Duo versus Trio: Debating the Two- and Three-Party Systems

By Erin Klitzke 

          In A Republic of Parties, Theodore Lowi and Joseph Romance debate the two party system versus a three party system and which would be better for American society.  Lowi supports a three party system, while Romance is a proponent of the two party system.  Both men offer arguments in support of their position, but I find Lowi’s arguments more compelling than Romance’s.

          Lowi argues that a three party system would make parties more responsible, return politics to its roots – its grassroots – and create an issue-driven election process.  It would cause parties to be more programmatic and focus on the issues more.  Politics would once again become personal – there would be increased political participation by the common man under a three party system, Lowi believes.  Also, politics would not be as deeply affected by large contributions from corporations.

          Romance argues that a three party system would cause more turmoil than could be handled by anyone.  He believes that a two party system keeps the fighting within a “conflict-ridden” system of government to a manageable level.  He thinks that more parties would cause more gridlock such as the one that caused government shutdown in 1995.  He blames partisanship for “gridlock, corruption, and the inability to think anew about politics” (Lowi & Romance, 33).  In essence, he believes that more parties would only heighten the problems people have with the current system.

          Personally and based on my experiences and research done in the past, I believe that a system with three parties is applicable and a better system than our current two-party system.  I do believe that it would cause parties to start arguing about the issues that people want addressed and would decrease corruption in the government, especially if governing was brought back to the local level and rose from there, which Lowi points out – a three party system would have to start from the bottom up and would lead to massive changes in the structure of American politics.  I believe that a change in the structure of politics is necessary.  Corruption has become rampant and people feel powerless in the political process.  Under a system with a third party, I believe that more people would feel empowered and that contributions through PACs and major corporations would decrease dramatically.  People would be in politics for the issues and to make things happen rather than the prestige and money involved.  I believe that government would become more responsible to its constituents because, as Lowi argues, in order to get the plurality needed, a politician would have to appeal to 80% of people.  If a politician doesn’t make the plurality of his constituents happy, he will very quickly lose his job to another person, who will take on the issues that the constituency wants tackled.  Programmatic government is something we need as well, because that way, parties will stop seeming alike – there can be clear differences between parties.

          To sum things up, I think Lowi makes a more compelling argument – to my eyes, anyway – and I believe that a three party system could work if executed properly.