There are two major political parties in the United States, and for the most part they represent the dueling forces of politics in America. Each party has its own citizen base and demographic characteristics, and these are aligned with the values of the party. Often political affiliation is influenced by geographic region and heritage.
The Republican Party is also known as the right wing, which reflects the idea of a continuum of ideology that is more liberal on the left, and more conservative to the right. Republicans typically are concerned with ensuring continued conservative values in relation to the family, property and work (McKay, 2017). Expectations of Republicans include that every individual should take care of themselves and their families without the need to resort to government assistance; the other side of this concept is that government should not intrude in the lives of ordinary Americans or their business (McKay, 2017). There are various profiles of households and communities which are more likely to be Republican. These include those Americans with a strong belief in Christian moral values, people form high income brackets, and people who believe that the Democratic Party represents only “bleeding heart liberals” (Crawford et al., 2013).
Democrats are known as the left-wing or liberals. The Democratic policies and values have typically supported ensuring opportunities for all by reducing discrimination and providing assistance to households and communities where needed. Democrat morality includes social inclusion and social justice, at least to a more of a degree than the Republican platform. Democrats are more likely that Republicans to hold a union job, to be female, and to be non-white (Hershey, 2017, 115). In other words, the Democrats have a greater appeal to those groups which have historically held less power or been marginalized in American society. They also have a greater appeal for Americans who are upper middle class and have an education background that promotes social justice and inclusion.
There are American values which are excluded from both parties, because of their focus on economics, property and military concerns. These include a basic disinterest in politics, which is shown by low voter turnout, and a lack of engagement on policy matters (Hershey, 2017). While Americans are concerned that their communities are safe and that everyone has the opportunity to aspire to a middle-class lifestyle, most Americans are in fact not that political. Political leaders of both Republicans and Democrats typically come from higher income, politically focused families (Hershey, 2017, 115). For the middle class and the socioeconomically disadvantaged the focus of these leaders and their parties often does not resonate with the real issues that they face in their everyday lives. The similarity of the two parties are a focus on individualism and the belief that American national identity is a uniting principle.
A Third Party
The Libertarian Party can fill a gap in the political landscape by appealing to those Americans who are concerned about government interference in their everyday lives. It also provides an option for persons who are disenfranchised from both parties because of a lack of alignment with core values or policies, or a belief that both parties have long been corrupted by external influences.
Beyond the actual values of the parties are the belief by many that both parties uphold the values of corporations and lobby groups as a priority. There is a distinct lack of trust in the government that goes beyond the historical belief that government should not be intruding on the lives of the people. This has given rise to many conspiracy theories, including many which are espoused by another political party- the Libertarians.
Leadership of a Third Way
A good leader for an up and coming political party which was neither Democrat nor Republican would likely come from a higher income, political family just as leaders from the main political parties do. This is because such a background provides the exposure, experience and the network that is needed to effectively carry out political ideals and initiatives. Ideally a main part of their platform is the reduction of intrusion into peoples’ lives, and a reduction in the cost of government which pleases the Republicans. To please the Democrats and the non-political middle ground, the leader would also need to have a plan that ensures that social safety nets are retained and improved. This could be accomplished by streamlining government and programs. It would require alignment with the political agenda of each of the states, since most matters that determine interaction with government are determined at the state level. Further, increasing cost efficiencies would require states to collaborate to find economies of scale and efficiencies. A federal agenda could promote this, however as a political platform it would be policy oriented and boring, and few citizens would engage with it. The most important trait of a leader of a third party which has the potential to ascend to power would therefore be the capacity to market and communicate technical policy issues in an engaging way.
The two main political parties do not always represent all Americans, and for this reason it is possible that a third party may someday gain traction in American politics. This may lead to a new approach to governance, and it may, at least for a time, increase the trust that Americans place in the system. Many Americans today do not feel engaged with the federal political system, and further it may not have much of an impact on their lives. For this reason, the rise of any third political party, such as the Libertarians, is likely to happen first at the state level. Time will tell if this prediction is true.
- Crawford, J., Modri, S., & Motyl, M. (2013). Bleeding-heart liberals and hard-hearted conservatives: Subtle political dehumanization through differential attributions of human nature and human uniqueness traits.
- Hershey, M. R. (2017). Party politics in America. Taylor & Francis.
- McKay, D. (2017). American politics and society. John Wiley & Sons.