There are a lot of things wrong with American politics, but one of the most obvious at this point in the presidential election cycle is the two-party system.
Currently, the Democratic and Republican Parties are virtually guaranteed to win the presidency, congressional seats and powerful state government positions.
In terms of the presidential election, the media has already presented this as your choice: President Barack Obama or former Gov. Mitt Romney. The mainstream media will never acknowledge third-party candidates like Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Johnson will definitely be on the ballot in 48 states and in Washington, D.C. – the two remaining states are still in dispute – while Stein will be on the ballot in 37 states and Washington, D.C.
These candidates both have mathematical chances of winning the presidency, yet are not allowed to participate in the presidential debates because they have not garnered the 15 percent required in voter opinion polls. This effectively cuts off their ability to present their ideas to the general American public.
The only times when third-party candidates get any recognition are when they “take away” votes from Republican or Democratic candidates. During the 2000 presidential election many liberals blamed Ralph Nader, once considered a champion for average Americans due to his consumer safety efforts, for former Vice President Al Gore’s loss to former President George W. Bush.
Following the 2000 election, Jon Margolis wrote in Mother Jones, “With many liberals and progressives blaming his quixotic campaign for throwing the election to George W. Bush, Nader has gone from hero to pariah.”
“Nader is no longer welcome in many circles where he once commanded considerable respect,” Margolis wrote. “Many liberal Democrats have sharply criticized Nader, making a point of excluding him from hearings and strategy discussions.”
Nader’s relative success as a third-party candidate, in which he garnered only 2.74 percent of the popular vote in the country, brought him considerable criticism. Alienating a non-Democrat or non-Republican candidate for having some success in an election is not the way a democracy should work.
The American people are not getting the choices they deserve in the voting booth. With only two realistic options for any major public office position, candidates will inevitably present themselves as more moderate to appeal to the ever-important swing voters. If two candidates focus on appealing to moderate voters, they inevitably will dodge many of the divisive issues that may alienate some of these moderates.
Fueled by the 24-hour news networks like MSNBC and Fox News, each party has effectively fired up its supporters to view the other side with hate and vitriol. Despite what party supporters may believe, the major parties’ presidential nominees are not that different from one another.
This will continue to happen within the two-party system; the parties understand that they will have support from their more extreme bases almost unconditionally, so the moderate electorate is what decides elections. All the talk is about “undecided” voters, which at this point in the election process is a miniscule portion of the population.
Providing Americans with a multitude of options for the presidency, allowing all of these candidates to participate in debates and covering all candidates in the media would allow a wider range of ideas to be heard and would put more pressure on candidates to fully develop, disclose and fully explain proposed policies and plans. The two-party system robs Americans of the chance to hear true challenge and debate the many problems this nation faces.