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Do We Need A Third Party, Or No Parties At All?

by Jane Susskind, published

Amidst the government shutdown and intense partisanship surrounding it, 60% of Americans believe that it's time for a third major party.

The question presented by Gallup in a October 11, 2013 poll was:

"In your opinion, do the Republicans and Democratic parties do an adequate job of representing the American people, or do they do such a poor job that a third major party is needed?"

Since Gallup started asking the question 10 years ago, this is the most support the idea of a third major party has received:


As Gallup notes, however, despite support, "structural factors in the U.S. election system and the parties' own abilities to adapt to changing public preferences have helped the Republican and Democratic parties to remain the dominant parties in U.S. government for more than 150 years."

These factors range from the partisan primary structure used in 48 states, to gerrymandered districts that shut out moderates, to campaign finance laws that fuel party contributions.

Dissatisfaction with the two major parties is spreading, with over 40% of Americans feeling under-represented by Republicans and Democrats.

George Washington foresaw the potential for corruption inherent in political parties:

"...they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” - George Washington


So is the solution a third party, or no parties at all?

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