Here is a major problem of parties in the US political system.
We have a winner take all system. It creates a mindset of win at any costs and dominate by any means. Other (better functioning, one might argue) democratic governments allow greater multiple party competition while simultaneously encouraging cooperation and alliance-forming among the parties. One would hope that this could lessen the tendency of American-style territorial partisanship with its Social Darwinism and groupthink, and so it might give democracy a fighting chance to achieve democratic results.
The US system has come to operate with parties winning by excluding rather than including the most voters. Republicans dismiss minorities and non-Christians. Democrats dismiss lower class whites and leftist reformers. Both parties, in a bipartisan stranglehold, dismiss independents, third partiers, discouraged non-voters, and the disenfranchised.
Neither party fights for the rights, values, and interests of most of the American population. Instead, the two parties defend their turf and seek only to represent their respective small band of loyal followers. But in the end, the parties take their own partisans for granted, as the opinions of partisans is irrelevant since they’ll vote party line no matter what. This leaves both parties to do the bidding of big money, as research shows they do.
There is no incentive for either of the two main parties to act more democratically, to promote democracy, and to democratically represent the American people. Because of this, elections become empty spectacles to create an illusion of democratic process and consent of the governed.
We should and need to do better than this. But in order for that to happen, we have to demand better and put the force of conviction behind it. Otherwise, the force of desperation might lead us in directions we’d rather not go. Reform is the only way to prevent revolution. And, once revolution begins, it can’t be controlled.
My thoughts here aren’t particularly radical. They go back the American founding generation. It’s part of the original intent of the Constitution. George Washington, in particular, warned against the dangers of political parties. Washington may have been too idealistic in his criticisms, as factionalism may be an inevitable part of any large diverse society. Even if that is the case, his warnings about political parties remain and have proven true.
Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate about alternatives. The world is full of countries with different systems that can be studied and compared. Not all factionalism leads to American-style dysfunction and corruption. There is no reason we should remain attached to our dysfunction and corruption simply because it is our own. Think of it as a cancer needing to be removed so that the rest of the body may live.
If we don’t like the results we are getting and obviously most Americans are dissatisfied to an extreme degree with the status quo, then why not try something different in seeking different results? We Americans owe no loyalty to the two-party establishment. Our primary loyalty belongs to our country and and our fellow citizens, which is to say “We the People.” Democracy doesn’t mean power of parties and politicians; rather, it literally is power of the people.