chapter  2
23 Pages

The American Two-Party System

In most Americans' experience, party politics comes in twos, like the animals in Noah's Ark. Most democracies have more than two parties—or fewer. Some democratic nations, such as Mexico and Japan, have had extended periods of one-party rule. Many more democracies, including most European nations, support multiparty systems with three, four, or even more parties. Once a two-party system has developed, the two dominant parties will do their best to protect it. The major parties will support election systems that make it hard for minor parties to do well. One of the Progressive movement's most treasured achievements was to restrict the role of parties by removing party labels from many ballots, mostly in local elections. For most of the history, the major parties, especially in national elections, have divided the American voters roughly along social-demographic lines. Major parties usually propose a new policy once a lot of Americans have accepted the idea, so the party can gain votes.