In 1796, George Washington was finishing up his term as the first President of The United States, only 20 years after the founding of this great nation. Washington was the first to do many things, including the first farewell address. In this address, he warned the people of the United States against the polarization of parties, stating;
“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. But this leads at length to a more formal and
permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of
men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the
chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”
Another warning against the polarization was in 1780, in a letter from John Adams to Jonathon Jackson in which he stated;
“There is nothing I dread so much, as a division of the Republic into two great Parties, each
arranged under its Leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my
humble apprehension is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil, under our constitution.”
Two revolutionary men that were essential to the creation and stability of the early United States, warned against the two party system – which has become the system we have today.
There are two parties that we all know, the Democrats and Republicans. In reality, there are so many more. Parties such as the Democratic Socialists, the Green Party, and the Tea Party are becoming increasingly popular with the realization that the two party system is destroying the country. Opinion posts such as this are popping up on media outlets all over the country. Michael Coblenz at The Hill, Lee Drutman at Vox, and again in The Atlantic. More and more people are realizing the flaw in the two party system the founding fathers saw and advised against.
Today we are seeing the rise of third parties. The Democratic Socialists and their champion from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders are a great example of this. Two election cycles ago, no one talked about the third parties; some people didn’t even know they existed. 2016, with Sen. Bernie Sanders’s first bid for President, changed the game. He introduced ideas that seemed radical to some, but to many they just made sense. He caught the attention of millions of Americans, some voters even considering re-registering as a Democrat in order to vote with him. In that lies the problem.
Sen. Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. In the Senate he is considered an independent. He is not a Republican, but he is also not a Democrat. Sen. Sanders is of the third party. When he rose to fame in 2016, he took the youth by storm. Sick of the system they grew up in, he sparked change. This was obvious across the nation. However, in order to vote for him you had to register as a Democrat. Sen. Sanders and his team knew if he ran as an Independent Third Party Candidate, his campaign would not have gotten any traction. In order to get television and commercial time, you have to be a member of the two major parties. This was a smart decision for himself and the campaign, however, this temporary Democrat label caused many of his more progressive followers to feel as if they had to create their own party, and which they did.
The problem with the American political system isn’t just the corruption and pain that lies within. The problem is also in the party system. How are we going to tell someone, if their beliefs do not line to one political party, they do not matter? Everyone in this country has their own beliefs, ideals, and morals. Why should we put one label on them?
As time goes on, the Republican party continues to move further to the right, which only forces the Democrats to move more moderate; leaving many people without a party to represent their beliefs. At one point in time, mid-1960’s to mid-1990’s, American Politics was essentially a four party system; parties such as the “Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans working alongside liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Conservative Mississippi Democrats and liberal New York Democrats might have disagreed more than they agreed in Congress, but they could still get elected on local bands.” Depending on the problem at hand, different alliances were possible and this allowed “for the kind of fluid bargaining the constitutional system requires.”
Lee Drutman in his article titled “America Is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared” explained it perfectly. The four-party system previously mentioned was before “was before American politics became fully nationalized, a phenomenon that happened over several decades, powered in large part by a slow-moving post-civil-rights realignment of the two parties.” The once compromise-oriented zero-sum system, transformed into a moral conflict about the identity and culture of the United States. As time went on, the conflict became stronger and sharper, which caused the four parties to change what they stood for. As the parties changed, the four-party system collapsed into a two-party system.
American politics today has become more of a competition of party loyalty and strength rather than representing the people. Consequently, the United States has a system of two parties, which the founding fathers earnestly warned against. The Republican and Democratic parties are chasing the dream of a permanent majority that promises power, something neither party is willing to give up.
The two-party system that exists today violates the system of checks and balances that the constitutional framers put in place. Drutman again states “under a unified government, congressional co-partisans have no incentive to check the president; their electoral success is tied to his success and popularity. Under divided government, congressional opposition partisans have no incentive to work with the president; their electoral success is tied to his failure and unpopularity. This is not a system of bargaining and compromise, but one of capitulation and stonewalling.” Congressional stonewalling forces the hand of the President to use executive power, which only strengthens the presidency as well as creating more congressional gridlock.
If the founding fathers were alive to see the atrocity of American politics today, they would be disgusted. Everything they advised and warned against is what has become. The United States is supposed to be a country that has representation for each and every individual within the borders, something that is simply impossible with only two parties. It is time for a political awakening to force third party representation in Congress.