Republican or Democrat? Done. That’s what is on offer in American elections. The self-proclaimed nation of ultimate democracy and a beacon of glory for all aspiring democracies. Except if a closer look is taken at how things actually operate in America, things aren’t so peachy.
Yes, being British it may be very easy to be critical of American politics and it can be pointed out that British politics isn’t so rosy itself. While that is most certainly true, a certain moron named Nigel Farage really taints things, it can be objectively said that the UK has more democratic things going for it than America does.
The main focus here is going to be American political parties and the choices American electors have at their elections. As already said; Republican or Democrat, that’s your lot. I concede other candidates from other parties appear on the ballot papers but when it comes to serious candidates with hopes of winning, it’s just those two. The history of why this is the current situation is one that is long and complex and lots of different people have come up with lots of different theories as to why. None of that will be addressed here, but what will be addressed is the need for this situation to change and how it must change.
By having such a slim choice and having two parties with an iron grip on their candidates being the ones who win; the American electorate, the American political and social system all lose out. There is very little room for progress and proper debate within political discourse and this holds back the opportunity for progress. With only having a Democrat or a Republican you only have two options for a position on a policy or issue.
Let’s take gun control as an issue. Republican stance; take the 2nd Amendment literally, have absolutely no control on gun ownership and distribution. Democrat stance; honour the 2nd Amendment but have specific limitations on ownership and distribution. By having these two absolute opposite positions, the chance for finding compromise is virtually nil.
A Very Danish Solution
Let’s compare the US to a nation that has many political parties and where candidates from a variety of parties actually win. We’ll use Denmark, I chose Denmark as I am actually half Danish and Danish politics is truly fascinating.
In Danish elections, there are nine political parties that have candidates who win notable number of seats. Yes, of the 179 seats in the Danish Parliament two parties normally comprise about 40-50% of the candidates who win.
However, neither of these parties get even remarkably close to being able to have a majority and govern alone. Consequently, they rely on smaller parties for their candidates to support them.
This means that at any time a Danish Government can be comprised of anywhere from three to six different political parties. The current Government is made up of three different parties who are in turn supported by another party. The opposition is currently made up of eight different parties.
Now what this means is that due to the broad number of different parties, political discourse about policies and issues in Denmark is vast. Governments are often made up of parties that have similar positions on some issues but totally different positions on others. This means that Governments will often work with opposition parties to gain support for their policy. All of this results in compromise and consensus and policies actually getting made. It’s hardly surprising Denmark consistently ranks in the top 3 happiest countries in the world.
More Compromise in America
Now, such a thing just does not happen in the US. It never has and if there’s no change soon, there never will be. Democrats and Republicans have within candidates who take different positions on varying issues yet are in the same party. If Democrats and Republicans were to fringe off into other parties where members are much more collective in their ideals, then a wider range of candidates with broader policy positions can emerge. This can lead to more compromise, more cooperation and a Congress that is more productive.
But at the moment, with just these two parties, the only thing that may be thinner than American political parties are a few models in Silicon Valley.