Opinion: Two-party system creates disastrous problem


Andrea Widburg, Flickr

Facing off in the 2020 presidential election is President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released this week, 45% of those surveyed would vote for Biden, while 40% would vote for Trump.

Nick Graziano, Guest Writer

The two-party system is destroying American democracy.

Ever since the Founding Fathers, Americans have been warned about how a two-party system could be disastrous for America. John Adams, a founding father and the second president of the United States, contested a two-party system. He said, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties… this, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

One of the major problems a two-party system poses is the fact that the majority of Americans don’t feel that either party represents them well. According to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), only 44% of Americans say that they feel well-represented by the Democratic Party, while only 35% of Americans feel that the Republican Party represents them well.

If a majority of Americans don’t feel represented by either major political party, then why does a two-party system still exist?

This can be attributed to the fact the United States has a plurality system. In a winner-takes-all system, Americans are given one vote for one candidate… for one seat. Because of this, parties that receive fewer votes in an election compared to other parties will eventually fade away, due to Americans feeling that the party that actually represents them will never actually win.

Eventually, this encourages a two-party system. Even if more political parties try to gain ground in an election, they will quickly be defeated by the sentiment that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote.

Government teacher Ryan Pubentz believes that a multi-party system would make American votes more meaningful. “If the U.S. switched to a multiparty system, U.S. citizens could vote for a third party knowing it could make a difference,” he said.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 56% of Americans voted in the United State’s 2016 primary election. This places the United States far behind other nations in terms of voter turnout.

But why?

Perhaps Americans feel that they aren’t properly represented by either candidate. Or, maybe Americans don’t feel like their vote matters.

Pubentz thinks it’s likely both. “Data suggests if there were a multi-party system, voter turnout could increase, however, not as dramatically as one might think considering the frequency of U.S. elections,” he said.

Whether or not voter turnout would dramatically increase is unclear. The more important reason to embrace a multi-party system is choice. If Americans feel like they actually have a choice that they’re confident in, American democracy would greatly strengthen. People would feel more inclined to cast a vote to a candidate that they believe adequately represents them and actually has a chance of winning.

With a two-party system, this is, unfortunately, impossible.