The Instigator
JBlake
Pro (for)
Losing
17 Points
The Contender
robert.fischer
Con (against)
Winning
21 Points

Two Party System vs. Multi Party System

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
robert.fischer
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/11/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 33,922 times Debate No: 5351
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (6)

 

JBlake

Pro

In this debate I will argue for the two party system and whoever takes this debate will argue for a multi party system of republicanism.

Republicanism is defined in this debate as a form of government made up of a legislative branch where each member is a representative of his constituency (this includes the parliamentary system as well).

Note: There is no PRO and CON for this debate. Both sides are arguing the PRO for the merits of their system. This is an argument on the merits of both systems, I am attempting to avoid an argument on semantics.
robert.fischer

Con

First off, I would like to thank my opponent for writing an interesting and relevant topic. I am certain that this debate will be fruitful, fun, and exciting.

First, I would like, if my opponent will allow, to refine the scope of this debate to the United States alone. I am not (nor, do I believe is my opponent) well versed in foreign situations and politics; certainly not enough to properly debate such systems.

Secondly, though I will overlook it in the spirit of the debate, your wording and lack of definitions makes this debate almost invalid. "Multi-party" simply means "more than one party," and this could include a two, three, or infinite party system. In other words, a two party system is a TYPE of multi party system. I do, however, know what you mean; two parties versus three or more parties.

So, to begin.

Contention 1: Restricting choice to two parties limits the free marketplace of ideas, reduces each voter's choice, and is undemocratic.
People come in more than two flavors; reducing our choice to two is like having every American drive either a Dodge pickup or a Honda sedan. It is preposterous to think that the political rainbow can be summed up and represented properly by a bi-chromatic facsimile.
What if you are pro-life, but support gay marriage? Or, for that matter, what if you support the right to own assault rifles but also support nationalized health care? A two party system unnecessarily and arbitrarily forces people to make concessions on their beliefs, all in the name of simplicity.
The more parties, the better (to a degree, of course); it allows each citizen to find the party (and thusly, the candidate) that most directly fits their beliefs and best represents their ideology. Arbitrarily choosing two parties as being representative of all Americans is political favoritism and is wrong down the the very core.

Contention 2: There is no appropriate way to pick the two parties.
Even if you pick the two most popular parties, you still have a predicament... what if public opinion shifts, and the parties do not? I need not remind you that our two most dominant parties were themselves not established until well into the 1800s. Had we codified a two party system in our nation's infancy, we would today be choosing between the Democratic-Republicans or the Whigs.

Contention 3: A 3-or-more party system is more responsive to change.
If the public opinion should suddenly shift, or if events should lead to a rapid mood swing in the voting public, more parties would allow government to reflect this change with more fidelity.

Contention 4: At least in America, there is no Constitutional basis for a two party system.
Since the neither the Constitution nor any of it's amendments allows us to restrict political parties, permitting only two to exist would be illegal. So, for that matter, would be forcing us to have any arbitrary number (1, 5, 10, etc). We must allow freedom to determine how many parties there are, and it has; there are dozens of parties in this country. This is clear proof that an unrestricted, multiparty system is best... it has arisen from free exchange and choice, and thus is a direct representation of the will of the people.
Debate Round No. 1
JBlake

Pro

I would like to begin by thanking my opponent for taking up this debate. I would further like to thank him for no skewing the meaning, and remaining on topic.
I accept my opponents desire to limit this topic to within the United States, though I do not admit a lack of knowledge on foreign situations and politics.

I will also note that I am not for specifically restricting the nation to two parties by any law or force. Debating on these grounds would push this debate off the topic of the specific merits of the natural development of each system.

Claims:
1. It is preposterous to think that the political rainbow can be summed up and represented properly by a bi-chromatic facsimile.
2. There is no appropriate way to pick the two parties.
3. A 3-or-more party system is more responsive to change.
4. There is no Constitutional basis for a two party system.

Rebuttal:
1. I negate this contention. The beauty of the two party system is precisely that the political rainbow can be summed up and represented in two parties.. Within each party is a separate rainbow comprising a large number of combinations of the various issues of a certain period. This applies to the current period as well as through United States history. There are, in fact, liberals who are for gun rights, against gay rights, and pro choice (to list just a few of the contemporary issues). Conversely, there are conservatives who are for gay rights and are pro choice. If my opponent wishes for me to find specific examples I will provide them with no problem.

