The End of America's Two-Party System May Be upon Us

Chris “Kikila” Perrin
March 26, 2016

(UR) Washington, D.C.  There’s a reason most parliamentary and presidential democracies have more than two political parties, and both Trump and Sanders are examples of why. Both nominee-hopefuls have increasingly come to represent polar opposites of the singular problem that the American two-party political system is suffering from: Stagnation.

With only two parties, what this presidential race is showing is that there has been a tendency for those parties to become static and unbending in their policy, stance, and platform. Historically, one or both of the parties must then break, either because the progressive edges within the party force it apart, or voters start to see the party as inflexible and obsolete. It has happened before in the U.S., and it looks like it is happening again. The recent increase of voters registering as independent, as well as the parallel growth in independent candidates, is a good example of the level of dissatisfaction people and politicians now have with the GOP and Democratic Party. It is also an indication that American democracy is changing. Again.

The inclusion of Sanders in the Democratic Party, Trump in the Republican, and the cataclysmic portrayal of them both in the media, has only confused the issue. This is particularly noticeable as Trump is often blamed for the imminent demise of the GOP as a relevant institution. With both candidates running for the nomination of their respective parties, the GOP and the Democratic Party appear internally fractured, split on major issues and confused as to their directions. This can only be the case in a two-party system.

As a country with a long history of a two-party system, these internal party divisions can feel like a breakdown of sorts. In a multi-party system, however, the issue would not be so destabilizing. Although a multi-party democracy does have the down side of sometimes appearing to have too many parties and politicians to choose from, space exists within the system to have the centre-left (Democratic Party) and centre-right (GOP) represented, while far-left and -right candidates don’t tear the centrist parties apart from within.

Whatever the new face of democracy in America, and whatever the future implications of the 2016 election, what is clear is that Americans are no longer content to be represented by parties too close together at the center of the political spectrum. At the very least, the fact that Trump and Sanders have gained so much traction throughout their respective nomination bids is a clear indication that the U.S. will not become a single-party state any time soon. That is at least something to be happy about.

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