America’s two-party system: too few to be democracy
All the political campaigning came to fruition last week when America decided its leader for the next four years. Those who voted for the victor rejoiced in celebration, while those who voted for the defeated ducked their heads, thinking of what could’ve been. What gets me about the whole thing is how an entire nation can be satisfied with having just two options for its leader.
I’ll be honest and say right off the bat that I do not believe in political parties in the first place. I hearken back to the wise words of this nation’s first president, George Washington. When stepping aside from the presidency, he had these words to say about the establishment of political parties: “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.”
What Washington is speaking to is that parties will indeed campaign as the champion for what their constituents want. However, in the process, they will also advocate for their own agenda that advances their own fortunes, which may not always be in the public’s best interest.
Now, I know we are way too far down the road with political parties to heed the words of Washington now, but what he said certainly has come true, and I suppose that has to be expected. Of course, every group put into a position of power is going to look for ways for their own betterment as well as the nation’s, so I cannot blame them.
I can gripe about the minimal options I have when it comes to the presidential election, though.
The presidential candidates go into every election with a 50/50 shot of getting elected president. I’m not much of a gambler, but I’d be pretty comfortable with those odds. Sure, it is an exhausting and expensive endeavor to run for president — and to lose would certainly be the epitome of a downer — but you have to like your odds going into it.
I’ve been able to vote in only two presidential elections now, but in each one, I really didn’t care for either candidate. I’m sure there are thousands of other Americans who felt the same way, but they still voted for a Republican or Democrat so they didn’t “throw their vote away” on a third-party candidate. I think there is a lot of benefit that can be had if the two-party system were ended and we went forward with viable multi-party presidential candidates.
I’d like to believe that voter turnout would increase since one would think people would have faith that their vote counts more. What is quite possibly the biggest reason, though, is that we would have multiple candidates for what is the most important job in the country. In any job-hiring situation, it has always been looked upon as a blessing to have multiple well-qualified candidates for the job because you really can be choosy in who you pick. Now, I’m not saying that everybody and their mother should be able to become viable candidates for the presidential race, but at least a three-person race would give us an extra option.
The best finish by any third-party candidate in the history of U.S. elections was Teddy Roosevelt, who after serving two terms as a Republican president from 1901 to 1909, decided to create a new party: the Bull Moose Party.
Roosevelt ran again in 1912, finishing with 27.4 percent of the popular vote. This example just goes to show that many people vote blindly along party lines; just a few years prior, Americans had voted in Roosevelt — but when he bore the banner of an unknown party, he wasn’t an option any longer.
Maybe people will shy away from voting strictly on party lines with the endorsement of a multi-party system. I know the argument has been made before, and it will no doubt be made again, but I can’t help but think this: What does America have to lose by allowing another option for president? If we believe in our democracy, then the people’s choice will always emerge as the victor.
What’s the harm in a little competition?