Bipartisan Banter: The end of the two-party system?

Neil Murphy and Opinion Editor

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We all get told that politics, among other things, is something that shouldn’t be brought up at a dinner table. Why is it that people perpetuate this statement?

I’d say it’s because politics isn’t viewed as something healthy. When something isn’t healthy, we decide to stray away from that particular thing.

Politics has become incredibly divisive over the years. According to a Pew Research study from December 2017, 86% of Americans say that conflicts between Democrats and Republicans are either strong or very strong.

From the same study, 90 percent of Democrats and Democrat leaners say that there are very strong or strong conflicts while the number for Republicans and Republican leaners is 87 percent. These are overwhelming and quite alarming numbers to have.

While perceived conflict between political parties exists, we should look at the public’s general perception of party image.

Individuals feel very strongly towards their counterparts, so it’s very hard not to get a biased answer.

If we are to look at the general public’s perception of the two biggest political parties, perhaps we would then have a less biased view.

According to a longitudinal study by Gallup from 1993 to 2019, the percentage of people who view both the Democratic and Republican Party favorably has dropped between 9 percent for the Democratic Party and 16 percent for Republican Party.

In 2019, 37 percent of people view the Republican Party as favorable and 45 percent of people view the Democratic party as favorable.

With the data showing that individuals are having a decreasing view towards political parties, would it be wrong for one to assume that political parties are failing?

Former Republican congresswoman Mickey Edwards had even stated that political parties are “undemocratic,” in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio in 2018.

The concept of political parties in the United States was so bad that George Washington urged the United States to not create political parties in his farewell address.

I would argue that both Washington and Edwards are completely correct with their statements about political parties.

Political parties have a “you’re either with us or against us” mentality. Think about it, partisanship is held in such high regard in our country.

When asked about our political beliefs, we typically stick to our guns and never really budge on our issues. We try and be very loyal to our political ideology.

Dr. Russel Dalton talks about partisanship in his research article from the University of Oxford published in May 2016.

He and his team found that individual perceived partisanship in the United States ranks above the average, ranking second only to France.

This statistic is very interesting given the strong partisanship in European countries.

Going even further into this research article, you can find what is known as the “dark side of partisanship.”

Obviously as stated above, perceived conflict between groups is bad. But do we have any mindset into why that is?

“Partisanship might act as blinders that shield partisans from discordant information that is necessary for making informed choices. If friends of my friends are always friends, and friends of my enemies are always enemies, then partisans are unlikely to see alternatives for discourse and compromise—and making of better choices,” Dalton stated.

With partisanship taking the reigns over bipartisanship, conflict seems to arise between both groups, whether pitted against one another or internally.

That being said, is it possible that the end is near for the two-party system?

Logically, for the two-party system to go away, there should be an alternative to the two-party system.

Is there an effective system that the United States can put in place to get rid of this issue? The answer is no.

However, only a parliamentary system guarantees that alternatives to a two-party system have any chance of being effective. It would be impossible to implement this in the United States.

The electoral college that we have practically ensured the success of a two-party system.

All a third party would do is take away votes from one party and give votes to another.

The only way a third party could have an effect is if everybody rejected the parties they belonged to and voted for a third-party candidate.

Throughout the entire history of our two-party system, we have seen only two parties dominate in politics.

However, this isn’t to say that parties will not change.

If you look back long enough, we can see that parties have changed and evolved throughout the country’s history.

From 1792-1824, we had the Federalists and the Democrats. From 1828-1854, the Whigs emerged from the Republican Party and then we still had the Democratic Party. From 1854-1932, the country saw the rise of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

However, from 1890-1932, we got to see ideals shifted from both sides. The Republican Party became the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party became the Republican Party.

Sounds crazy right? But that is how it happened. Look at flowcharts from any political science book.

From 1932 to the present, we have our current political parties. For better or for worse, we have our Democratic Party and we have our Republican Party.

Of course, we have third parties, but sadly in the broken system we have, they are virtually “nonexistent” in the grand scheme of things.

In conclusion, we shall see if a new change in political parties can occur. It is more feasible to see that occur compared to a dismantling of the two-party system for obvious reasons.

The two-party system isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Maybe this can be viewed as a blessing or better yet a curse?

Expect a follow up to this article to find out.

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