The Flaws of the Two Party System
The current, two-party system in America has been a gradual leech on the country that has been sucking away the will of the people and slowly weakening the nation.
To start, the two party system eats away any semblance of a real, proper vote, and instead replaces it with a “lesser of two evils” situation. As an example, 2016 gave us Hillary Clinton, a candidate whom 68% of the American electorate viewed as untrustworthy, and Donald Trump, a complete moron with no clue about how a country even works. More voters voted on a “lesser of two evils” basis, rather than actual support for their candidate. This is not how you encourage participation is democracy, no. This is how the people become disillusioned from the democratic process, inevitably leading to the degradation of our government. It is simply impossible to have a government “by the people” if the people are voting solely to oppose a different candidate.
Secondly, the two party system forces voters to vote strategically, rather than for the ideas they actually support. Take the example of the Libertarian and Green parties. The Libertarian party is, at its core, a moderately altered version of the Republican party. The Green party is a more left-wing version of the democratic party. There are certainly many voters in the United States who would support either the Green or Libertarian parties, but these parties are usually under 5% in elections. Why? Because a vote for the Green party is a vote that doesn’t go to the democratic party, and since the Green party has no chance of winning, it is essentially a wasted vote. If the Green party rose, it would only result in a complete GOP takeover of the United States, as the left-wing would be totally divided. Thus, the two-party system is a self sustaining monster that eliminates choice.
The third major problem, is of course, partisanship. Washington DC and the nation as a whole are more divided than ever, and the reason why relates to reason two. Left-wing politicians who would ordinarily belong in the Green Party (such as Elizabeth Warren) are instead forced into the democratic party, and since primary voters are more radical than the electorate as a whole, the left-wingers beat out democratic moderates. They eventually are elected to congress, as most of the time, their respective states are either solid democratic or republican and thus electability isn’t a concern in the primary. This same process occurs in right-wing states, resulting in people like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee being elected to the senate. Thus, with far-right and far-left politicians showing up in large numbers, it is no wonder that partisanship is high and productivity is low. The divide perpetuates even more division, as far-right wingers fear far-left wingers and vice versa, and the vicious cycle continues, getting worse every election year.
The two party system is a natural evolution given the way we vote. American citizens have one choice per race, and they are thus forced to balance their personal preference and the candidate’s likelihood of splitting the vote. This of course, leads to the aforementioned two-party problem. The solution lies in a different way of voting. But how should we vote?
The “alternative vote” is one potential solution. In this system, voters would rank their preferred candidates in order, like this:
Initially, only first preference votes are counted. If a candidate has above 50% of the first preference vote, they win. Otherwise, the last-place party is eliminated, and their voters second choice is now counted. This process repeats until one candidate has a majority. So how would this help eliminate the two party system?
Take the example of a far-left voter in 2016, for example. Under first past the post, this voter would be most incentivized to support the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton, even though Jill Stein and the Green party are more in line with this voter’s views. This is because Jill Stein had absolutely no chance of winning the presidency, and any votes for her would essentially be a waste, whereas Hillary Clinton had a chance at winning the presidency and was a moderate-leftist. However, under the alternative vote system, this voter could put Jill Stein as his/her first choice and Hillary Clinton as her second choice. Thus, when Jill Stein is inevitably eliminated, the majority of her votes would probably end up going to Hillary Clinton. Therefore, the left-wing position would not be compromised, and “splitting the vote” wouldn’t be a valid fear.
The alternative vote system is just one option; there are many other viable voting schemes that have been theorized. Regardless, the overall problem of the two party system must be solved. America cannot bear the burden of this intensely restrictive and divisive system for much longer.
Happy new year to all who are reading this. I wish you all a very happy and successful 2018.