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Are you a Republican, Democrat, or an American?

by Michael Hoang, published

American citizens are entitled to the freedom of association: to affiliate with any group of like-minded people to promote and advocate toward a collective goal. During the 1790s, America witnessed the birth of its first political party system, comprised of the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party.

The initial purpose of the party system was to create a system that encouraged the unification of like-minded think tanks for an efficient execution of the legislative process. In this partisan system, each party represents different ideals and concentrates financial as well as human capital to build a solid infrastructure for the implementation of party-backed policies.

More than 200 years have passed and America’s political party system has evolved into its 6th version, dominated by just two parties: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. While many still believe that the dynamics between two parties keeps the nation running, many question if the party system is still relevant -- if not destructive -- to the current political ambiance.



Among many disadvantages proposed by anti-party system think tanks, the notion of “confirmation bias” is provoking. This bias,  scientifically called “cognitive dissonance,” indicates a psychographic phenomenon of a group member’s inherent habit of irrationally agreeing with facts his or her organization suggests. This bias details a central problem of today’s politics.

A political party that once was meant to represent the collective needs is now enforcing its own principals on each of its member. As a result, dedicated legislators or politicians are torn between pleasing their constituents or their parties (most of the time, the latter offsets the former). This hesitation is inherently wrong and unconstitutional. It is the individual’s freedom to organize into political parties; yet, it is ironical that such freedom inhibits legislatures’ and politicians’ freedom.

Campaign funding is another controversial topic on the debate about the political party system. Every time there is an election, multiple unions, as well as big businesses, donate millions of dollars to political parties in exchange for favoring promises. For instance, in 2008, "Big Labor" spent nearly $450 million advancing the Democratic Party and its candidates.

How have we become so numb to these large donations, these big chunks of money being wasted on urging people to vote for political parties?

If the changes that candidates promote are so important to the lives of the American people, why don’t more people vote to support changes that claim to directly better their life? Is it because the issues are clouded by political labels and empty promises?

A nonpartisan structure will allow unaffiliated candidates to truly take a stand on issues, rather than adopt a party platform. This creates relatable incentives for voters to take action. It will also decrease the amount of money spent on electoral campaigns due to restrictions on campaign donations to individual. In addition, such restrictions will also prevents “Big Labor” from influencing political agendas.

A popular justification for the political party system is its effectiveness in increasing voter turnout. Admittedly, it does... to some extent. While political parties spend a substantial amount of money mobilizing voters to turnout for general elections, voter turnout in primary elections remains low. This is in part because the partisan structure excludes those who choose not to affiliate.

In addition, this justification also entails two fundamental problems:

  1. The first problem is the absurd generalization that America’s diverse demographic fits neatly into two “representative” schools of thought.
  2. The second problem is that this “spoon feeding” system of encouraging voters only accommodates the quantitative side of matter, not qualitative.

Wouldn’t it be better if we have 5 voters who really care and understand the issue rather than 10 voters who only vote because they were advertised to?

Is a nonpartisan system the way forward? I don’t know. Nevertheless, this discussion is worth pursuing because the tension between both wings doesn’t show signs of decline while the problems of our nation incline exponentially. Debates and competitive structure are famous for their motivational mechanism of generating solutions. However, when the tension between competitors mutates into a destructive battle in which participants bluntly strive for victory at the cost of non-participants, the system is broken.

I would like to leave this discussion to IVN readers with this thought: Once every 4 years, the media covers every single detail of the presidential election -- 24/7. The question that is constantly asked is “ Will the Republican Party or the Democratic Party claim victory?” I can’t help but wonder why the question isn’t: “Will America claim victory this time around?”

Photo Credit: Peeradach Rattanakoses & Alexander Mak /

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