Down with the Two-Party System

James Pendergast is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who upon completion of an initial tour in Vietnam as a field artillery officer, subsequently earned a master’s degree in Mass Communications Research and Public Relations Management from Syracuse University and served the remainder of his 26-year career as a Public Affairs Officer. He also served a three-year assignment as Marine Corps Liaison Officer to the U.S. House of Representatives. He lives in Virginia Beach, VA

James Pendergast is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who upon completion of an initial tour in Vietnam as a field artillery officer, subsequently earned a master’s degree in Mass Communications Research and Public Relations Management from Syracuse University and served the remainder of his 26-year career as a Public Affairs Officer. He also served a three-year assignment as Marine Corps Liaison Officer to the U.S. House of Representatives. He lives in Virginia Beach, VA

Distrust – and frankly, dislike- of the government has never been as high as it is now. Congress has had poor ratings for years but has risen to new highs in terms of disrespect. These Gallop Poll numbers make that clear: in 1973, 42% of Americans said they had either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress. By 2018, that number plummeted to 11%. How did we lose that 31%? 

The reason is obvious: the two-party system. Polarization of political ideologies is perpetuated by the two-party system. We must reject it if we hope to have a harmonious society again.

The Democratic and Republican parties have become extremely polarized. Their persistent pursuit of diminishing opposing ideologies and placement of their own priorities over the people's is alarming. The problem is evident, but what we need are solutions. 

To start, we must have disestablishment of the current two-party system and replacement of the Democrat and Republican parties with a new multiple political party structure.  A three-party—or perhaps even a four- or five-party political system will ensure there is no single political party that can dominate the U.S. government. And a new multi-party system will ensure the cross-party dialogue, communication, and compromise necessary to achieve anything and enact legislation acceptable. Initially, candidates for political office would be required to declare themselves as a member of a newly established party (ie: Conservative Party, Liberal Party, Independent, or Moderate Party.  

Moving forward other political parties representing various philosophies, such as Libertarian, Green, or Socialist or for that matter, would be permissible options as well. Under such a system, “the more the better” philosophy would be adopted since the goal of a multiple party system would be to preclude any particular political philosophy from achieving a strong majority.  With no ability to establish a majority party under this system, coalition building among multiple political philosophies would necessarily result.  Consequently, dialogue, consultation, cooperation, and compromise, would be essential to forming a majority necessary to pass legislation, ultimately giving more Americans a feeling of being actually represented.   If, at some future point, any of the three (or more) parties achieved overwhelmingly the superior number, then that would be evidence the majority of Americans shared similar sentiments along ideological lines.  That of course would be an unlikely outcome.

Congress would continue to elect a Speaker, chosen by all Representatives, who would exercise control, such as committee assignments based on a ratio of party representation.

While I urge complete disestablishment of the two main political parties there are major roadblocks to this goal. First, we would need the buy-in of the current wealthiest donors of the two major parties (i.e. Sheldon Adelson, The Koch and Soros families, etc.) It is no secret the Democratic and Republican parties are able to thrive is their adequate funding.  This funding must be directed to the multi-party system.

Second, we would need the support of the traditional families that historically been the faces of both parties, such as the Bushes, Clintons and Kennedys. To fully adopt a multi-party system, It would require the rise of less party established candidates in the political sphere to disestablish the main parties as well. 

The third essential—and perhaps most critical--endorsement necessary is that of the Congressional leadership and members at large who actually have the most to lose. Their willingness to switch their party affiliations to the smaller more focused parties, will ensure that the multi-party system succeeds. This element would also provide the most authentic need for change by virtue of their acknowledgment the current system no longer works as it was designed by the Founders to do. This would also require Founders-Like patriotism to a degree not seen since the 16th Century. Does it still even still exist? That would tell us all.

The people are ready for change. We just need our political parties to get on board.