Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. -H. L. Mencken
The theoretical understanding of democracy thus believes that each one is capable of deciding the manner in which one needs to get governing. A democratic form of government has thus evolved into a celebration of one right and liberties grounded in the individual’s ability to make choices about its leaders and the manner in which they are led. This is the most significant reason that makes the ideology attractive among its supporters.
The presence of vast demographic areas occupied by an equally large population makes its challenging for a citizen to directly make its decisions and choices about the government. Hence, the citizen is unable to directly participate in the decision-making process instead elects a representation who would represent the individual’s view and opinions. Thus, in modern democratic societies, the individual citizen by participating in electoral process votes for a representative entrusting in him its rights of decision-making. In this system emerged different political parties.
Theoretically, the political parties have emerged so that people who shared similar political ideas and values can present a collective position and identity within a political system. Thus, people should belong to a political party because that party represents their interests and those of their class. In modern societies, these political parties have emerged as an adequate vehicle for the expression of political principles and view of a particular social, economic group within a society. These individual citizens then support a particular political party and the party candidates as they believe that through electing the party candidates, they might be able to obtain a government in accord with their political principles (Williamson, 1950).
More than 200-year-old legacy has characterized the political system of America. The United States is a federal democratic republic with the Presidential form of Government governed by the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. Unlike, the British Constitution, the American Constitution is comparatively more rigid and provides for separation of power in its different federal structure. A Majoritarian electoral system characterizes the elections to the political office at various levels. The party system in the country is characterized by the two-party system. Since the civil war, the country’s electoral political system is dominated by two political parties- the Republican and Democrats. Though over a period other political parties like the Libertarians, Green Party of the United States and Constitutional Party have also influenced the political system of the nation.
The two-party political system that characterized the politics of America seems to find its origin at the Constitutional Convention that was organized at the state Philadelphia as early as in the year 1787 (1944). Through the debates and discussions produced around drafting of the Constitution two opposing and contradictory tendencies had emerged. The opposing views and opinions were reflected in the different and contradictory understanding of the freedom of the individual citizen and the level of independence in legislation, administration, jurisdiction, etc. These opposing ideologies got translated into the two political parties Republican and Democrats that has characterized the American political system since. Contrary to these differences, however, both shared a common abhorrence to the monarchical form of government.
In 1861 the post-civil war period, the Democratic and Republican parties further emerged. In the initial period, however, these parties were characterized by severe demographic limits with the influence of each party confined and restricted to a particular geographical section of the country. This phenomenon was the product of severe devastation caused by the American Civil War. The scars arising from the war had intensified the sense of fear and distrust among the people and institutions belonging to the different demographic group, and this further widened the gap between the northern and southern parts of this country (Williamson, 1950).
Williamson asserts that this provided for the emergence of the two-party system with each political party characterized by a particular demographic limit. Thus, the Republican Party that had identified itself with the policy and programs that were anti-slavery emerged as a popular political party severely confined to the Northern American states while; the Democratic Party that opposed the Republican views was mostly restricted to the southern states. Thus, it was the demography rather than various policy and programs propagated by the party that determined the political commitments of the American citizens.
These attitudes were further projected and exploited by these political parties (Williamson, 1950). However, this phenomenon changed by 1930s when many of the Northern states who were loyal to the Republican’s shifted their political allegiance to the Democrats. This change was primarily influenced by something called the Labor vote. The Labor vote refers to the manner of electing a candidate on the basis of the public and private records and the candidate’s commitment to the labor policies and programs were given more consideration than its demographic locations.
Also, known as the Grand Old Political Party of America, has an Elephant as the party’s official logo. The party was in 1854, and it is the second oldest party of the Nation. It gained eminence in during the civil war through the party’s promotion of anti-slavery policy and stood for the abolition of slavery. In its infancy, it played an influential role in the Northern states of the nation. The party also has the legacy of prominent leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Reagan and George Bush, etc. and currently the country has the Republican President Donald Trump. The political party has always been characterized by its conservative, capitalist’s policies that favor of tax reduction.
As mentioned earlier, the party advocated for a lassie-fair economic system. Thus, the Republican’s tend to oppose the socio-economic policies and reforms that provide for government’s interference in the free market capitalist economy. The example of reforms that had been continuously opposed by the government includes various affirmative action policies, labor reforms. Their conservative attitude gets reflected in their consistent opposition to legalization of abortion, providing rights to the gays and lesbians, etc. The values and principles espoused by the part get reflected in the reforms that the party leaders introduce once they manage to come to power. The policies of liberalization and privatization proposed by Regan, the policy programs of Trump to some extent reflect them.
The Democratic party of America is the oldest party in the United States. Its origin can be traced to the group called Jeffersonian's who were heavily influenced by and supported the views of Thomas Jefferson. This group believed in the principle of decentralization and promoted for the limited authority and power of federal government. The group later evolved itself into a Democratic-Republican Party. During the civil war year, it emerged to significant prominence in the southern America states that had then seceded from the union. The party’s official logo as popularized by Thomas Nast is a Donkey.
