Loyal Opposition, Political Criticism, and Organized Dissent: America’s Party System

Since the late 1950s liberal democrats and conservative republicans have maintained a consistent political and ideological feud. Popularized by the press, these two parties developed into equally powerful organizations. The two-party system became the status quo for Americans- so much so that people began to support the myth that it was established by a clause in the U.S. Constitution. For decades democrats and republicans have dominated a majority of national and state elections. The tightly held constituencies of both parties leave no support for third party candidates. Essentially baring any other parties from gaining real influence in American politics.


Libratarian presidential canidate Gary Johnson won more voter support than any third party candidate has in the last four election cycles. Johnson still trails behind both the democratic and republican nominees by double digit percentages.

To some this might seem arbitrary; however critical analysis reveals why the two party system can hurt the integrity of America’s political system. Writer Jill Lepore analyzes the potential consequences of a two-party system in her article for the New Yorker titled, The Party Crashers. Lepore supports the idea that the growing polarization of the two-party system is throwing American politics into “disequilibrium”. She develops the idea that for the two-party system to maintain the success that it has enjoyed; each party needs to uphold, “loyal opposition, political criticism, and organized dissent.” Meaning that the success of each party is defined by its’ constituent’s ability to remain dedicated to the party, while also challenging its direction. This ensures that the party always accurately represents its voter’s ideologies. In recent years this sentiment has faded, being replaced with growing feelings of betrayal towards party establishments. The divergence of right and left ideologies primed by a revolution in political communication has created large numbers of disenfranchised voters who feel that they don’t fall in line with the platform of either major party.

Armed by the information age (namely social media sites), these disenfranchised voters have a new found influence on politics. Anti-establishment sentiments have rallied many voters behind Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed Washington outsider. While many view Trump’s policies as essential in reestablishing America’s “greatness,” a large number of critics view Trump’s campaign platform as racially insensitive, vague, and volatile.

It is unknown what a Trump presidency would look like if he were to win; however, what is known is that there is a large trend of voters who have lost faith in the two major parties. Does this mark the beginning of the end for the two party system? Or will democrats and republicans evolve their platforms in order to regain the support of so many marginalized voters? The answers two those questions isn’t clear. What is clear is that now more than ever, the power of political change is in the hands of the people (more so now than has been seen in a long time).