Why Doesn’t the U.S. Have a Multi-Party Political System? | Sean Wilentz

The two party system is inevitable in America. The framers designed a constitution that they
thought would be without political parties. They didn’t like political parties. They thought political parties were divisive. They thought political parties would ruin
the commonwealth as they saw it. They didn’t like them, and yet they designed
a system in which parties very quickly arose and we’re never going to go away. And the reason is simple that in a country
as large, as diverse with so many clashing interests as the United States it’s going
to become necessary to find a focus, to find a focus for your political actions. Parties have become that focus. They very quickly became that focus. Now, the question is why don’t we have a multiparty
system? Why aren’t we more like Italy say or even
France or a European parliamentary system? Well that’s the answer is that we’re not a
parliamentary system. Because we have a system that we do and because
it’s based on the idea of first past the post, in other words the person who gets the most
amount of votes will win the election, they’re not going to have proportional representation. If you get ten percent of the votes you’re
not going to get ten percent of the power you’re going to get nothing. On that account then the pressure is very,
very strong for there to be eventually a two party system. Third parties can come in and they can have
a tremendous amount of influence in shaping the major parties, but as a great historian
once said third parties are like bees, they sting and then they die. So they make their sting, but because a third-party
will always almost inevitably help the party they’re most unlike, as you saw with say the
Nader campaign in 2000 who got elected, they have their effect but then they very quickly
disappear. So I think the two parties, it’s not so much
that I have some metaphysical or ontological love for two parties as a thing, it’s rather
that’s the way the American constitutional system works. Now, if you change the constitutional system,
of course, that would change as well, but it’s embedded in the way that our government
was set up in 1787/’88 and it continues that way to this day.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Brazil has a multi party system and, in my opinion, it is messy. At the end of the day, every political decision is driven by simple principles. Liberal, republican, democrat, progressive, etc. Only two parties (US) is too few, 35 parties (Brazil) is too much.

  2. "We are always told, "Well, if you don't like how the system works, the answer is not to break the law, but to work to reform the system. Get involved; make your voice heard; donate your money and time; organize for effective political action; and marshal the votes to effect the changes of leadership and policy that you seek." To follow this advice is tantamount to conceding defeat at the very outset.

    The system is not constructed so as to permit substantial reform from within. All the commanding heights and strategic nodes are controlled by those whose fame and fortune depend on its continued operation and its acceptance by the masses who pay taxes and obey its dictates. Only two possibilities exist for its substantial change for the better: one is its collapse of its own weight, followed by its reconstruction from the ground up on a completely different foundation; the other is its abandonment by large numbers of people who simply refuse to recognize its legitimacy or accept its authority any longer and walk away from it en masse, leaving it devoid of patsies to pay its bills and kowtow to its kingpins." – Robert Higgs

  3. We don't need political parties. Sortition gets rid of parties all together but restores representative government. Just make representation like jury duty. You're selected at random for a paid one year training period, a single four year term and then you're thanked and sent off, never to be heard from again.

  4. You might be able to ban parties, but you can't ban people from assembling together who have similar ideologies and interests.

  5. That's what happens when you have over 200 million dumb people in one country. Since most of America is religious and believes the earth was made by a floating man in the sky.

  6. As usual big thinks titles push this false narrative. why didn't he bring up the wig party, or the Bull moose party? Rep and Dem are both Businesses, they have nothing to do with the constitution or the founding of America. we have a 2 party system because people don't care enough to educate themselves. the majority of people just follow along. "Its always been this way" is the common retort when I challenge people on why do we allow these parties to bullshit us like this……
    Ultimately this is human nature, its us Vs. them mentality. and it makes people feel better when they don't have to think about important issues like who to elect. oh I'll just vote for the person on "my" team. vote done.

  7. I hope that in the next 2 generations, 2 constitutional amendments are made. First, to get money out of politics for good, and two, get rid of First Past the Post in favor of something like ranked choice.