"People come in more than two flavors; reducing our choice to two is like having every American drive either a Dodge pickup or a Honda sedan."

>> This does not relate to the topic and is not analagous. Two specific car types does not allow for the many possible combinations within each political ideology.

"What if you are pro-life, but support gay marriage? Or, for that matter, what if you support the right to own assault rifles but also support nationalized health care? A two party system unnecessarily and arbitrarily forces people to make concessions on their beliefs, all in the name of simplicity."

>> As I noted before, the two party system does not preclude different combinations of these, or any issues. It certainly does not force people to make concessions. In fact, combinations are constantly shifting within both parties. The overall platform is a representation of the moderation of the party's views at that time.

2. The one and only appropriate way for the two parties to be selected is through the people's will. By will, I of course mean election.

"what if public opinion shifts, and the parties do not?"

>> That is unlikely, since the parties are made up of people elected by public opinion. The likelyhood of this occurring is the same in both systems.

"Had we codified a two party system in our nation's infancy, we would today be choosing between the Democratic-Republicans or the Whigs."

>> At that time, and in the very beginning of our nation, we had a two party system as well. The existence of a two party system need not be legislated (lawfully excluding other parties).

3. It is more responsive to change, but the important question here is, 'Whose change?' With three or more parties, a party has a much more likely chance of being elected without holding the same beliefs of the majority of people. The responsibility of the government is to represent the will of the people.

Imagine a case where a Bolshevik or Nazi type party were to arrise in the United States. Just as in that period and among those people, the great majority of people would not support or even want to elect such radicals (I am aware that the Bolsheviks siezed power, but they were elected beforehand and we can still imagine such a party without seizing control). In this scenario it is much more likely that such a radical party would be elected that would not represent the will of the majority. This is a case of the minority enslaving the majority.

It is also not always benefitial to be more responsive to change. The majority of people may not prefer such a change, as mentioned above. But government function would necessarily be more chaotic and confusing, with policy changing so schizofrenically as one party takes over and is replaced by still another with radically different ideologies.

4. I wholeheartedly agree and think it would be quite oppressive to legislate party systems.

"We must allow freedom to determine how many parties there are, and it has; there are dozens of parties in this country. This is clear proof that an unrestricted, multiparty system is best... it has arisen from free exchange and choice, and thus is a direct representation of the will of the people."

This is precisely what has occurred. The will of the people has thus far chosen a two party system, which is defined by the domination of two parties, usually with the existence of many smaller parties (this is not only my definition, but the generally accepted one in the U.S.). This statement further backs up my point. There do exist dozens of alternate parties whose voice often gets picked up by one of the dominant parties. These are usually single issue parties, and they are often successfull at getting their issue picked up for debate within the two parties. I would suggest to them that their ideology might fare better within one of the dominant parties, but that is outside the scope of this debate.

Conclusion:
The two party system is better because it moderates radical views and follows public opinion better than a multi party system would.
Both parties gradually shift over time, picking up different dombinations of issues in almost every election, and following public opinion.
The two party system exists through the people's will and should not be legislated in any direction.
The two party system follows the majority in public opinion, the multi party system inevitibly leads to minority rule over the majority.

I would like to close by thanking my oponent for sticking to the guideline of the debate and not using my poor wording in R1 to go off topic.
robert.fischer

Con

I would like to open by congratulating my opponent on his novel approach to the rebuttals; I had not seen those responses coming.
I will, however, address them (his rebuttals) first.

