America’s Party Problem

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America’s Party Problem

America’s Party Problem


By: Gavin H. 

Gavin is a junior in the JSA State of the Ohio River Valley. He is currently the President of his chapter, and he enjoys playing the french horn, riding his bike, and teaching kids how to read at his local library in his free time.

 

 

 

 


Growing up in the U.S., I can only see red and blue. 

That's the problem most Americans face, except your occasional Kanye fan, when confronted with the stark reality that American politics is a duopoly with the Republican and Democratic parties  holding domain over the land.

This system has polarized our country to degrees unimaginable to most, even driving families apart. Even though expanding upon the idea of two dueling parties will certainly not solve this problem, it is a start. As Americans, we must understand that we are not the norm in this case, but the tragic exception. This system has been plaguing us since our founding. 

But how did we get here?

Photo From: The National Portrait Gallery

First off, we should not have. George Washington asserted in his farewell address that political parties must be avoided by stating, “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” However, the nation did not listen. 

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson spearheaded the first two political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. The former focused on a loose interpretation of the constitution, while the latter believed in a strict performance of the founding document. 

However, the United States would not see our current parties until a skirmish between pro-slavery and anti-slavery advocates in Kansas caused the Whig party to collapse and the Republicans to rise. After that, the voters' demographics and the party's manifestos shifted, but there were always two political parties.

While bringing another party in may not heal the wounds the two-party system has given the American people, it is imperative that we still consider allowing one to prosper as the United States has a democratic deficit due to our lack of more than two prospering parties. 

One of the fundamental ideas a country must accept to become a legitimate democracy is choice. The more choice, the more democratic a state is; thus, a country with a dazzling array of political parties should be designated as the city upon a hill. This concept can be seen in Freedom House's rankings of the freest countries as the top ten places on the list belong to countries that have more than two political parties that have achieved power.

While most countries generally have a right-leaning party and a left-leaning party, it gets interesting once you leave that. Parties that do not fit into the mold as mentioned earlier of mainstream right or mainstream left can fit, typically, into two designations: parties based on region and party based on an atypical place on the political spectrum. One of those might just be the right choice for when the United States is ready to adopt a new mainstream party.

Photo From: Labour Campaign for Human Rights

Out of the 650 seats, 65 belong to Members of Parliament (MP) for regional parties. While 10% seems minuscule, there is only an 8% difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in the House of Representatives; consequently, these regional MPs are power brokers in the commons. For example, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party delivered then Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative party a majority in the commons through a confidence and supply deal, which is saying I will support you if you help me. 

Suppose a small party was able to deliver a majority to Kevin McCarthy in the house. In that case, I am pretty sure we would see the rhetoric decrease to appeal to these parties whose loyalty is to the region and not ideology. 

While the region before politics seems nice, it isn't so lovely when these parties introduce the idea of independence. For instance, Canada's Bloc Quebecois promotes Quebec's independence, and Quebec's independence has a storied past, including terrorism. However, given that there are no mainstream independence movements within the U.S., it is improbable that an independence movement would take hold of a region. Thus, a regional party could be the way to go to the U.S.

There is also ideology (as in their place on the left-right spectrum) based parties. There are extremes, like neo-nazis and communists, but there are also ones that do not represent radical ideologies. Emanuel Macron, the president of France, is in one of these parties, La Republique en Marche. Unlike the Republicans and the Socialists, Macron's third-party recently gained power as a more centrist, liberal (in the European sense) party. 

This type of party allows individuals who do not fit into either the Republican or Democratic party to have a home. We do have these in the U.S., like the Libertarian and the Green Party. However, they have gained minimal traction. If a new party based on ideology wished to form, they would have to get high profile defectors from the Democrats or Republicans, emphasizing high profile as Justin Amash, a congressman from Michigan, defected from the GOP to the Libertarian Party. Still, they have seen no boost in the polls. After they grab the prominent politicians, they have a base to elect them into office. While defectors seem like a stretch, the divides are already evident within the parties.

Look at the caucuses in the House of Representatives. There are numerous caucuses, but the most powerful ones related to ideology are the Republican Freedom Caucus and the Democratic Progressive Caucus. These caucuses are causing tears within their party. The most prominent is the conflict between House Democratic Leadership and the Progressives over the 2020 primaries, which saw Progressive candidates depose established House Democrats. If there were ever to be a split, this is where it would be. 

Photo Source: AP News

These little sub parties are where politicians voice their distinct views; however, the parties are monoliths for voters. The only way to fix this would be through these caucuses succeeding from their parties, which is not very probable given how nice the parties treat their legislatures.

While Americans do not have many options themselves, politicians do. If we ever want to stop only seeing blue and red, the politicians must create an alternate party and use their voter base to boost it to power. That is why we must confront politicians about the system and not merely submit to it. 

And if they don't respond, at least we now know a little more about what makes the United States unique- our democracy deficit.