  8. First of all, most bees don't die after a sting.  That's just a common misconception.  Second, a third party or independent hasn't impacted the outcome of an election since Ross Perot ran in 1992.  Ralph Nader did not affect the 2000 election, nor did Pat Buchanan, for that matter.  Al Gore (barely) won the popular vote.  The reason for Bush's victory was the electoral college (who by the way, gave Nader exactly zero votes).

    It's thinking like this that keeps people from voting third party or independent.

  9. In a TRUE DEMOCRACY a multiparty system is allowed. America politics is RIGGED. ITS A FAKE DEMOCRACY. But we will behave as if its true democracy .

  10. oh and I'd like to point out the third parties have succeeded in this country to such an extent that one of them is part of the so called two party system now ain't no body voting for the wiggs anymore now are they.

  11. Well I'd like to see which party Gary Johnson ends up hurting the most, then. I feel like it might not be the Republican party.

  12. Western culture is going to continue to grow and evolve in ways no one person can predict with a 100% certainty . Evolution is a happening process. As we become more advanced science becomes more of a part of our lives. This man speak in the context of the past which is a lost language which we only can relate to but not describe as even close to a 100% certain. Virtual reality and augmentation, and AI are here how do we assume anything from the past isn't some simulation that was never really real?

  13. I think third and forth parties could work here by forcing congressional coalitions. It isn't just about the Presidency.

  14. Well we need to push for a constitutional amendment which would be difficult to pull off if we wanted to stop the bullshit, perhaps we can make congress more like a parliament. what if we instituted an American version of Britains Prime Minister's question. That I think would help with oversight and accountability. If you don't know what PMQ is, you should search it up on YouTube.

  15. This is the most contradictory line of BS I've heard in a while. First he says our founders didn't like party politics and wanted to discourage it, then he says we have 2 party system because of the constitution.

    I think we have a 2 party system because the constitution didn't go far enough to stop the party politics our founders wanted to discourage. The constitution is not the cause of our two party political system. Our 2 party political system happened because we didn't adhere to the principals of our constitution.

  16. We need to move to a ranked voting system so that people are no longer forced to vote for the lesser of two evils:

  17. wrong old man. You know better than that. the reason why we have two political parties is not because of the constitution but people themselves in general. For example, in 1776-1778 you had 2 groups. One for bigger government, one for smaller government. Political parties have since then run on these two ideals either bigger government or smaller government. Everything else is really a byproduct. Do you want the political party system to change? Stop leveling things to big and small government. It's not that simple. Do you want more than two parties? Vote for those other parties. Dedicate your time to those other parties. Otherwise they are dead in the water. it takes changing the way Americans think to change this political system.

  18. What? So, the explanation is that "that's the way it has always been", "that's how the US constitution is set up"?
    "The one with most votes gets all the power" is the only thing that makes sense in this video. It would have been useful to elaborate on that because for me, this doesn't translate to 2 party system automatically.

  19. First get rid of the electoral college. I don't get the idea of having to "win" a state. Just sum up ALL votes to find out who was the national winner.

  20. "not as if i have some metaphysical or ontological love for two parties as a thing"

    well way to go way out on a limb and dismiss exactly what some of us are sitting here thinking, which is "when is this guy going to make an actual argument and not just spout his ideologically dogmatic love for two parties"


  21. Umm the bee analogy only works if the party that is stung corrects their behavior so they don't need to be stung again. You don't see that happening. The Green and Libertarian parties haven't died. You really said nothing in this video. We are SO diverse that it is inevitable to only have 2 options? Put down the crack pipe. All you need is a ballot designed to rank the choices. It's not hard to do, and has nothing to do with a "parliament"….. Does Big think really let just anyone talk? This video was a waste of time.

  22. wow, what a CROC.

    so, the 2 party system is this way because is was designed BY the parties, the constitution says nothing about how you cant be invited to the political debates unless you score 15% of the popular vote. those ar all laws that have been put in place by legislators who work for the primary parties. they ahve rigged it so you only get a choice of 2 people, to help cover the fact that your vote is worthless both in practice and in constitutional value

  23. People cry as if they are starving! You are on the internet, WITH FREEDOM. And yet you still believe Hillary Clinton is crazy or, your too hyped up on Benghazi files that you didnt even care to read what you speak of?! Now we have a bunch a youtube Utopian Libertarians jacked up on rebelion, thanks to that 'Gilette' the Penn ego-tastic video on no taxation. GET REAL!!!!

