The Tyranny of the Two-Party System

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Columbia University Press, Aug 14, 2012 - Political Science - 172 pages
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The closely contested presidential election of 2000, which many analysts felt was decided by voters for the Green Party, cast a spotlight on a structural contradiction of American politics. Critics charged that Green Party voters inadvertently contributed to the election of a conservative Republican president because they chose to "vote their conscience" rather than "choose between two evils." But why this choice of two? Is the two-party system of Democrats and Republicans an immutable and indispensable aspect of our democracy? Lisa Disch maintains that it is not. There is no constitutional warrant for two parties, and winner-take-all elections need not set third parties up to fail. She argues that the two-party system as we know it dates only to the twentieth century and that it thwarts democracy by wasting the votes and silencing the voices of dissenters.

The Tyranny of the Two-Party System reexamines a once popular nineteenth-century strategy called fusion, in which a dominant-party candidate ran on the ballots of both the established party and a third party. In the nineteenth century fusion made possible something that many citizens wish were possible today: to register a protest vote that counts and that will not throw the election to the establishment candidate they least prefer. The book concludes by analyzing the 2000 presidential election as an object lesson in the tyranny of the two-party system and with suggestions for voting experiments to stimulate participation and make American democracy responsive to a broader range of citizens.

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The tyranny of the two-party system

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Unable to predict either the rise of smack-down artist Jesse Ventura to the Minnesota governorship or the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, some political scientists are retreating to ... Read full review


The Tyranny of the TwoParty System
The Politics of Electoral Fusion 19941997
The Politics of the TwoParty System
The TwoParty System Genealogy of a Catchphrase
The TwoParty System and the Ideology of Process
Oppositional Democracy and the Promise of Electoral Fusion
Against the Tyranny of the TwoParty System
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About the author (2012)

Lisa Jane Disch is associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota and author of Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Philosophy. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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