In the United States, since roughly 1800, there have been two majorpolitical parties. For the last 150 years or so, these two parties have been the Democrat and Republican parties. This is in deep contrast to many other democratic nations, who often have as many as ten significant parties. Many people wonder why the United States has only two parties and why it is so difficult for a third or a fourth party to make any significant gains and become a noteworthy player on the national political scene. The reasons are many and varied.
The first two opposing groups in U.S. political history were theFederalists and the Anti-Federalists. In the early years of our nation, the Federalists dominated in power, because they were essentially the "money" party; they represented the merchants and the manufacturers, whereas the Anti-Federalists (who would gradually become known as the Democratic Republicans, and eventually as just the Democrats) represented the artisans and the farmers.
Eventually, these two parties evolved into representing two distinct sets of interests. The Democrats came to represent the agriculturaland frontier interests in the South and West, while the Federalists (who eventually evolved into the Republican party) supported commercial interests in the East. In other words, certain parts of the country voted almost exclusively for one party, and the two parties held ideologies that best supported their particular section. This was known as sectional politics, and the idea lasted well into the 20th century.
Given their already established power, the two party system managed to perpetuate itself onto a national level, this time making its power on the idea of class politics, where traditionally the Republican Partyrepresents the more financially affluent and the Democratic Partyrepresents the working class and the poor. In other words, the two parties have always benefited by exploiting geographic and financialdivisions.
Children often adopt the political party of their parents. Given that throughout history, the two parties managed to make themselves dominant through sectional and class politics, their power is self-perpetuating through the fact that many children simply inherit the political party of their parents, guaranteeing the two major parties a built-in voting bloc with each generation.
After the new United States Congress completed its first task of creating a Bill of Rights, it turned its attention to the issue of financing the new government. President George Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton as the Treasury Secretary, and Hamilton took it upon himself to develop an economic structure for the United States that would give the public confidence in the government’s financial affairs.
The American Two-Party System
The United States has only two major political parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. These parties have a duopoly, meaning that they share almost all the political power in the country. Parties in Other Democracies
Most democratic countries have more than two parties. In Israel, for example, twelve parties or party alliances held seats in the seventeenth Knesset. Japan has several major parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, the New Komeito, and the Japanese Communist Party.
The Electoral System
In the United States, a candidate wins the election by gaining a plurality, or more votes than any other candidate. This is a winner-take-all systembecause there is no reward for the party or candidate that finishes second. Parties aim to be as large as possible, smoothing over differences among candidates and voters. There is no incentive to form a party that consistently gets votes but cannot win an election. As a result, two political parties usually dominate plurality electoral systems to the disadvantage of smaller third parties, just as the Democrats and the...
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