A Modern Take on the Current Democratic Crisis
Updated: Jan 2
The current crisis in democracy is occurring on a global scale, heightened not only by an assault on democratic institutions, values, and traditions, but also as a result of an overwhelming sense of helplessness felt by Americans who believe that the current democratic system is not representative of their needs. This, coupled with a staggering increase in authoritarian and totalitarian power around the world, namely in China and Russia, has resulted in a global phenomenon of declining democratic systems of government. The modern political party system for the United States is a two-party system, specifically the Democratic and Republican party system, which has dominated the country’s presidential election process for centuries. While supporters of the two-party system see it as a way to foster political stability, the multi-party system is an approach that can reverse democratic backsliding while encouraging maximum participation from marginalized groups and ensuring the prevention of dominant political ideologies.
From a historical standpoint, the two-party system has been effective in providing majority representation for the American people and appeals to centrists nationwide. However, through inconsistent governing patterns and the oversimplification of the governing process, this particular party system has eliminated the possibility of authentic representation of the people and has created an environment of exclusivity and political polarization. Collet states that “the available trend data on the two-party system reveal that, on some indicators, the general state of low public regard for the parties found by Dennis in 1975 has sunk even lower” (2). This fact is corroborated by the current state of controversy surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump, a situation that has only emphasized the left-right political system that denotes the country’s political affiliations. Furthermore, the left-right political system has resulted in societal and political polarization.
The current two-party system in the United States has only nurtured a culture of tribalism. According to source B, “Categories are one of the primary ways by which people make sense of complex environments. For political environments, parties are especially useful categories.” The basic principles of tribalism in politics accentuates the effect existing social hierarchies have on the American people. For instance, the culmination of tribalism and political polarization only encourages the innate desire for maintaining social networks. Party categories exist to simplify the complexity of political ideologies and allow left wing politicians to “be perceived as highly differentiated” (Carman) from right wing politicians. While it succeeds in doing so, it also perpetuates a political culture based around group identity politics.
The application of a multiparty system would create a system of proportional representation. This electoral system would allow opposition and third party candidates an equal opportunity of election and voters would have a more inclusive government. Source C states, “Whether the issues involve the economy, social justice, racial or sexual equality, political corruption, or morality, third parties often fill in the gaps when major parties are occupied elsewhere” (2). Historically speaking, third parties form to promote specific issues or ideologies that are often overlooked by the major parties. Furthermore, “third parties also appeal to groups of people who have views and concerns that tend to be overlooked or not cared about by the mainstream in general” (Klobaucher). This further highlights the importance of a government that is truly representative, as the frequent creation of independent and minority parties suggests that the needs and wants of marginalized and underrepresented groups are often overlooked.
The formation of a multiparty political system is a viable option for reversing the current democratic crisis. The current method of electoral representation fails to acknowledge the struggle of one presidential candidate to accurately represent the entire country. Lause notes, “Part of nationalizing the two-party rivalry established the national faith that the system had evolved to represent the will of the voters. As we have seen, it never actually did so, but all politicians and virtually all pundits implicitly and explicitly turn every election into a well-practiced celebration of that faith” (1). The result of an unrepresentative government is an elected representative that does not act on behalf of the public’s interest. The growth of strong political parties is fundamental in decreasing voter apathy, rebuilding voter trust, and encouraging and maximizing participation.
The two-party system has dominated the electoral process since the Civil War, focusing on the Democratic and Republican political parties while ignoring the rise of third and independent party candidates. The United States, as well as several other countries, are facing an ongoing downward trend of democracy and free government. The current binary party system has divided the country further into polarized political parties while aiding in voter apathy and disregarding differing views. The implementation of a multiparty system would decrease political conformity and the vigor and vitality of partisan identity, as well as increase party competition and proportional representation.
Carman, Christopher J., Chelsea M. Coe, et al. “The Nature of Party Categories in Two-Party
and Multiparty Systems.” Advances in Political Psychology, vol. 39, suppl. 1 (2018):
279-304. Web. 14 Jan. 2020.
Collet, Christian. “Third Parties and the Two-Party System.” Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 60,
no. 3 (1996): 431-449. Web. 14 Jan. 2020.
Fishkin, Joseph, and Heather K. Gerken. “The Party’s Over: McCutcheon, and the Future of the
Party System.” Supreme Court Review, vol. 2014 Issue 1 (2015): 175-214. Web. 18 Jan.
Klobuchar, Lisa. Third Parties: Influential Political Alternatives. North Mankato: Compass
Point Books, 2007. Print.
Lause, Mark A. The Two-Party System in the United States: Its Origins and Evolution in the
Service of Power, Privilege and Capital. Solidarity, 2015. Print.
Wolverton, Monte. “Government of the People.” Cartoon. Cagle. Cagle Cartoons, Inc., 2014.
Web. 19 Jan. 2020.
Photography by Noah Sellers. Find more of Noah's work here.