Third Parties in the United States

The Populist Party. The Reform Party. The Green Party. There have been a handful of third parties in the United States throughout its history as nation, but none have had the staying power of the two primary parties, the Democratic and Republican Party. Why is this the case? Is a strong and viable third party possible in the United States?

This video addresses the issue and discusses both the pros and cons of third parties in the U.S.. On the one hand, third parties (could) bring new ideas and issues to light; issues not currently tackled by the two major parties. On the other hand, third parties might make the current political environment even worse, leading to less congressional cooperation.

One thing this video does not address is the feasibility of third parties in the United States. Is the establishment of a third party possible within the structure of the American electoral system? Duverger’s law asserts that in a single-member, winner-take-all system a multiparty (more than two parties) system cannot be sustained. On the national level, voters have one vote for each political office and the candidate that gets a simple majority of the vote share wins the seat. There is little incentive for voters to vote for a third party and for potential political candidates to run with a third party.

"Revival"  by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

“Revival” by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

What about you, do you think third parties are feasible in the United States? Do you think third parties would help or hurt the current political environment?

One thought on “Third Parties in the United States

  1. I think that our country is definitely moving towards having a third major party. Every year the percentage of Americans who do not identify with either the republicans or democrats is growing and if this faction of our society, which is now roughly a third, can become organized, I feel like a lot of Americans will get behind something new and exciting.

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