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The Two Party System is Not Working

Updated: 4 days ago

Dear Asian Youth,

Since the American Civil War, the nation has been forever divided into Democrats and Republicans. The two-party hold on American politics has been a staple in American democracy for hundreds of years. However, as each election cycle goes by, it is becoming glaringly evident that this system is a threat to a healthy democracy. This two-party system ensures we are voting against the candidates that we dislike- not for the candidates that we do like. This lack of genuine representation encourages voter apathy and limits political innovation.

According to the Voter Study Group, 68% of Americans claim that the two major political parties do not adequately represent their beliefs. While third-party candidates are options, it is incredibly rare for any to be voted into office. In fact, as of 1920, only four third-party candidates (Robert La Follette, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, and John Hospers) have been able to win a single electoral vote. Furthermore, even though Theodore Roosevelt ran one of the most successful third-party campaigns during the Election of 1912, he was still beaten by the Democratic nominee, Woodrow Wilson.

Moreover, third-party candidates are not only expected to lose, but their presence in an election is often considered a “spoiler.” Essentially, the third-party candidate often takes away votes from the major candidates of the two main political parties. In turn, this allows for the candidate of the main opposing party to win, which is exactly what led Wilson to win his election. Before Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate, he identified with the Republican Party, so many of his ideologies identified accordingly. As a result, Roosevelt and Taft (the major Republican candidate) split the Republican vote, allowing for an easy win for Wilson, who did not have to compete for any Democratic votes.

This “spoiler effect” is also incredibly clear in the upcoming election, particularly from the Democrats. Despite clear disapproval from both parties for Biden, many are still rallying behind him with the understanding that a vote for anyone else is automatically a vote for Trump. Furthermore, situations such as this often lead to voter apathy as voters dislike both major candidates, but do not want to “waste” their vote by supporting a third-party candidate. This lack of interest not only leads to neutral politics but contributes to low voter turnout, which is a significant issue in the United States. In fact, in 2018, only 53% of eligible voters cast a ballot. The people are the backbone of true democracy, but the two-party system and the resulting spoiler effect prevents the people from feeling represented and in turn, discourages an interest in the government.

From these criticisms of the two-party system, many would presume that the best solution would be to implement a simple winner-takes-all arrangement where there are no par