  24. America was created and has evolved so that the real government is big business and not politicians. In effect this requires small ineffective governments where the two sham party's fight each other out in joke elections to decide which one's turn it is this season. Consequently as someone once said America always gets the best government that money can buy.

  25. Nothing will change until there is term limits on representatives and senators. it would be a step in the right direction if anything. having 4 year terms on presidency is what set up apart from other countries.

  26. It's funny how this particular election cycle has served as a massive highlight of how few of my friends have even the most basic understanding of how the US government functions and how even fewer are willing to listen for long enough to get an adequate understanding of how things function, instead preferring to yammer on about their assumptions changing the world, despite being so removed from reality that they may as well be in a parallel universe.

  27. This guy forgets to mention that the two parties haven't always been these Democrats and these Republicans and there were several elections with 3 or more parties with chances of winning.

  28. It's possible to have a two-candidate general election without a two-party system. In fact the Founders did just that. It looks very much like sports playoffs. Beginning with, for instance, county level elections. Those beget winners, who go on to state level elections, whose winners then go to regional elections, and so on. By the time the general election arrives, it will be narrowed down to two. The loser of that election becomes Vice President. Unfortunately, regardless of what system we use, until the electorate is better educated and more involved, the results will continue to be whichever two can raise the most money…regardless of qualification.

  29. Bullshit, most of the countries have first past the post, that does not mean they have just 2 parties. It is a historical mistake and people need more options to choose from. People should start voting for other parties and not just these two rotten and corrupt parties.

  30. As a brazilian Citizen i must confess that multy party political system does not work too. At list here. We have a lot of horrible candidates with very differents perspectives and proposals but at the end you must give the chantages to have a majority to govern(Dilma is suffering now for having neglected this) . Its better and simple only two views

  31. This guy is beyond wrong. The founding fathers had the Whig party, the Republican party AND the Federalist party…it actually wasnt until right before the Civil War that the Whigs and the Democratic party (was the Republican party) joined together leaving us with a 2 party system. The newly formed Republican party (grand old party) and the Democrats.

  32. There is no law limiting the number of parties. There is no reason why there can't be more than two parties. Several presidents were elected by other parties. There are several different socialists parties right now. That is why the two major parties have "wings".

  33. This. This is the problem. Although the I think the fix is ditching the first past the post balloting system. A proportional balling system is needed.

  34. obviously youve never lived in a multiparty country..it takes months to get someone elected or anything done…some countries have 100 parties..try getting a majority in that

  35. No you have to change to Ranked choice voting state by state. The constitution left the election systems up to the states, and the states picked first past the post. You don't have to change the US constitution, do it state by state. Where did this guy get his constitutional understanding.

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  37. The current voting system is mathematically predisposed to a two-party system, and the only way for anyone to be represented if they are not within the established parties is to find representation through some other mechanism. The idea that first and second count, but everyone else can go suck a lemon is just too far from the true representation to be considered a permanent solution. The mathematical power of computers will eventually erode the current system and evolve into something more representative.

  38. That's why we should move to an approval voting system. You can vote for as many candidates as you want. That way you don't have to worry about splitting the vote.

  39. The multi-party is a joke now: when a party wins, if they don't have the majority, every other party comes together and overthrows them.
    We saw it happening in Portugal, and we see it happening in Spain… Both European countries.

  40. Third-parties don't gain footholds because in most elections where there are more than two parties (you can look this up) the ideologically similar parties split the vote and an ideological opposite is elected. With first past the post if 5 candidates run the guy with 20% +1 wins, so this invetiably leads to a two party system where we have two parties with multiple factions in each.

