The foundation of a prosperous democracy is its’ citizens’ ability to have a say and influence the government through elections. Furthermore, in order for that influence to make a difference, its’ citizens must be able to send clear signals to political leaders about what they want out of the government, and what they want their government to do. Thus, it is obvious that a democracy will prosper if the voters have multiple clearly defined options available for them to choose from at the polls during elections. When a government has these multiple electoral options, it means the citizens are able to vote for a candidate who closest represents their own views and opinions on contemporary political issues. In addition to this, having clear candidates to choose from encourages others to vote, since a citizen is more likely to vote if they care about which individual politician wins and loses. But the existence of only two major parties, leads to a sharp distinction between the candidates and political parties, with candidates being as vague as possible on certain issues as to not offend voters and appeal to the majority of voters.
Before the Democratic Party and the Republican Party were the major two parties, there was the Democratic Party and the Whig Party, before this was the Democratic Party and the National Republican Party, and before that, the two dominant parties were the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists. Throughout the United States’ history, there have always been two major parties, all the meanwhile, political third parties have been minor players over the course of U.S. politics.
Throughout U.S. presidential politics, third parties have been prominent occasionally, but have almost never had a real chance at scoring the U.
S. presidency. They also rarely win any seats in Congress, where since World War II, there has been no more than two out of its 535 occupants who have been any party other than the Republicans and Democrats. So why and how does one of the strongest, most expansive democracies to date have only two major political parties representing the people? It has to do with how the U.
S. political system is set up for two major political parties because it grants seats in Congress and the presidency with a method referred to as ‘winner-take-all’ method. Running congressional candidates only need to get a plurality of the vote to be elected. A plurality meaning that candidate got the most votes but overall has a lesser percentage than all other candidates combined, which would be a majority. In most of the 50 states, presidential candidates get all of a state’s electoral votes (presidents are elected, state by state by how many electoral votes they won) under the conditions that they win a plurality of the vote in that state. Meaning that the person with the most votes in that state wins all of the seats. It doesn’t matter if a candidate wins a certain percentage of the vote if they don’t get a majority or plurality of the vote. Furthermore, third parties can’t really compete because there is no second place prize for winning.
For example, if a candidate takes 25 percent of the vote but still loses, that candidates’ party and agenda will not be politically represented. This leads voters to pick candidates that they think are the most likely to win. Which also leads the two parties to try to broaden their appeal to half of the electorate. The two parties will also only allow one candidate to run from their party as to not split the vote between multiple candidates, which gives each of the two parties the largest chance of winning. Parties at risk of splitting the vote between candidates will do whatever necessary to avoid third-party candidates due to this being one of the only chances for a third party to win over either of the major two. Adding incentive for the two major parties to keep it that way. While there have been many third-party or independent candidates who have run for elections over history, very few have garnered enough public support and even fewer have received state electoral votes. For example, in the 1992 presidential election, Ross Perot, who ran as an independent candidate, received 19 percent of the overall vote but did not win a single state electoral vote.
The Democratic Party and the Republican Party may have a duopoly on the American democratic system now but public opinion is beginning to sway against this system with a decline in voters who identify with one of the two major political parties and a whopping 40 percent of Americans identifying as independent as of 2012.