The American Two Party System

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The American two-party system is the result of the way elections are structured in the United States. Representatives in the Congress and in state legislatures are elected to in single-member districts where the individual with the most votes wins. Seeing that only one party 's candidate can win in each district, there is a strong motivation for political candidates to organize themselves into two competing parties. By doing so, party members and candidates maximize their chances of winning elections. In some countries where there are multi-member districts, parties that win smaller percentages of the vote can often win legislative representation. Consequently, in such systems, there is an incentive to form smaller third parties. Other features of the American system of elections, such as campaign finance rules, the Electoral College, and rules giving party candidates ballot access further reinforce the two-party system in the United States. While third parties rarely win major elections, and never the presidency, they have been successful in changing the outcome of elections by withdrawing political support away from one of the two major party candidates. Whatever American system contains to encourage a two party system typically discourages the emergence of third parties. Ever since third parties have emerged in American political history, their successes have been short-lived. Most third parties try to build their support to become like one of the dominant parties, just
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