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Con: Only two parties limit voters' choices

By Sonny Long
Nov. 6, 2011 at 5:06 a.m.


In her book "Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny," author Theresa Amato writes, "...It is a myth that anyone can grow up and successfully run for president - outside the two major parties."

Amato speaks from experience.

She was the national campaign manager for Ralph Nader's presidential bids in 2000 and 2004.

Is she right?

Gino Tozzi, lecturer of political science at the University of Houston-Victoria, doesn't see the system changing any time soon with the rise of a strong third party.

"Any third-party candidate who wants to make an impact has to have a foothold in the media," Tozzi said. "Someone like Ron Paul fighting for the Libertarian Party is just not going to happen. He doesn't get a lot of press. His positions get more press than he does.

"The big player that is controlling things these days is the media. The media has such a strong influence on what the public thinks. There are 24-hour-a-day programs that support one side or the other.

"Candidates have to go out and sell themselves to the media. The media is telling their story.

The two major parties have evolved somewhat over the years, Tozzi added.

"We have had the growth of the candidate-centered election and political parties are in the background," Tozzi said. "There are more players involved today - special interest groups, political action committees, movements such as the tea party movement and Occupy Wall Street are becoming more and more backed by major players in the system."

Tozzi said that although these groups are becoming more popular, the two-party system will likely survive.

"Large segments of American society are supporting these movements and political parties are kind of weak right now and under attack. It's very interesting to see," he said. "I think they (the two parties) will be fine because they are just going to co-op these groups just like the Republican Party did the National Rifle Association and the Democratic Party did the Sierra Club and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups."

Bob Ferry, a retired biology professor, doesn't think too highly of the system.

"I think we're stuck with it," he said. "You don't get a choice. It's 'here's what we decided on and you have to choose from this.' I don't particularly like it," Ferry said.

Will a third party ever crack the system?

Tozzi doubts it.

"It's going to be difficult for a third party to come in. People migrate toward extremes," he said. "A reason a third party is more likely to fall by the wayside is there is no support for parties who can't win constantly."

Tozzi said as long as the current system of electing representatives is in place, the way the president is elected will also never change.

"I'd love to see a third party come up, but it's just not going to happen. The only way to make that happen is to get rid of the single-member, winner-take-all system and have an at-large, proportional representation system," he said.

As a political scientist, Tozzi tries to look at the topic without bias.

"I look at them as an outside, independent observer. They look like a laboratory to me," he said. "I'd rather see political parties focused on the middle ground, more toward compromise and working together. It's very much to our country's detriment. We have a lot of problems because of polarization."

For the pro-con introduction click here

For the pro side of this story click here

*A sentence in the con article on the two-party political system should have read: “The only way to make that happen is to get rid of the single-member, winner-take-all system and have an at-large, proportional representation system.”

[EDIT: A sentence in this article read: “They only way to make that happen is to get a win of the single-member district, winner-take-all system and had an at-large, proportional representation system." This was incorrect and has been corrected]

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