In 2016 American voters had to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the presidential election, and in 2020 the choice was between Trump and Joe Biden. In 2024 it is very possible that we could see a Trump-Biden rematch, and it is not out of the question that we could see another Clinton-Trump matchup. One can reasonably ask if this is the best that our two political parties can do.

What has developed over the years in the election process is the growing influence of political parties at the expense of political options because of an expanding control of the two main parties and their respective effete leaders. In business parlance this is known as a duopoly.

Unlike the autocratic rule found in communist or theocratic governments, which are controlled by a single entity, democracies or democratic republics such as the United States, are theoretically designed to prevent monopolistic control of government. But that control can still be heavily influenced, if not totally controlled by a select group with the establishment of a duopoly.

A duopoly is defined as “a situation in which two suppliers dominate the market for a commodity or service.” A perfect example in politics is the America two-party system where governance is shared almost exclusively between Republicans and Democrats.

Both parties have representation in national and state government with majority control shifting between the two parties. There is an implied understanding that when one party is in control, the other party will, in time, return to control. But control always rests only between these two parties.

America’s two-party system for most of the nation’s history has served the public reasonably well until now.

There have been prominent third parties in the past, and even today there are alternatives to the Republican/Democrat duopoly such as the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties. But these alternative parties, individually and collectively, are too small to field candidates capable of winning elections. The best their presence can do is either serve as a spoiler, drawing off support from one party, or at the very least, introduce a debate topic that forces the establishment candidates to address.

Recent polling data and registration numbers are showing a growing dissatisfaction with the two-party system. In a December 2020 Gallup poll, 31% of U.S. voters identified as Democrats, 25% identify as Republicans, 41% as independents. These numbers followed closely the results of a Pew Research survey that same year.

State and county party registration data are public in North Carolina and easily accessible back to 2004 on the North Carolina State Board of Elections website. At both the state and Carteret County levels, independents have seen a significant increase among voter registrants since 2004. In 2004, North Carolina voter registration broke down as follows: Democrat 47%, Republican 34%, and unaffiliated 18%. In October 2022, independent registrants outnumbered both Democrat and Republican party registrants, with 36% unaffiliated, compared to 34% Democrat and 30% Republican.

In 2004, Democrat and Republican voter registrants were nearly equal in Carteret County, with 40% Republican and 39% Democrat. Unaffiliated registrations trailed both parties significantly at 21%. By contrast, in October 2022, 46% of Carteret County voters were registered Republican, 18% were registered Democrat, and 36% were unaffiliated.

We know from consistent voting patterns in recent years that a large percentage of unaffiliated voters in Carteret County lean Republican, as shown by the very substantial Carteret County victory margins of Republican candidates in local, state and national elections. But it is nonetheless noteworthy that these right-leaning voters choose to register as unaffiliated rather than Republicans.

There are multiple possible explanations for why more voters are registering as independent or unaffiliated at the national, state and local levels. In North Carolina, unaffiliated voters are allowed to vote in either party primary, providing voters with a choice of which party primary they may wish to vote in.

In a county like Carteret, former Democrat voters may feel disenfranchised because the Democrat candidate, if there is one, has almost no likelihood of being elected. Instead, they may choose to become unaffiliated, thereby being able to cast a vote in the Republican primary, if there is one, knowing that vote may influence the primary outcome, and hence the general election winner. Another reason may be that the nation as a whole has become more conservative, which is why Democrat registrants have declined more than Republicans.

Neither of those views, however, is likely to explain the huge shift of voter registrations away from the two major parties and toward unaffiliated registrations. Voter registration data in North Carolina shows that both the Democrat and Republican parties have lost registered voters to independent/unaffiliated registrations, and many new voters are choosing to register unaffiliated.

Dr. Omar Ali, professor and dean of the UNC Greensboro Lloyd International Honors College and author of the new book The Independent Voter, offered a compelling reason for the growing unaffiliated registration in a recent article in UNCG’s Research and Engagement. “Independents have a broad range of ideological positions,” he notes, “but what many have in common is that they are alienated by partisan gridlock. They are concerned that Democratic and Republican party interests take precedence over compromises and practical solutions.”

In short, voters see partisanship and the two political parties as the problem and not the solution. Until the current system is seriously challenged by the voters, there is little chance for meaningful change that benefits the public rather than political parties.

(5) comments

dc

If ever there was a time and place to make inroads with an unaffiliated party it's probably now in CC. Because of their national agenda and state and local lockstep alignment the Ds leave no choice for unaffiliated registered voters to vote anything but R. Considering the percentages provided if another party could put together a reasonable conservative alternative to what we currently have it's unlikely the Ds could join in and undermine such an effort. There are probably enough Rs in the 46% that would join the 36% unaffiliated to be competitive. If the unaffiliated have the right agreed upon platform/agenda that along with so many other details might realize fruition. It would be a lot of hard work in many ways with plenty of obstacles. Could it work? Sure. Will it happen? Not likely but being wrong would be nice.

mpjeep

Biden is almost a vegetable, and he's done as soon as Jill takes him off his meds. Dems don’t want Biden in office in 2024. They also don’t like racist, man-hating Harris.

Biden will be gone in 2023, one way or the other. The left wants governor Newsom to run in 2024. They want someone as far left as they can get.

The two-party system is a shame. The power struggle, with almost zero compromises between these two parties, derails any chance of progress for American citizens.

We need at least three parties. Maybe one person from each state should run for president. That’s how Miss USA contests work, plus DC - 51 contestants.

There are at least 20 countries that have a multi-party system. It seems to work pretty well for most.

My point is that our country needs a fresh start, or things will never improve.

drewski

I agree almost entirely with this editorial, the idea that the pendulum 2 party system has served us well throughout our history... not so much. Whether it was whigs and Torries or dems and republicans

The 2 party system best serves the parties not the people. Other democracies have coalition govts of multiple parties, who group and regroup to form govts.

Perhaps that might be a better system

Sleepwalker

Yep. Both sides are going to do what’s best for the “party” and throw the citizens an occasional bone.

dc

It doesn't matter how many parties we have as long as the politicians in those parties run for office to serve themselves not the people who put them in office. The "people" who put them in office is another problem as well. If the people put them there needs some in depth investigation in many cases. More competition with more parties may help but term limits would probably di the most good. Less chance for the crooks to become bigger and embedded crooks.

Welcome to the discussion.

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