With the Two-Party System Reaffirmed, Onus on Democrats to Bridge Divide

(AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)(AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)

Throughout the 2016 election, political pundits claimed that the American people were growing disillusioned with the two-party system. These assertions came as a godsend for many American voters; 60 percent of Americans believe a third-party is necessary for adequate representation, according to Gallup.  

Yet, if there was one overarching truth to the 2016 presidential election, it was that all prophetic presumptions were trumped-up miscues.

The 2016 presidential election only reaffirmed the two-party system. In an election where the two-party system was seemingly on the chopping block due to a Republican nominee who defied politics, political institutions, and the decorum that we have come to attach to the two, Donald Trump’s misguided, lude comments ultimately did not cripple the two-party system. Republicans were not disheartened by the alt-right approach that Trump championed; in fact, 90 percent of Republicans still voted for the GOP nominee, regardless of his arguably anti-Republican policy prescriptions.

If the two-party system were in shambles, the Republican support for Trump would have been far more dampened than it turned out to be. After 2016, it seems like the two-party system is stronger than ever.

Nevertheless, Americans are still unsatisfied with the representation afforded by the two-party system. With political polarity growing, it is due time to reassess the stature of both parties entering a period of uncertainty.

As the new head of the Republican Party, Trump has embraced the hardline, rightist politics that granted him victory on election night. Accordingly, it would seem pragmatic for the Democratic party to become a more centrist party to entice Republican voters – even the 10 percent that did not vote for Trump – over the ideological divide. If we lived in an alternative universe where Hillary Clinton was the Election Night victor, the Republican Party would have had to look at itself in the mirror to re-evaluate the agenda that led to 12 years of a Democratic controlled White House. In fact, Republican moderate John Kasich, assuming a Clinton victory, had a speech scheduled in D.C., purportedly to set the future agenda for the Republican Party.  

Unfortunately, with the leftward trend of the Democratic Party, it seems unlikely that pragmatism will trump idealism. As Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and potential DNC chair, Congressman Keith Ellison, take the helm of the Democratic Party, leftist idealism cloaked in an elite, coastal-American façade will be the party’s likely post-election path. Democrats seem unwilling to soften stances on key issues that have proved to become divisive for Republican moderates. All indications point to a party only pushing further left, isolating middle-America even more so than it did this election cycle.

America’s leaders certainly must realize the adverse economic effects of prioritizing Wall Street shareholders over Main Street stakeholders. Yet, in doing so, they need not label themselves as socialists. Our leaders must recognize an imperfect history and the long-fought battle for racial and social equality. But they should not advocate for, nor support, lawless action. Our leaders must legislate with the intent to promote the interests of all Americans. Our leaders must promote an agenda that cares for the well-being and economic safety of our struggling communities. And they must appreciate the diversity of our communities and businesses and the fact that one size does not fit all.   

When rational people talk, there is always room for compromise. Republicans are at fault for allowing their party to shift eerily to the right, but a shift back to the political center will be difficult for Republicans with the new strongman in the White House. With the Democratic Party in the minority of all federal institutions, it is the onus of the Democratic Party and its leadership to bridge the political divide. As Clinton emphasized, “We need to build bridges, not walls.”

The stakes are too high for idealistic politics to muddle effective governance. Democrats must act as a check to the Republican bastion in Washington, but they will be ineffectual until they embrace an unabated resolve to act pragmatically. The time is nigh for Democrats to bring rational, inclusive, and democratic principles back to American institutions.

About the Author

Greg Wagner
Greg Wagner (FCRH '18) is studying political science and is interested in both domestic and international policy-making.