The United States is considered a two-party system where almost every elected office is occupied by either democratic or republican party members. These two parties have dominated American politics for most of US history. The two-party system is a uniquely democratic political structure existing in most democratic nations. The two-party system in the US has many benefits and drawbacks to its structure.
The two-party system in the United States has developed in the manner that it has due to voting structure and election outcomes (Sachs, 2011). The voting structure in American politics favors large numbers of constituents, i.e., large numbers of voters in favor of one representative. In a multiparty system the voting power is spread across many different candidates thus reducing the likelihood of any one candidate achieving victory. Because the voting structure of the American political system is based on one person achieving victory, this structure breeds a two party system because voters have a better chance of achieving their goals by being united under one candidate which best represents their interests (Sachs, 2011). The two-party system is best understood when viewed through lens of voter interests. If one studies an issue such as immigration policy the strength of the two-party system becomes clear.
Immigration Policy and Party Positions
Immigration is a controversial topic which divides many Americans. Even within political parties the issue of immigration is controversial and divides members. For example, Republicans tend to favor immigration policies that are firm. The party platform has been to make immigration more difficult and to increase enforcement of policies pertaining to illegal immigration. According to the Republican Party platform of 2000, Republicans desire to:
Overhaul the immigration system: Devote resources to border control. Give priority to spouses and children. Emphasize needed skills in determining eligibility for admission. Overhaul Labor Certification Program to match qualified workers with urgent work.
Reform the Immigration and Naturalization Service by splitting its functions into two agencies, one focusing on enforcement and one exclusively devoted to service (Republican Platform, 2004).
In contrast to this position, the Democratic Party seeks create immigration policies which are more lenient.
Responsibility from the federal government to secure our borders: The Obama administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to securing our borders and reducing the flow of illegal traffic in both directions.
Responsibility from unscrupulous businesses that break the law: Employers who exploit undocumented workers undermine American workers, and they have to be held accountable.
Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally: Undocumented workers who are in good standing must admit that they broke the law, pay taxes and a penalty, learn English, and get right with the law before they can get in line to earn their citizenship (Democratic Platform, 2012).
While both parties’ positions seem to favor forms of enforcement, the angle by which the parties approach immigration policy is what is revealing. Republicans favor policies that restrict immigration to individuals who have valuable skills or family in the US. The Democratic Party seeks to create policies which allow illegal immigrants to become citizens under specific guidelines such as paying a tax penalty.
As a result of this schism in opinion concerning immigration voters may or may not vote in-line with one of the parties depending upon their opinion on the issue of immigration. Typically, the party which most closely shares the interest of the voter will gain that individual’s vote. The satisfaction of interests with voters is problematic because of other interests which drive the decision making. For example, this decision making become increasingly more complex and muddled due to special interest groups and corporate involvement. Large corporations and special interest groups control large numbers of voters who have banned together in order to push specific interests.
For example, ImmigrationWorks USA is a special interest group that lobbies for the overhaul of immigration laws (ImmigrationWorks USA, 2013). This organization represents a large number of businesses and groups which immigration policy impacts. This group can increase party strength by voting for a particular party candidate who best represents their interests (ImmigrationWorks USA, 2013).
There is a cause and effect relationship that exists between parties and special interest groups. While the groups tend to favor parties which represent their interests, parties often bend to will of these groups in order to maintain voter strength. One can see this relationship in the way that immigration is considered by the two parties. Republicans are very pro-business and this is why their immigration stance is firm but does not penalize businesses. In contrast, Democrats favor penalties for employers and this is because most businesses are owned or controlled by Republicans.
As a result of the two-party system, issues such as immigration are often decided by a compromise of interests. The voter and special interest groups are forced in many cases to vote not for the candidate that fully represents their interest but rather the candidate that ‘best’ represents their position. For this reason, immigration continues to be a controversial topic and often the policies that are passed are bipartisan in nature. Currently, immigration policies take into account some of the interests of each party but not the full position of either group. The effectiveness of bipartisan policymaking is arguable but it is functional and can create positive change.
The party system is an agent for change but can also be a barrier. Immigration policies have been altered many times since the inception of the United States. At one point, groups such as the Chinese were prohibited from immigrating. The one fact that cannot be argued is that change in policy and law is often slow to occur due to the inability to satisfy all voters fully. An example of this slowness can be seen in the ongoing debates over immigration. This issue has been debated since the founding of the country and will most likely be debated for many years to come.
Democratic Platform. (2012). Immigration reform. Retrieved from http://www.democrats.org/issues/immigration_reform
ImmigrationWorks USA (2013). the federation. Retrieved from http://www.immigrationworksusa.org/index.php?p=20
Republican Platform. (2004, September 1). Republican party platform: A safer world and a more hopeful america. . Retrieved from http://www.ontheissues.org/Celeb/Republican_Party_Immigration.htm
Sachs, Jeffrey (2011). The Price of Civilization. New York: Random House. p. 107
Vincent Triola. Mon, Mar 08, 2021. Understanding the Differences Between Political Parties Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/understanding-the-differences-between-political-parties