Plight of the Two-Party System

Michaela Althouse

 

When Green Party of Philadelphia leaders were asked at a meeting if they thought Dr. Jill Stein actually had a chance at the presidency, the question was met with laughter. There was no glimmer of hope that she could win, because Green Party members know the truth: our country is tyrannized by a two-party system and the little man is lost in the process.

Smaller parties have no prospect because they’re going against a system made for two parties. They are barred from the national debates due to the lack of support, costing them valuable face-time in the media and the ability to gain any more support. And with the electoral college forcing parties to win states and delegates instead of popular support, there is no hope for any rise.

In the early years of our country, when our country was still just a toddler, really, the Founding Fathers developed a democracy fostering a two party system. Seems simple enough, if you don’t like one, just vote for the other. And since this was a time when only the white,  landowning men could vote, you were bound to agree with one of the two candidates (who were likely also a white man). No problem.

It’s 2016, though. Times have changed. Women can vote. People of color can vote. Anyone who is a citizen over the age of 18 can vote. And of the 300 million people in the U.S., there are quite literally millions of different opinions and perspectives in the country. Still, we’re stuck in the past of a two-party system, something that is nearly an impossible cause to combat.

This thought is exemplified in the current election. Many voters are just choosing the lesser of two evils and may have different opinions if this was not the high-stakes election it has become. Filled with “bad hombres” and robotic personalities, neither candidate is very tempting. Hillary Clinton has too much experience and a cautious mindset in political action. Donald Trump is well… Trump. But, at least it isn’t the other one. At least we’re not working to put them in office.

Our presidential election is ruled by a plurality system, which is a fancy way of saying winner takes all. The candidate must not only have the majority, though, they have to receive at least 50 percent of the delegates. This cultivates the two party system, because smaller parties would decrease the winning margin if they were to gain support and possibly prevent a major party victory. The latter have more at stake and thus the Democrats and Republicans dominate.

But, wait! There are other parties! What about the Libertarian guy who didn’t know what Aleppo was, or the doctor who’s running?

Sure, we have other parties, because some people feel voting for someone they believe in is more important than voting for someone who will win. An admirable trait, but with little risk and no real reward.

Admittedly, smaller parties have muddied the waters in the past. The late 19th century brought the brief rise of the Populist party and William Jennings Bryan. Many argue that Green Party nominee Ralph Nader in the 2000 election cost Al Gore the win in Florida. Really, though, the only effect smaller parties can hope for is to take votes away from the major two. Most recently this has been illustrated with former Bernie Sanders supporters backing Stein, drawing potential support away from Clinton.

Many voters refuse to vote for smaller parties even if they agree with the policies. The thought of Clinton or Trump in office is so terrible, it turns into a duty to prevent either or from getting elected. So, what’s left? Two candidates who many voters don’t want, a vote that feels like an obligation and a country that is stuck in the past. Why are we fighting so hard to prevent candidates from getting in office, then, instead of working to change a system that is outdated, ineffective and leaves the little man in the dust? Instead of fighting the system, as we should, we are fighting the candidates.

The most obvious move would be towards a proportional system. As opposed to needing over 50 percent of the vote with no consolation prize for the loser, proportional representation would mean if a party wins 10 percent of the votes, they receive 10 percent of the seats in government as well. This gives incentive to smaller parties, because they are still given some sort of power though nowhere near the majority (the most obvious example of this is the current parliamentary system in the United Kingdom). This would not apply to the presidency, but at least there is some form of larger representation.

Critics say this would produce a stalemate and nothing would get done, but I disagree. The U.S. already has a stalemate. Take a look at the Obama Administration, and all the work that never got done because we had a Democratic president and a Republican-dominated Congress. Take a look at Obamacare, and the original bill versus the changes President Barack Obama was forced to make just to have it passed.

Already so little gets done, and it gets done by people who do not even represent the majority of the population of our country. Why do we have a failing middle class? Because power is given to the people with money, and everyone else is left in the dust. It is a system ruled in extremes and it produces the extremes in the economy as well.

Yet we have people ringing out their bells of liberty, swearing this is the best country in the world and that our democracy allows everyone to have a say. When we have one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world, however. It seems impossible to believe it’s  a system that works and one that truly supports everybody.

Because, quite frankly, it’s 2016. Maybe it’s unpatriotic to question the Founding Fathers, and maybe nothing will ever really change until we get the rich, established politicians out of the House and the Senate. Or maybe we need some perspective. Our country is running on a voting system made when most of the population could not even cast a ballot. It’s not about “Making America Great Again” or being “With Her.” It’s time to change something other than who’s in office.

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