The party is enriched by the legacy of many significant political leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and recently Barack Obama, etc. In its infancy, the party supported for the limited influence of the federal government over the states and are loyal to the American Constitution and its interpretation. They are against the federalists and the politics of elitism; the party has also opposed the policy reforms that provide for a free-market economic system.
The party is highly decentralized similar to the Republicans and contains within itself individuals belonging to and believing in different ideological views. However, over a period the party’s ideological structure has undergone some dynamic changes. The party that suffered from hostility during its civil war period by the Nation’s first African American president belonged to the Democrats also its earlier commitment towards a decentralized federal government has shifted towards a more centralized system.
There are other political parties in the country like the Libertarian political party whose beliefs are based on classical liberal philosophy and advocates for the free market economy and civil and liberal rights of individual citizens. Another significant American political party is the Green Party of United States founded as early as in 2001; it is country’s fourth largest party according to its membership. It's America’s Green political party that advocates for various policy programs that include the establishment of social justice, environmental issues, gender equality, non-violence, rights of the LGBT community, etc.
However, even though American politics is characterized by the two-party system dominated by Republicans and Democrats; these other parties have played a significant role in the nation’s political environment. They also have managed to bring about a significant change in the two-party system.
Thus, through this discussion, it can be argued that a two-party system dominates the political system of America. However, the two-party system doesn’t provide for a sufficiently large platform that would allow for the augmentation and spread of different ideas and values that doesn’t fit the space that these two parties provide. Presence of just two political parties thus can prove to be an adequate and efficient vehicle for the transmission of public opinion (Williamson, 1950). Thus, the American two-party system is incapable of providing the representation for the section of the proportion that doesn’t get represented by its dominant political parties. Hence, this system doesn’t provide for the representation of its minorities. The society grips by these two prevailing attitudes and ideologies thus cannot provide the avenue or growth of another discourse.
The most significant evil that the American political system suffers from is the growing divide and profound difference between Democrats and Republicans. Due to growing animosity between these two different political groups with their divergent views and political attitudes, there hardly remain any space that would allow for these diverse groups to work together (Coblenz, 2016). Significant instances where these groups made a coherent decision-making process challenging is when the President is elected candidate of a particular while the other political party dominates the Congress. The decision-making process in such instances functions in the realms of impotence.
In a country like America, various Interest Groups also play a significant role in influencing people’s decisions and its political process. They have in the recent period occupied an important position in the nation’s electoral system. The Interest groups can be roughly referred to as the collection of people with shared interest. Their primary function is to influence and encourage various policies and reforms that favor their interest.
The forms and the interest promoted by these groups dramatically vary. The American Interest groups can be roughly divided into three groups that include those groups that support the animal rights groups, the prominent example of which is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), environmental interest groups like the Greenpeace and other Public Interest Groups. Another most important interest groups include those formed around various business groups and trade unions and associations. Different Interest groups also exist that try to influence the decision-making process of government in favor of tobacco, alcohol, petroleum, etc.
The most effective strategies used by these interest groups to achieve their aims include Lobbying. This approach has become quite popular in recent times; it involves making use of some procedures like directly influencing the legislative members by providing some economic incentives. The economic support that these groups promise in the politician’s future election campaign has become its most powerful weapon. The other strategies include collecting data that favors their particular brand of argument and then influencing the opinion of the masses but spreading that favorable information etc.
Many of the Western Democratic societies have favored the system of Propositional Representation rather than the Majoritarian system that exists in American politician system. The in the system of proportional representation that party or the individual gets representation in proportion to the votes cast in its favor. This form of the electoral process provides for the representation of the minorities that as argued earlier the Majoritarian system is incapable of producing.
It must be noted that it is the Electoral Process of the Country that favors and provides the political environment that encourages the two-party system. Here, the political parties who might be able to secure votes that aren’t sufficient to form a government and thus couldn’t pass the first-past-the-post-system won’t be able to get any representation in the decision-making process of the government. The electoral process of United States also provides for a single member constituency and in the first-past-the-post-system, winning the second highest votes doesn’t provide the candidate with much consolation. Congress eliminated multi-seat districts in 1967, with the passage of the Uniform Congressional Districts Act (Coblenz, 2016). Such political environment doesn’t prove itself conducive to the growth of a multi-party system.
Through the given analysis, it can be understood that the Nation of America provides for a Majoritarian, Two-Party dominant political system that doesn’t provide much space for minority views to express and represent themselves. Also, the formation and growing significance of various Interest groups whose essential strategies includes manufacturing of public opinions in favor of their interest have since severely encroached upon and violated an individual ability to form its political views and choices. Thus, this system not only provides for the growth of minority opinion and views but also the views prevalent in the society are influenced by the various strategies used by various interest groups.
'The Two-Party System Woven into U.S. Political History' 1944, Congressional Digest, 23, 6/7, pp. 171-177, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 September 2017.
Williamson, HP 1950, 'Evils of the American Two-Party System', American Journal of Economics & Sociology, 9, 4, pp. 405-417, SocINDEX with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 September 2017.
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