Opinion: Two Political Parties Isn’t Enough for Democracy
There are 323 million people living in the United States of America, the world’s third largest population. By and large, this collection of peoples are forced, by default, to choose between two flawed and largely disliked political parties, the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant. This is baffling, troubling and downright laughable.
In truth, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Our Founding Fathers didn’t intend to divide the nation among party lines. And yet, it might have been wholly inevitable. Party factions have existed since the Roman Republic and perhaps even before. So now we simply have to deal with the reality that, despite the best wishes and warnings of George Washington, political parties will be a part of the American Experience as long as there is an America.
But while we’re embracing political factions, why stop at two?
Let’s face it, most of America doesn’t fit within the platforms of the GOP or the Democrats. Most people don’t see issues in black and white. I certainly don’t. For most, aligning with the Left or the Right means finding a party that they can live with even if it is not a party that they can believe in.
Last election alone, four candidates made noteworthy pushes towards the White House and did so, not by towing the party line, but by rocking the boat. One of them, Donald Trump, even won. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont ignited a populist, democratic-socialist movement which was readily embraced by the younger generation and continues to be a voice in our current climate. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party each garnered over one million votes in 2016’s presidential election. This points to the to the unignorable fact that Americans are fed up with the two-party system and ready to welcome a move away from it with open arms.
This has happened before. The Republican Party was founded in 1854. By 1856, they had a major presidential candidate in John C. Frémont, who lost to James Buchanan. In 1857, they had pushed the Whigs to the point of extinction. Finally, in 1860, the Republicans had won the White House on the back of a little known moderate from Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln.
In the early 1900s, two parties almost rose high enough to supplant the two-party system with a multi-party system, present in other major democracies like England, France, Germany and South Africa. But William Jennings Bryan’s Populist Party and Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Bull Moose Party failed to stick and were eventually dissolved, leaving us with just two choices once more.
The two-party system poses a number of problems. It leafs to the entrenchment of political elites like the Clintons and Bushes, who were forced down our collective throats once more in 2016, a move so hated by the American people that many choose Trump instead, a move leading to this seemingly unending nightmare.
So what we need is a new party, but not a party to supplant the GOP or Democrats. That would just lead to more of the same. Let us not look to imitate the Republican-authored downfall of the Whigs, but to found a party that can exist along with the two current ideologies, compete for and hold seats in Congress and perhaps even win the presidency. And from a competitive third party, a fourth a fifth. And why not a sixth? Maybe that party doesn’t exist yet. It may not be the Green Party or the Rent is Too Damn High Party, but maybe one altogether different, something not so black and white, more malleable.
Alexis de Tocqueville called America, “The Great Experiment.” As such, we should, nay we must, expect the system we live in to change and adapt into what currently fits the desires and needs of the people. Two parties is far too few to hold all the power in humanity’s most powerful state. In fact, it is too few for any democracy. The time has come for us, the people, to stand behind a new path, one which can compete against and, more importantly work with, the living titans of the 19th century.