Why does America only have 2 political parties?

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Most European countries I know of have lots of different political parties you can vote for each election, but the USA only appears to have 2. Whats more, in America it appears you don't actually vote for a party but a person. Why?

It seems really stupid to limit the whole election process to just 2 parties. It means that there is no diversity at all in what you have to choose from, in Iceland where I live you can vote for a socialist party or free enterprise supporting party, and anything in between. In the US you can only pick between 1 or 2 parties, both of whom support the same capitalist model but with some slight differences.

Why?

Anyone care to explain how this is suppose to make any sense?

Well, one reason is that the "unbridled capitalism is 100% awesome all the time no questions asked" philosophy precludes any party with an alternate economic theory from gaining any kind of a reasonable foothold. The U.S. does have other political parties, they just have zero influence.

Kobie:
Well, one reason is that the "unbridled capitalism is 100% awesome all the time no questions asked" philosophy precludes any party with an alternate economic theory from gaining any kind of a reasonable foothold. The U.S. does have other political parties, they just have zero influence.

Then why can't you vote for those parties? There are parties in Iceland that hold very little influence but you can still vote for them provided they have at least a little fallowing.

There are more political parties than just the Democrats and Republicans, but they seldom get elected because more people are willing to vote for a candidate they think will win (or from a party) than one they want to win.

Ron Paul used to run on the libertarian ticket until he noticed not enough people voted for him, so he became a Republican.

The person business: in the U.K., people vote for the party because a candidate can change which district they are running in.

This is not the case in the U.S., there are rules about where a candidate can run from. X candidate can only run from Y state for a Senate office in Y state or Z voting district in that state in the case of Representatives.

The U.S. also has weaker political parties than in Europe. In the U.S., Congressmen make laws. This means when a person defines their agenda running for office, you can come to expect this type of legislation being drafted.

The U.S. is a federation, meaning things are on a state-by-state basis. This makes understanding the system more difficult to people, inside or outside the system.

As a result, politicians make connecting with the demographics more important and a friendliness must be established with a person rather than a political party.
Any other questions?

well their was going to be more, but the morphed into two parties, due to our winner take all style. Where as your parliment actualy requires x number of represtitives from each party(depending on how large the party is)

We're a very "we versus they" oriented country, not just with politics.

Winner take all electoral system is conducive to maintaining a bi-polarity within the House.

Its the system we have. The U.S. does not have proportional representation by parties. Let say party X gets a small % of the vote nationally. They probably won't win a single seat. So they either keep going and fight the good fight (and weaken the main party they are closest to) or they can disband and their members join one of the two dominant parties who views they are closest to.

Its a system that naturally favors two parties.

As I understand it, every MP in a parliamentary system pretty much always votes on a party-line basis and the individual opinions of each doesn't really have an impact because they just represent their party. Well, the first thing that you need to understand is that American political parties are not like that. Members tend to have a broad agreement on most issues but there is no "party position" and every member is allowed to make their own decisions and vote however they want. During the debate over the healthcare bill, Obama's biggest obstacle was the so-called "Bluedog Democrats" (the more conservative members of the party) who refused to go along with what he wanted. The fact that the Democrats were so divided was cause for amusement/frustration but it wasn't really shocking. Because of the weakness of the party structures it is necessary for voters to examine the specific views of each candidate before the elections. So there is a lot of variety of politicians despite the appearance of only two parties.

Also, before the main elections there are the primaries, in which all the members of a party (Do you have to pay a fee to be a party member in Iceland? Because in the U.S. all you have to do is declare it during voter registration.) have their own vote among several candidates to decide who their nominee will be. The two final candidates who draw the most attention are nowhere near the whole story.

This article (actually written by a Canadian, interestingly) discusses the topic further.

Hardcore_gamer:

Kobie:
Well, one reason is that the "unbridled capitalism is 100% awesome all the time no questions asked" philosophy precludes any party with an alternate economic theory from gaining any kind of a reasonable foothold. The U.S. does have other political parties, they just have zero influence.

Then why can't you vote for those parties? There are parties in Iceland that hold very little influence but you can still vote for them provided they have at least a little fallowing.

Because a lot of them are populated by downright whackadoodles.

Hardcore_gamer:

Kobie:
Well, one reason is that the "unbridled capitalism is 100% awesome all the time no questions asked" philosophy precludes any party with an alternate economic theory from gaining any kind of a reasonable foothold. The U.S. does have other political parties, they just have zero influence.

Then why can't you vote for those parties? There are parties in Iceland that hold very little influence but you can still vote for them provided they have at least a little fallowing.

2000 ELECTIONS FLASHBACK AIIIIEEEE

Plurality voting and single member electoral districts.