In his first rebuttal, he claims, "The beauty of the two party system is precisely that the political rainbow can be summed up and represented in two parties..[sic] Within each party is a separate rainbow comprising a large number of combinations of the various issues of a certain period."
I contend this point. In his own argument, he later goes on to say, "[that] there are, in fact, liberals who are for gun rights, against gay rights, and pro choice (to list just a few of the contemporary issues). Conversely, there are conservatives who are for gay rights and are pro choice." This is exactly my point; this is precisely why two parties are insufficient. Not all conservatives are politically similar, and thus not all properly Republican; conversely, not all liberals are politically similar, and thus not properly Democrats. Multiple parties on each side, conservative and liberal alike, better reflect these differences than does one 'blanket party.'
Furthermore, in order to garner more votes each party must moderate itself towards a central viewpoint to compete for the "on the fence" vote. Thusly, each party truly best represents the outcroppings of highly centrist group and not the more conservative or liberal voters, who must moderate their vote (and thus leave behind more leftist or right-wing positions) in order to support a larger party that has, in their mind, a better chance of electing somebody remotely similar to themselves.
Perhaps this is why Americans feel so alienated from politics, and why voter turnout has consistently gone down in recent years. They feel like they are choosing the lesser of two evils because they are farther left or right than the centrist, moderated Republicans or Democrats.

In addressing his second rebuttal, I would like only to point out how absurd it is to first vote on which two parties ought to run in a particular election, then in the primaries for that anointed pair, and then finally in the election itself. You may as well have a runoff election, where all parties are represented and then the top two or three are balloted in a runoff election a few weeks later (obviously, I am not running a counter-plan here; I don't want to debate about this plan and get off topic, I'm just throwing it out there).

In reference to his third rebuttal, this is simply irrelevant. Even if a three way race results in the victor only representing 40% of the population, it is still the largest group; and thus, his or her policies and actions will represent the greatest group of people. I contend that this is better than a two party system that moderates opinion and thus really represents only the most moderate and centrist of its voter base.

While I agree that no legislation is appropriate in the regulation of the number of parties I would contend that we have de facto legislated a two party system in our country. Laws such a campaign finance reforms and sly tactics like gerrymandering have caused support for potential third (or fourth of fifth) parties to flounder. Therefore, the "two party" system we have is not a direct representation of the people, as my opponent claims, but an artificial construct of the ruling class.
The people in this country believe that they have only two choices; the media blandly supports this by showing only the two candidates represented by the most wealth and corporate interest that only established political connections can buy; in other words, the two mainline party candidates.
The ideal situation is the one that most of our founders supported; a system with no parties. Failing this, a multi party system is the second best.
Debate Round No. 2
JBlake

Pro

I would like to congratulate my opponent as well. This is the most interesting debate I have found yet.

Claims:
1. Two parties are insufficient precisely because two is not enough to represent the many different issue combinations.
2. To win election, each party must moderate its ideals toward centrism. Thusly, each party represents the radically moderate, and not the conservative and liberal wings.
3. This has caused voter turnout to plummet.
4. Many feel they are choosing the lesser of two evils.
5. The election system (primary, general, etc., is "absurd").
6. If a three way race resulted in a victor with only 40% of the vote, it is still the largest group.
7. We have a de facto legislation of the two party system.
8. Wealth buys media time.

Rebuttal:
1. I disagree. I contend that two parties is sufficient to represent the many different combinations of issues. For most people it is the overall ideology of each party that attracts them (I don't think I need to go over which party has which current philosophy at this moment). The lesser issues, or "hot-button" issues are usually not enough for a person to bolt. When it does, they form the smaller parties my opponent has mentioned, such as the Prohibition Party, the Constitutional Party, the Libertarian Party, and many others.

2. This is precisely my point. Each party moderates its views to protect the nation against often and fast paced reforms brought by more radical (left or right) minority parties. History has generally shown this to be true. Look at Germany in the 1930s, Russia in the 1910s, America in the 1850s, and many others. They all resulted in swift, radical change, some positive and some negative, that the majority of people did not want.

3. It is my contention that voter turnout has not declined. When you remove those ineligible to vote from the count, there shows no decline. In fact, it has steadily risen since 1996.
The study can be found here: http://elections.gmu.edu...
With an easy to read graph here: http://elections.gmu.edu...

4. This claim does not seem to be supported, or even proven one way or another without a specific poll conducted. There is no way to measure if this statement is true.

