The Tyranny of the Two-Party System by Lisa Disch

The Tyranny of the Two-Party System

byLisa Disch

Kobo ebook | May 7, 2002

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The closely contested presidential election of 2000, which many analysts felt was decided by voters for the Green Party, cast a spotlight on a structural contradiction of American politics. Critics charged that Green Party voters inadvertently contributed to the election of a conservative Republican president because they chose to "vote their conscience" rather than "choose between two evils." But why this choice of two? Is the two-party system of Democrats and Republicans an immutable and indispensable aspect of our democracy? Lisa Disch maintains that it is not. There is no constitutional warrant for two parties, and winner-take-all elections need not set third parties up to fail. She argues that the two-party system as we know it dates only to the twentieth century and that it thwarts democracy by wasting the votes and silencing the voices of dissenters.

The Tyranny of the Two-Party System reexamines a once popular nineteenth-century strategy called fusion, in which a dominant-party candidate ran on the ballots of both the established party and a third party. In the nineteenth century fusion made possible something that many citizens wish were possible today: to register a protest vote that counts and that will not throw the election to the establishment candidate they least prefer. The book concludes by analyzing the 2000 presidential election as an object lesson in the tyranny of the two-party system and with suggestions for voting experiments to stimulate participation and make American democracy responsive to a broader range of citizens.

Lisa Jane Disch is associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota and author of Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Philosophy. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.
Title:The Tyranny of the Two-Party SystemFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:May 7, 2002Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231504675

ISBN - 13:9780231504676


Table of Contents

Introduction: The Tyranny of the Two-Party System
The Politics of Electoral Fusion 1994-1997
The Politics of the Two-Party System
The Two-Party System: A Genealogy of a Catchphrase
The Teleological Temporality of the Two-Party System
Oppositional Democracy and the Promise of Electoral Fusion
Beyond the Tyranny of the Two-Party System

Editorial Reviews

Disch's book is strong and unique as it strays from many of the traps that plague third-party literature. Her book does not focus solely on a single party in an attempt to generalize from a unique example, nor does it fall prey to the "easy answer" syndrome: telling the reader why a third party erupted and why it could no longer retain its electoral viability. Disch presents a refreshingly unconventional take on American party history that is unique within this genre of party literature. It has long been conventional wisdom in American political discourse that the United States is a 'two-party system'and is constrained by the 'logic'of this system. In this book Lisa Disch does a wonderful job of showing that the two-party system is a contingent historical outcome and that the idea of the system is questionable, designed to give this outcome more solidity and staying power than it deserves. This is a fine book that should interest political theorists, political scientists, and ordinary citizens concerned about the future of American democracy.