When I went to the polls, I knew I was going to have a difficult decision to make. I am a Minnesota resident and I knew how I was voting on both of the constitutional amendments, but I had no idea which presidential candidate I would be voting for. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have policies I firmly agree with, but they also support policies I am strongly opposed to.
My dilemma made me wonder: how many other Americans had a similar problem on Election Day? The two-party system that exists in our country today makes it difficult for American citizens to be accurately represented by politicians.
Although there are two main political parties that exist in our country today, the reality is that the vast majority of Americans do not affiliate with a political party. Roughly half of the population classifies themselves as being politically moderate, meaning that they do not completely identify with either group.
Democrats and Republicans are similar in a number of ways, but they also have small differences that make it difficult to fully commit to either side.
The Democratic Party generally supports more government involvement on economic issues and less government involvement on social issues. For example, Democrats fully support social programs such as welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, etc. because they feel as if the government should help citizens who are in difficult financial positions.
Democrats do not feel as if it is the government’s place to make laws regarding social issues, such as stating that women cannot get abortions or that LGBTQ couples can not get married. In addition, the Democratic Party tends to be in favor of reform as opposed to keeping traditional practices in place.
The Republican Party generally supports less government involvement on economic issues and more government involvement on social issues. Republicans do not feel as if it is the government’s duty to financially support American citizens through social programs. They tend to believe in the idea of “picking oneself up by the bootstraps” and working hard to earn whatever one gets.
In addition, Republicans want the government to step in on social issues in an effort to preserve the values of our nation. They would support laws that protected traditional institutions such as family and marriage. The Republican Party aims to maintain traditional values and practices.
While it helps to know what these two political parties believe and value, it does little to no good if a person does not fit into either of these categories.
If a person supports less government involvement on both economic and social issues, these beliefs would align with those of a Libertarian. On the other hand, if a person supports more government involvement on both social and economic issues, these beliefs would align with the Authoritarian perspective.
The two-party system attempts to simplify something that is extremely complex. There is no possible way for the vast spectrum of political issues and beliefs to be compressed into two clear, succinct categories. With the countless issues that exist in our society today, there is no such thing as black and white. The political beliefs of Americans are extremely diverse and until this fact is addressed, there will be no way for our citizens to be accurately represented by their government.
When the ballot only includes one Democratic candidate, one Republican candidate and third party candidates that have virtually no chance of winning, it makes it impossible for nearly half of the citizens in our country to select a candidate who will represent their interests and beliefs.
The two-party system is an element of American politics that needs to be changed if the government is ever going to truly represent its citizens.
Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.