Why the Two-Party System is Failing: What The Texas Democrats Fleeing Says About Bipartisanship

Amelia Coleman, Staff Writer

After weeks of built-up tension surrounding the Texas Republican’s voter suppression bills, constituents waited with bated breaths to see if  their voting rights would remain intact. In a last-ditch effort to preserve those rights, on July 12th, 2021, 51 out of 67 of  the Texas House’s Democratic representatives left Austin, Texas, and flew to D.C. 

They did this with the intention of interrupting the quorum, which is the minimum number of legislators that have to currently be on the floor for the session to begin. They left because Republican legislators were introducing bills that supposedly intended to secure “voter integrity,” but that the Democrats believed would suppress voters of color. They hoped that their action would call national attention to the issue. Democrats were using every tool in their arsenal to block these bills and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to vote. Regardless of its necessity, the situation sheds light on a fundamental part of modern American politics: the parties can hardly even talk to each other anymore.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 1994, 16% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans viewed the other party as very unfavorable. In 2014, that number has more than doubled, with 38% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans seen as very unfavorable by the other party. Moreover, 27% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans think that the other party is a threat to the nation’s well-being. Bipartisanship has likely not improved since the statistic was collected. 

The parties harbor so much animosity for one another that they struggle to meet consensus in legislation. According to the Pew Research Center, bipartisan voting was not uncommon in congress until the mid 1970s. Experts theorize that the cause of this newfound polarization is that both parties have become more and more liberal in their views and it only became noticeable in the 1990s, or that party polarization was common beforehand and World War II was just able to bring the country together and create this artificial sense of bipartisanship that weakened in the 1990s.

Having two dominant parties that are so radically different from each other and only seem to be growing further apart suggests that this system does not work in today’s evolving political landscape. Even the first president of this country did not think the two-party system would work, stating in his farewell address that “the alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge…is itself a frightful despotism.” If the man whose contributions were so critical to the formation of this nation believed that the two-party system was so inherently flawed, one must question whether that system has any place in American democracy. It is long past time that we reevaluate the way political business is conducted in the United States.

It seems as though Republicans and Democrats are trying to live in worlds that cannot coincide. Increasingly unwilling to compromise for the good of the country, they have adopted a “my way or the highway” mentality that leaves the American people underserved. This country has become so obsessed with this idea of “I get all of what I want and nobody else gets anything,” when instead everyone should try their hardest to get a little of what they want, and nobody should go home feeling like they have completely won. This ideology may make sense when laws are being made to directly impact the lives of citizens in a very drastic way, but in most circumstances, everyone just needs to recognize that “all or nothing” is just impacting both major parties negatively. 

All of this raises the question of why we have parties in the first place. They help categorize people into their political ideologies to see what they want in the world and to find others like them. They help people find others that they want to see in positions of leadership. A party can make people want to dedicate themselves to having a voice in politics. Two parties do all of these things, but come with the cost of undesirable repercussions. A two-party system creates a binary system that forces people to choose one or the other, and if they want something else they rarely get that represented in their vote. To make sure this does not happen, the country should use a better party system, one that allows for having more than just two dominating parties, or no parties.

With multiple main parties, the country could function while not being split almost entirely in two. A multi-party system could create a wide variety of ways to align and find others like us. There would be far less partisanship and more cooperation with this system since the ideologies of the groups would intersect far more than if there were only two parties with almost polar opposite ways of seeing the world. To shift an entire country into an era with two or three more main parties would take years, decades even, and would most definitely require government intervention. For now the country could use a good lesson in compromise, bipartisanship, and how to function properly while being constantly divided.