Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System: A Report

Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System: A Report

Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System: A Report

Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System: A Report

Excerpt

This is the proper place to answer four questions: What is the purpose of this publication? What is its thesis? How were its conclusions arrived at? And on whose authority are they offered?

The purpose of this publication is to bring about fuller public appreciation of a basic weakness in the American two-party system. In other words, this is not a research document aimed at professional readers only. It seeks the attention of every one interested in politics. It is therefore written without regard for the customary form in which scholars present their scientific findings. It does not line up and evaluate every pertinent fact. It sums up the main facts.

At the same time, this publication is a summation of professional knowledge. Its authors are students of politics. Each has previously examined in separate studies various aspects of the broad subject here discussed. Although this is a summation of knowledge, it rests on the results of scientific analysis that have come from the research activity of a great number of specialists.

Of course, if the American two-party system suffers from a basic weakness, the most important thing is effective remedy. Remedy requires not only understanding of the ailment but also willingness to try a likely cure. Both understanding and willingness, in turn, must be fairly widespread. It is not enough for a few people to know about ailment and cure. Before action has a chance, knowledge must first become sufficiently common. The character of this publication is explained by the conviction of its authors that the weakness of the American two- party system can be overcome as soon as a substantial part of the electorate wants it overcome. Hence it is essential to reach the ears of many citizens.

And the thesis? It can be put quite briefly. Historical and other factors have caused the American two-party system to operate as two loose associations of state and local organizations, with very little national machinery and very little national cohesion. As a result, either major party, when in power, is ill-equipped to organize its members in the legislative and the executive branches into a government held together and guided by the party program. Party responsibility at the polls thus tends to vanish. This is a very serious matter, for it affects the very heartbeat of American democracy. It also poses grave problems of domestic and foreign policy in an era when it is no longer safe for the nation to deal piecemeal with issues that can be disposed of only on the basis of coherent programs.

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