Two Parties, One Flawed System
The vast majority of American political history has been dominated by a two party system, but in recent years the choice between the two parties has become increasingly difficult to discern, leaving the American public with an array of bad choices for office.
This move toward sameness is not because the best possible solutions have finally been found, but rather because the parties in power have found it to be the most politically advantageous to move toward each other. Democrats now push the free trade bills they once campaigned against and have passed a health care bill which includes provisions introduced by Republicans.
This move to the middle is no surprise given the structure of our current political system. In a system where no third party opponent can compete with the two major political parties, it is advantageous for the major parties to differentiate themselves from each other as little as possible. By doing this, the parties alienate as few voters as possible while still holding onto their base voters on wedge issues such as gun control or abortion.
At the end of the day, we will be electing someone who is looking out for multinational corporations and not everyday Americans, regardless of their stance on gun control. Gun control is an important issue to some, but many of the more crucial issues have been taken off the table that could actually differentiate candidates.
So why has no third party emerged to offer an alternative? There are numerous issues including ballot access, name recognition and media coverage, but the main issue is access to money. The two main parties that advocate for entrenched interests have the financial backing of those interests. With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling last year the power of corporations to use money to influence elections grew even further.
When a third party does have an impact in an election currently, it is generally to pull down the vote count of the candidate with which they are most ideologically aligned; many individuals still blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore’s loss in 2000. A change in campaign finance would not fix this problem overnight, but it might level the playing field to the point where a candidate’s viewpoints could stand on their own merits. If ideas became more important than money, perhaps our candidates might have to start speaking up on issues that truly matter.