Republican or Democrat. There seem to be only two options every election cycle as candidates and their supports force themselves into boxes created by party platforms. There are alternatives in such organizations – the Reform Party, Constitution Party, etc – but none are prominent and rarely do their representatives actually succeed in being elected.
Of late, the two major parties have drifted further and further away from center and many Americans find themselves somewhere in the middle. Because of this, instead of ‘wasting’ their vote, many must compromise their own beliefs when choosing a candidate to vote for. In a recent NBC News/GenForward Poll, 71 percent of millennials feel that a third major political party is needed. This number holds true when voters are broken down by race, gender and party identification as well. As millennials become more politically active, this mindset is becoming more and more important as congressional approval ratings, on both sides of the aisle, continue to spiral.
There is nothing in the Constitution that demands there be two parties. There can be as many, or as few, as possible. America has drifted toward the latter however. The 114th Congress, is split between Republicans and Democrats. In all 535 seats (100 Senate, 435 House of Representatives), all but two are held by the two main parties. The other two are Independents. For comparison, in the United Kingdom the elected House of Commons is composed of eight parties (plus Independent) and the appointed House of Lords is composed of 11 parties (plus non-affiliated members, crossbenchers and bishops).
While the ins and outs of the UK Parliament will not be discussed, the variety of political views and range of beliefs potentially leads to much more compromise and less gridlock than the current American system. Representatives are allowed to make regulatory decisions based on what they believe is best for the country rather what is in line with their party ideals. This diversity allows those elected to better represent their electors,
Though the Constitution does not promote any particular number of parties, the election system does. While there are definitely pros and cons to the electoral college, there is no feasible way a minor party to squeeze itself into a nationwide presidential election unless there was a massive ideal shift across America. While third parties have been able to score victories at the state level, currently no Congressional, and much less Presidential, seat is filled by a third party.
During the 2017 Prime Minister elections in the UK, even though two candidates, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, accumulated the majority of the votes, an additional four candidates also ran and scored areal wins, particularly in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Other candidates did run in the 2016 US Presidential election though notably, most were not available on all of the states’ ballots. None received electoral votes directly while others received them through faithless electors, who did not submit their electoral votes in accordance with how their state voted. Most well-known, Faith Spotted Eagle received one electoral vote from Washington State elector Robert Satiacum, becoming only the second woman and first Native American to receive an electoral college vote.
Any time a third-party candidate runs, or a voter casts a ballot for said candidate, it is often done out of protest. This mindset needs to change. It will take a charismatic candidate and a polished platform, but the day is quickly approaching when ‘Republican or Democrat’ will not be the entire story. Politics and legislation are not black and white, they are on a gray scale. There is so much gridlock in Washington these days because a plan must be either completely black, or completely white, to pass. This is not a reality. Compromise must occur. Because representatives are often hesitant go against their boxed-in-party-ideals, compromise often does not happen. One solution to this could in fact be to diversify the political landscape. We would all be much more happier if that occurred.
David Csordas is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.