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The Weaknesses Of A Two-Party System

January 14, 2012

While I agree with almost every word in this opinion piece by Michael Kinsley, it makes an argument it probably didn’t intend. Namely, the healthcare debate demonstrates the inadequacy of, or maybe even outright undermines, the notion of a two-party “democracy.” How?

If one party—in this instance the Democrats—appropriates a reasonable idea supported by the other party (i.e. Republicans and national health insurance with an individual mandate), then the only alternative for the other party is give up the debate or go radical/unreasonable. Since 2009 the Republicans have done the latter: Repeal healthcare! Obama is a socialist! Stop “death panels”! In sum, when one party is reasonable the other goes unreasonable for branding purposes.

There are of course other arguments against the “two-party system”: it stifles diversity, it sets up false dichotomies, it alienates voters. On the last, it’s not surprising that two-party democracies have some percentage in every election that sits out. Why vote when the conformist candidates feel too far afield from your values? Is that honest participation? Should participation feel obligatory, a matter of discipline?

The health care also shows that President Obama is clearly the best Republican in the room. I argued with my friends, particularly my Catholic ones, in 2008 that Obama was more conservative than they realized. I didn’t realize then how right I was, and how I’d regret being right later. – TL


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One Comment
  1. Are you a complete idiot? Socializing 30% of our economy and bankrupting our union is a conservative idea? Where are your facts that voting on a two party system keeps people from voting? Not so. How many votes did Gary Johnson and Ron Paul get? In fact, since the 1990’s voting has increased. You set up a false narrative that is ignorant of facts and void of reason. Have you ever thought that if Americans did not want a two-party system, we would not have it? We, Americans have kept this system alive. It offers stability no matter how imperfect it is. It avoids extremism at both end as well. It sickens me to see how our new generation cannot reason or think critcally. You throw so-called “ideas” out there and think it’s science. Go read our founding fathers history. George may have had a point on a no party system, but even the Federalists and Anti-Federalists were a party, they just didn’t know it.


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