Hope Lynn Herrmann Essay 2 American Government Why do democratic governments need political parties? Why does the United States have only two major parties? Name and explain the major factors influencing how many political parties exist in US politics. Under what circumstances could a viable third party emerge to challenge the Democrats and Republicans? Would you rather have more than a two (major) party system, and if so, why? Democratic governments have been in existence for thousands of years and has dominated the history of the United State since the end of the revolutionary war.
The appeal of this form of government is that the government is for and by the people. I believe that the political parties of our nation serve to organize the varying views and expectations of the people. A political party is “a group of political activists who organize to win elections, operate the government, and determine public policy. ” (Schmidt 244) Our nation has operated on a system of two major political parties since around 1800. The names and core values of those parties have changed several times over the years. The two major parties today, the Republicans and the
Democrats, are the parties that stand a reasonable chance at winning any given elections. The Republican party is known to be conservative in both economic and moral issues. This party would prefer to limit social services and emphasize one’s ability to be responsible for their own finances. They are also known to oppose hot topic issues like gay rights and abortion. The Democratic party, on the other hand, are currently pushing social programs like the Affordable Healthcare Act (also referred to as Obama Care) based on taxing the upper and middle classes and are much more accepting regarding gay rights and a woman’s right to choose.
These two political parties serve as opposite points of reference to modern issues allowing adults to think critically about all alternative options available to us. In addition, political parties in the Unite States perform a variety of functions including recruiting local candidates for elections and helping them climb the political ladder, organizing and running elections, and presenting a variety of proposed policies and changes to our legislation. (Schmidt 245) I have often wondered why there are only two major political parties in the United States.
Other democratic nations like Britain and Canada have many major political arties, each of which present another way of thinking regarding how to manage a nation. Having only two major parties seems to limit our choices substantially. In fact, I can recall many conversations in which an individual has told me who they voted for and simply stated that they chose the lesser of two evils. This is bothersome. I feel that we should not be limited to only two pretty bad choices when it comes to something as important as preserving our way of life. The truth is that we are not limited to vote republican or democratic.
There are many “third parties,” which are parties that are organized political units, however hey have little chance of actually winning a seat or the presidency. Some notable third parties include the socialists, the progressive and the green parties. (Schmidt 267) Most of the citizens in the United States are familiar with these parties and have at least a vague inclination as to what values and ideals each one represents, yet, these smaller, less influential parties would have to overcome several obstacles if the United States were ever to accept a third major political party.
The first issue is simply that we, as a nation, are used to having two main parties. The United States as always had two major parties and after over two hundred years imagining another major political powerhouse is difficult. The electoral system also places these parties at a disadvantage. The electoral system in our nation is based on a “winner takes all” mentality which means that a candidate with a third party must win a majority vote. Other democratic nations use a proportionate system on placing elected officials that allows smaller parties to make progress more quickly.
Furthermore, state and federal laws tend to make it difficult for new or third parties to initiate involvement during elections. For instance, a third party must obtain more signatures to have their candidate be added to a ballot. In the end we must conclude that most of these third parties are not likely to become major parties and their representatives are unlikely to win elections. Third parties are not successful by everyone’s standards but they can make a huge impact on who ultimately wins an election.
Third parties make a difference in an election by diverting and absorbing votes that would have gone to another major candidate. It really depends on the election. Some presidential and congressional lections are won by such a large margin that one or two or three percent of the votes in another direction would have made no difference at all. On the other hand, certain elections are so close that even a tiny amount could have changed history. Consider the 2000 presidential election between A1 Gore and George Bush II.
A1 Gore actually won the popular vote, however, Bush won the election because of the way our electoral system works. There was speculation that A1 Gore could have won had it now been for the votes that went to smaller, third party candidates. These two men re contrasting leaders with opposite opinions on many social and economic policies which leads me to believe that things in the United States could have been much different had the election gone in the other direction.
While the third parties involved in our nation’s politics are influential it is not likely that one of these groups will become a major contender in our elections any time soon. The people of the United States seem to be comfortable with the manner in which we elect our officials and the two party system. The only way I could foresee one of the third parties advancing to a competitive, major role is if proponents and embers of each, current major political parties were feeling a deep and lasting disappointment with both parties. We should be able to seek out other options should the republicans and democrats fail to resolve an issue.
One such leading issue that could have the capacity to initiate a huge change like introducing a third major party would be the deep recession that has been plaguing the United States for years. Economic turmoil could certainly act as a catalyst for political change. When I ponder the reality of having more than two, three or even four major political parties a variety ot benefits and disadvantages cross my mind. Feeling as it you must choose the lesser of two evils in a presidential or congressional election in order to make your vote count seems like a silly way to manage a nation to me.
I cannot think of an election during which I felt like I really connected with either candidate. Ultimately, I generally choose the candidate that I dislike the least and hope for the best. If we were to have a handful of realistic candidates for these important political positions I think more citizens would get involved in voting and other civic duties. The text and my own personal experiences state that most people re “middle of the roaders” who may have conservative moral values and liberal economic principles or vice versa.
There is no political party that all of these moderate individuals fit comfortably in to and that limits the passion they might feel for politics. If there was a candidate that was economically conservative yet still championed the rights of the Gay and Lesbian communities, believed in supporting our elderly, military and veterans while adhering to the fundamental principles of the constitution I know that I would be significantly more engaged, interested and passionate about that leader.
It is logical that the same would be true of the forty percent of citizens who don’t care enough to vote. Furthermore I believe that the minds of many are much stronger than the minds of a few. We are limiting the possibilities by only giving serious consideration to only two groups of politicians… perhaps a fresh wave of less Jaded and corrupt politicians is Just what our struggling nation needs. Works Cited Bardes, Barbara A. , Steffen W. Schmidt, and Mack C. Shelley. American Government and Politics Today: The Essentials, 2011-2012. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.