Why the United States has a Two-Party System
Beginning in its infant stage, the United States has consistently maintained two dominant political parties that initially included the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists who debated the ratification of the Constitution. Although the Federalists and the Ant-Federalists eventually gave way to the Republicans and Democrats, they set a precedent for the continued dominance of the two-party system that remains in effect. There are several reasons supporting why the United States has a two-party system which include the election laws, institutional barriers, and political socialization. The election laws established various criteria that favors the major parties, thus perpetuating the two-party system. Some of the election law hurdles encountered by third parties include ballot access and campaign financing restrictions. According to Article I of the Constitution, the states retain the right establish election procedures, unless otherwise prescribed by Congress; and out of fear of too much competition, many states after 1880 established laws to limit ballot access. Many states employ a petition process that requires a certain percentage of signatures to place a candidate on the ballot, and the required signature percentage is generally offset by the parties success in the previous election; therefore placing a tremendous burden on new parties, and restricting the size of the ballot. Restrictions on campaign financing is an obstacle that limits third party participation, supports the two-party system. Although the majority of campaign funds come from the private sector, additional funds are provided through the primary matching funds program and public funding program; which are essentially automatically provided to the major parties, and only to the new parties receiving 5% of the popular vote (reimbursed after the election). By receiving public funds, the candidate must regulate their spending by adhering to a...
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