Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Two-Party System: Tyranny of Two Majorities?

I was in a class discussion section earlier today for my History of American Political thought class, and my TA proposed to us a question: "Madison, in the Federalist Papers, warned against the dangers of faction, and argued that if a wide array of viewpoints and interests was not represented in the Congress, a 'tyranny of the majority' would be formed and force their agenda on the populace. Considering the current look of our U.S. Congress, how well have we followed his advice? To what degree are the populace's views accurately represented?"

I raised my hand and replied: "I believe the current system could be called a tyranny of two alternating majorities, where only two specific sets of political ideals get a fair shake and a real say in the legislative process. There are a huge amount of political parties in this country that you never hear about, or maybe you've never even heard of. The fact that the Democrats and Republicans are the only two political parties most people are aware of is proof that we have not followed Madison's advice."

A girl replied to this by saying that I was incorrect, that the Republicans and Democrats offer two very different viewpoints, and within the party there are many different individuals with diffuse interests who accurately represent the people of the nation.

She gave examples of areas where Democrat (she referred to Dems as 'We' and Repubs as 'they') and Republican policies supposedly differ: "Afghanistan, taxes, size of government, Iraq, health care, and education, to name a few" she said.

I challenged her on that. I asked "Just how does the current administration's Afghanistan policy differ from the previous administration? You know Obama has INCREASED the war budget, right? You realize government GREW drastically during the Bush administration? These two parties operate in a very narrow framework and are much more alike than you think."

Then the bell rang, and class was dismissed. I'm glad I was able to get some kids in class to think about the goals of the framers vs. the system we know today. This is why groups like YAL are important. We have to continue to increase our influence on the political system, despite the choke hold of the two dominant factions, and insert viewpoints into the national political dialogue that people aren't used to hearing. That's how to avoid the tyranny of the majority, and make America more free.


  1. Nice. Way to speak up and tell truth.

  2. To play the devils advocate - you seem to be suggesting that directly affecting the political system and political entities is the best way to change political outcomes. But with a democracy, the underlying tyrant is the majority - the only reason that the two parties have the chokehold they do is because most people want to be choked. It seems like the reason that both of the political parties are so similar is because they're appealing to millions of people at once who, when aggregated that much, have strikingly similar preferences. YAL is still in line with this world view, though, since we focus so much on striking at the root.

  3. Fantastic work man. We need to rip apart the preconceived notions of right and left.