Why Does the United States Have a Two-Party System?

Why Does the United States Have a Two-Party System?

The two-party system of the United States Ì¢‰â‰۝ wherein elections are invariably won by one of the two major parties, Republican or Democrat Ì¢‰â‰۝ is largely a result of the winner-takes-all electoral system.

Whereas in many other countries, the runner up parties in an election will nevertheless be represented in government proportional to the number of votes received, the U.S. offers no such incentive for smaller parties to even enter the race. This system may also be described as a duopoly. Even when an independent or third-party candidate is successful in securing votes from the public, this will only count in the Electoral College if they amount to the majority of votes. For this reason, many times, the third party is criticized for taking away votes from the two candidates that matter: the Democratic and Republican.

Third Party Candidates
The only places when third party candidates have a voice are typically as governors or senators, who are limited in power and influence. The third party candidates also must have a source of wealth to back up their candidacy. Whenever a third party candidate wants to run for office, they face many barriers, including legal requirements and the inability to receive media coverage. In fact, the history of the United States presidential elections has been a story of two parties for centuries. The only exception was Roosevelt, who ran as a third party candidate.

As a result, politics in the U.S. is very restricted, with voters liable to apathy in the face of such limited choices. The winner-takes-all system is less democratic than systems of proportional representation, since the interests of those citizens who voted for a non-winning candidate will not be represented in government.

In Favor of the Two-Party System
Those in favor of the two-party electoral system in the U.S. point out that it fosters stability in government, and encourages both parties to moderate their views in order to appeal to the middle ground. They also suggest that voters might benefit from the ease of simply selecting between one candidate or the other. However, this can also force voters to choose between candidates that they may not align with or don't support completely.

Oppositions Within the Two-Party System
Additionally, the tradition of two parties also leads to a polarized political landscape, with Democrats and Republicans disagreeing on topics and not able to work together. This includes politicians, but also citizens on a personal level as well. This is compounded by the stance of the political parties on sensitive societal issues, like abortion and the death penalty.

Some argue that the two-party system is detrimental to the country, especially in government. Although there are many important issues that need to be tackled and decided upon, the parties are busy in a stand-off and stagnating any progress. As the polarity becomes more stark, the people also become increasingly divided.

Alternatives to the Two-Party System
Others believe that the only way to move forward is to introduce additional political parties to the landscape. This would increase the voters' choices and ability for them to be heard in a new way. Additionally, new parties with a voice and power can add new perspectives and solutions. However, this would require an overhaul of the electoral process.