Social Question

jfos's avatar

What would it take to eliminate America's two-party political system?

Asked by jfos (7370points) March 23rd, 2010

Please, try to keep this discussion in line by only contributing a minimum amount of jokes / sarcasm…

In America, politics means Democrat vs. Republican. It is not uncommon for voters to support their candidate solely on the basis of political party. I believe that, although yes, the two parties have opinions on some main issues that are clearly established, America would be better off either: 1) without political parties or 2) with multiple large parties, rather than just two.

How would we go about this? To restate the question, what would it take to eliminate the two-party political system in America?

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32 Answers

Snarp's avatar

Eliminate the electoral college and institute instant runoff voting, just to establish the structural framework to make it possible.

jfos's avatar

@Snarp Yes, I think it would be better off without the electoral college.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Um… a third party?

JeffVader's avatar

Proportional representation usually does the trick….

Fyrius's avatar

And a fourth party and a fifth party. And a twelfth party if need be.

It’s what we do over here, apparently. We have about five or six well-established political parties that have been around for decades, and we’ve been getting a lot of new parties for similar-to-that-stuff-but-not-quite-the-same interest groups. Like we have a new party that focuses on animal rights, and a new party that focuses on being more of a dick to the Muslims, and that sort of stuff.
It also helps that no one party ever gets to make all the decisions, the most popular ones are always joined together proportionately to their votes in a senate of sorts. It’s a bit of a nation of compromises we have here.
But it seems to be a good way to keep the people from polarising. Better than a two-sided all-or-none winners-and-losers system.

drClaw's avatar

I think it would require more people get involved. People in the states these days are politically lazy and are happy taking their daily serving of media and letting corporate politics steer the boat.

aprilsimnel's avatar

We’ve several 3rd parties in the US, but they don’t have the financial or media backing to bring their messages out to more people. And the parties that do get attention get that attention because they’re portrayed as wackadoodle by the mainstream media, and are made fun of, so that’s what most people here will believe about them. My impression is that Libertarians are seen as selfish Randians, the Green Party is seen as crunchy granolas, and there’s so much ish about communism and socialism in this country that they’ll probably never be considered viable.

It’s not up to the government to change this system. It up to the people, but the vast majority doesn’t show too many signs of wanting to change things.

Snarp's avatar

@drClaw I don’t know what you mean by politically lazy, but it seems to me that I’ve seen a lot of citizen involvement in politics in recent years, far more so in the last decade than in the final twenty years of the twentieth century. From the mobilization of the religious right to elect Bush to anti war protests to the activism and grass roots organizing that saw Obama elected to the tea parties to the organizing in favor of health care reform, all of these required significant motivation and action by ordinary citizens who were anything but lazy. Certainly some of them were more than willing to accept media talking points that fed their pre-existing views and biases, but they weren’t simply sitting on the couch watching the major networks. More people today hear from more widely varied sources than twenty years ago, when the status quo view of the major networks was the only one you were going to get. This has been both good and bad, but I don’t think we’re politically lazy, certainly not more so than at any time in the past.

Fyrius's avatar

Where I live new parties often seem to split off from existing ones when prominent politicians don’t get their way, and decide to give the other guys the finger and start a party of their own. People who already have credibility and popularity.
If the USA were like us, there would now probably be a separate party led by Hillary Clinton.

wonderingwhy's avatar

If you want to eliminate the two party system you need to have the people who most benefit from it agree to do away with it.

At some point there will likely be a three (or more) party system if there is enough independent support and funding, but it still seems a long way off.

Eliminate parties, institute annual confidence votes for congressmen, institute a hard cap on campaign spending/donations/lobbying, and undo this ridiculous ”companies are people too” crap.

mattbrowne's avatar

In Germany there are 5 parties in the federal parliament, see

so everything from very conservative/neoliberal, conservative, social democratic, green and very leftist is represented. At least 5% of all votes are required to be admitted to parliament.

