David Jolly and Michael Willner
The events of the past few weeks within the Republican Party have left many Americans questioning the health and well-being of the nation’s two-party democracy. Republicans in Congress ousted one of their own leaders simply for saying what they all actually knew was correct — that the November 2020 election was free and fair — and for openly condemning the former President for his complicity in the events of January 6. The Party then went even further by derailing a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6, by opposing funding to increase the security of the Capitol complex and by continuing to elevate and celebrate Members of Congress who espouse illiberal, anti-democratic untruths.
Unlike most other leading democracies, the United States has been limited to only two viable political parties throughout most of its history. With one of today’s two parties now moving away from basic democratic principles, the nation is at a critical crossroad.
This moment will not be easily navigated. Despite calls for an alternative political coalition to emerge, the two major parties have knowingly worked to suppress new entries into the political arena. They have built an ironclad duopoly by implementing rules that make it all but impossible for a nascent party to emerge as a viable national player. There are countless statutory methods the parties employ to protect their turf, state-by-state, all with different ways of accomplishing their exclusionary goals. It’s a two-party winner-take-all contest that Democratic and Republican leaders for generations have systematically protected.
Today we are paying the price for their closed-door politics. Though millions of restless voters want something new, the architecture of today’s political and electoral system is specifically designed to prevent it.
One group of former Republicans recently came together in common cause to attempt to win back the GOP, hoping to return it to the ideals of traditional conservatism. Their effort may be commendable and well-intentioned but today’s GOP leaders and voters remain overwhelmingly committed to the principles of Trumpism. There is simply no viable conservative coalition left within today’s GOP to reclaim.
The group’s Plan B would be to start a new party if they can’t retake their former one — to become the loyal opposition to the Democrats and to coalesce Americans around a renewed center-right platform. But a new party based on prescriptive ideology, whether left, right or center, simply won’t work. The numbers just aren’t there. Furthermore, even with a modicum of success, it will ultimately yield the same result as the two major parties, a coalition built around dogma and partisanship.
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