Recall that a two-party system is a system where only two parties or alliances, typically placed either side of the centre, have a realistic chance of forming a majority. Other parties are very minor or solely regional.
In a January 2016 article on The Hill, Michael Coblenz wrote “The two-part system is destroying America. Democrats and Republicans are in a death match and the American people are caught in the middle.” America is facing a slew of problems such as inequality and international terrorism but arguments between the two parties regarding these issues have brought government to a standstill. An issue cannot be tackled without the two parties being able to discuss them rationally.
Now, the public is fed up with 80% expressing disapproval of Congress. In a 2015 Gallup poll, 60% of those who responded wanted new political parties. This is one of the reasons a lot of citizens are supporting candidates such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, both of whom are considered outsiders.
Coblenz adds, “But what if the problem isn’t the politicians, or the parties? What if the problem is the system? What if the problem is a system that makes every election a battle between a single Democrat and a single Republican? Maybe the solution isn’t new people, or new parties. Maybe the solution is changing the way we elect people.”
In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Matthew J. Dowd writes “The evolution of the 2016 election has show that the two major parties are going to have to deal with the disruption independents are forcing on the system. This cycle is likely to be an accelerator for the success of independents locally and at the state level – developments that can only be good for our democracy.”
Although the US is theoretically a multi-party system, the country has been operating as a two-party system since the Civil War. Is that kind of system truly tearing America apart?
Advantages of the Two Party System
- Advantages of the Two Party System
- Disadvantages of the Two Party System
1. Political information is much easier to understand.
Although a two-party system limits the options of voters, it allows parties to present information in a convenient manner. Each party is able to represent their own broad political philosophy. As such, voters can better understand the views of a party regarding certain issues.
2. Balance is achieved because multiple interests and opinions are accommodated.
Each party is comprised of organized groups and individual voters who all have a broad range of interests. As such, a party needs to be able to accommodate these interests when making political decisions. Including voter’s interests also allows a party to receive continued support.
3. Political stability is achieved.
Having only two parties doesn’t encourage sudden shifts in political trends which can lead to government instability. Only with political stability can economic growth be achieved.
With a two-party system, one political party gains a real majority in elections. This allows for stability as they have a common platform to adhere to. As a result, there is decisiveness in government.
Then again, trends in the US show that having a two-party system is actually disruptive. Democrats and Republicans are constantly bickering and they don’t trust each other.
4. Governing them is much more simpler.
Two-party systems have been preferred over multi-party systems because they are not difficult to govern. This kind of system also discourages radical minor parties and as such, the results are less unruliness and more harmony.
Multi-party systems have resulted in hung parliaments in the past. One particular example is Italy which, since 2000, has had divisive politics.
5. There are fewer voting choices.
Although some would consider this a disadvantage as having only two options is limiting, there are some who agree that being given two choices helps voters make a much better decision.
Disadvantages of the Two Party System
1. It brings government to a standstill.
One only needs to look at America right now to see how the two-party system is failing. Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on certain issues and as such, can’t discuss anything rationally. There are no clear solutions to problems and rather than help each other, parties decide to fight one another.
America is facing a lot of issues right now, both complex and controversial. Yet, there seems that there aren’t much solutions being thrown out there to get these issues fixed. The divide between Democrats and Republicans is so great that they can’t even stay in one room to solve issues to help their country.
2. It offers limited options.
Limited options when it comes to voting is seen as an advantage because the less options there are to choose from, the less confusing making a choice would be. However, having only two parties to pick from is also a challenge because it is impossible for one party to tackle all the interests of a particular segment of voters. Voters are individuals who have varied interests and will most likely disagree with one or more points a political party is campaigning for.
3. It promotes corruption.
Politics is always linked with corruption no matter where you are in the world. Practices like patronage may be frowned upon but it’s a common sight in the political sphere. Even the awarding of government contracts to party insiders is a practice rampant in two-party systems.
Parties have also faced criticism particularly when it comes to funding. For instance, big contributors would want something in return for having gave a large portion of their fortune to a campaign. Let’s say that candidate won the election; that particular candidate might find it difficult to say no to a contributor requesting for something seeing as they partly owe their election to them.
4. It ignores alternative voices.
Two-party systems that want to stay united usually ignore alternative options, especially radical ones. In a multi-party system, debate and diverse views are encouraged because coalitions are formed by stronger and weaker parties in order to achieve dominance. Third parties, on the other hand, are often ignored in two-party systems because of the winner-take-all voting mechanism where a losing candidate loses relevance even if they had a significant following.