    Ross Perot got 20% of the vote as a third party candidate but because his support was very evenly spread throughout the country he didn't get a single electoral vote. In U.S. presidential elections where a third-party candidate does better than 5% usually the winner wins with a minority of votes. Unless a third party candidate has a strong showing regionally or manages to have the most votes in enough states with 270 votes we will not have a President that isn't a Democrat or Republican.

    Also ranked choice voiting is awful. Single-seat offices are one thing but having it for Congress would strengthen the two-party system. Because with more htan two parties no candidate would win a majority, a far-left candidate's supportesr would likely choose a Democrat as their second choice, and a Libertarian/far-right candidate's supportesr would choose a Republican as their second choice. Ranked choice voting leads to centrism and should only be used for single-seat offices (Governor, Mayor, President, etc.)

  41. no you do not need a proportional system to have more than 1 party, look up AV i would recommend cgp grey's politics in the animal kingdom series or basically election systems for dummies, real dummies. if we go wity a proportional system at least do an av mmp mix

  42. I'm Libertarian and I think if a third party gets enough votes they could change the 2 party system. They need 5% in every state to become a major party and the Libertarian Party is the only third party that came close to that, and I think the Libertarian Party will do it if we get out there in a grassroots way like the republicans do.

  43. First of all, we don't have to abolish the constitution – and yeah right, Like im giving up my individual rights to the government 😛 In fact America is based on a single party system where everyone voted for who would win over the party – hence why we have 'Primary elections'. We are well within the means however to abolish Republican and Democrat and 3rd parties, just letting people run as themselves and present their ideas to the people without a label or banner…. How about that instead?

  44. If you don't have two dominant political parties. A party can win with just 25% of the vote while the rest is just a bunch of 5% or 10%s

  45. The two party system is an outdated way of control, check out my take on this issue on my channel if any of you are interested

  46. If people would educate themselves on EVERYONE running an stop letting the tv tell them eho to vote for we would have a 3rd party elected.

  47. Hey, if the cost of changing the constitution to abolish the Electoral College is anything like the cost of changing the party system, then it might be nearly logistically impossible to do this.

  48. There is nothing in the Constitution prohibiting representational representation. First Past the Post is NOT required. This guy explains nothing.

  49. Since 1788… How about a change then? It's quite a while ago. The current world is nothing like it was with information everywhere and insanely fast transport since that time.

  50. The Constitution has nothing to do with the reason why we only have two political parties. First past the post isn't in the Constitution. There is nothing in the Constitution mandating a two party system. This video is just plain stupid.

  51. No are system is based off the shitty electoral collage system where even if a party gets the majority of the votes(popular vote) they can still lose

  52. Probably because we’re not interested in an election outcome like Canada’s, where a piece of crap like Trudeau won with less than 40% of the vote. No thanks.

  53. So what you’re saying is: “It is, and must be…. because it has always been,” is your best excuse?! This guy gave such a shit response.
    Read the great ‘Federalist papers’ of Hamilton and you’ll see around #10 that he goes into the dangers and inevitable incursions from “Factions,” (parties) into political spheres.
    NOT ONLY did Alexander H. Correctly predict that these parties will NATURALLY BOIL DOWN TO 2 in order to CONSOLIDATE POWER, but he also laid out why they are poisonous.
    It won’t be foreign powers or revolutionary ideas that destroy this system of government, it will be the corrupt and lazy who forfeit it to tyranny.

  54. So you can still choose to vote for more than just two parties in the elections? Sorry, I have no idea about because I have not voted before, but soon I will. So if you can explain it to me in the comments, then thanks!

  55. You are getting fractured mandate in multi party system which causes hindrance in smooth functioning of goverment

  56. We do have a multiparty system, that doesn't work, and devolves to 2 parties every election. The way to overcome this is to drop the Democratic and Republican pigeon-hole yokes and make it issues based. Every candidate will run on his top 5 issues and the elections will take the form of an ongoing, year long tournament. Designations will be meaningless, and moreover, illegal. Only the issues will matter. Winners move to the next round, with their next opponent random but for having made it to the given round. Questions?

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