In defense of the two-party system

My friend Osama Eshera and I take our disagreements, yet again, to the opinion page of a college newspaper. As a second gen. American, he feels the need for political reform and the adoption of a multi-party system in American democracy. I advise caution. For his arguments, click on this link

Despite the well-formulated arguments Osama presents, America’s two-party system works. Blue and red are not false choices dangled in front of middle-class America by a coterie of Washington elites, no matter what the cynics tell you. Ideologies represented by these colors are real, and they paint a system that has consistently delivered results.

Granted, certain screws need to be tightened, such as education, health care, employment and equality. Potential reforms for these issues will require exhaustive debate to implement the most effective policies going forward. But America’s two-party system has enabled people across the country to offer innovative solutions and contribute to the decision-making process.

For those of you disappointed with our current political structure, I want to share some lessons from India’s experience as a democracy with a multi party system. India has six national political parties and 45 state-level parties, all of which are represented in India’s Congress equivalent, the Lok Sabha. In the last major election in 2009, there were candidates from 364 different political parties competing for congressional seats. If no single party wins the majority, which is usually the case, the coalition of parties able to achieve a majority is invited to form the government.

In 2009, the Indian National Congress Party received only 28 percent of the popular vote, but was the undisputed leader of the government coalition. The next major party in the coalition represented less than 4 percent of the entire popular vote. In comparison, at least you as an American voter know your vote will either be in the majority or in the minority, not simply obscured into oblivion.

Further, with a multi party system, it’s easier for extremist groups with no progressive agendas to target specific regions with hate-filled narratives. Even small electoral victories for such groups are enough for them to disrupt policy proceedings. This is not just something that has happened in India. Look at the success extreme political parties have had in Turkey, the Balkans, Greece, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands, to name a few. Even with a small fraction of the popular vote, the multi party system has helped amplify their regressive messages.

America attracts the best in the world because it is a nation in which hard work is rewarded. If racist, sexist or anti-immigration parties are allowed to win over even a small voting bloc, this strength will erode and the country will suffer dearly. The rebirth of cults like the Ku Klux Klan would be more than a hypothetical. It also bears emphasizing that lobbying is a legitimate form of communication with the private sector and the political apparatus in Washington; the multi-party system will not inherently quash any such communication channels.

If you are frustrated with the slow progress of the politicking in this country right now, you can’t imagine the frustration you will endure if we were to adopt a multi party system.

Step back from the hype in the media about the apparent paralysis in American politics. Compare it to what exists elsewhere, and you’ll see what you have is far more effective and efficient. There is always going to be room for improvement, and it’s clear people like the president are working hard to achieve that improvement.


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