What will it take to shake up America’s two-party political system?


Don’t get Marla Thompson-Kendall started on America’s two-party political system.

“They’re both ineffective,” the Riverdale resident said of the Democratic and Republican parties. Although she voted for Democrats over the years, she remained open to what Republicans had to say and even came to like some Republicans like President George W. Bush.

“He had Republican views but he wasn’t mean and vindictive or condescending. He just went out there and did the right thing for most people,” she said.

But now she is losing patience with both parties.

Marla Thompson Kendall

“It’s just internal battles. They come in and say ‘I’m going to do everything I can to make sure [the other party] does not pass his program. Thompson-Kendall, assistant professor of business at Life University, said Atlanta Civic Circle. “They come with a bad attitude. There has to be some sort of bridge building system, because right now there is a major disconnect. »

The solution may mean “bringing in a third party to be able to get things done, I totally agree – because in the last 10 years we haven’t done anything,” she said.

Thompson-Kendall isn’t alone in being frustrated with today’s polarized political landscape. Fewer and fewer Americans are aligned with Democrats or Republicans. In fact, a December 2020 Gallup poll found that only 31% identified as Democrats and 25% as Republicans, while 41% considered themselves Independents. Moreover, a majority of Americans – six out of 10 – want a third party option, a separate Gallup poll showed.

The two-party system has dominated American politics for most of the nation’s existence, enduring wars, civil and societal upheaval. But lately, American politics has been crippled by legislative deadlocks, political extremism, racial strife and a recalcitrant ex-president still refusing to concede defeat in the 2020 election, sparking the January 6, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill. United States.

The rift is only growing between Democrats and Republicans on the economy, racial justice, climate change, law enforcement, foreign affairs and many other issues, according to Pew Research Center studies over the past few years. last years.

As state and local lawmakers continue to lock horns, many Americans are losing interest. One in four people are ‘politically disengaged’, and almost 70% are wary and disillusioned with politics, falling into the ‘exhausted majority’, according to a report looking at the polarized political landscape under the Trump administration from more in commona 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that encourages the search for common ground among voters.

With public support for one-third at an all-time high, is the two-party system still viable, despite more than 150 years of dominance?

Even with all of its current flaws, America’s two-party system isn’t going away anytime soon, says Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia who has written about American politics for more than 50 years.

“If you want stability, the two-party system is going to foster that,” Bullock said. Atlanta Civic Circle. “Multiparty systems give voters a much wider range of choices, but they have their own problems,” Bullock said, citing Israel and the Netherlands. “There have been examples in Holland where it took more than a year after the election to figure out who is [running] the government.”

With no less than 14 parties in competition, “nobody is close to obtaining a majority”, explained Bullock. “Once the elections are over, we don’t really know who will govern the country,” he said. Instead, the various factions are to begin negotiating “to see if they can somehow piece together a deal between the various parties to get a 50% majority of the legislature.”

But Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde does not count on a multiparty system for the United States, due to strong voter dissatisfaction with the two-party system. Mudde, specialist in European politics, in particular populism and political extremism in Western democracies.

“Very few of the more established [European] democracies have two-party systems because very few countries have a first-past-the-post electoral system like the United States,” where the winner is chosen by a simple majority, Mudde, a professor at the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia, said Atlanta Civic Circle.

The UK is one of the few to do so, but its two-party system has also attracted many opponents, Mudde said. Its biggest advantage is that it is easy to understand since the candidate with the most votes wins the seat, he added. “It also tends to produce clear winners and losers, which a lot of people like and understand as well.”

While US elections usually produce clear winners and losers, the two-party system still leaves many voters unhappy.

“A very large percentage of people are unrepresented – sometimes even majorities – which is less often the case in multi-party systems,” Mudde said. “International research has shown that, on average, people in two-party systems are less satisfied with their democracy than those in multi-party systems.”

Despite voter appetite, creating a pathway for third-party candidates faces formidable hurdles, particularly in Georgia, which has the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation, especially for local congressional races.

Last month, the Libertarian Party of Georgia asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear its challenge to a state law that bars a third-party candidate from running for a seat in the United States House for more than 80 years.

“Voters in Georgia and elsewhere should be free to vote for people who are not in the two major parties if they choose to,” said Libertarian attorney Brian Sells. Atlanta Civic Circle. But, Sells said, “the rules are made by the Democratic and Republican parties — and most politicians I’ve known have preferred not to have competition.”

Libertarian candidate Angela Pence is putting Georgia’s access to the ballot box law to the test by running for the 14th congressional district seat against Marjorie Taylor-Greene, the polarizing Republican incumbent. But it’s long. Pence needs to collect 23,000 voter signatures for his name to even appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“We have a plan in place. It’s intimidating,” Pence said. Atlanta Civic Circle.

What will it take to break the current political stalemate? Bullock thinks it may take a crisis to convince enough political leaders they need “for the good of the country. Leaders will say it’s better for each side to get half the bread than nothing.”

Meanwhile, Thompson-Kendall says she will continue to vote for “the person who represents my interests.” If he’s a Democrat or a Republican, it doesn’t matter.

Lately it’s been mostly Democrats, she added. “Republicans had concrete goals that made sense, but now they’re all [for] Asset.”

Thompson-Kendall said she would like to see term limits instituted in Congress and more grooming of new candidates.

“People don’t need to run for office forever and stay in those offices until they die,” she said. “I would like to see new blood coming in with fresh ideas because what we did in 1924 is not what we should be doing today.”

Thompson-Kendall has been president of her Home Owners Association for 10 years. She prepared young people to take over.

“I can see their leadership skills. All they need is a little mentorship. Democrats and Republicans must do the same. I don’t want them to be forever on our damn tax dollar and not doing what they have to do.

As for moving beyond the current political chasm?

“I am an eternal optimist,” she says. “The only way we can do that is to go out and vote. We have to elect those people who are not doing what we expect of them. »

What can be done to remedy America’s entrenched political division?

Read what some psychologists around the country have to say here and here.

read which one Time the magazine’s columnist suggests here.

Read what two leading experts on democracy, conflict and governance have to say here.

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