American politics is dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties. They’re the only parties represented in the federal government and control every state government.
This is not a coincidence; the way America’s electoral system is designed has unintentionally resulted in a two-party duopoly.
First-past-the-post (FPTP) means voters have to coalesce around the lesser of two evils, because voting their conscience would split the vote and result in an even worse candidate winning the election with a mere plurality.
Furthermore, third parties struggle to get enough signatures for ballot access, and only raise a fraction of the money Democrats and Republicans (DRs) get.
Why is the Two-Party System Bad?
The two-party system gives Americans poor representation, results in unaccountable politicians, polarizes society along party lines, and is extremely unpopular among the American People.
Two-party systems, as the name suggests, only represent two political parties — and thus, only two viewpoints. The two major parties tend to be more diverse than they would be under a multi-party system, but primaries usually filter out heterodox candidates.
Since third parties can’t get into government, alternative viewpoints are largely unrepresented and ignored — even if they’re widely popular among the American People (like getting out of foreign wars).
Duopolies result in unaccountable governments, since it’s hard to primary entrenched, establishment candidates, and the opposition party’s candidate is usually just as corrupt — if not more so.
In ‘safe’ districts where one party will always win by a considerable margin: primaries are more important than general elections, meaning that corrupt party officials have considerable sway over who gets into office.
Having only two factions results in an ‘us versus them’ mentality that divides the country along party lines. According to Pew: the center has gotten smaller, Democrats have moved to the left, and Republicans have moved to the right.
In 2014, 43% of Republicans viewed the Democratic Party very unfavorably, and 38% of Democrats viewed Republicans the same way. These numbers are likely much higher in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.
This has resulted in heightened political violence, with both sides murdering political opponents. In 2017: a white supremacist murdered a protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in 2021: a member of BLM gunned down a Trump supporter.
Americans Want a Third Party
A 2021 Gallup poll shows that half of Americans are political Independents (neither Democrats nor Republicans), only 48% of Americans view the Democratic Party favorably, and only 37% view the Republican Party favorably.
A whopping 62% of Americans want a third party. 70% of Independents, 63% of Republicans, and 46% of Democrats want a third party — although support among Democrats was 54% in 2018.
If we look at beliefs, only 35% of Republicans want their party to stay where it is, 21% want it to be more moderate, and 40% want it to be more conservative. 40% of Democrats want their party to stay the same, with 25% wanting it to be more moderate, and 34% wanting it to be more liberal.
How Do We Fix It?
Fixing our two-party system won’t be easy; the system is rigged against us, and we’re fighting an uphill battle against two, monolithic behemoths — but we can win, and here’s how:
Third Party Unity
We need a unified, big-tent, third-party movement. This might seem insane, considering how third parties range from far-left to far-right and disagree on pretty much every issue — but we can all agree on one thing: the duopoly has to end.
Sign any ballot access petition that’s put in front of you. Independent candidates, unlike DRs, have to get a certain number of signatures to even be on the ballot. Signing the petition doesn’t mean you endorse that candidate, it just means you believe they should be an option.
Vote third party, no matter what. Even though I disagree with Libertarians on almost every issue, I voted for two Libertarian candidates in 2020 — this was because they were the only third party candidates on the ballot.
It might seem counter-productive to vote for someone you disagree with, but keep in mind: you might have more in common with a DR on paper, but in reality: they’re just telling you what you want to hear.
Don’t worry about splitting the vote, because both parties serve the same master: Wall Street. Whichever major party you prefer is just controlled opposition.
Hold third party primaries. If we want to win: we have to consolidate around a single candidate per office; running multiple candidates just splits the third party vote.
The various American third parties have to unite into a single, big-tent, opposition party—I know a lot of extremist parties would never join such a coalition, and it would be prone to falling apart, but it’s worth a try.
Members of the Opposition Party would agree to enter their candidates into a third party primary, withdraw losing candidates from the general election, and throw their support fully behind the winners.
Only one candidate can win, so no party looses out by becoming a member; if their candidate loses the primary: there’s a pretty good chance they’d loose the general too.
The only down-side is losing official recognition for individual members, but most third parties never get that in the first place — and it’s not really a big deal if a Libertarian Party candidate is labelled as “Opposition Party” on the ballot (and could be a good thing).
The Opposition Party’s platform would be limited solely to dismantling the two-party system. Member parties would still be able to have their own platforms as they always had.
Run for Office
We need more third party and Independent candidates, and if you have the time and are devoted to the cause: put your name up for consideration! You might have trouble collecting enough signatures to get on the ballot, but it’s worth a try.
