The Two-Party System: Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages

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  • 0:01 The Two-Party System
  • 0:40 Advantages
  • 2:49 Disadvantages
  • 4:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kenyetta Mitchell
In this lesson, we will explore the U.S. two-party system. What are the benefits of the U.S two-party system? What are the common criticisms of the U.S. two-party system?

The Two-Party System

Have you ever heard of the saying, majority rules? Well, this is the nature of the political system in the United States. Political parties are organized groups that seek to gain power in the political system. There are three major types of party systems in the world: one-party, two-party and multi-party. The United States has a two-party system. This means two major parties dominate the government. Although other parties do exist in the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties dominate the government. In many ways, the two-party system is beneficial for promoting the public good. However, it is also criticized for its disadvantages.

The two-party system
Two-Party System Structure


There are four major ways that the two-party system helps promote the public good:

  • First, they present readily understandable political information to voters in a convenient manner. By doing so, two-party systems provide order to the political world by representing the broad political philosophy of a party. This helps voters understand the party's views on certain issues. The 2012 Presidential election between Democratic nominee, President Barack Obama, and Republican nominee, former Governor Mitt Romney, provides a good example. During their campaigns, each nominee represented the major political issues of their respective party to the national public.
  • Second, two-party systems provide a stable balance by accommodating varied interests and opinions. Since each party consists of organized groups and individual voters, it is necessary to consider a broad range of interests and opinions when making political decisions. In order to receive their continued support, it is best for each party to include its supporters' interests.
  • Third, as short-term trends arise, two-party systems discourage sudden shifts in political trends which threaten government stability. If voters disagree with candidates on one political issue, they typically understand that he or she represents the bigger issues of the party. As a result, voters are discouraged from giving up support for the party, and elected officials have more opportunities to focus on long-term public policies. Conversely, a multi-party system can encourage government instability. This is due to many parties sharing power, dissolving or changing coalitions quickly, and having varied interests.
  • And fourth, two-party systems encourage political participation. As a democratic and diverse nation, the United States allows U.S. citizens to express different opinions and take part in their own governing by way of the political system. Unlike the one-party system in China, where only the Communist Party is permitted to take part in government, the United States allows citizens to participate in government by casting their votes at the polls.

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