The Two-Party System
For nearly all of American history, while ideologies and names have shifted, there have only been two political parties. In 2022, these two parties are the Democrats and the Republicans, with Democrats being on the liberal side and Republicans being on the more conservative side respectively. This two-party system leaves little room for third parties to gain any prominence. As of today, there are only two US Senators who are not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties (both are independents). What is even more alarming is that in recent years, these two parties’ ideologies have seemed to grow farther and farther apart, leaving little ability to find a true neutral in American politics. There has been growing frustration in recent years with the two-party system, especially among young people. 47% of Americans between the ages of 18-49 wish that there were more political parties to choose from, according to the Pew Research Center.
Public antipathy has been growing at a steady rate in America for decades. Instead of simply disliking the other party’s views, people have begun to dislike the party itself and the people in it. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Republicans think of Democrats as more immoral, and 63% of Democrats think the same about their counterparts. On top of this, the vast majority of people in both parties stated that the reason they identify with their party is that they believe the other party’s views would be harmful to the country. This comes in contrast to people instead being in their party because they believe their party’s views would benefit the country. What is even more concerning is that this is not a regularly seen phenomenon in other democracies. According to Brown University researchers, people in the United States’ negative feelings in relation to members of the other party in comparison to their own party increased by an average of 4.8 points for every ten years.
This growing public hatred is also reflected in political institutions, such as Congress, in the form of more partisanship and a decrease in topics or opinions that can be considered bipartisan. This lack of willingness to cross the aisle, compromise, and work together may also be linked to the decrease of moderates on Capitol Hill. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2022, there are only around a couple of dozen politicians on Capitol Hill that could be considered true moderates as opposed to the over 150 moderates in the early 1970s. This lack of being able to work together in Congress sets a poor example for the American people. If politicians are unable to get over their differences to get along with members of the other party to solve problems, how is the general populace supposed to get along with other people that have opposing political views?
Overall, this has all left America a more divided society. Many theorize that this polarization has in part occurred due to the fact that in recent decades the two political parties have become more and more aligned with certain religions, races, ideologies, and geographic regions. For instance, democrats tend to be more people of color and people who live in urban areas, whereas Republicans tend to be more white and live in more rural areas. Either way, this kind of division – the most extreme since the Civil War in 1861 (Cato Institute) – in no way spells out something positive for the America of the future.