You probably won’t win, but there’s a chance! Bernie Sanders and Angus King, both Independents, consistently win re-election to the Senate, Minnesota had a Reform Party Governor for years, and Vermont’s Progressive Party actually holds seats in the state’s legislature.
Use Another Voting Method
The largest problem with our electoral system is FPTP. A lot of people on the left have recognized this, and proposed ranked-choice voting — but this system wouldn’t help third parties, just eliminate them in the first few rounds and redistribute their votes to DRs.
Others have proposed approval voting, where you vote for any number of candidates, but I personally propose favorability voting: a modification of approval voting, where you can also vote against candidates (meaning there are three options: for, against, or no preference).
There are hundreds of other methods, like score voting, single transferrable vote, and proportional representation — but literally all of them are better than FPTP, and getting any of them into law would help third parties.
Ballot Access Reform
The first barrier to an Independent or third party candidate is getting on the ballot. Independent candidates might have to collect a certain number of signatures and third parties might have to win a certain percent of the vote for Governor.
According to FairVote: Alabama requires third parties to get 20% of the vote for any state-wide office to stay on the ballot, Georgia requires a filing fee equal to three percent of the annual salary for the office you’re running for, and Pennsylvania requires parties to have 15% of registered voters.
If we want to end the two-party system: we have to get rid of ballot access requirements; critics may argue that we’d have too many candidates on the ballot — but that’s better than a shortage.
Get Money Out of Politics
American politics are notoriously corrupt, largely due to the fact that the ultra-rich are allowed to pump billions of dollars into their favorite political campaigns — and this hurts third parties, which can’t raise very much money for advertisements, travel, and other expenses.
We have to overturn Citizens United v FEC and get big money out of politics. The DRs will never appoint anti-corruption Judges or allow a constitutional amendment, so we’ll have to work at the state-level to nullify the decision (like many states have done with Marijuana) or call for a convention of states to force a constitutional amendment. If we can get an amendment on the ballot: it’ll likely pass.
An idea I like in particular is Yang’s “Democracy Dollars” plan, which would help third parties raise the money they so desperately need, while allowing the poor to donate.
“Every American gets $100 a year to give to candidates, use it or lose it. These Democracy Dollars would, by the sheer volume of the US population, drown out the influence of mega-donors.” (Yang)
The only problem is that this would cost (by my calculations): twenty-six billion dollars a year. That’s less than four percent of our military budget, so we could just bomb less civilians in the Middle East in exchange for free and fair elections — seems like a fair trade to me!
Third parties and Independents are usually ignored by the media, which means a lot of people don’t know they exist, don’t know what they believe, or assume they aren’t serious — which people have actually told me.
If you’re a journalist: you can help out by writing articles (like this one) about third parties and their candidates, if you make YouTube videos: you can make a video about third parties (which is what I did), and if you use social media: you can share articles, videos, and your own thoughts about third parties.
Another original idea of mine is to have a third party debate, since only DRs are able to poll high enough to be allowed on the stage at the ‘real’ debate. It probably won’t get much media attention, but the videos could be posted online to websites like YouTube and BitChute.
The third party debate could be held at the same time as the ‘real’ debate, in order to draw away viewers from mainstream media outlets that ignore it. I’m sure plenty of people would find it interesting — I sure would, and I don’t even watch presidential debates (they’re boring).
Andy Ngo. “How a Portland radical murdered a Trump supporter — and became a hero for Antifa”. New York Post, 30 Jan. 2021, https://nypost.com/2021/01/30/how-a-portland-radical-murdered-a-trump-supporter/. Accessed 9 Jul. 2021.
Anna Hopkins. “White supremacist convicted of murder in Charlottesville attack gets life in prison”. Fox News, 28 Jun. 2019, https://www.foxnews.com/us/white-supremacist-convicted-of-murder-in-charlottesville-attack-gets-life-in-prison. Accessed 9 Jul. 2021.
Carroll Doherty. “7 things to know about polarization in America”. Pew Research Center, 12 Jun. 2014, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/12/7-things-to-know-about-polarization-in-america/. Accessed 9 Jul. 2021.
FairVote Editors. “The Worst Ballot Access Laws in the United States”. FairVote, 13 Jan. 2015, https://www.fairvote.org/the-worst-ballot-access-laws-in-the-united-states. Accessed 9 Jul. 2021.
Jeffrey M. Jones. “Support for Third U.S. Political Party at High Point”. Gallup, 15 Feb. 2021, https://news.gallup.com/poll/329639/support-third-political-party-high-point.aspx. Accessed 9 Jul. 2021.
Friends of Andrew Yang. “Democracy Dollars”. Yang2020, 2020, https://2020.yang2020.com/policies/democracydollars/. Accessed 9 Jul. 2021.