Third Times a Charm: Third Parties and Third Estate

In lecture for Political Theory 101, the topic of “Changes” was discussed in terms of political institutions. The French Revolution elucidates the radical institutional changes that can occur with the mobilization, determination and pressure of the working-class on the governing elite. During the French Revolution (1787-1799) French citizens redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Inspired by the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, the French Revolution was particularly influenced by the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people and its legacies are omnipresent in our daily lives as a democracy. The French Revolution’s enabled a structural transformation of government that more accurately and justly represented the needs of the people. In the United States, our representative democracy is becoming decreasingly representative and increasingly aristocratic and demographically homogenous; thus, making Congress unrepresentative of the rich diversity of ideals and nationalities of their electorate.

 

Caricature of the Third Estate (peasants and merchants) carrying the Second (nobility) and the Third Estates (clergy)

 

 

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Some of the many third parties in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The French Revolution was the watershed moment for many new political ideologies that have shaped our modern political system today. Among these ideas is the nation-state. A nation-state is composed of people sharing the same nationality, usually ethnicity as well, within the same political borders.

France, for example, developed a uniform educational system to create an idea of French national identity. In many countries it emphasizes a shared culture and blood ties. The United States, however, is a very interesting exception to the strict definition of a nation-state. Instead of a shared ethnicity, nationality is defined by the American people’s commitment to political ideals. Nationalism increases power of the state and advances the interest of state. However, accommodating the interests and concerns of millions of people who are culturally different can be a great struggle and divisor for a country and has the potential to weaken the authority and legitimacy of the government.

 

“There is nothing I dread so much as the division of the republic into two great parties, each arraigned under its leader, converting measures into opposition of each other.” John Adams, Founding Father and second President of the United States, articulated his nightmare, which has now become a daunting reality for Americans. The development of the two-party system has origins tracing back to 1789

 

224 years later the two-party system is presently comprised of the Democrats and the Republicans. This method has remained the predominant governing approach. It seems, however, that Americans are in need of a different, more inclusive approach within America’s representative democracy. The influence and presence of third parties should be maximized to enable a more accurate representation of an increasingly diverse and evolving American population. Third parties have not been very successful during the course of American history. Nevertheless, the rise of third parties indicates the many needs that are not being met by the antiquated system and their potential future in U.S. government.

 

jl_dyv9sa0g2nh6kkomumaThird parties would reinstate a sense of hope and trust in the vast majority of American voters who feel discouraged and isolated from the government and the electoral process. According to elections.edu, there was a 53% voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election. It is ironic and troubling that the U.S is considered the world’s super power in many aspects, but Americans feel that their vote is powerless. The United States was founded on the principles of a representative democracy; without the electoral process the foundation of this country ceases to exist. “Low turnout is usually attributed to disengagement from the system because of perceived effectiveness of voting in changing policy decisions,” is the explanation given by fairvote.org.

 

The detrimental, excessive partisanship that exists in Capitol Hill and the crises it has caused, such as the monumental 16-day government shut down, translates at the voting booth, permeates the voters’ psyche, and makes many feel defeated in a hopeless situation. The two- party system creates a polarizing effect that would be off-set and balanced by the presence of one or various third parties. They would offer a more conclusive political agenda and policies that would make Americans feel more represented and, thus, trust the government more. Third parties such as the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the Constitution Party are considered “an independent state organization… in a majority of the states”, and, therefore, major political parties commensurate with the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Although none of them receive nearly as much recognition or representation in Congress as the Democratic or Republican party, they represent an array of differing beliefs that could contribute to a more healthy, competitive and productive government.

The three-party system is more faithful to the founding principles of the United States. The United States of America is a country that is defined by its very origins: people who were in search of some kind of freedom and refused to accept and conform to an oppressive government. The Constitution was designed to be flexible and many of the responsibilities of government are implied and left to interpretation. The founding fathers understood the importance of creating a solid government, which could also stand the test of time while still changing with the times.

The vast majority of Americans have become accustomed to voting out of loyalty to the party rather than for the candidate’s proposed political agenda or policies. “We are not living in ordinary times… We have become prisoners of conventional wisdom. It has made us look at every political problem through an obsolete prism of right versus left…it is an easy reductionist way of looking at them.” During a debate,  which questioned whether the two-party system is making America ungovernable, Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, made this alarmingly truthful statement. This voter mentality is detrimental to the electoral process and, eventually, to the very identity of the country. Americans complacency over pragmatism should be replaced by the truly traditional American belief in non-conformism. Third parties are the quintessential example of how the U.S. government can be both modern and traditional, as they facilitate a more active government that promotes voters to make their voice heard and vote count. The three-party system will be able to address more specific and pertinent problems and find sensible solutions.

Third parties facilitate the American government to function optimally as they help mirror the evolving population’s demographics and diverse needs. One of the leading causes of rapidly changing racial and economic demographics is immigration: a topic that always causes controversy between Democrats and Republicans. Without a new rearrangement in government representation through the establishment of third parties, this new majority will easily go unrepresented and the power will rest in the hands of a narrow elite.

Many people have objections to a new political system. The three-party system would indeed be a new way of governing in a country where many things are archaic; however, America is desperate need of change. America cannot continue down the same path it has been for the past 224 years; Americans must demand a government that is just as racially and ideologically diverse as they are. Only with the three-party system is that possible.

 

 

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One thought on “Third Times a Charm: Third Parties and Third Estate

  1. This is a great post. I think third parties are too often overlooked in this country because of the financial disadvantages to the two larger parties. It cannot be said that all the beliefs in this country are included under two political umbrellas, so I agree with you that a three party system would be a better representation of the electorate, and more faithful to the founding principles of the United States.

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