America is not a two-party system

Ryan Haskell

Like me, many of you have probably watched the election coverage running on the news 24/7. It doesn’t take long, after listening to the pundits and so-called journalists, to see that our entire political system is based around a fierce and often dirty game between the red team and blue team with a few others making their futile attempts just to get a chance to play. You don’t need to watch long to see the latest poll numbers displayed on the screen as if on a score board and everyone on T.V. labeled with an R or a D to indicate just which of the teams they play for. The other parties, or even worse independents, are almost completely ignored or added only for comedic relief. The only independents who ever seem to be taken seriously are those like Joseph Lieberman, Charlie Crist or Lisa Murkowski who lose a primary and decide to break from their bigger party. Our system has been designed, against all original intention, to support the two major parties. There is no constitutional or logical reason that we should be so restricted by the two parties. We need to break from the falsely created two party system. The solution is to get rid of the party system all together.

Why is the two-party system such a bad one? The simple answer is that it restricts our choices and makes the choices we make, in terms of representatives, loyal and beholden to unelected officials such as Michael Steel and Tim Kaine (the heads of the Republican and Democratic Party respectively). The major parties’ influence over our system shuts out all other choices and leaves us with a limited field of options from which to choose our representatives. If you don’t fit neatly into the Republican or Democratic camp, you are out of luck. It creates a false choice between two solutions when there is in all reality a multitude of possible solutions. We should be free to choose from a wide range of representatives and those we choose should be loyal to their constituents and their own conscience and not to an unelected party leadership looking for the best way to gain political points. So what can be done about it?

We have to change how we do elections. The major parties have a strangle hold on our elections right from the primaries. The two major parties have primaries paid for while smaller parties are forced to choose their candidates through convention or caucus. Primaries and caucuses are simply two ways to decide what delegates will be sent to the convention where the real candidate is finally chosen. In the past, parties skipped the steps of caucus or primary and only held a convention to decide the final candidate. The difference in caucuses is that only registered members of that party are allowed and they vocally indicate their support for one candidate over the others to send delegates to the convention. This primary election system already gives major parties an advantage by having better veteran candidates who are more appealing to voters and have already been through a campaign to make themselves more familiar to voters. One solution to make things fairer might be to pay for all parties to have primaries. The problem with this is that it would be wildly expensive and give legitimacy to less legitimate parties. Another solution might be to make everyone use caucuses or convention, but there is a reason primaries were created, and that was to give people a voice in who would run and avoid smoke-filled backroom deals. The best solution to break the influence of the parties is to change how we elect candidates altogether by instituting a run-off or run-off like election where all candidates would appear on one ballot together and the top vote receivers, regardless of party affiliation, would go on to the general election. Such a system would weaken the hold of the parties and give others more of a fighting chance. The parties’ influence over elections can be further weakened and eliminated by disallowing straight-ticket voting or eliminating party labels from ballots altogether forcing people to actually research candidates instead of blindly voting for the party they favor.

However, the main thing that needs to be done to break the parties influence is to change how we as voters act. We need to break ourselves from the mindset that it is only Republicans vs. Democrats. We need to vote without looking at their party and not vote for an unknown candidate because he is from our party and if someone believes an independent or third party candidate is truly the best, they should not be afraid to vote for them however unlikely the candidate’s chances. Most of all make your voice heard, don’t fall for the false choice, and don’t dismiss someone because of the party you believe they belong to.