Why is it that politicians and others can easily point out the problem with our political system, yet they always come up with the same answer–just change leadership or add more crappy options from which to choose?
In an MSNBC interview, former GOP presidential candidate, John Huntsman called for a third party, describing the American political system as “broken.” He blames his campaign failure on his unwillingness to pander to special interest groups:
John Huntsman: I think we are going to have problems until we get some sort of third party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas. That ain’t gonna be me, by the way, I know the next question. I’m not interested in that. But someone is going to step up at some point and say “we have had enough of this, the real issues are not being addressed.”
Evaluating The Party System
Huntsman is right. It’s going to take people standing up and deciding that they’ve had enough of the real issues not being addressed. It’s time to get beyond the two-party system in the United States–and even the idea that there must be only two political parties.
It is quite clear that a political system of representatives involved in either one of two parties rarely yields positive results or significant enough change in the time needed. The overwhelming consensus is that the American system of two dominant political parties is undesirable, and there should be more than only two parties–Democratic and Republican–whose ideas dominate mainstream ideology and policy decisions.
Americans Desires For A Third Political Party
So, why is it that the two existing parties continue to reign and seemingly lose no support or opposition? The truth is the people of the United States are deeply conditioned that they believe human experience is naturally one under the rule of capitalism, faux democracy, and of course, Democrat or Republican.
A recent Gallup poll reveals the general feelings of Americans across the spectrum: Americans’ desires for a third political party are as high as they have been in seven years. Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe a third major political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic Parties do a poor job of representing the American people. At the same time, over 42 percent of voters identify themselves as independent.
Why Two Parties Dominate
Only two parties dominate for a few reasons. Third party candidates have a difficult time getting on the ballot in the first place. Democrats and Republicans, through dominance of state and local governments, make the laws concerning who gains access to the ballots. Consequently, their laws are designed to keep outsiders (third parties) from being able to compete with them in the election process.
Second, voters generally feel that voting for a third party is like throwing away a vote, because they know that the third party has little chance of winning. Consequently, they throw their support behind one of the two dominant parties. Ironically, this helps to ensure that things won’t improve, because voters continue to uphold the same groups and their ideologies. Helping to maintain the two-party system also gives credence to their ideologies and almost ensures their survival as dominant parties.
In the past 50 years, there have only been 10 different “third” parties choices on the ballot for presidential elections. They only received 47 total Electoral College votes for all of these candidates combined. That’s only about 0.8% (not even one percent) of the total electoral votes!
As a matter of fact, in the past 40 years, third parties have received NONE of the electoral college votes.
Since people who claim to support the third-party principle have trouble being elected, they become designated as one of the two dominant parties just to get in. One prominent example of this is Ron Paul, who claims to be against the two-party system, yet identifies as a Republican.
At times, members of third parties are voted into office only to switch to one of the major parties after election. A recent example of this is Richard Carroll, who was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2008 on a Green Party ticket. After about five months, Carroll decided to switch to the Democratic party saying, “I pretty well voted Democrat anyway, and I wasn’t basically a Green Party member prior to running for the seat. I felt like I needed to get with my core beliefs.”
The fact is third party candidates, once in office, don’t have any options when it comes to voting for third party ideas, because legislation introduced is done so by Democrats or Republicans. Third party candidates are faced with the reality that they are limited to voting for one or the other party’s ideas.
Elected officials aren’t they only ones who side with the ideas of one of the two dominant parties–voters do it too!
Independent voters are actually closet partisans
Conventional wisdom concerning independent voters is that they are truly moderates who swing between Democrats and Republicans based on the particular issue. A Pew Research Center study, however, contradicts this notion:
Pew Research Center released a study of independent voters last may that may help refute the Washington conventional wisdom. That CW, roughly, states that independent voters are middle of the road moderates who don’t support either party but swing their votes to and fro depending on what is important to them. They are fiscal conservatives who want a balanced budget. They are pragmatic centrists who want bipartisan solutions to every problem. They don’t like partisan bickering or political fighting. What they want is a harmonious, fiscally prudent government that doesn’t do too much or too little. Sort of a walking army of Midwestern Lutheran insurance actuaries.
The conventional wisdom on independents is, naturally, completely wrong. Independents are not a monolithic group of moderates. In fact, they are very diverse in their political opinions and there isn’t a “move to the middle” formula that will win them over. Moderates, in fact, are now overwhelmingly Democrats. Independents are, for the most part, disaffected political partisans.
The American National Election Study learned that of the vast majority of independents who voted in 2008, 21 percent of independents were truly independent. The rest, all 79 percent, had a definite party preference.
Source: Daily Kos
Due to being presented with only two ideas–one from each of the two major parties–”independents” are forced to take a position on either of the two party’s ideas on the issues being questioned. Thus, the two party system is totally solidified.
Solution To The Broken System
But, how will a third party–one more crappy choice–solve this? Having a three parties in a broken system will do absolutely no good. The only thing it’ll do is perpetuate the illusion of choice that is the cornerstone of U.S. politics.
In seeking solutions, we must take a step back and evaluate the entire system. When we do this, we see that the fundamental problem with the system is that it doesn’t do what you need it to do. For all the claims to the contrary, the system and those who are actually in charge of it don’t look out for you–the average person in the country.
Political parties are no more than special interest group conglomerates. They only want to push the agendas of the groups they represent, while at the same time saying that policy shouldn’t be made based on special interests. That is the contradiction we know now as American politics. It is a farce that must change if things are to improve.
Instead of there being two sides to a political issue, there will be three. When it comes to “which side” to support in the context of this discussion, imagine an individual or a group as the center of a circle, and the various issues and options are on points on the circumference of the circle. The real question you should ask yourself is how many sides does a circle have?
The answer to that question is how many viable political parties (sides) would be needed for the current system to even begin to have a chance of working. A circle has an infinite number of sides, and likewise no less than an infinite number of parties would be needed to represent all of the various views and ideologies people have. In the United States, we’d need about 300 million political parties if we’re expected to have as many alternative voices and new ideas as possible–not just select bodies.
Consequently, adding a third viable party to the American political landscape is just like having another special interest group conglomerate. What will that accomplish when the problem is that the parties don’t seek to address the issues of the people of the nation as a whole? Adding another ingredient to a bad recipe is only going to make it taste worse. The answer is to discard the mixture and try again until we get it right.
In the new recipe for American politics, we should address the interests of ALL groups–in particular the individuals within those groups–not just the interests of the elitists in those groups. This way, the system can actually work in favor of the people–all people.
Even in trying to advance the conversation on American politics, it is still predicated on the idea of general consensus–whatever the most popular vote is should be the final say-so for everyone. Even if you take the infinite number of different ideas, and use it in considering policy for all, you still end up forcing people to adhere to what was decided for them by a majority, not the individual themselves. This is an impediment to their freedom, thus we should question this whole ideology of majority rule.