How the Two-Party System Promotes Elitism
The founders of the United States endeavored to create a pluralistic society which by definition emphasizes the acceptance of cultural, racial, religious, ethnic, and political differences. The development of pluralism in the US become interwoven with assimilation and segregation, but the original purpose aimed to create a unified political system able to accommodate many diverse groups and interests but could create collective agreements or majority consensus. The pluralism dreamed of in the early days of the United States evolved into an elite pluralism (elitism) in which only a small percentage of citizens control enough resources to affect change and advance their interests.
Elitism is (or perhaps always was) the fundamental political structure of the United States, evidenced by the fact that the average American cannot achieve political goals unless he or she has enough money to campaign and lobby for his or her interests. The purchasing of media time and the cost of running groups to garner support can only be achieved by individuals or groups which maintain the largest amount of wealth. This problem led to the formation of political parties, but rather than eliminating, the two-party system often promotes elitism.
Democrats and Republicans control the interest of the nation yet do not accurately represent the population because parties ostracize a large portion of the population in their efforts to unify interests. Independents comprise forty-two million voters yet these voters cannot vote in the primaries which choose the candidates for the Republican and Democratic Party. Independent parties also get less airtime and less funding for campaigns creating a decidedly biased outcome. As a result, many people identify themselves as Republican or Democrat even though they are not, just to vote in the primaries and during general voting, they vote independent (U.S. History, 2011).
Identifying oneself as Republican or Democrat gives the voter the advantage of helping to decide the party candidates, but skews the number of actual Democrats and Republicans. Because many people identify themselves as either party but really exist as independent, this situation creates an incredible swing vote. This swing vote often causes problems such as in the Bush vs. Gore election decision made by the Supreme Court in 2000 in which the votes were within mere percentages of each party winning. The problem which many people do not see with partisanship is that it often is not truly representative of the majority. If one party wins, this means more than two thirds of the population lost. In 2000 Bush won with 48.8 percent of the vote which is less than half of the population (Washington Post, 2001). When looked at from this angle, partisanship must be questioned for the sake of who is running the country? Certainly, it is not the majority of voters. In this instance, elitism is the driving force in politics in the United States.
As a result of this elitism, many people refrain from politics because personal interests are not represented. Many believe that no candidate will achieve any goals or campaign promises. Obama, as an example, was elected with one of his campaign promises being to end the war with Afghanistan and ended up expanding the battle before rushing to end it later. Healthcare passed and now Republicans threaten to overturn the law. How is this progress or representation of the interest of the American people as a whole? It is not.
But in a deeper more critical examination of elitism, American politics reveals its elitist tendencies. The actual party platforms are agreed upon by groups that most people, who identify themselves with parties, do not realize are a driving influence. For instance, it is disturbing that the Republican party seems to shield a large constituent base of fundamentalist Christians who would support prayer in schools and rejection of many tenets of religious freedom. However, the party platform does not say this but many of the interest groups that back the Republican party maintain these interests,
A large group of fundamentalist Christians, who regard the Bible as the direct and inerrant word of God, were particularly concerned about an increase in crime and sexual immorality. One of the most politically effective groups in the early 1980s, called the Moral Majority, was led by a Baptist minister, Jerry Falwell. Another, led by Pat Robertson, built an organization called the Christian Coalition which by the 1990s was a potent force in the Republican Party. Like many such groups, they wanted to return religion to a central place in American life. Television evangelists like Falwell and Robertson developed huge followings (U.S. History, 2011).
As it has been the case throughout history, the rich have ruled through class domination. The groups that control American politics are wealthy constituents who can afford to fund party politics (Domhoff, 2005). We again see this example in the Republican party which is smaller than the Democratic party but still manages to affect tremendous change in government policy (Domhoff, 2005). If asked, most Americans do not have a problem with gun control measures such as a background checks to purchase a gun, yet, the Republican party has worked hard to stop most gun control – even when desired by the constituents. As a result of the political system being biased in this manner, individuals must align themselves with parties that represent only a fraction of their interests. It is important to anyone who intends to participate in the politics of the U.S. to understand that even the party that they align themselves might have ulterior motives and hidden agendas stemming from constituents. Citizens should realize they are working for the interest of the elite and not always their own when affiliating with any party. Sadly, individuals today do not seem as concerned with critically analyzing party platforms and intentions as much as they seem to polarize their viewpoints simply to support the party, whether they agree with the platforms or not.
Domhoff, G.W. April 2005 The Class-Domination Theory of Power
Political Staff of the Washington Post (2001). Deadlock: The Inside Story of America’s Closest Election, Perseus Books pages 230–234
U.S. History. (2011). Conservatism and the rise of ronald reagan.
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Triola Vincent. Mon, Mar 01, 2021. Elitism in America Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/elitism-in-america