The results of the Wyoming primaries were announced a few days ago. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has again been struck down by Bernie Sanders. Sanders has defeated Clinton in eight of the last nine Democratic primaries. Although Donald Trump was defeated by Ted Cruz in Colorado, he is still far ahead with 746 delegates. Broadly speaking, with regard to the upcoming period, proponents of the two-party system are all asking themselves what is wrong with their own party and why the voters have all voted for candidates who do not represent their party’s traditional views.
Two Parties Have Split into Four
The greatest fear of the two parties is that if Trump is elected, he would be neither a Democrat nor a Republican, a concern that is not unreasonable. The anti-Trump powers within the Republican Party have already spent big money to blanket the landscape with negative attack ads against Trump. Alternatively, from the beginning, Sanders branded himself as a socialist, and his core policies resemble the Democratic parties of Europe’s welfare states.
The United States presidential elections usually only attract people’s attention after the two parties have chosen their candidates. But this time, infighting within the two parties has caused the opposite to be true. This might be the first time that the differences within the two respective parties are even greater than the difference between the two parties themselves. On a certain level, the two parties have already split into four opposing and completely irreconcilable “political parties.”
Trump has already expressed many times that if establishment Republicans try to replace him at the Republican National Convention in July, he can’t guarantee that his supporters won’t carry out violent protests, or refute that he won’t run for president as an independent candidate. As for the Democrats, after Sanders won the primary election in Wisconsin, well-known Democratic media commentator James Carville was interviewed, and was filled with righteous indignation. “It really doesn’t make any sense. Why would the Democrats nominate someone who’s not even a Democrat?” Carville said.
Why is it that the Republican and Democratic candidates with the most “extreme discourse” are the ones receiving the greatest voter support, slowly splitting the base of the two parties’ electorate? The author of this article believes that the specific reason is that the limits of the United States’ two-party system have prevented third-party candidates with alternative political views from running for president.
Under the current American two-party system, candidates representing a third, independent political party have almost no opportunity to win the presidential race. The rules of the election, the tendencies of political donations, the level of media attention, and the intrinsic divide among the base of current voters all firmly set the U.S. presidential election system into a framework between the Republican and Democratic parties.
New Voters and New Political Views Are a Near Certainty
Even if political views and party constitution are not the same, only when third-party candidates identify as Republican or Democrat to run in the election is there the possibility to attract more votes in the primary election. All kinds of voices are forced to borrow the platforms of the two parties to have their voice heard and take a position, so internally, the two parties have both produced candidates that are very different from traditional party views, candidates scoffing at establishment party members while asserting claims as an equal.
Even if there are third-party candidates who hold different political views and who use the two parties’ political platforms to obtain the most voter support, this cannot guarantee they can become the presidential candidate for either party because both parties still have a trick up their sleeves.
At the Democratic Party convention, if the political candidate with the most votes has not obtained 1,237 votes, establishment Democrats will be allowed to choose their own candidate.* The Democratic Party has a superdelegate system, which is a group of unpledged delegates who come from several categories of prominent Democratic Party members, including the current and former vice presidents, as well as Democratic governors, members of the Democratic National Committee, and Democratic members of Congress. Hillary Clinton has a firm grasp on 486 votes of the 717 total superdelegates, and Sanders only has 38. Even if Sanders wins all of the remaining states, the superdelegates could still overturn the democratically elected candidate, casting their votes for the establishment representative, Clinton. The superdelegate system was put in place to give establishment Democrats greater rights to defeat outside challengers.
Following the deepening wealth disparity in the U.S., the impact of the financial crisis, and the quagmire of the war against terror, the longstanding two-party system in the United States may already be unable to represent the political positions of the entire electorate. Given this current trend of political participation among new voters and fringe groups, new political views are a near certainty. The long-term stability of the two-party system is facing pressures and challenges to re-integrate. For example, many years ago, the Republican Party’s practices took the middle road, but now, voters who want “internally conservative, externally isolated” policy tending toward authoritarianism have for a long time been ignored and marginalized. This is, in part, the origin of angry, white, middle-class Americans. But Trump’s views reflect the longstanding oppression of this portion of the American people; his views reflect the fact that political views cannot win the support of voters that the establishment has been paying attention to.
In this election, Trump and Sanders have attracted many new voters. Taking the New York primary as an example, the two parties stipulated that voters must first register before they have the right to participate in the election. During the 10-day open election registration period in March, 41,000 voters submitted online voter applications and, of those, more than half had never participated in elections. But a large part of these new voters are Trump and Sanders supporters.
Looking at the current situation, the parties’ establishments have no way to back down. They will have a hard time balancing the differences between party insiders and party establishment with a portion of the voters. Regardless of whether or not Trump and Sanders receive their party’s nomination, this is a challenge to the U.S. two-party system. Trump and Sanders have both attracted the attention of many young people, which on a certain level is a prediction of the political direction of the United States in the next 20 or 30 years. Even if new political needs are not working in concert with each other, there will be additional political parties that can represent other interest groups and values and challenge the two-party system with a kind of “political revolution.”
*Editor’s note: This number of delegates applies to the Republican Party. In the Democratic Party, 2,383 delegates are needed for nomination.
The author is an employee of an international agency in the United States.