Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 2, 2022

America’s two-party system has failed democracy

By AGASTYA MONDAL | September 20, 2012

The two-party system is so ingrained in American politics that rarely do citizens stop and question it. Election after election, charged “left” vs “right” rhetoric fills every American TV screen as incessant attack ads try to discourage indecisive voters from certain candidates. Regardless of the ineffectiveness and negative consequences of attack ads, there lies a more fundamental question about the modern American electoral process: is the two-party system the most effective and fair way to run the American democratic republic?

The American two-party system is broken and in need of desperate reform. Through the Constitution, the Founders aimed to set up a system of representative government that would respond to the people. Unfortunately their vision has been corrupted by the rise of the two-party system. If we are to have a government that responds to its citizens, the two-party system must be abolished.

The government is no longer responsive to the people but to the two gargantuan parties that do everything in their power to sway elections. In a true democratic republic, 19 percent of the popular vote for Ross Perot in 1992, for example, would have translated into significant electoral votes instead of into zero electoral votes. In essence, the two-party system is a major hindrance to the democratic aspect of the American electoral process, and it stifles the power of the vote.

Research indicates that citizens are becoming generally disillusioned with the two parties. The Pew Research Institute’s data indicates that over 57 percent of all registered voters are independent. In terms of specific issues, a CNN poll gathered that almost 80 percent of voters were not satisfied with how both parties aimed to solve the debt crisis. Additionally, the Congressional approval rating has reached an all-time low of 9 percent. So if the American people aren’t happy with the way the two parties are handling the big issues, why are other voices shut out of the process?

Fortunately the changing political climate is slowly allowing third parties to be at the forefront of American politics. The main method by which third parties are gaining traction among younger voters is social media. Beginning in 2008 with Obama and continuing into the 2012 election with figures such as Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, social media has become one of the most powerful forces in American and global politics. Technology and the internet have allowed voters to scrutinize political figures at a more grassroots level. Through social media outlets such as Twitter and Reddit, third-party political figures have been able to gain exposure and talk about their views. The growing technological revolution and the power of social media will hopefully allow third party candidates and opposing voices to the mainstream political atmosphere to be heard.

If we are to restore true political discourse to American politics, the two-party system must be abandoned. It leads to a polarized electorate by severely limiting voter choice, and the power of individuality and the vote are suppressed. In a democratic republic, the government needs to be more accountable to voters. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Having a two-party system goes against the principles of individual liberty on which this country was founded. The United States is ready for a new voice that will provide new insight on leadership and diplomacy, and will give voters the rights they deserve.

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