Why has the USA remained a basically two party system?


Since the formation of the US political system there have only really been two main parties. It has remained this way due to a number of factors none more so that the impact of the constitution. The two party system is in some ways tied into the constitution and the nature of US politics has made it very difficult for third parties to develop into serious contenders. However, the US is not a two party system and there have always been third parties to take into consideration


The constitution has had a major impact in creating the two party system. When it was created the founding fathers referred to parties and pressure groups in a derogatory fashion and placed them in the same group as factions. One of the founding fathers, James Madison actually said, “The greatest crime to the union is factionalism” which can be interpreted as parties and pressure groups. This means that from the creation of the constitution parties where dis-regarded which has had a lasting effect in the political culture of the US and the party system within.


The creation of the two main parties which have remained an integral piece of the US political system was mainly due to the systems federal nature. As factions were created there became a basic divide. This division lay between those that believed in a strong central government and those, mainly based in the south who believed in the limit of central government’s power to the advantage of the individual states.


As the constitution established a federal system the states were able to retain considerable powers including their own executive, legislative and judicial powers. They also formed their own constitutions in which emerged the incorporation of the democratic and republican parties in all states. Parties on a national scale almost became irrelevant especially as the USA started to grow economically and politically. More and more barriers to entry for new parties emerged in terms of finance and organisation and it became increasingly difficult for new parties to form and rival the scale of the two main parties.


With the federal style of government in the USA it means that the parties are current and work within each of the 50 states. For a third party to mount a serious challenge they would have to rival the two parties in every state. This shows just how much organisation and finance that a third party would need if they were to seriously challenge the two main parties in the USA. There are many other organisational factors that have contributed to creating the two party system. The Democrats and the Republicans have been described as ‘catch-all’ parties as they encompass a wide range of views and therefore gain the support of a very wide audience. This makes it very difficult for third parties to form a party with enough difference in policy to stand as a challenger.


The constitution has had a huge impact on the US political system and through analysis its contribution to creating a two party system is clear. The constitution outlines a first past the post system which is highly disproportionate. This system obviously favours the two main parties and makes it very hard for third parties to be recognised. The primary system outlined by the constitution requires voter registration. This can be seen to push people towards either the Democratic or the Republican Party. Not only does the constitution have a direct impact on the party system in the US but indirectly it has caused cultural tradition to be entrenched within the US political system.


The divisions within US politics are not ideological. The political system in the USA was set out to be liberal-democratic and capitalist and over the years most Americans have lived by the idea of the ‘American Dream’ which is the idea that all individuals can improve spiritually and economically in the USA. The creation and advertisement of such a system has meant ideologies such as socialism have not been necessary. This has meant that the two main parties have never come under threat from a serious socialist-democratic challenger unlike many other western democracies. The ‘American Dream’ idea has also caused the majority to be in favour of conservative policy which