With the 2020 U.S. presidential election just around the corner, many Salisbury University
students, staff and faculty are making their final conclusions about which presidential candidate they’re supporting.
Many are opening their laptops, unfolding their newspapers, and tilting their recliners to view the latest political news.
However, if you’re like me, you’ve noticed the polarization of the democratic and republican
parties and the negative consequences this polarization has had during the 2020 presidential election.
This polarization within these two political groups has led me to question: is a two-party system really working in our favor?
In an interview with Dr. Adam Hoffman, a political science professor at Salisbury University, I
was able to get some more insight on this topic.
According to Hoffman, the intense polarization of the two parties, views that are extremely
toward the left or right end of the political spectrum, have only become common in recent years.
“It’s [polarization of democratic and republican parties] have only really been in existence for about 25/30 years maybe … Before that, there were a lot of people in the middle [combination of democratic and republican values.]”
Dr. Hoffman believed this change was likely influenced by the media which contributed to the spreading of polarized views amongst millions of viewers.
“In politics, just like physics, every action creates a reaction,” Hoffman stated, explaining if one party releases extreme democratic or republican views, the opposing party will react in the same way.
Thus, as explained by Dr. Hoffman, more and more people are exposed to polarized views within the media, which effects how candidates choose to campaign, often resulting in polarized views of citizens and government officials.
Regardless of how this polarization has happened, our ability to work together, to create change in the government has been negatively impacted by this division.
“In this highly polarized environment, there’s definitely some disadvantages in the sense that both parties can’t get together. Someone once said that politics is the art of compromise, and in congress for instance, it’s extremely difficult for congress to get anything done because of this polarization and because either party is unwilling to compromise.”
“Parties don’t appear in the constitution. The founding fathers didn’t really want parties … they anticipated that we would become really polarized, be at each other’s throats, and not get anything done,” Hoffman added.
In my opinion, the two-party system has served as a detriment concerning our government,
slowing down or inhibiting our ability to create change.
In today’s world, decisions need to be made quickly, so citizens can adapt.
The two-party system’s polarized views, as discussed by Dr. Hoffman, inhibit decisions from
being made in a timely manner, which could ultimately serve as a detriment to U.S citizens.
This is one of many issues with the two-party system.
In addition to creating a divide between government officials, the polarization also divides U.S. citizens as opposed to bringing people together.
“The parties in the electorate … that’s individual people, and there you see the con-the downside of party polarization when you see ordinary people hating on each other because ‘they’re a democrat, they’re a republican.’”
The extremely polarized views have created “sides,” encouraging the use of definitive,
stereotypical terms that do not apply to every republican or every democrat.
What’s worse — it creates tension and prejudice between American citizens who should be
working together, collaborating when faced with political issues.
Now, if you feel the two-party system is too polarized, creating unnecessary division, you might ask: why hasn’t the green party been more successful in electing presidential candidates?
Dr. Hoffman explained that the green party’s lack of success impacted by overpowering
restrictions created by democratic and republican parties.
“They dominate and — the two major parties put, what we call structure barriers in place, to
prevent the green party from having a lot of power. It’s sort of the definition of monopoly or a
“… Every state has a state democratic party — so Maryland has the Maryland democratic party and the republican Maryland democratic party and those institutions, the state party, are actually responsible for setting up those rules. So yeah, it’s sort of like the fox guarding the hen house. They’re not going to make it easy for another party to get on the ballot and to emerge,” Dr. Hoffman explained.
Third-party candidates seem to be infamous for being unsuccessful during presidential elections.
However, despite it’s infamous reputation, U.S. citizens still vote for green party candidates.
For example, it is my understanding that some members of the SU Democrats, a club specifically created to discuss democratic views and opinions, are voting for green party candidate, Howie Hawkins, this upcoming election.
This is particularly surprising considering the club’s specific focus on the democratic party’s
This shows there must be something wrong with the two-party system if people are voting
for someone who has a low chance of even getting elected.
Although the two-party system contributes to limited, polarized candidate options, the parties do associate specific political values with specific political groups.
“The pro is that parties allow voters to better understand politics and understand the candidates and understand the choices between the candidates. In political science, we call it a learning heuristic which is another word for a short cut. I mean, the majority of voters aren’t that educated about issues, about candidates, a lot of people just don’t have the time to do the research…,” Hoffman acknowledged.
Although the two-party system simplifies what typical members of each party believe, the two party continues to divide members of the government and citizens by electing many officials with polarized views.
What good is it in understanding “what it means” to be a republican or democrat if you’re
political beliefs fall elsewhere on the political spectrum?
Not everyone’s views are as polarized; many people’s political values are multifaceted which is why there seems to be a conflict with the two-party system.
As Dr. Hoffman explained, “a third party emerges only when a large portion of the public
decides that either of the two major parties aren’t addressing something that they think is really important — aren’t addressing it adequately. That can happen.”
Thus, I do not believe a two-party system is effective in representing the views of those whose political views, fall between the left and right ends of the political spectrum. The two-party system also hinders us from working together and creating change efficiently
By OLIVIA BALLMANN
Featured Image by Michael Cotterino