5. I was a little confused by the wording of my opponents statements on the election system. I believe he was refering to the fact that we utilize a primary, then general election, followed by an electoral college.
The usefullness of the primary and general elections should not be disputed. The primaries allow those within their party to have a say in who represents them as a candidate. Without one we would go back to the back room deals of the past. The general election is obviously important because it is (usually) the deciding factor as to who is elected. The electoral college (I believe is what he refers to as the "election itself") is another question. It does seem to hold some importance in making certain that the smaller states have a larger say in elections, but overall it seems to be mostly useless and outdated. However, this is irrelevent to the question of party systems since the same problem would exist under both.

6. Such a case would be more easy for the minority to oppress the majority. If 40% of the electorate (which would be a huge victory under a multi- party system) chose, for instance the Prohibitionist Party, then that 40% would be oppressing the desire of the 60% to, in this instance drink alcohol. This becomes even more dangerous when a minority party is one that wants dramatic change, like a completely socialist state. This leaves room for demagogues who may not necessarily follow the rules (constitution) once "elected" into power. We have seen this time and again in the short history of representative government.

7. This does seem to be the unfortunate case (gerrymandering) today. But is not the cause of two party systems appearing in the past. Changing it now (redrawing the lines in a more fair and balanced way) would not likely change the two party system.

8. This is another unfortunate result of capitalism. The media will do what is in its best interests and give time to those best able to pay for it. The only way to change this is public financing of elections, or complete public control over (some) networks. I point out again that, barring this changes, the same problem would exist in a multi-party system.

Conclusion:
The two party system moderates political ideology and protects the majority from the minority. It protects the nation from chaotic and rapid reforms of government that either result in an inefficient government because there is little time to realize if the reforms are positive or negative. Imagine a world where the U.S. changes from a completely free market to a completely socialist state every four to twelve years.

Note: I would invite a debate on a no party system vs. a party system if my opponent wishes, since he stated a no party system as the ideal.
I would like to thank my opponent for a very thought provoking debate and would more than welcome debates with him in the future.
robert.fischer

Con

robert.fischer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by mharrington 10 months ago
mharrington
I find it interesting that this question is rarely framed in the context of the objective of the US electoral process. The point of democratic participation is not first of all to satisfy the desires of individual voters desires or preferences, but to aggregate these preferences into workable governance for the preservation of the whole. The US electoral system is biased towards stable preservation of the union, not meeting the diverse goals of a diverse and pluralistic polity.

I would agree that this objective is best met in the USA through the two-party system that forces diverse groups to prioritize their preferences and converge toward a workable compromise. Convergence through compromise is the key to stable free democratic political societies. The US seems to have passed that test with a more free, large, and diverse population that any other in history. It's highly contentious to say that this needs changing because people want more choice. That's not the point of political governance. We deliver varieties of choice at Baskin and Robbins...
Posted by JBlake 5 years ago
JBlake
It would be interesting to see the thesis you mentioned. If you find it you should post it. If not, no big deal.
Posted by copernicus 5 years ago
copernicus
new to the site, and this is an old debate buy I thought Id throw my two cents in for anyone who gets into this type of discussion. the debate was constrained to the US, which immediately rendered it moot. There is a very elegant mathematical proof (which I'll post if I can find the thesis it was presented in) that a plurality voting system inevitably evolves into a two party system, and once there, it cannot return to a multi-party system without the institution of proportional voting.
Posted by JBlake 6 years ago
JBlake
For the most part you are correct. Libertarians (like most other small parties) weigh in on many issues. But the Libertarian's single issue that they (perhaps rightfully) see as the most important question in our nation is the correct interpretation of the constitution, which they interpret mainly as free market and states rights.
I apologize if I offend any Libertarians.
Posted by Labrat228 6 years ago
Labrat228
This could become interesting
Posted by s0m31john 6 years ago
s0m31john
The Libertarian Party is not just an offshoot of people that disagreed on "hot button" issues. Their entire political ideology is different from that of the large two parties, ie believing in freedom.
Posted by JBlake 6 years ago
JBlake
You could send me a separate debate topic on a no party system vs. a party system. I will allow you to draw up the guidelines for such a debate. If you don't want to then I will.
Posted by The_Devils_Advocate 6 years ago
The_Devils_Advocate
If you would allow me to argue the no party system I would take this up.
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