Third Parties in American Governmen

Topics: Election, Elections, Voting system Pages: 9 (3269 words) Published: April 1, 2013
Third Parties:
The political system in America is known as a two-party system. Generally, two major political parties compete for office. “The first two political parties had their origins in the debate over the ratification of the Constitution – the Federalists and Antifederalists. Today, the Republican and Democratic Parties dominate electoral politics” (Mott).  Both the Republican and Democratic parties have controlled the presidency since 1856. The total amount of third party candidates in American politics have been and continue to be particularly low. “Scholars have also pointed to… factors that… explain the decline of third party votes including: the prominence of single member districts; the electoral college and presidential system; the state of the economy; the high cost of political campaigns; the rise of candidate-centered politics; and the centralization of economic and political power at the national level” (Chibber and Kollman). Because of the way the Electoral College is set up in the United States, third parties are never able to succeed at a national level in politics.          The two-party system has the basis of “winner-take-all”. The single-member-district arrangement used in American government only allows one party, usually either Republican or Democratic, to win in a certain district. “The single-member system thus creates incentives to form broadly based national parties with sufficient management skills, financial resources, and popular appeal to win legislative district pluralities all over the country” (US Department of the States). Third parties are at a disadvantage under this political system. Since third parties have minimal funding, popularity, and likeability and due to our “winner-take-all” configuration, it is hard for them to achieve victory in American government.          “The American two-party system is the result of the way elections are structured… Because only one party’s candidate can win… there is a strong incentive for political competitors to organize themselves into two competing parties. By doing so, party members and their candidates maximize their chances of winning” (Wott). The two-party system discourages third party candidates. Third party ideas are left out or are incorporated as one of the other party’s ideas. An idea that a third party candidate stands for can be misunderstood as an idea from one of the other two political parties. This gives one of the two political parties the support that the third party had. Wott explains that doing this, the existing party can win the support of voters that were supporting the third party and cause the third party to drop out of the race.         The Electoral College is the main driving force behind the two-party system. “Under the Electoral College system, Americans, technically, do not vote directly for the president… instead, they vote within each state for a group of electors who are pledged to one or another presidential candidate” (US Department of the State). The Electoral College counts each vote that each candidate gets. With the system of “winner-take-all”, the other candidate who comes in second with a state’s popular vote does not win a single electoral vote in that state. However, in Nebraska and Maine, “the statewide popular vote winner is awarded two electoral votes and the winner in each congressional district is awarded one electoral vote” (US Department of States). With that, the only way a third party candidate can win is to get enough electoral votes. “The Electoral College is particularly harsh in its discrimination against nationally based third parties that fall short of a popular vote plurality in every state” (Rosenstone).         The way the Electoral College is set up, third parties have an extremely difficult time winning elections since “the individual states” electoral votes are allocated under a winner-take-all arrangement” (US Department of the States). However though, there is an exception. If...
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