Writing Portfolio Assignment #1

Three Cheers for America’s Two-Party System

October 21, 2011 | By Holland Pintarch

The American political system is unquestionably dominated by two major parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. While this has a considerable amount of drawbacks, including many to feel like they must choose between the “lesser of two evils,” there are several advantages that are largely ignored by its critics, who seem to only voice their concerns as primary season rolls into town.

Relying on the assumption that Americans don’t prefer their bi-party dominated politics, it has been asked many a time, “Aren’t you tired of not really feeling like you have a choice?” Well, you do have a choice, and if you don’t like the primary choices that are front-running the presidential election, then vote for a third party candidate, or even a fourth. Setting aside witty banter and sarcastic remarks, often in the form of “I might as well throw my vote away,” supporting a third party candidate is an option that a substantial, although not a significant, amount of citizens pursue each election year.

It’s certainly not throwing your vote away; its proof democracy works.

But what about those who appreciate the Democrat versus Republican elections? Having a two-party system means that the President will be representative of a much larger portion of society than one elected amidst a multi-party election. In fact, under a system characterized by a plethora of political parties, it is found that the one in office embodies only a small fraction of the country’s total population. I, for one, find comfort in knowing that the Head of State and his party share the same political values as over half the country.

Sure, trying to fit varying political issues under the labels of “this” or “that” is difficult, but identifying oneself as either a Democrat or Republican does not mean there is not variance within each party. For example, Liberal Democrats have notably different perspectives than Moderate Democrats, and this follows the same in the GOP. Each Presidential candidate also campaigns on their own, unique political platforms which become most publicized during the primary season.

In the general election, yes, it is almost always Democrat versus Republican, but taking note of the way each candidate tries to incorporate and compromise the vast spectrum of political perspectives within their own party is what allows them to be representative in the first place. Instead of tailoring their message to a small fraction, their politics must be supportive of half a country, forcing them to avoid extremes and unreasonable ideologies.

Also, the two-party system does not, as is usually suggested, alienate the people on partisan lines. In fact, I’d argue that throwing one’s support behind one of two major parties in the general election actually unites more than it divides. In America, the states may be blue and red, but at least they aren’t yellow, and orange, and green, and pink too. When generally half the population supports the same candidate oneself, communal political discourse and participation is bound to thrive.

This, of course, is what fuels our democracy, not destroys it.

Lastly, it is sometimes argued that in only a two-party system, voters feel they must support their party’s candidate even if they disagree with one or more of the candidate’s political platforms, such as abortion or gay rights; the other options are to “throw away” their vote on an underdog third party candidate or simply not vote at all. Deciding between your party and your own ideologies can even boil down to choosing what is right for your country, presumably your party in office, and your own political values or civil rights.

Yet, is this any different in a multi-party system? If given the option to support any number of political parties that each have a real shot at gaining office, there is still very little chance of ever finding a party that will whole-heartedly represent every single one of your own political beliefs. If this were the case, there’d be far too many parties to ever actually represent any significant portion of the country.

Sometimes you have to compromise, and if your party’s candidate parallels your ideals in one issue but not another, you can always support a third party or just realize that sometimes that’s the way it goes.

All in all, the opinion of America’s two-party system as forcing voters to choose the lesser of two evils trivializes a political process that is only in existence because we make it so. Back door politics run by political machines and power hungry rich men is not current reality.

Contemporary presidential elections are dominated by only two major parties for one simple reason; most Americans prefer it that way. ______________________________________________________________


         The original article by LZ Granderson is titled, “Huntsman, best candidate for a third party,” and describes how American’s are becoming increasingly tired with having little choice on Election Day and should support Huntsman as a third party candidate. I myself do not know that much about Huntsman himself to refute LZ’s commentary on his politics, so I decided to argue against the underlying assumption in this article: voters are unsupportive of our two-party system. Like many other LZ articles, it was loaded with sarcasm and witty remarks, which although sometimes add character and provide moments of pause in his arguments, I decided to steer away from this rhetorical tactic in my counter argument. Also, he used a few maxims that I tried to expose, including “choosing the lesser of two evils,” and “deciding which limb to cut off.” I also chose not to appeal to any higher authority to try and legitimize my argument, although this is a good rhetorical technique, because it is obvious that either side of this argument can find quotes from well-known people in an effort to seek validation. Instead, I sought to base my column on the underlying assumption that the democratic electoral process is fundamentally determined by the choices Americans make, and if the majority of us were as “fed up” with the two-party system as LZ’s article assumes, third parties would already have a good shot on election day.

         In making my argument, I chose several of LZ’s assumptions or opinions and offered my own counter-arguments that appealed to logos over pathos or ethos. I myself tried to avoid making any assumptions about the American voter and noted solid advantages of the two-party system while also providing a contrast with elections under a multi-party system.


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