Two-Party America: A Detrimental Dichotomy?

By Sarah Blanchard

Since 1864, the Democratic and Republican parties have successfully marketed themselves as the political solution of choice for Americans. Although today’s conservative and liberal platforms do not closely resemble their 150-year old foundations, they nonetheless continue to garner more than 98% of the popular vote in the U.S. Presidential race.[1]

Regardless of their clear hold on the vast majority of registered voters (only half of the U.S. populace), Americans are increasingly displeased with the partisan politics that have led to a stalemate in Washington and an inability to discern candidates’ true public policy values through party alignment. During this pre-election season in 2012, voters often explain their candidate of choice as the ‘lesser of two evils’.  This statement indicates that voters either:

1) feel that they literally only have two choices for President, or

2) only a member of one of these two prominent political parties can win a majority of the Electoral College votes.

Either reasoning indicates a lack of political equality, real or perceived.

America, as a democracy, is a form of government in which power is not intended to be held by the few and where citizens are empowered to influence public policy change through their choices in representational leadership. Political equality is a foundational principal of democracy that requires equal treatment in the political sphere.

It’s not hard to see how this lack of equality has emerged. The Independent, Libertarian, and Green parties, some of the more successful[2] third parties in recent U.S. Presidential elections, are not even allowed to participate in the Presidential Debates. The debates are managed by a nonprofit entity and sponsored by private sector interests, such as Anheuser-Busch and Southwest Airlines[3], and do not encourage the participation of third parties. Their stated goal is to “provide the best possible information to viewers,”[4] which by their privately derived definition of viable candidate is one polling with 15% or more support from the electorate.[5]

The catch-22 is, however, that the Presidential Debates give candidates a platform to state their public policy intentions to nearly 70 million[6] American voters — half of the total number of votes[7] cast in recent Presidential elections.

If you accept the premise that debates play a critical role in elections, informing the vast electorate of their options for filling the position of Leader of the Free World, then we should ask why this is not a publicly administered process as all other electoral activities are?

Our political and electoral systems are becoming a more frequent target for parody by entertainers and the media. Rather than watch our democracy and public policy continue to devolve, we have a public service imperative to help our political and electoral systems evolve.


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