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The Two-Party Political System

Updated on December 6, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.

Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., Connecticut Governor, 1991-1995. Weicker had left the Republican Party and was elected governor as a member of "A Connecticut Party."
Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., Connecticut Governor, 1991-1995. Weicker had left the Republican Party and was elected governor as a member of "A Connecticut Party."

Governor William A. O'Neill

Connecticut Governor William A. O'Neill
Connecticut Governor William A. O'Neill

The two-party system in America is not a one-party idea, contrary to popular belief.

The conventional wisdom is that Democrats favor the system because the Republicans, urged on by U.S. Sen. Lowell P. Weicker, have departed from it by embracing the independent voters (called nonaffiliated in Norwalk because a local party has adopted the Independent moniker) in its primaries; and because Gov. William A. O'Neill fought unsuccessfully in court to block independents from participating in Republican primaries.

While it is clear that Sen. Weicker would greatly benefit from giving independents a role in selecting Republican candidates here in Norwalk former GOP Chairman Enrico DiPasquale battled hard, and often, in behalf of the two-party system -- not necessarily the most popular thing to do in a four-party city.

Weicker attracts Independents

Sen. Weicker's maverick antics over the years have attracted many independents to his corner, as well as a goodly number of Democrats while simultaneously enraging many of his own Republican Party members. The recalcitrance of many in the GOP each time Sen. Weicker throws his hat in the ring appears to be what gave birth to the concept of independents voting in Republican primaries.

Sure, it makes sense for a political party that is badly outnumbered in registered voters -- whether it be in a ward, precinct, city, state or federal district -- to seek a coalition with others in an effort to gain power. But the practice is fraught with danger.

Coalitions Lead to Inaction

One does not have to go to France or Italy, or to myriad South American countries that have multiple factions, or parties, to find an example of how coalitions can lead to inaction and disaster.

In Norwalk, where Democrats, Conservatives, Republicans and Independents have been jockeying for power for years (with several other, smaller parties trying their hands at times), the two-party system has been dealt a damaging blow. It is the Democrats that have most often benefited from the division among the other three parties, enabling the election of their slates on several occasions.

However, in those times when the three other parties cross-endorsed candidates, creating a political coalition, the Democrats suffered -- but it was not all rejoicing for the coalition. By definition, coalitions bring together varied elements requiring compromise -- often fueling bitter battles with political opponents.

If we must compromise -- and we must -- why not do it within the two-party system?

I wrote this column as an "Editor's Notebook" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Aug. 17, 1987. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

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    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for commenting, barranca. I agree that it is essential to keep corporate financing out of our political system, but the activist right wing Supreme Court has made that far more difficult with its Citizens United decision. Somehow that decision must be reversed, either through a Constitutional amendment or by the appointment of new members to the court who do not vote their political views. Personally, I am opposed to campaign finance reform as it has been offered because I don't think we need to give money to candidates for the purpose of running personal attack TV ads. I think we should take "all money" out of the system so that candidates can issue position papers and make free TV appearances explaining their positions. What we need to reform in the campaigns is the radio, TV and telephone attack ads. Candidates can fully explain their positions on the issues on their Websites.

    • barranca profile image

      barranca 6 years ago

      Two party system begins to look like a one party system when all the politicians are bought by corporate money. I have no objection to a two party system but what we desperately need is campaign finance reform. We need to publicly finance campaigns, and keep corporate money out.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for visiting, basher sni. Try this site:

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      basheer sani 9 years ago

      i need to know how many countries practice one partyt, two party, and multi party system,in the world and their names