About two months have passed since President-elect Donald Trump’s upset and historic win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the office of President of the United States. Ballots from all around the country continued to be counted weeks after the election. Clinton’s popular vote lead over Trump has risen to over 2.5 million votes, making it one of the most divided outcomes in a general election in American history. How, though, is Trump the winner if Clinton won far more of the popular vote, and what does that mean for parties other than the Democrats and the Republicans?
The United States hosts a unique system and structure of government that sets itself apart from other Western democracies, such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, in that it favors what is called the “two-party system.” This system is one in which two major political parties dominate all politics in the country. There are a few remote countries around the world that are also shackled by this system, such as Jamaica and Malta along with the United States, all employing the “winner-take-all” system for electing officials into public office.
The winner-take-all system is often seen by political analysts as the culprit for allowing a two-party system to flourish in the United States. It basically states that whichever candidate reaches the majority vote within a particular state is deemed the “winner” of that state and receives all of the electoral votes that state possesses. For instance, since Donald Trump won the majority of votes in Florida, he received all 29 Electoral College votes, even though Clinton virtually received about half of all the votes cast in the entire state. This system also enables the two major parties to employ huge amounts of power and money to push away any other competing parties.
This system has led to situations in the past, most notably the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush, in which one candidate will receive more votes than the other on the national level and still lose the election. The reason this happens is that states such as California and New York have such high populations that vote disproportionately for the Democratic Party, that the popular vote will almost always sway towards the Democrats. This doesn’t matter, however, since Republicans tend to always control the rural states with low populations such as Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and so on, but still manage to rack up the required number of Electoral College votes to be declared the winner.
Third parties include the Green Party, headed this year by Dr. Jill Stein, the Libertarian Party, led during the election by former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, and the Constitution Party, with their 2016 nominee being Darrell Castle. These parties particularly stand little to no chance in national elections to gain any seats in Congress, let alone the Presidency, due the way such elections are structured. For instance, despite winning close to five million votes nationally, Gary Johnson won’t receive anything from his courageous presidential run and leaves millions of voters helpless in a system rigged to keep Democrats and Republicans in perpetual power.
To make matters worse for third parties, the Electoral College, and by extension, the winner-take-all system, are ordained by the Constitution and can only be removed and replaced by way of a constitutional amendment. Seeing as both major parties benefit from this system (more so do Republicans than Democrats) and also seeing as they are frequently the majority in Congress, it is nearly impossible that such an amendment would pass, let alone even get drafted.
Our Founding Fathers feared mob-rule, meaning a situation in which the government was elected by the collective “ignorance” of the American people, rather than the educated and elite of society that had influence on and were directly influenced by the government. A common argument against the Electoral College is that Americans now live in an age of information that is readily available to everyone for free. Americans no longer are ignorant of politics, nor do they have an excuse to be, and they demand to see the popular vote’s weight over the electoral vote instituted nationwide to accommodate for that.
This subject is highly controversial and both sides have credible arguments, but there comes a time when provisions laid out by our forefathers become outdated and that such systems need to be replaced for the betterment of all Americans. New ideas presented by third parties are continually stifled and this country faces the same problems over and over. Problems such as governmental gridlock and shutdowns are a direct result of two completely opposing parties clashing and failing to resolve America’s issues. Politicians must put the nation’s people first rather than their party’s platforms. It is important that we as a nation continue to come up with and share new ideas and ways to solve our issues, for we could face indefinite stagnation for the foreseeable future.