The Tyranny of the Two-Party System

Lisa J. Disch

Columbia University Press

The Tyranny of the Two-Party System

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Pub Date: May 2002

ISBN: 9780231110358

172 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $34.00£27.95

Pub Date: May 2002

ISBN: 9780231110341

172 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£79.95

Pub Date: May 2002

ISBN: 9780231504676

172 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $33.99£27.95

The Tyranny of the Two-Party System

Lisa J. Disch

Columbia University Press

The closely contested presidential election of 2000, which many analysts felt was decided by voters for the Green Party, cast a spotlight on a structural contradiction of American politics. Critics charged that Green Party voters inadvertently contributed to the election of a conservative Republican president because they chose to "vote their conscience" rather than "choose between two evils." But why this choice of two? Is the two-party system of Democrats and Republicans an immutable and indispensable aspect of our democracy? Lisa Disch maintains that it is not. There is no constitutional warrant for two parties, and winner-take-all elections need not set third parties up to fail. She argues that the two-party system as we know it dates only to the twentieth century and that it thwarts democracy by wasting the votes and silencing the voices of dissenters.

The Tyranny of the Two-Party System reexamines a once popular nineteenth-century strategy called fusion, in which a dominant-party candidate ran on the ballots of both the established party and a third party. In the nineteenth century fusion made possible something that many citizens wish were possible today: to register a protest vote that counts and that will not throw the election to the establishment candidate they least prefer. The book concludes by analyzing the 2000 presidential election as an object lesson in the tyranny of the two-party system and with suggestions for voting experiments to stimulate participation and make American democracy responsive to a broader range of citizens.
Disch's book is strong and unique as it strays from many of the traps that plague third-party literature. Her book does not focus solely on a single party in an attempt to generalize from a unique example, nor does it fall prey to the "easy answer" syndrome: telling the reader why a third party erupted and why it could no longer retain its electoral viability. Disch presents a refreshingly unconventional take on American party history that is unique within this genre of party literature. Spencer Jones, Congress and the Presidency
Disch argues for the legal acceptibility of 'fusion' tickets in which candidates can appear on ballots as nominees of more than one party. Choice
Fascinating and colorful Brian Doherty, Reason
[T]his book is a critique of the current partisan organization of American politics, its legal and institutional underpinnings, and a celebration of 'third party' alternatives to the political status quo... Disch provides both an interesting story of one reform effort and an enlightening analysis of how the status quo came to be. Keith E. Whittington, Perspectives on Politics
Introduction: The Tyranny of the Two-Party System
The Politics of Electoral Fusion 1994-1997
The Politics of the Two-Party System
The Two-Party System: A Genealogy of a Catchphrase
The Teleological Temporality of the Two-Party System
Oppositional Democracy and the Promise of Electoral Fusion
Beyond the Tyranny of the Two-Party System

About the Author

Lisa Jane Disch is associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota and author of Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Philosophy. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.