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Disadvantages Of The Two-Party System
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Disadvantages Of The Two-Party System

6 min read
Disadvantages Of The Two-Party System
Good Party Politics Team · Jul 15, 2023

A two-party system is a structure where two major political parties rule and dominate the government. Political parties are significant as they represent specific social, economic, and political issues within a given space of interest. They establish a philosophical platform linked to voters, aiming to facilitate the election of a specific candidate to public office.

Candidates aiming at public office use their individual party’s platform to share their concerns with voters. They also propose different strategies they’ve set in place to tackle these problems in case they’re elected to office. There are many disadvantages of the two-party system, and we’ll address some of them in this article.

1. Lack of Political Diversity

Term limit has become popular in the United States when voting for Congress. This is because one person can be voted in more than necessary if voters in their district are allowed. In Washington, their career presence is considered a disadvantage since their performance is measured as a reflection of their terms in office.

One of the other significant limitations of the two dominant parties is limited options. If you’re unhappy with what one party offers on their platform, give the other a straight ticket. This is because you only have two options as a voter. Therefore, it is either one or the other, or you choose not to vote for any candidates.

When you get to the voting box, you can check one box to represent all. This means you’re showing your party loyalty by electing all the candidates of a particular party. Although this process makes it easy for voters, the chances of not giving a second thought to your candidates are high. Instead of focusing on the experience of the candidates in question, they focus on the parties by their names.

2. Limited Choices for Voters

As much as the two parties fight each other constantly, they have one enemy in common; radical voice. This means they will work together, if need be, to ensure they fight against alternative political systems. What has kept them going is the lack of political competition. Therefore, if a third voice, especially a radical one, rises, the chances of losing its dominance are usually high.

They use the weapon of political gridlock to keep on ruling as the only parties available. Political plurality offers a platform where different views and debates are welcomed. They unite stronger and weaker parties to build coalitions that enable them to achieve party dominance.

Lack of representation in politics is evidenced in two-party systems because they vigorously fight against the emergence of third parties. They have set up a system where all voting mechanisms go to the winner while the losing candidate loses relevance. Regardless of how strong their following was, they were subdued to the bitter taste of the impact of two-party system.

3. Eventually Leads to Political Polarization

Countries with multiparty systems are more advantaged than those under a two-party system regarding societal growth. This is because the voters will have diverse options and not be forced to choose two fixed options. If you’re not happy with what one party offers, you’ll be forced to agree with what is available in the other.

No matter how biased these two parties are, the exclusion of alternative viewpoints forces you to agree with what is already set. All a candidate needs to do to win an election is look at their competitor's weaknesses. At the same time, the opposition party keeps poking holes and disagreeing with the ruling party to make political milestones.

For political enthusiasts, ideological rigidity makes them hold their party of choice close to their hearts. They identify with it just as they do with their family, friends, and career. If you try to criticize their political party, they get offended and retaliate. This is what causes societal polarization in countries with two-party systems.

4. Stifled Debate and Ideological Rigidity

While the United States operates under a two-party system, there are occasions when it can transform into a multi-party system. This happens when a third-party candidate secures at least 5% of the national vote.

A third party, for instance, was recognized as a major party in the American political landscape for two election cycles. However, due to existing party duopoly institutional frameworks, meeting this seemingly modest threshold is infrequent in U.S. politics. Although third-party candidates may garner support in opinion polls, it seldom translates into actual votes at the ballot box.

A good example is when a third-party candidate was getting over 15% before the 2016 general elections. However, when the actual votes were counted, his votes were less than 4% of the total cast votes. Disparity dominance of majority parties can prevent the entry of new ideas to the political spectrum causing narrow policy choices.

5. Lack of Representation

The two-party system encompasses various factions under one umbrella, causing voters to hide their genuine opinions. Despite personal preferences, they view the candidate from their party as a better choice than the opposing party's candidate. In a multi-party political competition, conversely, voters would have the opportunity to select a candidate who precisely aligns with their values.

With the multi-party system, voting decisions prioritize a candidate's position on key issues rather than broader ideological representation. Consequently, the government formed under the two-party system may not authentically reflect the desires of the entire population.

Politics around the world is always connected with corruption. Whether you live in a country with partisan politics or independence, corruption always has a way of finding its way. We might quickly frown on practices like patronage, but they’re ubiquitous in any political sphere.

One of the outspoken limitations of the two-party system is favoritism when awarding government contracts. These contracts are usually awarded to insiders, and only a few go to the general public. The same criticism is witnessed when it comes to government funding.

For example, significant contributors during the campaign would demand a favor in return for supporting a specific candidate. If the candidate they spent their fortune on wins the election, the contributor feels entitled to receive endorsements from them. On the other hand, that candidate will have a hard time saying no to such a contributor. This is because they feel indebted to them all the time.

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6. Partisan Politics and Gridlock

For quite some time, the bipartisan deadlock has been an undeniable reality in the political landscape of the United States. A concerning trend has emerged: both parties hold negative views of each other and extend their disdain to party members. Recent developments show that an increasing number of individuals from each party perceive those belonging to the other party negatively.

They believe their opponents are more closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, and unintelligent than the broader American population. Polarization in politics originates from establishing a predefined agenda encompassing key priorities each party aims to achieve during every election cycle. In the U.S., this means creating a platform of critical ideas they plan to pursue for a given period. Consequently, individuals vote in favor of one platform or the other.

