|1.||Why are there only two major parties in the United States?|
|2.||What is the role of parties in the American political process?|
|3.||Which groups in American society do the Democratic and Republican parties represent?|
|4.||What alternatives to the two-party system are there?|
Conservatives believe that a large number of parties can lead to chaos and confusion so the two-party system best represents the varied interests of the American people. A party's primary role is to bring together into a coherent whole the many needs of Americans. In this way a small number of demands can be posed to the decision-makers and then be met by the government.
Political parties are not democratically run, nor, in fact, should they be. Though they are, according to conservatives, autocratic in structure, they nevertheless uphold democratic principles. Parties are responsive institutions--they meet the needs of Americans. If they were not responsive they would not have lasted: the Republican Party has been in existence since the mid-nineteenth century; the Democratic Party traces its origins to Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans of the late eighteenth century.1 Any alternatives to America's two-party system might result in disorder, and even the end of the American political system as we know it.2
Liberals also believe in the two-party system. If parties are not responsive to the needs of the people, it is because the people have not pressed the parties to select the right candidates for office. Liberals hold that the "right" candidate is not a radical of the Right or Left. The "correct" person is one who represents the center position in American politics. This candidate wants change so that more people can benefit from the political process. At the same time this person accepts the premises upon which the political system is based: capitalism, representative government, democracy, the two-party system, and a President, strong but not all-powerful. A candidate with this vision of government helps the American party system to function smoothly and fulfill its ideals. Compromise with political opponents becomes easy since these leaders are rational. Liberals also feel that if more people voted than presently do, political parties could be strengthened since candidates would be forced to meet the peoples' demands. Increased citizen participation can put the right people in office, and can make our party system work well.3
Socialists believe that neither of the two major parties represents the will of the American people. They reject the liberal thesis that the Democratic Party represents labor, minorities, and the poor, and that the Republican Party represents business. Both parties represent a corporate/political/military elite. Essentially, socialists hold that the