The two-party system in the U.S.

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Time 4 backstory: About a week ago in my U.S. Government class (yeah, SD, go fuck yourself) there were a set of “projects” that I had to choose from and do over the week, and I chose the project that interested me the most, and it said, and I quote:

Read the following two sentences: “The two-party system in the United States has outlived its usefulness.” “The two party system in the United States helps keep the country strong.” Which statement do you believe is true? Discuss the reasons for your answer in a short essay, and do some research into the pros and cons of the two-party system to evaluate your position.

And I thought that after reading and completing the project, that it would be interesting to see SD’s thoughts on it.


TL;DR The two-party system sux bawls. Discuss.

 
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They are both true as it stands. Your quote got cut off for the first one. It currently says: “The two-party system in the United States.” There should be some more written in there, methinks.

 
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Originally posted by vikaTae:

They are both true as it stands. Your quote got cut off for the first one. It currently says: “The two-party system in the United States.” There should be some more written in there, methinks.

Well there go my proof reading skills.

 
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That’s rather limited and, I dare say, loaded. A two-party system indeed is crappy, but that doesn’t mean it has outlived its usefulness in the USA.

 
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The US has a two party system?
I always thought the majority of the Americans think they have a two party system and complain about the limitations that come with it, when in reality they don’t.

 
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Originally posted by tenco1:

Well there go my proof reading skills.

lol. Easily done.

Anyway, my feelings are that the two party system has long outlived its usefulness. We have two rough groups of politicians who have gotten stale, set in their ways to an extent. You have the dems and the repubs. Whatever happens it is going to be one or the other, so everyone’s seat is pretty much safe.

In a worst-case scenario, there is only one other person who might get it, and you have known that person for years. So why put full effort into the job? Relax, kick-back and filibuster. Don’t get anything done, just use the time to lash out at people you hate, and by extension, their policies.

We do need change. A shakeup of the system, and dislodge the dust and cobwebs from the wheels. A multiple-party system would do that. Introduce new points of view, fresh perspectives, and remind those in power that there is a real fight for the seat should they screw up (again).

 
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Originally posted by Darkruler2005:

That’s rather limited and, I dare say, loaded. A two-party system indeed is crappy, but that doesn’t mean it has outlived its usefulness in the USA.

That’s why I chose secret option number 3: Neither.

Originally posted by vikaTae:

We do need change. A shakeup of the system, and dislodge the dust and cobwebs from the wheels. A multiple-party system would do that. Introduce new points of view, fresh perspectives, and remind those in power that there is a real fight for the seat should they screw up (again).

Though, for the sake of being devil’s advocate, I would like to point you to Black Adder’s “Dress silly in the back row” party. (Or whatever they called it.)

 
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Originally posted by tenco1:

Though, for the sake of being devil’s advocate, I would like to point you to Black Adder’s “Dress silly in the back row” party. (Or whatever they called it.)

At least it would inject some new moods into things, and if they are able to get enough power to challenge the status quo, I fully support it. They can take over from either existing party.

They’d be about as effective :)

Ideally, it would be nice to see a system in place that gave three, even four different parties in each state a run at the game, an equal run. If that means you end up with a mish-mash of different ideologies; well, that can only be good.

 
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Originally posted by EPR89:

The US has a two party system?
I always thought the majority of the Americans think they have a two party system and complain about the limitations that come with it, when in reality they don’t.

Almost every elected official in the US is democrat or republican. The number of third party/independents elected is trivial. I’m not sure how else it can be considered a “two party system.”


We do need change. A shakeup of the system, and dislodge the dust and cobwebs from the wheels. A multiple-party system would do that. Introduce new points of view, fresh perspectives, and remind those in power that there is a real fight for the seat should they screw up (again).

I think it would be better if there were no parties, because then it would be harder to convince people to vote along party lines.

Of course, this is likely impossible to develop.

 
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Even if we get rid of the parties, at this stage it’ll be “Oh, I’ll vote for him, he was a democrat when we still had parties” or “Oh, I’ll vote for him, he was a republican when we still had parties”.

