Friday, February 5, 2010

Arguments Against a Two-Party System

If I didn't write these blog posts/do homework in Women's Studies, I would lose at least 500 brain cells per class, no lie.

I'm not entirely sure what prompted me to write this, maybe the fact that I laughingly described myself as an "Independent Socialist Green" to Ashley while we were talking the other day.  But here we go.

With only two parties in power at any one time, there are far more opportunities for partisan sniping, backbiting, stonewalling, ignoring of opinions, and generally not getting along.  The coalition governments that come with multiparty systems force parties to find common ground in order to govern effectively.  In a two party system, the party in the majority — especially if they hold a supermajority — is often less concerned with the minority party than with pushing forward their own agenda while they have a chance.  While this makes me happy when the Democrats are in power, it is important to note that the increased friction between the two parties ultimately does enough harm to outweigh the progressive legislation passed.  The childish behavior and horse race mentality on the part of the politicians and the media (the "permanent campaign" that the former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan talks about) usually impedes any real progress.

Our two major parties have to focus on broad platforms, taking definite but vague positions on every issue — very evident in the move to the center most presidential candidates go through after the primaries.  Unfortunately, this end up with almost no one liking the president!  For example, the liberal voters who swept Obama into office are now upset with him for not being liberal enough, while the Republicans are just ticked because someone from the other party is in the White House.  So, nearly the whole country is displeased with their president.  Multiparty systems allow for the clear voices of minor parties to be heard, and for the parties to actually participate in their government.  The minor parties areh able to concentrate their agendas on specific issues (for example, the Green party focuses on social justice and environmental responsibility), while the president, from one of the major parties, is often too wary of alienating people to act decisively on major controversial issues. This is especially true during times of split government (different parties hold the presidency and a majority in Congress).  In multiparty systems, interest parties, who would be minor parties in a 2 party system, have more freedom to push their legislation.

With only two parties, it can be hard for the uninterested public to tell the difference between the two.  Also, the winner take all system and the single representative districts discourage voters from the opposite party in "safe-seat" districts from voting.  A multiparty system would not solve the problems created by winner take all/single representative systems, but the other parties would offer more choices to appeal to a wider cross-section of voters.  The presence of multiple parties means that the people's voices are more accurately represented.  That feeling would give otherwise apathetic voters inspiration to go to the polls.

So there you have it! Ash might be writing a rebuttal, I'm not sure. Ash's rebuttal can be read here. But I hope this has given you food for thought :)

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