BIPP: The two-party system has failed voters — here’s why

Annie Maley, BIPP Intern

This year’s election is shaping up to be one of the most contentious in decades. Yet strangely enough, despite the pressing need for unity on both sides, each major party candidate seems to be isolating a significant portion of their party membership. U.S. President Donald Trump tacks radically conservative, and at times, engages in erratic digressions which tend to isolate many moderate Republicans. Candidate Joe Biden, by contrast, lacks the diverse, progressive policy agenda that many Democrats would prefer their presidential candidate to pursue. On both sides, it seems that voters are disappointed with the candidates they are expected to support. This dissatisfaction is emblematic of a wider issue at stake in American politics — the current two-party system does not represent the widely varied interests of the American citizenry in 2020. Both parties suffer from different afflictions, which lead quite naturally to this same result.

On the right, the Republican Party seems to utterly lack a coherent policy agenda or platform. In essence, the party has adopted “support of President Trump” as its core tenet, and by extent whatever the president supports or opposes. This year, their 2020 party platform was effectively non-existent; rather than creating a fresh document relevant to contemporary concerns, as is common practice, the party presented a one-page resolution noting that “The RNC has unanimously voted to forego the Convention Committee on Platform,” and that “the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” For those Republicans who are not enthusiastic supporters of Trump, such categorical adherence to his ideology will doubtless leave them feeling isolated from their party. With no platform to guide voters and candidates, Republicans are forced to either repose complete faith in Trump’s protean personal convictions or support a Democratic candidate whose platform may be wholly contrary to their core beliefs.

Democrats, by contrast, seem to be experiencing the inverse problem. Their party platform nears 100 pages, outlining in extensive detail the Democratic party’s positioning on nearly every issue imaginable. From resolving student debt to Native American healthcare, the platform is nearly pedantic in its all-encompassing nature. On the surface, this level of detail and breadth seems like a positive for constituents; party members have clear and well-written explanations of their party’s stance on a wide range of issues. However, such specificity presents major problems for Democrats in light of the ideological and pragmatic plurality within the party, which has grown to critical mass in the last 10 years. Schisms within the party are particularly stark on issues such as healthcare; while many moderate liberals would prefer partially public subsidization or cost-ceilings on private plans, a robust progressive wing believes that the government should cover all healthcare and educational expenses for all individuals. On criminal justice, those who vehemently support law enforcement vie with those in favor of the complete abolition of police departments. Those who still support the proliferation of natural gas fracking must contend against others who seek more urgent and immediate action to transition to renewable energy. The list goes on; the essence of these divisions is that the Democratic base represents an exceptionally diverse range of opinions on most social and political issues. This dilemma applies to many of the issues that the party’s members are passionate about and demonstrates that the Democratic party membership has too broad a spectrum of opinions to remain an effective single party. While most Democrats can come to a consensus on some social and economic issues, the vast majority of these topics foment lasting conflict.

On both sides of the aisle, a significant number of voters will be apathetic to the candidates they see on the ballot this November. The Democrat’s attitude of “settle for Biden” and the phenomena of moderate Republicans being “closeted Trump voters” shows how the two political parties are no longer good representations of their constituents. The Democratic party arguably needs to split into moderates and progressives based on their dramatic differences in opinions on social and political issues. On the flip side, Republicans need to form a strong platform (not centered around Trump’s rhetoric), or they must split to create a party that can represent the non-Trump moderates. Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, both parties will continue to produce dissatisfying candidates unless they greatly reevaluate the structure and positions of their organizations.

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