For American Government, I had to write a comment about our two-party system. This was what I wrote:
The Constitution of the United States was a revolutionary work when it was written. The fact that our country has the longest history of uninterrupted democracy points to the quality of this first among many. Our constitution is also the shortest and as such, there are many things it does not mention. Political parties is one of them.
In order to make changes to our current two-party system, we must first make changes to our electoral system. Single-member-district-plurality (SMDP) leads, almost without exception, to a two-party system. Canada, with its unique population conditions, is the only major exception with five parties. However, as party choices on a ballot increase, as happens with proportional representation (PR), participation decreases, especially among lower income voters. The best solution is to combine the systems and use the strengths of each.
Congress should be elected using PR; the president with SMDP. The presidential election should be decided using one of the voting systems which fall under the heading of Condorcet method. In Condorcet voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. “A particular point of interest is that it is possible for a candidate to be the most preferred overall without being the first preference of any voter. In a sense, the Condorcet method yields the “best compromise” candidate, the one that the largest majority will find to be least disagreeable, even if not their favorite.” (Wikipedia. September 22, 2009.) Example: Suppose 51% of the voters chose Candidate A as their first choice and 49% choose Candidate B. Under normal SMDP, Candidate A would win. However, if 75% of the voters chose Candidate C for their second choice, than Candidate C, being more agreed upon, would win. There is a lot more to it than I’ve described here but that’s the real basics.
That said, there are benefits to having only two strong parties. There is less to consider when heading to the polls. A voter’s choices are A and B. If all else fails, flip a coin. As Mr. Park said, a voter has a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right. The choice is not so easy when dealing with a multi-party system but a voter is more likely to find a party that actually represents her rather than a party that sorta-kinda-better-than-nothing represents her.
When there are only two parties, one is going to have the majority of the seats in the legislature. With proportional representation, there may not be a party in majority and it may be more difficult to get laws passed if cooperation between the groups does not exist. The flip side is that laws favoring one group over another are harder to get passed and the laws that do get passed are more likely to accurately represent the American people, their needs and desires.
Political parties that spring from a coalition of like-minded interest groups definitely have a place in proportional representation. The Green Party is a party gathered around the common interest of protecting the environment. The Christian Right Party would undoubtedly contain members of current Christian interest groups just as the Secular Humanist Party would contain members of the American Atheists and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.
Despite the struggles a change would require, changing to proportional representation in the legislature is something we should be fighting for. If we believe in a government of the people, by the people, than we must have proportional representation and the increased choices that goes along with it.
Wikipedia. Retrieved on September 22, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condorcet_method