We would have more (viable) parties if our Congress was assembled by proportional representation. It's purely a matter of incentives: If 60% of people want vaguely similar things, they'll do their best not to split their vote down to 30% so that the other 40% can win a plurality and do the opposite. If people were to split their votes like that, they would be wasting their votes. Given that, voters tend to choose from the top two choices.

Countries with proportional representation and coalition governments have lots of parties. Countries with plurality voting have two*. Countries with no or rigged voting have one.

*The UK has two and a half, and the struggles of the Lib Dems, and their low representation compared to their (at least former) popularity, demonstrate why such systems naturally degrade to two without some kind of electoral reform.

DuctTapeJedi:
We're a very "we versus they" oriented country, not just with politics.

That's not why at all.

(See above.)

Hardcore_gamer:

Then why can't you vote for those parties? There are parties in Iceland that hold very little influence but you can still vote for them provided they have at least a little fallowing.

You can vote for them. We just generally don't. I could have darkened the circle in 2008 for the Socialist, Green, or Libertarian candidates, or even Ralph Nader running as an independent. I think there was a "Constitutionalist" candidate as well, but I don't remember.

its true that this system does go towards 2 parties, any party can join in a presidental election. Hell TR made his own party and almost got the presidency. 3rd parties hardly ever win but they do have a big impact on politics.

Hardcore_gamer:

Kobie:
Well, one reason is that the "unbridled capitalism is 100% awesome all the time no questions asked" philosophy precludes any party with an alternate economic theory from gaining any kind of a reasonable foothold. The U.S. does have other political parties, they just have zero influence.

Then why can't you vote for those parties? There are parties in Iceland that hold very little influence but you can still vote for them provided they have at least a little fallowing.

People can vote for whoever they like (provided they get on the ballot. Even then you can still write in someone.)

But there are reasons for not doing so. The main one is you can effectively nullify your vote. Take the Green Party for instance. They had Ralph Nader on the ticket for President. Everyone knew Ralph Nader wasn't going to win the election. So by voting for him not only were you only just making a statement but also hurting the chances of the person in the main party who views more closely align with your own. If the people who voted Nader had voted for Gore, Gore would have been President. Which most of the Green voters would rather see happen than have Bush win. Its one reason the Green Party fizzled out.

Charles_Martel:

Hardcore_gamer:

Kobie:
Well, one reason is that the "unbridled capitalism is 100% awesome all the time no questions asked" philosophy precludes any party with an alternate economic theory from gaining any kind of a reasonable foothold. The U.S. does have other political parties, they just have zero influence.

Then why can't you vote for those parties? There are parties in Iceland that hold very little influence but you can still vote for them provided they have at least a little fallowing.

People can vote for whoever they like (provided they get on the ballot. Even then you can still write in someone.)

But there are reasons for not doing so. The main one is you can effectively nullify your vote. Take the Green Party for instance. They had Ralph Nader on the ticket for President. Everyone knew Ralph Nader wasn't going to win the election. So by voting for him not only were you only just making a statement but also hurting the chances of the person in the main party who views more closely align with your own. If the people who voted Nader had voted for Gore, Gore would have been President. Which most of the Green voters would rather see happen than have Bush win. Its one reason the Green Party fizzled out.

From the other side, a lot of economically conservative but socially liberal-to-moderate types voted for Ross Perot in 1992, which dropped George H.W. Bush's chances from decent to nil and swept Bill Clinton into the White House.

Charles_Martel:

But there are reasons for not doing so. The main one is you can effectively nullify your vote. Take the Green Party for instance. They had Ralph Nader on the ticket for President. Everyone knew Ralph Nader wasn't going to win the election. So by voting for him not only were you only just making a statement but also hurting the chances of the person in the main party who views more closely align with your own. If the people who voted Nader had voted for Gore, Gore would have been President. Which most of the Green voters would rather see happen than have Bush win. Its one reason the Green Party fizzled out.

In defense of myself and my fellow DFHs, Bush, Gore, AND the corporate media did a fantastic job of making it look like there wasn't any meaningful difference between Bush and Gore. (This should go down in history as one of the greatest acts of false advertising ever.)

Thankfully, Mr. Bush was kind enough to spend the next 8 years brutally disabusing me of THAT notion, and I plan to vote a straight Democratic ticket on all federal offices for the next two decades, minimum. (This just means I don't plan on voting third-party. I would not vote Republican if Karl Rove was holding my mother at gunpoint. She'd probably tell him to go ahead and shoot, anyway.)

Because americans have binary-disorder.

On a less humorous note: Having more parties doesn't necessarily mean more diversity in "directions". Here in germany for example we right now have 5 "significant" political parties - but each of them is just a point on the same old dualistic one-dimensional axis.

