According to the European Election Database, there are ten major political parties vying for seats during Italy’s next election. In other European democracies, the number of major political parties varies from six and eight in Germany and Switzerland to seven in France. Each of these countries has an abundance of minor parties registered with national election councils.
In Canada, Elections Canada identifies five major parties sharing the table with eleven other minorities. An interesting note about the democracy north of the U.S. border, is that very often the federal party branch may have little or no semblance to the local party objectives. Most democratic nations have developed a broad scope of major and minor political parties that represent the diversity of their populations.
Then there is the United States, the so-called world leader on all topics democratic. Since 1852, we have been saddled with a two-party system that forces us to choose between the constantly warring democrats and republicans. For the past century and a half, the two parties that govern the United States have been pigeonholing America’s voters into uncomfortable and cramped categories. For a nation built on diversity, it is insulting to make voting decisions like a test-lab monkey flicking a red switch or a blue one.
The present crises facing our nation and congress did not begin recently with the inexperience and unpredictability of Donald Trump. They originated as early as 1796 when men in Washington, D.C. — and other seats of government and power — pursued what evolved to our consolidated two-party system by associating their campaigns with either Federalists or, ironically, Democratic-Republicans. There is little suggestion or evidence that the founding fathers intended our democracy to grow into a polarized partisan system with only two choices.
The two-party system dominated by republicans and democrats for the past 200 years not only limits voter choices, but it also narrows the political principles and agendas represented in government. Unfortunately, it is also self-perpetuating. Once the red-blue vortex of conservativism and liberalism caught America, it was like a sinkhole sucking down the creative juices of our budding young democracy.
For years, a third choice — the bland and equally non-creative amorphous Independent party — has tempted some American voters. The press and public have ridiculed recent independent candidates as the scourge of elections because they draw away pivotal votes from one of the main contenders. In reality, however, a third, fourth, or fifth party addition would strengthen our democracy and ensure that mistakes like Trump never happen again.
Our nation’s founding fathers imagined a system of government where the people voted and distributed power across the various branches of government. Beyond the basics of checks and balances, multiple parties further the fundamental goal of eliminating what frightened the framers the most — consolidated power. Even as Congress pushes back against the Trump regime, the collapse of the republicans and the threat of our two parties joining forces in opposition presents a new hazard in the prospect of emerging from the Trump era as a one-party nation.
Trump is destroying democracy — directly and through the long-term collateral consequences of his rule.
If America exits the dark tunnel of the Trump regime, but does so with only one major political party, the nation will have lost. A one-party system represents the very consolidated power that terrified our founders. The fewer the parties, the more danger there is in tyranny, abuse, control, and a collapse to some unitary form of rule that will fail democracy’s most basic test.
When democrats and republicans in Washington begin speaking of joining efforts to defeat Trump, it is very unsettling, because it is but a step in a short-term solution to a long-term problem. For the past two centuries, one decision after another has increased the consolidation of power that threatens democratic values. From dueling two-party elections to elimination of Super PAC regulations, each minor change has caused a significant ripple effect on our nation’s democratic functions.
In Stephen Hawking terms, our government began collapsing to a black hole a few years after the Declaration of Independence. When our present two-party system reaches singularity proportions, democracy will fail, and Donald Trump is ushering us across the event-horizon too quickly.
In a system that functions with limited definition and an often-arbitrary application of rules — because of its very nature of protection from abuse of authority and power — it is a tragic irony that we have such constraining chokeholds on the expansion of political parties. The United States is the land of opportunity and choice.
We have 25 brands of coffee to choose from at the grocery store; 50 kinds of yogurt; hundreds of pastas; and entire aisles of cereal, bread, chips, and soda. As a nation, and a democracy, we should be able to do better than having to pick either red or blue in the voting booth. There is a rainbow of colors we are not using to represent the people of America, and like all rainbows…ours is fading.