By Scott Austin:
What would happen if there were no main political parties? Our first President, George Washington, even warned against them. In the last ten years, there has been a clear divide in our Two- Party System and some opponents could point out that this divide will not change. I understand their concern, but I am more of a realist. The Two- Party system is not ideal, but it is effective. Although it is sometimes hard to imagine, there have been times in history where the system has united. For example, national tragedies like September 11th, the Newtown school shooting, and the Boston Marathon bombing bring both parties together. We may not always agree on how to solve an issue but at least we can all agree that there is an issue. Believe it or not, people living in countries like North Korea and Iran don’t have opportunities to debate the issues nor do they believe they should be solved. We should feel grateful for what we have because other countries do not.
The Two- Party System began because of certain institutional structures and workings put in place by our Constitution. Leaders in the first few Congresses started to slowly separate into two major parts. In other countries there are more than two parties. Many find it hard to believe that with so many differences in race, religion, ethnicity, social beliefs, and economic beliefs could fit into two major parties. This why I like the current “big tent” approach: we can have differences in certain wings of the party but at the end of the day we all unite in our party to elect our leader. It is not necessarily a perfect idea. Although it may not be perfect, it is essential to the structure and foundation of our government. In our political system our elections are determined by a winner- take- all scenario. For example, if a person is a member of the Constitution Party they will most likely vote for the Republican candidate because they have a higher chance of winning. Experts have named this tendency Duverger’s Law, which is why you see politicians early in their careers joining either the Republican or Democratic Party. A Two- Party System makes sense when it is winner take all election. Another reason is that the Democratic and Republican Party is very active in recruiting volunteers in an election year. As somebody who worked for the Republican Party and the Romney campaign over the summer, I saw first- hand how the grassroots recruitment is critical. Third Party Organizations don’t have the same grassroots setup to recruit from. People tend to confuse the Tea Party as a Third Party, but that is not the truth. Although some of its members are independents, most lean Republican and vote Republican. You cannot register to be a member of the Tea Party, you become a member of their club or county charter. The Two- Party System has a long history and works because of the way our Constitution and electoral process is set up. Duverger’s Law is a perfect example of why there are only two viable political parties.
Many experts will argue that now is the right time for an independent candidate, but that is easier said than done. There is a lot that goes into becoming a viable independent presidential candidate. Democrats and Republicans have a huge advantage over a third party candidate. One of the biggest parts of becoming an important third party candidate is name recognition. In the last hundred years, it took personalities with huge mass appeal like Teddy Roosevelt, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader to ignite any type of fire in a third party candidate. We haven’t had a big name third party candidate since Ross Perot twenty- one years ago. In the last decade any big name third party candidate has come to the conclusion that establishment hurdles are too problematic and ballot laws are extremely restrictive. As 1980 Independent Presidential Candidate John Anderson puts it: “The biggest problem that I faced back in 1980, was simply the question of ballot access.” According to Ryan Lizza, “in 2008, a third- party candidate would need some 700,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballots in all 50 states. To be safe, he would want to collect well over a million. And that’s before spending any money on ads, polling, and the rest of the campaigns costs.” Russell Verney, Ross Perot’s campaign manager in 1996, said that, “you need between 70 million to 100 million.” After overcoming all those hurdles, one hurdle still remains and that’s getting into the presidential debates. The bottom line is that it is almost impossible for a third party candidate to gain any traction because of the way the game is set up. A third party candidate right now plays more of a spoiler role. For example, some argue that Ross Perot took away the presidency from George H. W. Bush because he (Perot) won 18.8% of the popular vote. Until there is a candidate like Colin Powell or Michael Bloomberg that could actually make a play in a general election, it will be very difficult for a third party candidate.
We have a Two- Party System because of certain institutional structures and workings put in place by our Constitution. Leaders in the first few Congresses started to slowly separate into two major parts, thus creating our Two- Party System. I believe people tend to argue against our Two- Party System because of the division between both parties. In this situation it’s the players to blame because of the divide, not the game. In my opinion there will not be a prominent Third Party candidate until the problematic hurdles are reduced and a big name politician decides to take the challenge, but until then we have what we have so let’s make the best of it.
Views expressed are not endorsed or put forward by Turning Point USA