I think the Green Party in the US should become more powerful. And maybe a new conservative party should be founded representing the thinking of Colin Powell.

cazzie's avatar

Germany has MMP, don’t they? (Mixed Member Proportional). When I lived in NZ, they changed their system to MMP from FFP (first past the post) and a third party with 4 or 5 MP’s ended up holding the government to ransom. The Leader of this party wanted the Treasury portfolio, so he went into meetings with BOTH of the other parties before decided which one to form a coalition government with. He ended up with the Treasury. It’s gotten better since then, with smaller parties getting involved and getting seats, so it ends up being more representative of who was voted for as well as which parties were supported.
Yeah,... perhaps Rome is crumbling…

ETpro's avatar

With the cost of elections today, I don’t see how you eliminate parties altogether without switching to taxpayer funding of all elections. That would do the trick.

Adding more viable parties is difficult because the existing two have a stranglhold on state election laws making it difficult to impossible for any third party to qualify in enough states to have national impact. Of course you could change such laws at the state level, but talk to American Idol voters about arcane election laws in in 2 seconds their eyes glaze over and you get either a deer-in-the-headlights stare or snoring.

josie's avatar

Why would you want to do that?
It makes it more simple and stable than having multiple parties and the need to form coalitions and creating truly strange bedfellows.

Cruiser's avatar

A college buddy of mine has been campaigning to do just that for 2 years now. Stellar idea…never happen.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Eliminate the electoral college, the DNC, the RNC, and the ability to legally form a political party with more than 100 members: eg, candidates and support staff only. No primary races, just any and all who wish to contend. No corporate support/spending/PACs (yes even MoveOn has to take a hike) and corporate citizenship goes away. Unions also cannot financially support or endorse a candidate. Basically limited money can only be accepted from citizens up to the current limits for any individual race, and every candidate is effectively an independent with their 99 supporters.

I’m afraid it is not possible.

Cruiser's avatar

You would need all sorts of campaign reforms that neither party would want as it would prevent them from amassing massive campaign war chests they need to buy the election.

dalepetrie's avatar

It would take a complete overhaul of the electoral system, where all campaigns would have to be publicly financed and fact checked and perhaps the 5 parties with the greatest levels of support would all be allowed to field candidates and participate in debates.

cazzie's avatar

Confuse a cat!

davidbetterman's avatar


wundayatta's avatar

We’d need a dictator or revolution or both.

There are structural reasons why a two-party system is the most stable form of government in this country. I’ve written about it elsewhere. It has to do with the winner-take-all result of our electoral system.

If we wanted more parties, we’d have to change to a system where parties got seats in proportion to the number of votes they got. That’s not going to happen without a revolution.

The other option is just to dispense with representation, and move to dictatorship. I doubt if that’s what you had in mind.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@cazzie – Startle a stoat!

cazzie's avatar

You don’t get the reference… ‘Confuse a Cat?’ see…

aprilsimnel's avatar

I am directly quoting the “credits” at the end of the sketch, which has “startle a stoat” in them. Check it out, I’m quite the Monty Python expert. :)

cazzie's avatar

@aprisimnel Oh… that’s just sad….. now I feel bad…

aprilsimnel's avatar

‘S all right.
I’ve voted for 3rd parties in local elections. Maybe in the US, that’s where the focus should go. Focusing nationally would take too much money, I think.

davidbetterman's avatar

I voted for Ralph Nader once. I think. So long ago….....

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

Oh no, does that mean that Richard Nixon was a socialist, too? LOL. Oh, come on now, you know that somewhere there’s a Teabagger who will accidentally stumble onto Nixon’s healthcare plan and think, “Wow, it makes perfect sense coming from Republican!”

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

The real in that deal is we do have more than two parties, we have Libertarians, Independents, Green party, Peace and Freedom, and I think one more I am forgetting. More people need to dump Tweedle Stupid and Tweedle Dumb and embrace these lessor parties so the top two party of dumbasses can’t run the show without including the others.

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