The Impact of a Two Party System on American Politics

by Claire Hsieh

Original post here.

A stereotype that American citizens have associated with the United States Congress is its inability to productively pass any legislation and its inability to work with the United States President to come to any agreements.

In his Farewell Address, George Washington famously spoke against political parties and its dangers, saying, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

Thus, it raises the question of how the United States of America transformed from a country fearful of political parties to a country whose politics are dominated by political parties, specifically, the two party system.

It is important to first note the nature of the quote in which George Washington warned the Americans of political parties. His words warn against the “alternate domination of one faction over another”; the wording gives reason to conclude that it is the concept of two factions fighting against each other that poses dangers to the nation. Thus, it is not the presence of political parties that would harm the United States. It is the presence of having only two political parties that dominate all discussion.

Digging out the root of the problem with American politics is only the first step towards understanding how the two-party system has changed the face of American politics forever. The easiest way to understand the impact of the two party system is through seeing its impact upon the American citizens.

More and more dissatisfaction has arisen out of the status quo usage of asking which political party one belongs to. Many American citizens voice that their political preferences are not black or white, nor are they grey. They are, in fact, black and white in the sense that average American citizens vote depending on the individual candidate rather the political party that he or she associates with. There is increasing enthusiasm for asking each other not what political party one would vote for but rather who they would vote for because for most Americans, the latter question is much more accurate of a depiction for a person’s political views. George Washington, who did not denounce the existence of political parties, would see this change as a saving grace for American politics today.

However, whilst a change in the way American citizens view politics is occurring, it is by no way the norm for the election and campaign system of the United States of America. It is nearly impossible for any candidate hoping to run for office to successfully become elected without allying oneself with one of the two large political parties in the United States. Thus, a rift is created within one political party in which politicians who would self-identify as a moderate hold the same brand as a politician who would self-identify as a Libertarian. These rifts not only hinder the ability for the single political party itself to function properly, but it also prevents the entire American government from functioning efficiently, as each of the two major political parties are bogged down in internal disputes between discrepant views within in their own party.

The two party system in America affects not only the American citizens themselves as they not only may be politically apathetic, but they also are increasingly polarized from the politicians themselves. The two party system also creates inefficiency within the American government that leads to the inability of the United States Congress to productively pass any legislation and the inability for the Congress and the United States President to cooperate together.

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