Two Party System

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  • Two Party System
    • Every President since 1853 has been either Democrat or Republican
    • The combined vote for each party is normally over 90% and in the last three it has been 99%
      • The lowest was in 1992 when Ross Perot got 19% so it dropped to 81% as a result
    • The two parties totally dominate the EC vote normally winning all the votes between them
    • In the Congressional elections the two parties totally dominate
      • In the present Congress there is only one genuinely independent member of the Senate and there are none in the HoR
    • Even at state level the two parties dominate
      • Only Rhode Island has a state governor who is not a member of one of the two main parties
      • In state assemblies 49 out of 50 are completely controlled by either the Dems or Reps
    • The Voting System
      • Uses FPTP where elections take place in defined areas, CDs or States, the winner is the one who gains the most votes and there is little or no element of proportional representation
      • Makes it incredibly difficult for any third party to win anywhere no matter how many votes they pick up as it is a winner takes all system
        • Exceptions: George Wallace and won 5 states even though his vote nation wide was just 13%
          • This is rare, Ross Perot got 19% of the vote in 1992 but his vote was spread out so didn't win anywhere
      • Only Maine and Nebraska use a proportional system in which delegates to the EC are chosen by the % cast for each candidate
      • At Congressional level it is also very difficult for third parties because they would have to have tremendous local support to win
    • Wasted Votes
      • FPTP makes it less likely for voters to vote for a third party because they know it will be wasted
      • Proportional systems mean no vote is wasted
    • Third Party Disincentive
      • People are less likely to form a separate party because they have very little chance
      • They either form a pressure group or affiliate themselves to one of the main parties
        • The Religious Right in 1980s formed pressure groups and attached itself to the Republican party rather than form their own, the Tea Party has done a similar thing recently
    • Party Dominance over Election Rules
      • The parties in power often have the ability to determine rules which govern elections and they use it to their advantage and perpetuate their power
        • Gerrymandering
      • They control the rules of primary elections and the very existence of primaries allows and ecourages protest candidates to stand for one of the main parties rather than form their own
    • Ideological Bredth
      • The main parties are very broad in their ideas and policies and include wide variety of different stands of opinion
      • Makes it difficult for a party to establish itself and its identity outside of the two main parties because they seem to cover the whole spectrum of ideas

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