Could America finally see the end to the two-party system?
Since our country was founded, voters here have found themselves locked in a duopoly.
The Federalists and Anti-Federalists (who suffered from having a derivative name until they renamed themselves Democratic Republicans under Thomas Jefferson’s leadership) were the first to divide voters here.
Jefferson’s Presidency as a Democratic Republican was the death knell for the Federalists. Most Americans identified with the Democratic Republicans who came to be known as Democrats for several decades. But it wasn’t long until the Whigs became a major force.
The Whigs and abolitionist Democrats soon unified to become Republicans. The new Republican Party was firmly established under Abraham Lincoln.
For the next 150 years, the Democrats and Republicans, although some issues have shifted, have been the two parties who have controlled American politics.
That may be changing as social and economic issues become more divisive.
Both parties are facing problems that could fracture the two major parties for the first time in the nation’s history.
The Republicans are deeply divided over social issues. Many Republicans on the national level have begun expressing support for gay marriage. The issue has been pushed through the ballot box in several states and the Supreme Court is actively reviewing the matter.
The TEA Party began as a sub-Republican conservative economic group. They still identify as Republicans but the differences with establishment Republicans were mainly economic.
But many within the TEA Party are also staunch conservatives on social issues. Abortion, traditional marriage and immigration are all issues that resonate within the TEA Party movement.
Unlike economic issues, social changes burn hot. There is more than enough fuel to cause a wildfire within the party. It will only take a spark to create the explosion that will push the TEA Party out from under the GOP tent and there are many active issues that could provide it.
But the Democrats aren’t really putting themselves in a place to prosper from the struggles of their opponents.
Recent proposals by Barack Obama are threatening to divide his party as well.
In an effort to reach a deal with Republicans in Congress, Obama proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare and tax increases as part of his plan. That did not sit well with groups on the far left of the political spectrum.
“Millions of MoveOn members did not work night and day to put President Obama into office so that he could propose policies that would hurt some of our most vulnerable people," said Anna Galland, executive director of the MoveOn.
Page 2 of 2 - Ideological differences between the parties is to be expected.
Ideological differences within the parties could create a chasm that changes the face of American politics.
It will come down to funding. The splinter groups that these fractures are forming will need funding to compete with the established parties.
The TEA Party has already shown that it is possible within the party. But one of these groups would have to convince backers that it can exist outside the current partisan framework.
As policies become more divisive and extremism increases on both sides of the political spectrum, that scenario seems more likely every day.
It may not happen for 2014 and both sides might keep it together for 2016. But I won’t be surprised if we have more than two established parties by 2020.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: email@example.com