It would be an improvement, but we would have to wait till the current generation pass on, to get real change.

 
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Originally posted by Ketsy:

Almost every elected official in the US is democrat or republican. The number of third party/independents elected is trivial. I’m not sure how else it can be considered a “two party system.”

No-one cares about the Whigs anymore…

Originally posted by vikaTae:

Even if we get rid of the parties, at this stage it’ll be “Oh, I’ll vote for him, he was a democrat when we still had parties” or “Oh, I’ll vote for him, he was a republican when we still had parties”.

It would be an improvement, but we would have to wait till the current generation pass on, to get real change.

On the bright side, you technically wont have any more bipartisan bickering.

 
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Almost every elected official in the US is democrat or republican. The number of third party/independents elected is trivial. I’m not sure how else it can be considered a “two party system.”

It’s a winner-take-all system. A true two-party system would only allow two parties to run. Here, you can have scores of parties running for political office, assuming they get enough signatures to do so. The resulting of either a Democrat or a Republican winning is because of the winner-take-allness of our political system. If we had a true two-party system, Jessie Ventura would never have been able to be elected the Governor Minnesota, at least not without aligning with one of the two major parties.

I think it would be better if there were no parties, because then it would be harder to convince people to vote along party lines.

And then people would actually have to do research on the candidates. Already there are millions who have literally no idea the differences between Romney and Obama. Do you think the knowledge of candidates is going to increase if there are no party cues? I think not.

 
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And then people would actually have to do research on the candidates. Already there are millions who have literally no idea the differences between Romney and Obama. Do you think the knowledge of candidates is going to increase if there are no party cues? I think not.

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if, as a result, voter turn out dropped. I think the bigger, more important change would be how the politicians would act.

 
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Originally posted by Ketsy:

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if, as a result, voter turn out dropped. I think the bigger, more important change would be how the politicians would act.

Agreed. Like issendorf implied, it would be limited pretty much to those who could actually be bothered to research the politicians.

The politicians themselves would be freed from having to ‘stick to the party line’. You are quite right Ketsy, that would get very interesting.

 
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useful to whom? the biparty system is incredibly useful to the people in control of them.

 
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Two party systems are too close to one party systems. We need more political groups that get the public’s eye.

 
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And then people would actually have to do research on the candidates.

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

 
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Originally posted by Darkruler2005:

And then people would actually have to do research on the candidates.

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

It isn’t. However, what do you think is more likely considering the US’s already dismal voter turn out: Voters will research candidates, or voters will simply not be voters.


As a side note, I think a three party system or higher multi-party system would improve voter turnout. More major points of view means that it’s more likely people will identify strongly with their chosen party, and would be more likely to show up to vote. While this might also increase partisanship, the additional choices makes this slightly more forgivable.

I still think it would be better to have a no-party system and improve turnout in other ways.

 
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What two party government system? Behind closed doors, they’re all in bed with the same corporate lobbyists.

 
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I think the bigger, more important change would be how the politicians would act.

A very intriguing thought experiment, to be sure. Reasonable arguments could be made that politicians may:

1) Have even less public attention turned towards what they do based on even greater voter apathy.

2) By no longer having the support of a party behind them, would lead to more self-made candidates, rather than people who simply flow up through the party.

This actually occurs at a smaller scale in municipality elections. In Wisconsin, you can’t run as a political party for a municipal election. While Tom Barrett ran for Governor as a Democrat, in the municipal election, he has no party identification. Whether or not these municipal elections are better off with or without party labels, I’m not terribly sure and they probably aren’t the best sample size since the only people who vote in municipal elections are generally familiar with the two candidates. You have to be a pretty hardcore voter to go vote for your country treasurer.

 
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Originally posted by EPR89:

The US has a two party system?
I always thought the majority of the Americans think they have a two party system and complain about the limitations that come with it, when in reality they don’t.

Truth is beautiful. Explain it to them please.

