English: Breakdown of political party represen...

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Have you ever wondered why only two political parties are dominating the American political scene? In every other democratic nation of the world, there are multiple parties requiring coalitions to govern. Not so in the United states, where the only time cooperation is necessary is when the legislative and executive branches of the government are in separate hands.

There are several institutional reasons for the two party system in America. First of all, the United States is not a democracy, it is a democratic republic. This is important in that in a true democracy, the people are continuously involved in the governing process, such as in Switzerland where there are elections almost every week. Second, our elections are fixed by the calendar, not by events. In the socialist democratic nations such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, any vote of confidence lost by the ruling party or coalition will result in a new election. Third, we have separation of our legislative and executive branches. In most democracies of the world, the legislature elects a prime minister who is the defacto executive of the country. Sure, the United Kingdom has the Queen and many nations have presidents, but these people are there to be the consistency rather than the power.

All of this still does not add up to a two party system. I believe that the United States falls into this habit (yes habit) based on our innate love of a stand up fight. We want just two people in the ring beating the snot out of each other. Everything we do for entertainment or even business is a one on one match. From sporting events like the BCS championship to the burger wars, we only concentrate on the top two. There are others out there, but all of the publicity goes to the top two with a slight mention of the also rans.

When this country was in its infancy, we had two parties; the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalist. After a few years, the Federalists dropped out and the Whigs came along. Just before the Civil ware, the Whigs collapsed and the Democratic-Republicans split into the Democrats and the Republicans. Most of the Federalists became Whigs when they lost several presidential elections in a row and were in a feeble minority in both houses. The same thing happened when most of the Whigs became Republicans.

The talking heads have always pointed out that a vote for a third party is a throw away vote. When you are talking pure ability to get elected, that may be true in the short run. A grass roots effort to fundamentally change an existing party can be devastating to that party’s power such as is predicted for the Republican party with the Tea party movement. But if neither major party supports even some of your basic values, then voting for the least bad is still a bad decision. It re-enforces the existing power.

It took 24 years for the Whigs to gain even a moniker of power after the Federalist collapse. It took 16 years of the Democratic-Republicans to recover from the Jackson Democrat revolt, which also resulted in the current parties.

There are plenty of options for you if you want to vote your platform, there are only two if you are voting for power.

Here are just a few of the ones I looked up, there are plenty more.

Modern Whig – http://www.modernwhig.org/
Green – http://www.gp.org/index.php
Constitution – http://www.constitutionparty.com/
Socialist – http://www.sp-usa.org/
Conservative – http://www.conservativepartyusa.com/
Libertarian – http://www.lp.org/
Communist – http://www.cpusa.org/

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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