Replace the Two Party System
The governing system in the United States is flawed. I believe most citizens can agree on this point. Either side of the isle or any part of the country, bringing up politics can be one of the most fiery faux pas a person can make. People hold their beliefs strongly and solidified in their ideas of what is right and what is wrong. Often times turning against family, friends or even strangers in a variety of different ways. It is a drama every American has seen play out on their television sets or their Facebook news feeds, and has no sign of abating anytime soon. While there is no problem in being strong willed or rooted in certain beliefs- and often times those characteristics are useful and to be admired- when it comes to governing, of which the essence is compromise, listening, and negotiation, it seems that overly- stubborn has replaced strong willed and entrenchment has replaced rooted. Furthermore, listening to other opinions is something that politicians seem to no longer feel the need to do.
For me, a strong aggravating factor and roadblock against America’s collective progress is our old, fateful two party political system. Even one of our most cherished national heros and first president, George Washington, denounced parties to be a horrid threat to the republic (“The Two Parties…”). With only two main options presented to voters, the essence of our multifaceted, complex country is boiled down into something more like a game with one side winning and one side losing. As politicians compete for political points or goals scored, the real meat of democracy and governance is lost and deep complex issues are boiled down into a binary; weather to agree with the red team or the blue team, assuring almost completely that nothing of true value gets accomplished. This oversimplification of our country’s greatest asset, democracy, is a serious quandary. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (1) The two party political system in the United States only serves to polarize our country further and make compromise more difficult; therefore, a total overhaul of our political party system is in order.
The emergence of the two party system dates back to the election of 1796, with the Nationalist and the Democratic-Republican parties (“Two Parties…”). The Federalists mirrored our modern Democratic party in that they were strong supporters of federal government, while the Democratic-Republicans mirrored our present day Republican party as they displayed themselves as the champion of the working man, supported by farmers and run by southern tobacco elites. This was a particularly intense election for its time and in many ways set us on the course toward where we have arrived today (“Two Parties…”). Elections have only become more and more fierce over time as more money is poured into them year after year and as the divide between parties becomes wider, this American wonders where the inevitable breaking point of our cherished system is. In a survey of more than 5,000 people by the Pew Research Center, attitudes on “the gaps on several sets of political values in particular – including measures of attitudes about the social safety net, race and immigration – have increased dramatically.” (“The Partisan Divide…”) Furthermore, politician are only working to further this divide. Practices like gerrymandering are common. As shown by a recent Supreme Court case regarding politicians in Wisconsin, divisions on the issue are deep (Marley). Elected officials on both sides consistently redraw voting districts to their party’s advantage, ensuring their jobs are safe and creating further polarized voting communities. This does not seem conducive to government. There is an ever widening divide on key issues, that are presented as black and white, when they are really anything but. As it is, “the United States is the most extreme of the countries with a single-member district plurality system, meaning that its third parties have been very small and ephemeral.” (Dornhoff) Why are we the most extreme? Does this excessiveness serves us citizens? I don’t believe so at all. America needs a new way forward.
To move past this, a total overhaul of our legislative and executive branches of government must be achieved. I propose that in order to make this happen the two major parties should be dissolved and politicians made to align in at least three to five new groups. While there is a great deal working against this from happening, it is not impossible. After all, Germany has eight distinct political parties (Spiegel Online) and many other European countries follow in this fashion. In the short term, this would be extremely disruptive to the status quo of Washington. Breaking down a system as ingrained as this is not simple. Convincing politicians to give up their power in favor of an unknown will be a difficult thing, and therefore citizens like you and I must fight for this change. These people wield a good deal of power but at the end of the day are civil servants, they work for us. What is needed is a overwhelming cry against the current system of political games and the inept vision of our current political structure; an organization to campaign against the profit and lobby driven oligarchy currently masquerading as democratic process. Once this is achieved however, and the dust settles as new routines and practices become more familiar, voters and government officials will see a monumental change. Gone are the days of red versus blue, voters will have more options and deeper thoughtfulness of the everyday citizen is encouraged. It is easy, after all, to pick the blue team when you are first forming your political opinions and then stick with it for the rest of your life, demonizing the red with fervor. With more options, what innately occurs is a push towards a broader spectrum of thought and this guides our society as a whole further away from that cognitive disorder of black-and white thinking. For what is more common to every citizen in this country than the system that governs us?
I am under no false pretense that this shift will be easy and natural, critics might say it undermines our proud American traditions and a sacrilege of democracy. To them I would refer back to people like George Washington and his warnings against parties, to Abraham Lincoln and his rally against a divided republic. These sanctified architects of thought, philosophy, and order would not stand for the rifts between us today and the reality show-esque drama that they produce. Critics might also say that this change is impossible, that there is too much money being poured into the present model and convincing politicians to abandon a system that has granted them power for an unknown where their hard-earned careers may come into jeopardy is too large of a task. To these critics I ask, is just because something is difficult does that make it not worth doing? Are greed and the love of power things too big to combat? Something that must just be accepted as tolerable? Certainly not in my opinion.
During the last election, I saw many people saying that a third party vote was a vote thrown away. That it is a waste of your voice as a voter to cast a ballot against the current system. That is a sad statement to me, and in my opinion, a third party vote was the exact opposite. It is a call to the current system that they are not serving the people, it is a brave step outside of the binary to voice a disinterest in playing into their games. Even though these third parties may not have gained more than a percentage point or two, the more people who make this brave step, voice a desire for more than just the current dichotomous system, and organize a coalition for the reform of the incompetent present structure, the closer we come to creating something better for our country and therefore the world.
America deserves more. In recent years, we have seen corruption and rigging of primary elections, collusion between political campaigns and foreign countries, supposedly respectable individuals of power throwing out dirty personal attacks and taking money from special interest groups in exchange for influence. It is a bastardization of the principles on which this country was founded, and a major factor in all these issues is our two party political climate. As a fellow citizen, I ask you to consider the importance of this change, rally, and organize for its fulfillment. It is not a simple task but it is more than worthwhile. America needs your voice.
Dornhoff, G. William. “Third Parties Don't Work: Why and How Egalitarians Should Transform the Democratic Party.” Who Rules America?, Mar. 2005, www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/change/science_egalitarians.html.
Lincoln, Abraham. "Abraham Lincoln's House Divided Speech." Abraham Lincoln's House Divided Speech, 8/1/2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, frccwc.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=21212215&site=ehost-live.
Patrick, Marley, et al. "High Court Debates Wisconsin Case on Gerrymandering." USA Today, n.d. EBSCOhost, frccwc.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=J0E411084354417&site=ehost-live.
“SPIEGEL ONLINE's Guide to German Political Parties.” Speigel Online, 28 Feb. 2013, www.spiegel.de/international/germany/guide-to-german-political-parties-a-886188.html.
“The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider.” Pew Research Center, The Pew Charitable Trusts , 5 Oct. 2017, www.people-press.org/2017/10/05/the-partisan-divide-on-political-values-grows-even-wider/.
“Two Parties Emerge.” US History, Independence Hall Association, 2008, www.ushistory.org/us/19c.asp.