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Two Cheers for Two Parties

Two Cheers for Two Parties
The BriefGet Up To Speed

Facing extreme partisanship and polarization, America's two-party system has come under fire. Critics argue that the two-party system runs contrary to the founders' intent and has created a political system that fails to represent the electorate, concentrates power for the elites, and makes compromise impossible. They say it's time for real structural change. But others are more cautious. They argue that the two-party system is necessary to rein in extremes on both sides and promote the democratic institutions that are necessary to the nation's political and social stability. Further, they argue that multi-party democracies around the world -- including Israel, the UK, and Italy -- are now struggling to maintain stability and should serve as a warning to Americans seeking reform at home. As the nation gears up for the 2020 presidential election, we ask: Is the two-party system good for democracy? 


"Two-party system, political system in which the electorate gives its votes largely to only two major parties and in which one or the other party can win a majority in the legislature. The United States is the classic example of a nation with a two-party system." 

Monday, February 3, 2020
Kathleen Kuiper

"There are lots of political parties in the United States - so how come we pretty much only hear about two? What is the 'two-party system' and why does it hold sway? Is it an intentional part of governmental design, or is this simply how history shook out?" 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Taylor Quimby

"Duverger’s Law: The theory that elections in political systems like the United States’ tend to favor the two major parties, making it very hard for a third party to win."

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Chuck McCutcheon
History of the Two-Party System and Polarization in the United States
"Donald J. Trump has won the presidency of the United States, due to strong support among white voters. This is a remarkable turn of events, and it only gets more remarkable when you think back to how the Republican Party began its existence: fighting against the expansion of slavery."
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Andrew Prokop

"Although the Democratic Party had long controlled the South, Johnson’s association with civil rights began to reshape alliances and led to dramatic shifts in support for each party." 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
American Experience
"Republicans and Democrats dominate U.S. politics. You have some 1950s political scientists to thank for that."
Monday, May 28, 2018
Mike Pesca
"With activists mobilized and dug in on the left and right, there is increasing pressure on people in the middle to choose sides."
Friday, January 24, 2020
Sabrina Tavernise
Third Parties

"Major third-party presidential candidates have never had an easy time of it, even when they were former presidents or billionaires. Here’s a short history of their mostly quixotic campaigns."

Thursday, August 4, 2016
Darcy Eveleigh
"Could an independent or third-party candidate make a significant impact this presidential election—especially in Florida, the closest 2012 battleground state?"
Friday, July 1, 2016
Renee Lightner

"Third-party candidates struggle to gain traction in American elections for a variety of reasons, but they are not out of the game altogether. These outsiders work tirelessly to challenge the ways in which people think about the problems facing our country, and they have not given up the hope that one day one of them will sit in the Oval Office."

Friday, January 10, 2020
Libby Palanza
Parliamentary Governments

"The executive is organized very differently in a parliamentary system. In the United Kingdom, whose Westminster system has been adopted in many countries, the executive branch is not entirely separate from the legislative branch."

Monday, February 3, 2020
Encyclopedia Britannica
"Spain’s ruling socialist party has reached a preliminary coalition deal with the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos to try to form a government after the country’s second inconclusive election in seven months."
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Sam Jones
"Though some elements of British campaigns resemble those of American contests, the systems are fundamentally different."
Monday, December 2, 2019
Yasmeen Serhan
For the Motion
"Could a third party fix the hellscape of fail that is the United States Congress? Ezra Klein explains."
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Ezra Klein
"The major American parties have ceded unprecedented power to primary voters. It’s a radical experiment—and it’s failing."
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Jonathan Rauch and Ray LaRaja

“The most effective third-party presidential candidates were polarizers, not centrists.”

Thursday, January 31, 2019
Jamelle Bouie

"Presidential candidates and their supporters have recently criticized party rules as unfair or anti-democratic, but those arguments reflect a poor understanding of what a party is."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Adam Gopnik
"The shrill cry that American democracy is dying rests on a misdiagnosis. If anything, we have introduced too much democracy in the wrong places."
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Frances McCall Rosenbluth and Ian Shapiro
“Today it is obvious that Americans, no matter how unsatisfied they are, are not ready to embrace an alternative to our two-party system,” Vance and Baird said in a statement.
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
David Gutman

"As something of an outsider in her own political party, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) seems to understand what drove Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) to leave the Republican Party—though she does not have plans to break with the Democrats."

Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Eric Boehm
Against the Motion
"The Founders misread history and established a dysfunctional system of government. A case for a little less reverence."
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Yoni Applebaum
"The presidential system isn't working. A parliamentary one might."
Monday, February 3, 2020
Jeet Heer

"With the rise of Donald Trump, we need to think seriously about what it would take to form a democratic organization rooted in the working class."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Seth Ackerman

"Progressives should take a page from the inside-outside strategy embraced by the far-right movement."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Waleed Shahid

"The likely outcome of serious independent candidacies and the resulting disruption would be to encourage a new generation of politicos to think about how to construct new electoral coalitions that would better fit the views of the American public and hopefully form a new American majority."

Sunday, January 31, 2016
Morris Fiorina

"In the post-Trump world of American politics, there are all kinds of potential candidates who make sudden sense. Those quixotic enough to daydream about a new political party aren’t foolish enough to envision a candidacy driven by policy papers or party platforms."

Monday, January 29, 2018
Juleanna Glover