By Frederick Anthony
The two-party system of American politics has outgrown its skin. While not without historical significance, as exemplified by how our nation has been divided into two relatively equal and respectively polarized factions on opposite ends of the political spectrum for decades, it’s a double-edged sword.
Having two major parties – one representing the liberal side, the other in step with more conservative principles – in theory, this arrangement seems intuitively plausible and indefinitely sustainable. However, America has grown.
There are now four distinct factions – each of which could be the center of its own major political party in today’s United States of America: the establishment and progressive wings of the Democrats, parallel to the establishment and conservative wings of the Republicans.
The current two-party system polarizes the nation into two virtual republics of American think-tanks. This has the consequential effect of essentially forcing Americans to choose a side and subscribe to that party’s entire platform, instead of establishing a culture in which individual issues are debated and explored on a case-by-case basis.
A three-party system would not be an adequate step-up. We’ve already been there and done that. While most Americans might not be aware of it, the United States established a third top-level party, the Reform Party, after Ross Perot won 18.9 percent of the vote in the 1992 general election.
The Reform Party failed to obtain enough votes in the 2000 general election, therefore it was downgraded back down to a minor party and lost federal funding. Consequently, the Reform Party ceased to be a major player, and the USA has not had another significant third-party since its fall.
In retrospect, the Reform Party competed for the same voters as the GOP, as evidenced by Bill Clinton’s narrow victory in 1992 with only 43 percent of the vote. Most historians believe George H. W. Bush would have been reelected for a second term if it weren’t for Ross Perot’s 1992 candidacy. Had there been a fourth major candidate in that mix, just imagine the possibilities.
A four or five-party system would be ideal in today’s United States of America. Either would serve our current needs as well as allow for future expansion. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have major problems with internal gridlock and bickering, so a split in each is long overdue.
In a four-party system, internal partisan-wars would be significantly reduced. For example, despite having a Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives in the second term of Barack Obama’s presidency, the GOP establishment battled as much with the conservative wing of their own party as they did against the Democrats across the aisle.
Hypothetically, from left to right – the Progressive, Democratic, Republican, and Conservative parties could map the ideal blueprint for a new four-party system. Of course, there would still be internal bickering and gridlock within the parties, however significantly reduced.
A fifth major party with a more centrist platform could be a viable addition, too. This would also bring the total of top-level parties to the odd number of five; that in itself throws another variable into the equation and conceivably could serve as home base for moderates and independents.
With an increase in the number of political parties, it lessens the chance of any single party getting more than a fifty-percent majority of votes, at which point the top two candidates would emerge as finalists in a runoff election. In order for these particular changes to be implemented, there would need to be legislation and major overhaul of election law – but if we’re going to do it, we owe it ourselves to do it right.
About the author: Frederick Anthony is a political independent and the father of two. Providing readers with a balanced take on the practical politics of America is always this author’s primary agenda.