Edited by Steven Spear, Jr.Written by Morgan DeLisle
The last article compared and contrasted the U.S. two party system and other nations’ multiparty form of government. In this article, we will be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of a two party system.
The “ultra-patriot” is already irked because the United States does everything the best way and there are no disadvantages. The hardcore cynic is laughing because the U.S. is a doomed country with no help of surviving another hundred years. And to both of you I say: We must think critically and have hearts ready to improve our country. Let’s look at this with our eyes open and our minds willing to see both sides.
An advantage of a two party system is that information tends to be accessible and well-known to voters. Instead of having to wade through each specific stance of a candidate and compare them to the stances of others, voters choose the party whose stances they most agree with and typically always vote for the party’s nominee. The assumption that must be made is that the party’s nominee will support the party’s platform.
The downside of this advantage is that it can lead to laziness. Voters enter their precincts without doing any research. Their choices are based on the party instead of the candidate. This becomes especially problematic when we consider that parties affect most elections, but not all offices are hugely affected by party, i.e. Superintendent or Public Defender—offices which should be based on experience and expertise, or we could be voting for our party’s candidate when he has promised to be supporting stances with which we disagree.
A second advantage is that politicians (especially Presidents, Governors, and Senators) must be aware of and well-spoken on a wide variety of issues because their large and diverse constituencies often face many of the main issues. This means that elected officials generally don’t have a single area of expertise, and they must understand the challenges that will come up against them.
Once again, a disadvantage is quick to present itself. With two parties (or two politicians) who are well-versed in the issues, it is easy to fall into the trap of backing them just because our party does. While we would like to think we are all free-thinking individuals making our own choices, most of us are busy with more on our minds than whether or not the U.S. should use drone strikes against ISIS. It is much easier to agree with what a seemingly trustworthy person has already said.
A third advantage of a two party system is that it keeps a country politically stable. With only two parties that are more similar than you might think, there is virtually no turnover in a two party system. In the United States, the current major parties are the Democrat and Republican Parties. Together, they have dominated federal and state politics for more than 160 years.
In a multi-party system, there tends to be a much higher turnover rate. Older parties may lose seats in the legislature to new and more popular parties. This high turnover rate is because parties tend to be one-issue parties. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Scottish National Party’s main issue is to promote Scottish independence from the U.K. and build enough support to win a referendum. If and when this happens, the Scottish National Party is likely to dissolve or fracture into smaller parties in the Scottish Parliament.
Despite its disadvantages, the two party system has certainly played an unusually large role in the past growth and the present dominance of the United States. The best way for us as citizens to counteract the negatives of our system is to remain vigilant. Even people like me who don’t enjoy politics need to cowboy up.
We all need to stay informed on the issues, do research into the people running for elective office and stay educated on the evolving issues of today.