Obstacles To The Reform Of The U.S. Two-Party System - Essay Example

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While there have been some minor political parties, also referred to as third parties, in the history of the US, two distinct, competitive parties have exerted their dominance over the American party system…
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Obstacles To The Reform Of The U.S. Two-Party System
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"Obstacles To The Reform Of The U.S. Two-Party System"

Starting with the Antifederalists and Federalists during the 1790s, the American party system has been characterized by two political parties, which have had the greatest chance of victory during national elections. As a matter of fact, since the Civil War, the American political scene has been dominated by two parties, the Republican and Democratic parties. According to Reichley (2000), as a result of the two-party system, all US presidents and nearly all Congressional members elected ever since the Civil War have been either Republicans or Democrats. While the two-party system has characterized US politics, it has not always symbolized the country’s politics. To some extent, the 19th century’s national two-party party system was the combination of one-party states. The statewide one party system started to decline in the 20th century, but Democrats sustained one-party supremacy in states in the Deep South until the 1960s and 1970s. Since the emergence of the two-party system, efforts to reform the system have been met with substantial obstacles (Reichley, 2000). The purpose of this paper is to examine the history of reforms to the two-party system, discussing the key obstacles that have impeded these reforms to date. On a few occasions, states have had three-party systems for brief periods. For instance, states such as Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin integrated a political party from the Progressive movement into the party systems in the 1930s and 40s. During the 1990s and early 2000s, numerous third-party presidential candidates such as Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan from the Reform Party and the Green Party’s Ralph Nader challenged Republican and Democratic candidates with minimal success (Reichley, 2000). History indicates that reforms of the American two-party system have largely been unsuccessful as a result of the relative nonexistence of irreconcilable differences in the American electorate regarding fundamental economic, social and political institutions. In addition, reforms to the two-party system have largely been impeded by the lack of electoral rewards for minor parties, which play a role in the country’s party system. The tradition of plurality elections from one-member constituencies and that of one elected executive provide few chances of victory, as well as rewards, to parties unable to muster this plurality. Lowi (Lowi & Romance, 1998) argues that the incapacity of existing parties to offer sufficient representation for the diverse country is one of the clearest obstacles to reforms of the two-party system. Romance (Lowi & Romance, 1998) counters by poising that the two-party system is essential for the unification of a divided country and educates Americans regarding the compromises needed to sustain a democratic government. It is perceptions such as Romance’s that deter reforms of the two-party system as people have grown complacent to the system and consider it as essential for the sustenance of the American society. Byrne & Edsall (1992) argue that the establishment of a three-party system in American politics was curtailed by the Republican revolution of the 1980s, which exemplified Republicans and Democrats as the only relevant parties in American politics. Social and political perceptions regarding the effectiveness of the two-party system have curtailed the achievement of reforms of the system. Since the two main parties; Republican and Democratic parties, have been associated with having different stances on issues affecting the society, people have not seen the need for additional parties since both perspectives regarding an issue are covered by the two parties. For instance, if one party endorses the increase of taxes and another Read More
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