So, what you get with more parties, often is just more points on the 1D-axis, which will form alliances during election.

That's not to say that it has to be that way. Rather, what i'm implying, is that the entire current human civilization has bipolar disorder. They live in a one-dimensional world, and only an incredibly small minority considers thinking outside of this.

By the way - as for voting mechanics - in germany, we actually have an interesting take on this: Citizens get two different types of vote. So, they do not necessarily have to make an "either-or"-decision, but can support two different movements.

Oh no, we have more than two parties, it is just that we only have two MAJOR parties. You can still vote for the Green party, the Communist party, the Nazi party, or the Rent Is Too Damn High party, but it will not do much, since they do not have much power.

1- The system is biased. In an election with two parties, if one gets 51% and the other gets 49%, typically the first one wins it all, and the second gets nothing. That means that people will almost never pay attention to third parties, or even vote for them if they agree with them. Why? Because (an exact thought I have heard from many people -> ) "Third parties can't ever win, so why waste your vote?"

The fact that the CPD (created by both parties) and other state organizations limit the invitation to public debates to candidates polling more than 15% means that third party candidates fail to gain any exposure for the most part. Its a system designed to keep the two parties in power. There is good evidence that when 3rd party candidates are allowed to participate in debates they tend to increase their share of the vote very quickly and sometimes even win in elections. Democratic and Republican candidates even go so far as to attempt to get 3rd party candidates removed from the ballot. In many cases, a vote for a third party candidate is a vote that is wasted in the grand scheme of things.

sneakypenguin:
Winner take all electoral system is conducive to maintaining a bi-polarity within the House.

That's only true for the presidency where the system makes it near impossible for an independant to get in. House and Senate seats have so such problem, political parties can easily be changed and replaced. You don't win the election the first time, but you can win seats. Which gets you in the public eye and if you are better than what's out there, you get more seats next time. It's happened in the US before, its happened in Canada recently, and it will happen again elsewhere.

The problem is Americans have talked themself into the erroneous fact that "any vote for a 3rd party is a wasted vote"

ravensheart18:

sneakypenguin:
Winner take all electoral system is conducive to maintaining a bi-polarity within the House.

That's only true for the presidency where the system makes it near impossible for an independant to get in. House and Senate seats have so such problem, political parties can easily be changed and replaced. You don't win the election the first time, but you can win seats. Which gets you in the public eye and if you are better than what's out there, you get more seats next time. It's happened in the US before, its happened in Canada recently, and it will happen again elsewhere.

The problem is Americans have talked themself into the erroneous fact that "any vote for a 3rd party is a wasted vote"

It's true. Look at the Lib Dems! They get ~20-30% of the vote (iirc) and less than 10% of seats, and now they're hemorrhaging support (however unfairly) for the perception that they are bowing to the Tories. If it weren't for the prospect of electoral reform, there would be utterly no reason for them to have done that. Just look at the absurd hurdles they have to jump through, as a party that enjoys comparable degrees of public support to the other two, to get even a small amount of power. And then they would have to actually supplant one of the other parties somehow in order to return to an equilibrium where voting for one party or the other wouldn't be a wasted vote. It's insane. But that's in the UK, a relatively unimportant country (I still love it, though.)

US politics actually matter for the entire world-- we got the first four years of George W. because of people voting for third parties. Yeah, maybe you can "get visibility" while throwing away an election in some places because, hell, a few tax policy changes are barely noticeable, but in our system we're much better off pragmatically influencing the major parties rather than trying to run separately. There's nothing inherent about a Democrat or Republican: they're malleable, very loosely defined groupings. What matters is policy changes, and Democrats and Republicans can change on a dime if they see political advantage in it-- indeed, we have much less "party discipline" than any PR system. Still, proportional representation would be much better. It would formalize that influence and more clearly convey public opinion. People would vote for Greens and Libertarians while feeling like their vote is not wasted, and that support would have a direct impact on the realization of their particular viewpoint.

Hardcore_gamer:
Most European countries I know of have lots of different political parties you can vote for each election, but the USA only appears to have 2. Whats more, in America it appears you don't actually vote for a party but a person. Why?

It seems really stupid to limit the whole election process to just 2 parties. It means that there is no diversity at all in what you have to choose from, in Iceland where I live you can vote for a socialist party or free enterprise supporting party, and anything in between. In the US you can only pick between 1 or 2 parties, both of whom support the same capitalist model but with some slight differences.

Why?

Anyone care to explain how this is suppose to make any sense?

