Gary Conkling: Stay the course with our two-party system

A third major party wouldn’t end America’s political polarization. It would just muddy our political waters. We should have more faith in the two-party system to help us lurch forward.

Even though the Founding Fathers despised factions, political parties began to form during the administration of President George Washington, our first president and the only one ever to win all the electoral votes.

Alexander Hamilton advocated for a strong federal government while Thomas Jefferson wanted to defer more power to individual states. That launched a political tug-of-war that continues today.

The best argument for a two-party system is that one person wins and one person loses. One party gains control, forcing the other party back to the drawing board. This isn’t satisfying for those who pray for middle ground. But for most of the nation’s history, the two-party system has produced a healthy rotation of power, split government control-forcing compromise, unity during war and avoidance of a perpetual ruling party.

Third-party advocates underestimate the fluidity of the two major political parties, which keep evolving to win elections and hold power as new issues and new generations emerge.

This fluidity, which includes total flip-flops on major policies, can appear self-serving. But it has, by and large, served our country well by offering clear choices.

The contemporary Democratic and Republican parties don’t resemble their roots.

Democrats held power because of Dixiecrats until President Lyndon Johnson, a Southerner, championed civil and voting rights legislation.

The Whig Party collapsed just before the Civil War via emergence of the anti-slavery Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. Now the Republican Party is splintering into pro- and anti-Trump factions.

Republicans and Democrats differ today on issues like abortion rights, gender-affirming care, gun regulation and climate change. They are bipolar issues with little middle ground, so a third party wouldn’t make them less divisive.

The No Labels movement seeks moderate candidates in the name of solving tough problems. But running third-party presidential candidates is unlikely to achieve that goal.

A No Labels presidential candidate like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin would be a vote-splitter, not a policy peacemaker.

However, the congressional Problem-Solvers Caucus, launched by No Labels with equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, did play a key role last year in negotiating bipartisan infrastructure, semiconductor and gun safety legislation.

MAGA supporters unflinchingly backing Donald Trump represent a potential political splinter group. If Trump somehow fails to obtain the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. It’s not hard to imagine them bolting the Republican Party, which explains why Trump’s GOP opponents tiptoe around him despite his multiple criminal indictments.

A three- or four-way presidential race next year could reveal other flaws. Multiple presidential candidates might prevent any candidate from reaching the required 270 Electoral College votes to win.

When no candidate secures 270 Electoral College votes, the presidential race is thrown into the uncharted waters of a newly elected House of Representatives to choose among the three candidates with the most votes. This happened only once in American history in 1824 when four candidates vied for the presidency.

Andrew Jackson captured the most electoral votes. However, the House chose John Quincy Adams.

There is another wrinkle.

In 1824, there were 23 states, each of which had a single vote on the presidential choice. There are now 50 states, raising the possibility of a 25-25 tie.

Given the January 6 assault on the Capitol in response to Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, who knows what could happen if we incurred a presidential election stalemate in 2024.

Minor political parties play a positive role in politics by raising issues. The Tea Party gets credit for making the Republican Party tilt more conservative. The Working Families Party has contributed to the leftward shift of the Democratic Party on issues like economic security.

Leaders of minor parties have also successfully pushed for fusion voting, which allows minor parties to cross-endorse and thus influence the priorities of major party candidates.

The two major parties haven’t ossified as much as critics contend. Data from the Harvard Youth Poll shows issue evolution spurred by changing generational perspectives.

Since 2010, voters in the 18-29 age group have become more progressive on issues such as same-sex marriage, gun regulation, climate action and economic equity.

In 2010, only 30 percent of this cohort felt strongly about climate action. The latest survey shows that has risen to 50 percent.

After the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage in 2014, support on that front skyrocketed from less than 40 percent to almost 55 percent. Support for stricter gun laws and the right to food and shelter rose to nearly 65 percent in the wake of mass shootings and increasing houselessness.

Changing issue priorities have sparked greater voter participation by Gen Z and Millennial voters.

Youth turnout is credited with Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm election, the defeat of Trump in 2020 and the red wave fizzle in 2022. Those issues will likely animate how a majority of this cohort casts its ballots in the 2024 election.

Representing 15 percent of the electorate, Latino voter participation is increasing, bolstering both Republicans and Democrats. Their electoral participation will continue to grow since the majority of Latino registered voters are under age 33.

Insisting on a third major party would serve only to dilute new sources of political energy that can and are reshaping major party views.

Third parties invite coalition governments and our Constitution isn’t set up to accommodate coalitions. In America, the rope in political tug-of-war only has two ends.

Guest writer Gary Conkling started writing stories as a child and publishing them on his own hand-cranked printing press. Little did he know digital technology would make it possible to repeat the task as an adult by publishing his own blog, Life Notes. He is a journalist by trade who has worked in the trenches of public affairs at the federal, state, regional and local levels. But he also is an observer of life occurring around him. This piece is from his blog, found at garyconklinglifenotes.wordpress.com.



Here is why I believe Gary is wrong. Currently you just had an extreme faction take over a party. This faction is not trying to be part of a representative Democracy, instead it's trying to eliminate competition for authoritarian rule, so extreme they are wanting to re-write our constitution under their interpretation of the bible through a series of States Convention and plans, some drawn within the Heritage Foundations 2025 906 page memo.

This movement, would not have happened had we had four (like most democracies) equally funded parties instead of two. We would have compromise and negotiation on bills.

Recently, I brought up a fix to our current system as well. No party should control more than 50% of congress, we should use rank choice voting and if a party gets more than 50%, the oldest ranking member is disqualified. We must require at least 4 equally funded parties and we need to either fix the Filibuster or eliminate it. I don't stop there. I apply term limits of 18 years at the Supreme Court and Canon laws to them and anything in reference to the "Constitution" by the Court would require all of them voting for it.

Next is special interest, it's easy to see the link between the divide of parties, the failures of regulation, of bills, and wealth inequality has special interest have taken over both parties. We need anti corruption bills and we need restraints on special interest over our politics, it's that simple.


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