 
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what do you think is more likely considering the US’s already dismal voter turn out: Voters will research candidates, or voters will simply not be voters.

I’m not supporting “no party” system, as that is silly, and people will keep referring to it any way. However, I’m concerned about a vast amount of Americans voting without actually knowing what the candidates stand for. So, as you said, a higher amount of political parties will solve that. This is the case in the Netherlands.

Truth is beautiful. Explain it to them please.

It doesn’t really matter how many parties there are. As explained, the only two parties standing a chance are the democrats and the republicans. The others simply get less votes and therefore their votes, in each individual state, are meaningless.

 
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Originally posted by jhco50:
Originally posted by EPR89:

The US has a two party system?
I always thought the majority of the Americans think they have a two party system and complain about the limitations that come with it, when in reality they don’t.

Truth is beautiful. Explain it to them please.

I checked on it before I bothered to post the first time, and I checked a bit more. According to both Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica (or rather, what I can view of EB), America is a two party system.

It seems to me that saying the US isn’t a two party system is kind of like saying we aren’t a capitalist country. Sure, we have a few social programs, but that does not mean we are not capitalists primarily.

If two party system means something else, I would love a more reasonable source than wikipedia and a the fraction of EB I have access to.

 
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Apparently, I suck at paying attention. Okay, so:

@Darkruler2005

I’m not supporting “no party” system, as that is silly, and people will keep referring to it any way. However, I’m concerned about a vast amount of Americans voting without actually knowing what the candidates stand for. So, as you said, a higher amount of political parties will solve that. This is the case in the Netherlands.

To be honest, it’s hard to know what candidates stand for even when they say it. The easiest example right now is Mitt Romney, who has seemed traditionally rather moderate, and is/has been remaking himself into a more conservative figure over the course of the republican primaries and presidential election.

Also, I decided to check up on voter turnout in the Netherlands, and it’s pretty impressive compared to the US. The percentage of people who vote that are of voting age is typically over 70% for parliament. In the US, it appears that it’s closer to 60% for presidential elections, and much lower for congress (which is every bit as important, even if it is less hyped). Source.

Quick side question: Why is EU parliament voting turn out so low? Is it just seen as less important? In the last two decades, it hasn’t gone over 40%.


Originally posted by issendorf:
I think the bigger, more important change would be how the politicians would act.

A very intriguing thought experiment, to be sure. Reasonable arguments could be made that politicians may:

1) Have even less public attention turned towards what they do based on even greater voter apathy.

2) By no longer having the support of a party behind them, would lead to more self-made candidates, rather than people who simply flow up through the party.

This actually occurs at a smaller scale in municipality elections. In Wisconsin, you can’t run as a political party for a municipal election. While Tom Barrett ran for Governor as a Democrat, in the municipal election, he has no party identification. Whether or not these municipal elections are better off with or without party labels, I’m not terribly sure and they probably aren’t the best sample size since the only people who vote in municipal elections are generally familiar with the two candidates. You have to be a pretty hardcore voter to go vote for your country treasurer.

The second is what I was considering mostly, although the lower voter turnout would encourage the first.

Anyway, having given it more thought, I think a multi-party system would be easier to implement and maintain than my previous idea. If people were more likely to vote and were more aware of their elected officials, I would argue for the no-party system more.

With reality what it is, though, it’s probably too idealistic.

 
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To be honest, it’s hard to know what candidates stand for even when they say it. The easiest example right now is Mitt Romney, who has seemed traditionally rather moderate, and is remaking himself into a more conservative figure over the course of the republican primaries and presidential election.

That’s true, but at least you can blame the president for doing things he didn’t say if you made an informed vote. Making an uninformed vote, by all means, discredits any blame you put on the president for not doing things your way.

Quick side question: Why is EU parliament voting turn out so low? Is it just seen as less important? In the last two decades, it hasn’t gone over 40%.

I would guess since it has less impact on a lot of people’s lives. Each individual country’s government directly interferes with your life, and the EU is less concerned with that. Might be studies on that.