As subsequent election cycles approach, a new set of platforms is presented, enabling voters to make their choices again. However, both parties prioritize their electoral prospects over the genuine needs of the country when constructing their platforms. The voters are victims of poor electoral choices because they elect a leader based on their party affiliations.

7. Challenges Faced by Third Parties and Independent Candidates

During the 2016 U.S. election, many people showed their interest in running for presidency by filing a Statement of Candidacy. However, it came to the final details, the primary system released only two candidates vying under the majority parties. The names were for the candidates who won majority votes from their parties.

At the same time, a presidential candidate decided to run with one of the two major parties. When asked by voters why he made that decision, he told them he had no choice. He said he couldn’t raise campaign money or attract media coverage if he chose a different party. These examples highlight some of the most noticeable third-party challenges.

The candidate said he had seen what happened to other presidential candidates who had tried vying on a third party. Most of the significant reform movements experienced in the U.S. were brought by smaller parties. However, since they never managed to win a presidential election, the parties were killed shortly after their formation.

Back in 1840, a party was formed to fight against slavery. This was followed by several other parties that fought for women's rights. In 1892 several other parties were created to represent farmers’ struggles against banks and railroads. This shows it is easy to get ideas outside the two-party system, but the structures limit democratic representation.

8. Voter Disillusionment

The primary obstacles preventing people from participating in elections are lacking trust and transparency in voting systems. Many non-voters are disillusioned with the American voting process, political system implications, and governmental systems. They say the system lack trust, transparency, and accountability in the government, electoral system, and media rather than being apathetic.

The standard narrative blaming non-voters for their lack of civic engagement conveniently overlooks their reasons and simplifies them as apathetic individuals. This narrative allows voting initiatives and political polarization impact to disregard the concerns and grievances of non-voters. Most non-voters refrain from fulfilling their civic duty due to disillusionment with a flawed system.

One candidate might have won a majority of states and a good number of votes but a low vote percentage. The other candidate might win fewer votes but get a high rate of the total ballots qualifying him for the position. What counts at the end of the primary voting system is the delegates, not votes. At the same time, in the presidential system, what matters is the electoral votes and not the majority votes.

This is one of the causes of voter dissatisfaction with two-party system because it makes them feel drastically limited. Residents of some states in the United States almost always rally their support behind a presidential candidate of a particular party. If your state votes exclusively for a specific party always, when the pattern changes, you might be left out. Your voice might count but won’t bring a big difference during the presidential electoral tally because a majority vote doesn’t matter.

This makes voters feel excluded because sometimes, none of the candidates available are fit for them. Unfortunately, the representation of a different client outside the two-party candidates is denied. In this case, the aura of challenges of two-party system and superiority and exclusiveness becomes too audible. If you’re in the winning party, you feel more at ease. However, if you’re in the losing party, you feel like a victim of prejudice from the conduct of the winning party.

9. Alternative Voting Systems and Political Reform

The Alternative Vote system aims to address the issue of vote splitting. In Westminster's First Past the Post system, a disliked candidate can win if the majority's votes are split among multiple candidates. This clearly defines the effect of the two-party system disadvantages.

Coalition governments can be seen as part of democratic governance challenges compared to the two-party system in the United States. However, amidst these potential downsides, one notable advantage of coalition governments is the potential for consistent governance. When coalitions form governments, more centrist policies become available than those offered by the two-party system.

Due to the distinctive platforms of the two major parties, a transfer of governing power leads to inconsistent policies. The other party often terminates what one party initiates unless safeguards, such as a Constitutional amendment, prevent its reversal. As a result, a back-and-forth pattern arises, usually following a two-year cycle, commonly referred to as a see-saw effect.

10. Implications for Democratic Participation

The impact of political parties on the responsiveness of governments in democratic systems has been a matter of debate. Some say pluralistic democracy ensures democratic responsiveness, while others argue they can amplify extremists and hinder government responsiveness. This discussion gains significance as emerging democracies grapple with issues of representation and effective governance.

Understanding parties' nature, objectives, and organizational structure is crucial in assessing their impact on democratic responsiveness. Various theories on parties exist, each with its testable implications, and empirical evidence can aid in evaluating these theories.

Apathetic political engagement is both a cause and a result of criticisms of political ideology diversity. Traditional democratic practice is typically perceived as antagonistic by rivalry, discord, and power dynamics among elected officials. This representative form of democracy is frequently associated with a concept of citizen participation centered mainly around voting during elections.

Nevertheless, the current manifestation of representative democracy often results in political system drawbacks influenced by a select few. It leads to the unintentional (or intentional) marginalization of minority interests like race, gender, and other aspects.

Conclusion

There are tremendous advantages to consider when it comes to the two-party system. Some include its ability to encourage centrism and provide a clear majority in general elections, among many others. However, the drawbacks of two-party system seem to be more than its advantages. The major disadvantage is the lack of political diversity and voter disillusionment followed by the rest.

Many voters under such a system describe the voting process as a “voter for the lesser evil.” This means if independent candidates were given a chance, most voters would vote for them. A voter for a lesser evil also means you’re not exercising your democratic participation rights. A voter is almost always pressured to compromise on what they believe on some level. Voter suppression is the order of the day despite the many potential benefits they would enjoy with proportional representation.

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Disadvantages Of The Two-Party System
By Good Party Politics Team
The GoodParty.org politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.