mwatts20704
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Report Thread starter 6 months ago
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The party system in the USA

so what kind of party system exists in the USA? The conventional answer is that the USA has a
two-party system. Every president elected since 1852 has been either a Democrat or a Republican.
Even political outsiders like Dwight Eisenhower and Donald Trump have to be adopred as a major
party candidate in order to win the White House. The overwhelming number of members of
Congress, and state governors and legislators, are either Democrats or Republicans - and even the
few that aren't are either renegade members or members in all but name. Congress is organised on
a two-party structure with majority and minority parties in each chamber. And as for the voters,
they overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Democrats or Republicans. In the last six presidential
elections, the two major parties have always garnered more than 90% of the popular vote - and in
three of them around 99% of the vote.

But there is another view. To call the USA a two-party political system is to presume that the
Democratic and Republican parties are national, centralised parties with powerful national leaders
and overriding national party programmes. Nothing could be further from the truth - even in an era
of increased partisanship. Both national parties are essentially amalgams of their 50 state parties and
party power - like political power - is decentralised within a federal structure. The Democratic Party
of California has little in common with the Democratic Party of Mississippi; the Republican Party of
Massachusetts has little in common with the Republican Party of Alabama, And in three elections
since 1968, third parties have played a significant role in determining the result.



Analyse, evaluate and compare the arguments in the above passage for and against the view that the USA has a two-party system. (25 Marks)

The term two-party system is defined as a political system in which two major parties (in the context of the USA, this being the Republicans and Democrats) dominate the political landscape. In hindsight, the USA does have a two-party system, this is displayed in the extract through the argument that the two major parties have won every presidential election since 1852 and have controlled Congress since 1856. The extract above provides an equitable and intelligent justification for both sides of this argument as the answer to the question of the USA being a two-party system is still unclear with scholars and commentators.

In the first paragraph, the extract is arguing that the USA does have a two-party system. The example of Trump, who many right-wing commentators would call a RINO - Republican in name only, helps to give credibility to this argument. In 2004, Trump told CNN that he was a Democrat which many have argued was due to the Democrat’s having more liberal ideas on Casinos which was attractive to Trump as his Casino franchise was a large aspect of his fiscal income. However, in 2016 Trump ran for president as a Republican candidate and was able to secure the presidency. In 2016, a lack of party unity towards accepting Trump as leader was shown through both ex-president George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush refused to accept Trump as the ‘leader’ of the Republican party and Ted Cruz did not show up to the 2016 NNC to congratulate Trump for winning the Primaries which is a customary act. This shows that no matter how many Republicans did not agree with Trump, he was still able to win the presidency under the Republican Party displaying the argument that the USA does in fact, have a two-party system.

Alternatively, the above extract completely negates the idea of Minor Parties having any influence in the American political landscape. Although the two major parties have won every presidential race since 1856, commentators argue that this may be due to the Electoral system and not due to a Two-Party system. For example, in 1968, PResidential candidate for a third party named the American Independence party was able to gain 46/538 electoral college votes which is 8% of the total ECVS up for grabs. In a system of proportional representation, this would have given the American Independence party the power to influence legislative function in the US. A more recent example of third-parties gaining votes in presidential elections is in 2016 where 10 alternative candidates ran for president and gained 5% of the popular vote, in 2020 minor parties also were able to gain 1.84% of the popular vote which is proof that the USA does not have a two-party system.

In the second paragraph, a juxtaposing view is put forward and states that in order to confidently call the USA a two-party system is to assume that the two majority parties are national, centralised parties with powerful national leaders which is far from the truth. In 2014, Obama experienced what most commentators would call congressional gridlock, gridlock is when both chambers of congress have a majority which is not the same as the partisan alignment of the President meaning not much can be done due to hyperpartisanship. This shows that just because one party is in the Oval Office, it does not mean that that party has the necessary power to make change. Obama was unable to fulfil some of his most basic election promises that he set when he ran in 2008 such as closing Guantanamo bay and enforcing stricter gun control laws. Furthermore, this shows that just because there is a two-party system it does not mean that the party in the Oval Office is able to dominate the political landscape which is the basic definition of a two-party system meaning that in recent years, the USA has not had a strong two-party system.

On the other hand, Joe Biden, as of 2021 has a majority of 8 in the House of Representatives and an unofficial majority in the Senate meaning that he is a strong national leader who is able to make meaningful change. This was also seen in the 1930s when FDR was able to “reach across the aisle” in order to pass the “New Deal” with support from both majority parties. This is proof that maybe in the past a two-party system was a better way to describe the USA whereas now it fluctuates depending on the sitting president.

Overall, the displayed argument that the USA is valid during the current political climate and is enforced by the current Electoral System in the USA. Minor parties are currently gaining more significance which is obvious in the comparison of the amount of the popular vote they once did gain and how much they are gaining now. However many commentators would not dispute the fact that they are there, but they would say that they are not significant enough just yet to say that the USA does not have a two-party system. The answer to the question of “Does the USA have a two-party system” is definitely changing in recent years and could be more obvious in future elections due to minor parties gaining more traction.
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