First, it is vital to state that in the United States, there is no specific piece of legislation that establishes the two-party system; instead, it is the consequence of the winner-take-all voting system. Legally, any candidate can take part in the elections, as long as they meet the criteria, but in reality, there are many hidden obstacles. Since a candidate has to collect a certain number of signatures in every state, in the end, they might only be on the ballot in some of them.
The first-past-the-post system of voting does not help minor parties either since there is no reward for second place. In congress, if a candidate does not receive the plurality of votes and win the seat, they get no representation in that district. As a result, throughout US history, the country’s political landscape has been dominated by two major parties that compete closely with each other.
There are more hindrances to the success of third parties; most of them are connected with the public’s view on them. On the rare occasion that a minor candidate is allowed to compete in the elections in most states, they still have trouble promoting their campaign. A substantial source of publicity is the debates run by independent companies that do not always invite candidates from parties other than the two major ones. In addition to being unable to get sufficient media coverage, third parties also experience the adverse effects of people’s perception of candidates. Most people are reluctant to support a third party because they do not expect it to win and therefore feel that their vote would be “wasted.”
Before the Civil war, the two-party scheme was not as entrenched, and a minor candidate Abraham Lincoln was able to win the election, but the system remained remarkably stable after that.As for how having a viable third party would change American politics, the effects could be unpredictable. As it happened in 1860, the victory of a minor party can drastically change the country, and yet leave the two-party system intact. With the current winner-takes-all voting arrangement, it is almost certain that in a scenario such as this, the winning party would become a major one, while one of its competitors would become minor.
If the voting system were to change in a way that would allow for different parties to be represented more proportionately in congress, a multi-party system could exist. Contrary to what some people might think, this would not change the situation in the country in any major way, because major parties already incorporate popular ideas from other parties’ campaigns into their program. This is not to say that everything will remain unchanged: well-developed third parties are likely to have many items on their agenda, and their competitors do not adopt all of them.
Perhaps the most significant effect of a multi-party system is the choice people would have. With the abundance of items to choose from in almost any other aspect of an American’s life, it seems natural that this should apply to politics as well. The majority of citizens feel that a third party is needed, as the present ones are unable to adequately represent their views anymore. The government was always meant to protect the interests of its people, and if two parties cannot do it well enough, a third one is required.