The two-party system we operate under in the United States of America is complete and utter crap.
The two-party system has lead to stagnation of actual change in America. When one party takes power, they must reign back the changes the other party has made in order to advance their own party ideals, often at the expense of the other party’s progress which may have taken years of fighting. This leads to a drastic back and forth over policies and an overall slowing of change, if any change really happens at all. Republicans want no new taxes; Democrats want a strong social safety net. The two bicker back and forth to try to find middle ground (often they don’t), and we the American people suffer because of it as we are forced into deadlock.
We could take a lesson from other countries in how we operate our political parties though and such rigid standstill may not be an issue holding us back. In many countries, they operate with three or more political parties. Some will form a majority coalition with other parties to win an election and work together based on shared interests. This allows individual parties to stand for their own ideals as best they can while still working for shared common goals in their majority coalition.
In America we do not see coalitions form between the two parties. With two parties, it wouldn’t be possible. Instead, we see large divisions within each party which make it hard to even define what each party believes. In fact there aren’t even just two parties, it’s just that no party except the Republicans and Democrats receive any airtime which exacerbates the problem and deadlock. The only time you’ll ever see a candidate from either of the residual parties get attention is when you get to the presidential cycle and voters are not happy with the Republicans or Democrats; they are forced to look elsewhere (i.e. Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot).
Deadlock is dangerous for our democracy as we have seen over the last eight years. Republicans vowed to oppose Obama based simply on the fact he is a Democrat, and Democrats have been stopped in the House and Senate from passing many pieces of legislation by endless different tactics in that time-frame. Examples of this can be seen in the systematic blocking of Obama appointees to various positions, including the recently opened Supreme Court vacancy Merrick Garland awaits a confirmation hearing for. When Republicans try to advance their ideas Democrats stand in the way as best they can as well, and it would be unfair to insinuate otherwise. Both parties are guilty for the deadlock.
If we break up the two main parties however, this type of gridlock and political bickering would not be as effective because we would have other parties to keep us in check, rather than both parties throwing temper tantrums and still garnering the largest amounts of voters. The Republican party has tried to throw an eight-year temper tantrum and they have seen their party weaken. With more diversity in our political system and the realization that members of parties could jettison to a similarly positioned faction, the American people and political environment would benefit from a three-party or four-party system which is more representative of the nation’s views.
Three parties would not be enough to truly represent the American people though. If Progressives and Democrats split and formed a coalition, it would leave a broken Republican party with what seems to be a civil war brewing inside the “Grand Old Party”. A split of the Republican party could see interesting areas of overlapping policy ideas between the anti-establishment voters that have flocked to Sanders and Trump, while the moderate wing of the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton would have overlapping interests in certain economic and foreign affairs with the Republican party. The views of the people would be represented more accurately with more political parties and diversity of opinions.
If we were to see a Republican, Tea Party, Democrat, and Progressive faction each working for their own policy positions we would get more accomplished. The division in the main parties exists because neither truly represents all of those within their ranks. Instead of spending so much time infighting over the vast differences in ideals under each of the two parties, we would release the tension and allow each of the parties to bring their ideas to the table for discussion. If smaller parties seek out each of their own agendas, policy discussions wouldn’t be based simply on toeing the party line and capitulation to the majority. The individual parties could come to the table to negotiate with their own perspectives to help find a compromise and independent voters wouldn’t have to blindly accept proposals of only Democrats and Republicans.
According to Reuters, the independent voting block in this country sits at around 42% of the country while Democrats and Republicans hover around 29% and 26%, respectively. Independent voters will only flock to the Democratic or Republican agenda until they recognize the power of the independent voting block on their own.
Bernie Sanders as an Independent within the Democratic party has the majority of voters under 45, and as the voters get younger the support is even higher. If the Democratic party truly wishes to advance their agenda and increase the party’s size they should actually attempt to win over the generation of voters that will give birth to the next generation of voters: young voters. They are not winning these voters currently as evidenced by Bernie Sanders’ rise in the Democratic party and his supporters’ unwillingness to vote for Hillary and the establishment. Working on a coalition of liberalism and progressivism could lead to a majority that would defeat the Republican party and any subdivisions within as their party fractures.
I could stand behind a coalition of the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren progressive faction of the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton’s center-based faction. That coalition would not be defeated in our current political climate and could siphon conservative voters who disagree with the Republicans as well as many independent voters who agree with the social agenda of the Democratic party.
That being said, I could not stand behind a solely moderate and center-focused Democratic party. I am an independent voter. I shouldn’t have to vote for Democrats just because we as a nation don’t have the balls to be willing to change the gridlock provided by a two-party system. I am not a Democrat. I look at the issues and select the candidate I believe agrees with my views. Just because Democrats agree with me on social issues does not mean I have to vote for Democrats who I disagree with on foreign and economic issues.
There are many reasons why this system will not work in the U.S. including our electoral college rules and the general worry of breaking up the parties, but we do not need to accept this antiquated political system. We can do better as a country and we should demand better. We should not accept the status quo as fate. We as Americans need parties which better represent the people, and the two-party system does not offer that.