As the historic election of 2020 grew nearer, I wrote an article discussing third party options in the U.S. during that election. I volunteered to cover the topic because, as the fledgling political science major I was, I was passionate about the issue, and wanted every American — not just me — to have a candidate and party they can support with little to no ideological compromise.
At the start of this year, Gallup released a poll which found that 62 percent of Americans want more parties in the U.S., which is the highest it has been in almost ten years. It’s easy to understand why. The Democratic party had so many candidates in 2020 for the presidency, but ultimately, only one of them was picked. As for the Republican party, many of Donald Trump’s critics in the party have made it clear — they too, want to split.
What inspired me to write this article, and what reminded me of this issue was statements from former Democratic candidate Andrew Yang’s new book. It was implied in that book that Yang wants to create his own political party. However, both the hypothetical parties from Anti-Trump Republicans and Yang have flaws that must be addressed if America is to have a functional political system with more than two options.
The first and most obvious flaw is that America does not need more third parties — it needs more third party supporters. America has plenty of political parties other than Democratic and Republican. If you are at all upset with whichever of those two parties you associate with, there are almost definitely better options for you. If you want a more left-leaning approach to politics, there’s the Democratic Socialist Party. If you want a less authoritarian approach with conservative ideals, there’s the Tea Party. If you want a smaller government and environmental concerns addressed together, there’s the Green Tea Party. There’s practically infinite parties.
These parties have been around, but they are just being drowned out. Creating two, prominent, powerful parties through Yang and these Republicans will work, but it will certainly be a bit unfair to these preexisting parties.
Another flaw is transparency and clarity in mission. The Democratic Party and Republican Party both have members that don’t stand for exactly the same points. But, as parties, they both have clear stances. The Republican party is known for being conservative, and the Democratic party is the face of liberal politics. So far, Yang has been unclear of exactly what his party would focus on, and the Anti-Trump Republicans have said nothing other than they wish to be less conservative than Donald Trump, but still moreso than the Democratic party.
The biggest issue, however, with making any third political party more popular, is one that must be learned from history.
Former President Theodore Roosevelt was my favorite president, and he lost his third presidential election due to this very issue. In Roosevelt’s time, there was no official rule regarding the number of terms a president could hold office, it was just a matter of tradition. After winning his first two elections in 1901 and 1905, Roosevelt looked to 1909. At the time, Roosevelt was upset with the lack of progressive politics in his party, and started America’s first progressive party, the Bull Moose party. Unfortunately, this led to a split, so his new party lost, as well as his previous party.
If Yang fully fleshes out his party, and the Republican party remains as one single party, then left-leaning voters in America would be split. Alternatively, if there were two conservative parties in America but one liberal, there would be no conservative policies enacted whatsoever. In order to keep the balance, it is crucial that conservate and liberal voices are both given enough options to fully realize the America they want.
The best way to get to that America is to make that decision yourself. In every presidential election, there is immense pressure to vote for one of the two major parties, and if you don’t do that, it is seen as throwing your vote away. So, to create a truly open political system, we need to destroy that stigma. We need to understand that the only way to throw out a vote in an election is to not cast it.
And, just like with many other flaws in the U.S., we are being left behind by other countries. Mexico has four major political parties, Canada has five and with President Emmanuel Macron’s election in France, France has gone from two major parties to four. If we follow in the footsteps of these other nations, and begin to restructure our party politics, then we can all have a chance to make the America we want, rather than picking from two different choices every four years.