By: Jasmin Prasad
There is undoubtedly large amounts of tension brewing between the left and right — a result of a myriad of differing opinions on how to handle COVID-19 and all too common racial injustices. The stark dichotomy between the two parties will only intensify as we near the presidential election date, and perhaps the most common means of predicting what will ensue in such an unprecedented election is examined through voting psychology of a two party system election. The two party system — which will be analyzed later — has effectively trapped voters into feeling that they have to vote for one of the only two candidates. This is sadly a reality that must be accepted but can and will be criticized; it just means that change happens much more slowly than we would like it to.
According to an article written by “ABC News,” the most common motivation to vote is not out of altruism, out of a sense of American responsibility, or even out of overwhelming support for any one candidate: the motivation is hatred. Hatred of a candidate and the subsequent attribution of a villain identity to said candidate most definitely makes an overwhelming case to either vote for “the other side,” or live in an America where the villain is in control — a circumstance that certainly does not align with pompous American fairy tales. But what happens when there are villains on both sides? What happens when we are limited to placing our faith in either Vice President Joe Biden or current President Donald Trump?
Neither Biden or Trump have the wherewithal to play the “hero” in the 2020 election. We have all witnessed the alarming disregard of COVID-19 by the presidential office who would like to claim that COVID-19 will “miraculously go away,” and who seem to take issue with hard facts and science. We have sadly also witnessed the dismissal of issues of race and police brutality — where there are only a couple of words given at a press conference and a photo op in front of church instead of tangible solutions. This is of course coupled with the fact that Trump has engaged in harmful and blatantly racist discourse towards people of color, bigotry, misogynistic comments, birtherism, has been accused of sexual misconduct by 25 women (as reported by “Business Insider”), and sadly the list of heinous behaviors goes on and on.
Biden however, is not exempt from large criticism either. Biden too has been accused of sexually assaulting Tara Reade and making uncomfortable and invading the personal space of 7 other women, as reported by “Business Insider.” Additionally, Biden assisted in authoring crime legislation in the 90’s that helped to facilitate three strike laws and expanded mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses; this created a cycle of incarceration for black men and women. Biden has also subscribed to a demeaning stereotype of black men when, according to CNN, he described former President Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and nice-looking guy,” maintaining that such a person could only be found in a “storybook.”
Of course, this isn’t to say that any one candidate in America’s history has been perfect. With Hillary Clinton, there was the Benghazi report and the infamous email scandal. With Mitt Romney, it was his “binders full of women,” and self-deportation plan. However, it seems as if years of discrepantly wayward behavior by candidates and even the President himself have highlighted a problem with the schematics of elections: the two party system.
The two party system effectively mandates that the votes from the electoral college only go to the two main parties — Democrat and Republican. Those who are third party candidates or independent will never win an election as they will never get votes from the electoral college. According to an article written by “PBS,” the candidates outside of the two parties face “limited media coverage to legal barriers and Congressional leadership rules… popular belief holds that a third-party candidate won’t win an election so there is no need to give him or her publicity.” Collectively, this warrants that the American public is limited to only two candidates regardless of whether those two candidates are who the general public truly wants in office.
Undeniably, there are a large majority of people who are proponents of the two party system: which is not surprising as it is rooted in historical precedent. The two party system is also seen as convenient, where the fact that there are only two candidates is actually good because the common public would not have to engage in political discourse or research about a given candidates prior stances on groundbreaking issues or what they plan to do in the future (an error I believe many in the last election to have committed). More specifically, a common argument for a two party system is in the creation of parties that are overall centrist and prevent any sort of extreme overhaul of our norms and institutions. However, those who champion this belief don’t understand that in the American context, this translates into a politic that would be considered “right of center” compared to the rest of the world (oftentimes, our moderate democrats would be considered conservative in Canada and some areas of Western Europe).
Other proponents claim that a two party system allows for a certain level of judicial predictability. To a certain degree, liberal and conservative justices may disagree on a whole host of issues but generally tend to see the role of the court as engaging in judicial review and tend to default to stare decisis — or letting decisions stand. The problem with stare decisis lies in the prevention of courts as being fully utilized as actual agents of change. Forgoing the idea that legal norms are to always be preserved would allow for these justices to stand up to injustices within laws as opposed to being tied to enforce laws as they are written.
To address the aforementioned question, there is in fact lower voter turnout when both candidates are unfavorable; the voter sees no point in casting a vote when the outcome of a disastrous state is inevitable either way (as reported by “ABC News”). Not surprisingly, in countries where there are multiple party systems and subsequently multiple options, the percentage of voters is much higher than in the United States. As reported by the “PEW Research Center,” the U.S. is far behind other developed democratic states when it comes to the percentage of the voting age population that actually casts a vote; in 2016, only 56% of the U.S. voting age population voted whereas for Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands the percentages were 82.6%, 80.3%, and 77.3% respectively.
Clearly, there exists a correlation between the multitude of options available to a voter and the probability that they will vote, making the flaws with a two party system glaringly apparent. However, while criticisms and open discussions about the state of our electoral system are important as a means for change, it is also imperative to recognize that the two party system has been in place for centuries. Again, it is rooted in historical precedent and likely will not be changing anytime soon. And while voting psychology predicts that hating both candidates ultimately leads to lower voter turnout, I believe that the very reason it is critical to vote in this upcoming election is because both candidates are unfavorable. Recognize that not voting because you don’t like the candidate who represents your party is effectively a vote for the other side. Recognize that you are not only voting for whichever candidate you choose but also for policies and reform that will change the nation. I implore you to vote in this election to help protect the rights of every individual, regardless of their color, faith, gender, or sexual orientation — and don’t let former Vice President Joe Biden or current President Donald Trump get in the way of that.