen the American government, is slowly ripping the American people apart.
In an 2016 article from the Washington Post, Aaron Blake puts the dangerous power of a two-party system into perspective. Blake notes that “since 1852, a candidate from the Republican [or] Democratic parties has placed either first or second in U.S. presidential elections, except for one” — Theodore Roosevelt, who successfully became president when he ran as a Republican, but came in second place when he ran as an Independent. His unusual position came at a cost: the Democratic candidate, who might not have won otherwise, managed to get more votes than the other two candidates. This trend continues — any independent candidates are a danger to both Democratic and Republican candidates, because their votes take away from potential votes for Democratic and Republican candidates. Since America is a majority vote system (as much as you can be a majority vote system while the real majority vote for the presidential and vice-presidential elections comes from the Electoral College, which most of the country opposes) each candidate must try to get the most votes possible, which leads to a system where the only candidates who can have a real chance must be both deeply democratic/republican while at the same time being “plain” enough to attract votes of the general population. At the same time, a full-scale political “war of defamation” begins, as each side maligns the other with every insult they can possibly think of. It’s a bad time to be an Independent in America.
Funnily enough, America is not actually a two-party system by design. A website explaining the U.S. government, by the U.S. government, has a simple but comprehensive overview of the government. Elections and voting are carefully explained, with a secondary link that goes into more detail. A similar system appears to explain the connections and differences between federal, state and local government, as well as between the three “branches” of government — executive, legislative, and judicial. But nowhere is a two party system, or even the idea of political parties at all, alluded to. This follows a common belief in American politics — you can have as many political parties as you want. Which is, of course, true in theory. But with a system which makes it near impossible for a third-party to ever win — which makes it incredibly difficult to run for president on your own at all — one might wonder if it is, indeed, true in practice.
If a country can say of itself, truthfully, that no third party has ever gained more than a crack of control over its government for almost two hundred years, is it truly a free country anymore? And if its political system is bound and set to pit half the country against the other half every four years, how long can even the most patriotic country stay united?
Don’t get me wrong, I love my country. But you can love a country and fear for its future.