Defending the Indefensible
The Two Party Political System Upheld
by Flavius (e-mail:

Let us not be too hasty to dismiss the two party political system. The often derided and rarely appreciated step child of American political culture, the two party system is seldom appreciated for its subtle, yet important virtues. The two party system has been one of the linchpins of the stability that characterizes the American political tradition. It is just such stability that is envied by the rest of the world and unappreciated by the American electorate.

A chronic problem of multi-party systems is lack of stability. Many countries with multi-party systems have experienced difficulties in putting together governments that can last through their first term. Coalition governments, the product of multi-party political systems, are usually fractious and tend to fall frequently. The often heard calls for new elections ahead of schedule is characteristic of multi-party political systems and the inherently unstable coalition governments they tend to produce. When one party cannot gain a clear mandate to govern, the door is open to all manner of compromise with the extreme elements on the fringes of the political landscape.

The two party system filters out the extreme elements. The multi-party system brings the extreme, and often destabilizing, elements into the political system and thus the government. With the two party system, the extreme elements that are not initially filtered out are forced to move into the mainstream, or the center of the political spectrum, in order to maintain their legitimacy and credibility. Thus, there is a two fold safety mechanism built into the two party system that is not present in multi-party systems. It was not that long ago that the extreme Nazi party gained credibility by being brought into a German coalition government when none of the major parties could gain a clear electoral victory. Thus, the multi-party system, rather than filtering out extremism, introduces such extremism, with the attendant elements of destabilization, into the political system--thus bestowing on them an undeserved aura of legitimacy. The dual filtering and moderating mechanisms of the two party system are subtle but important.

The fact that Americans are tired of their "polarized" political system is proof that Americans either do not understand their own political system or do not appreciate its arcane but vital virtues, or worse both. Voting for a candidate outside the two dominant parties is not a wasted vote. It is worse; it is a dangerous vote. Political stability is not missed until it is gone. It is no coincidence, or accident of history, that The United States has been blessed with political stability, a much sought after ideal in most of the world--an unappreciated routine state of affairs in The United States.

If you would like to see a follow-up to this article, go to In Defense of Change written by The Liber8r.

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