It’s no secret that two-party politics has been dividing our country for decades now, if not longer. 

It’s also no secret that many of the founders of the U.S. warned against warring two-party political factions centuries ago, as we can see without a doubt now, for very good reason. 

Over the last decade or so, the U.S. has experienced a noticeable increase in voters who claim party independence. [1] But how many of us independent voters truly speak about the two-party system as if it is indeed a false dichotomy (or, false choice) in our everyday lives?[2] And is a democratic political system even possible without this dichotomy, whether or not it serves us well, and whether or not it is ultimately a figment of our collective political imagination? 

In other words, how many so-called “independents” are truly politically independent? And is it even possible for them to be so within such a stringent, powerful, and engrossing two-party political system that demands each voter choose one side or the other, OR ELSE? Can independents really gain or hold political power in (or in spite of) our current two-party political system, ultimately rendering the two-party political system as null and void one day? 

Although there is an ever-increasing amount of independent voters within the U.S., where do they go to engage in meaningful political discourse, and with whom? Without being silenced or ostracized as a political “traitor” by one of the two current, ruling parties? And does such discourse have formidable political weight or currency that is seen or experienced in the real world if it is not attached to, affiliated with, or compared to, the powerful two-party system that permeates all major outlets of political discourse (i.e. major media outlets)? If not, how can independent political discourse become more formidable in our society as a whole, as it’s undoubtedly on the path to becoming a major force in the minds and hearts of individual Americans? 

This issue is of particular interest to me because I am registered as an Independent voter with no party affiliation. But how I’m registered or choose to register my party affiliation (or lack thereof) has the ability to affect who I can and cannot vote for, or seemingly becomes meaningless within the looming power and structure of the existing two-party system (or so I am often told). “You’ll be throwing your vote away if you don’t vote for a Republican or Democrat,” I am told. And I know that I am not the only one who’s heard this lately. And who also doesn’t want to believe that it’s true and will cast their vote for whomever they deem worthy of office, thank you very much. But… who still can’t ignore the nagging feeling that it does matter. Of course, it matters. Especially when all anyone hears about is this Democrat or that Republican.    

Right now I have more questions than answers, like many of us do. Especially us independent voters. But I still wonder: Is there a way to have a productive democracy without such a powerful two-party system running our thoughts, our hearts, our discourse, our policies?

Right now, I am inclined to think and feel that, in fact, a productive democracy would require that there be no political parties at all— with citizens, instead, voting directly for, and only for, individuals who have the best platform and capabilities to represent their interests. With the technological innovations and capabilities we have nowadays in our society, this type of governance could be implemented while still remaining safe and secure, perhaps becoming safer and more secure than it is now.

Would it be possible to create a democratic system without political parties or factions at this point in our nation’s history? How would it come to be? Via political campaign finance reform, reform for voters’ rights, or new voting tools and systems? Or would it simply come about by way of talking about politics outside of warring political party camps? Could it be true, in other words, that political parties are only a social construction created by way of everyday political discourse and conversation and media coverage?

Simply put: are we divided politically because all we hear about is how we’re divided politically, in the media, by prominent individuals we follow who discuss and write about politics? 

Ultimately I wonder: is the two-party system a false dichotomy that we have created for ourselves? The false choice we have created over time, that we can only be Red OR Blue? 

Intuitively I believe that the two-party political system is a false dichotomy that we have created for ourselves, a false choice, brought about by outdated, repetitive, and dangerously stereotypical social constructions and practices.

Of course, the two-party system still has real-world weight right now via PACs and media coverage and outlets. That is the point I am addressing. But if we’re the ones who created the system to begin with, it does seem then that we can also be our own saving grace in changing it, or perhaps bypassing it altogether. Something created by humans can be recreated by humans. 

This post is just a draft of ongoing thoughts and feelings I have about the two-party political system in the U.S., an attempt to join or begin an ongoing dialogue about it; its limitations that are all too real and strongly felt by all of us regardless of party affiliation, as well as what we can, what we should, and what we will do about it moving forward. I’m sure I’ll write more about this topic in the future. 

I’ll end this draft of thoughts and musing with a few quotes I’ve been thinking about lately:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

John Adams

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

George Washington

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Abraham Lincoln

“The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation…it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

John F. Kennedy

“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes…”

Joseph R. Biden

SOURCES AND ADDITIONAL READING: 

[1] GallupAmericans Continue to Embrace Political Independence 

[2] Pew Research: Political Independents: Who They Are, What They Think

History.com: The Founding Fathers Feared Political Factions Would Tear the Nation Apart

The Atlantic: America Is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared

Library of Congress: Creating the United States: Formation of Political Parties

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