Dominance of politics. look at the UK, we have 3 major parties (conservative,liberal, and labour (a mix of both)) but the liberals are considered a joke and only ever see power as part of a coalition (as is currently)

In the US they only like one political idea but to have a democracy you really need two opposite parties (even if its only aesthetics not policy that's different) so while the two sides claim to be totally different they really aren't. I think that's why Obama has pissed everyone off, he seems more liberal than past democrat presidents and that's upset the balance.

A. The schools/parents/everyone have been teaching R/D for a very long time, so your average brain-dead voter doesn't know anything more than vote for whichever letter you got told to vote for growing up.

B. The media generally makes 3rd party groups out to be full of nutjobs. (See the tea party before they became neocon 2.0)

C. A lot of the groups are full of nutjobs. (See the tea party after they became neocon 2.0, and the greens, the commies, and the followers of the black Col. Sanders)

D. If they aren't crazy, they're stupid.

Karma168:
I think that's why Obama has pissed everyone off, he seems more liberal than past democrat presidents and that's upset the balance.

He's not. Really. He's about as liberal as Bill Clinton, who managed to get a lot of republican policies passed, despite their resistance.

People don't want to vote for a third party because the major two parties always win elections.
The major two parties always win elections because nobody wants to vote for a third party.

I don't think the US should have two parties, I think it should just have one and then have different presidents elected. That way there's a bit less anger between politicians because one is a democrat and the other a republican.

TonyCapa:
I don't think the US should have two parties, I think it should just have one and then have different presidents elected. That way there's a bit less anger between politicians because one is a democrat and the other a republican.

One-party rule? Really?

That would be a disastrously bad idea. I don't give two shits if there's "anger between politicians" if the alternative is 100% single-party hegemony.

Kobie:

One-party rule? Really?

That would be a disastrously bad idea. I don't give two shits if there's "anger between politicians" if the alternative is 100% single-party hegemony.

Really that bad? Everyone working as one group instead of being divided by two colours and a symbol of a donkey or an elephant? I didn't say a DICTATORSHIP, you'd still elect a president every four years or so, just the candidates would be from a single party.

TonyCapa:

Kobie:

One-party rule? Really?

That would be a disastrously bad idea. I don't give two shits if there's "anger between politicians" if the alternative is 100% single-party hegemony.

Really that bad? Everyone working as one group instead of being divided by two colours and a symbol of a donkey or an elephant? I didn't say a DICTATORSHIP, you'd still elect a president every four years or so, just the candidates would be from a single party.

Like the Soviet Union?

Your idea operates on the assumption that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans other than the names of the parties, which couldn't be further from the truth.

Kobie:

TonyCapa:

Kobie:

One-party rule? Really?

That would be a disastrously bad idea. I don't give two shits if there's "anger between politicians" if the alternative is 100% single-party hegemony.

Really that bad? Everyone working as one group instead of being divided by two colours and a symbol of a donkey or an elephant? I didn't say a DICTATORSHIP, you'd still elect a president every four years or so, just the candidates would be from a single party.

Like the Soviet Union?

Your idea operates on the assumption that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans other than the names of the parties, which couldn't be further from the truth.

In theory, like the Soviet Union yes. Communism without the, well communism.

TonyCapa:

Kobie:

TonyCapa:

Really that bad? Everyone working as one group instead of being divided by two colours and a symbol of a donkey or an elephant? I didn't say a DICTATORSHIP, you'd still elect a president every four years or so, just the candidates would be from a single party.

Like the Soviet Union?

Your idea operates on the assumption that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans other than the names of the parties, which couldn't be further from the truth.

In theory, like the Soviet Union yes. Communism without the, well communism.

Well, that's a pretty bad theory then. If there is ONE political party, then there is nothing to keep it in check.

I tend to view the US's political world like this.

You must only vote for Republicans or Democrats. The basic Black/White principle. Voting Independent means you lack the ability to choose who you want. Just the same as how people label others here as Liberals or Conservatives. Same Black/White principle. If you are middle, you are a failure in the political system.

Also 'Vote independent? Why waste it?' That mentality.

Kobie:

Well, that's a pretty bad theory then. If there is ONE political party, then there is nothing to keep it in check.

The people will keep them in check. Republicans don't keep democrats in check and vice-versa, it's the people. When a politician gets out of line he gets voted out of office. I never said martial law or communism I said an undivided gouvernment all striving towards the same goal. One gouvernment working together.

I always enjoy watching people act like republicans and democrats are ever so different.

Trust me, from an outside eye - you're not all that different. You've got "liberal" politicians warning the people of Walmart to keep an eye out for anyone looking suspicious. You've got a "liberal" President continuing to run Guantanamo Bay. The country kind of runs the same way regardless.

Might be a very naive view, I admit - but it's how it seems. Seems like both parties go about doing the same thing in different ways.

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