If you were to ask any American if they had a political party they identified most with or if they leaned further left or right, or even if they view themselves as more liberal or conservative, most will have an answer for you. But if you asked them what any of that actually means, the results might surprise you.
The United States prides itself on its “successful” two-party system. Citizens take to social media and the polling booths alike to exemplify how loyal and dedicated they are to their party or sometimes more accurately, their favorite politician’s party. Some even go as far as to list it as a character trait and use it to navigate their personal relationships. That is how dedicated the American people have become to the seemingly straightforward system we have in place.
But even as committed as we are, studies show that most Americans are actually not fans of the two-party system at all. The reason? We just don’t think that it works.
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As our confidence and fierceness to defend the future of our country strengthens, the concern for the fate of democracy in the U.S grows with it. Even though most Americans recognize that the integrity of our current political system may have totally crumbled, they also don’t think that this fact alone is posing a bigger threat to democracy than other factors, according to The New York Times. A large number of Americans say they feel skeptical of our current voting systems and are at least somewhat convinced that there is a possibility for the upcoming elections to be stolen. The voting system itself is key to democracy, and roughly half of our people feel that they can’t trust that their vote is heard and that it matters.
Amongst the two parties there is a lot of tension, which has been steadily increasing as time passes. Studies show that not only do members of each respective party see themselves as totally divided, but they also don’t understand the motivations of the opposite party. Members of both parties blame harmful policies on the other side for the discourse or harm in politics in the U.S., and generally are more likely to view the opposing party in a negative light. Different surveys suggest that this tension and overall negative connotation the parties have for one another has only gotten worse, and there is no reason to believe that these tensions will dissipate any time soon.
Most voters are likely to value loyalty to their party more than the true values that are associated with it. Research suggests that people are willing to excuse and forgive undemocratic behavior if it means that their goals and policies of their party are implemented or instated. Americans are willing to sacrifice certain political interests to gain another, even if that means allowing candidates or government officials to behave in a way that violates the principles of democracy.
Studies indicate that more Americans are beginning to identify as independents each quarter. The appeal of having the freedom to select the candidates based on personal agendas has begun to outweigh the loyalties people might have had to a given party.
Research also suggests that independents are actually less susceptible to persuasion and will act and vote on their preconceived notions on a given topic, debate, or elected official instead of listening and considering other options or candidates. Most have an implicit bias toward either party, and may not even realize that they are not really being open minded.
American politics is at a stalemate. Essentially, people do not have much confidence that either party accurately represents and advocates for them. We have excused undemocratic and even inappropriate behavior from our leaders in hopes that they may at least help us achieve our goals in politics.
We continue to blame each other for the failures we see in our government instead of blaming the people in power, for when we choose to elect an official, we have been conditioned to take the credit for their actions, good or bad. Most of us recognize that our system that is supposedly for the people, by the people hasn’t really felt like it in a long time.
Despite this, we are hopeful that change will one day come, whatever that may look like. Until then many will choose to remain red, white, and blind.
Michelle Henderson is a Taunton resident and a sophomore at UMass Dartmouth, where she studies political science and pre-law.