The big weakness in there being only two viable parties is that financially powerful interests have only two to deal with (i.e. buy). Today, legislators of both major parties -- the Big Two -- spend afternoons milking K Street cash. Since the Bill Clinton Administration forsake working Americans in order to pursue the same corporate money source as the Republicans, the Big Two have proceeded to become ever more alike. The resulting "republicrat" entity has not located in a centrist area, as some theory would have it, but has surged steadily toward the political right like a massive, money-drenched army. As a result, and with all the help a corporate-owned media can muster (as when such as MSNBC is showcased as "leftist"), a true political left has been deeply buried. When Noam Chomsky defines Hillary Clinton as a "moderate Republican", he's not kidding.
There seems, in much of the public mind, an assumption that two-party dominance enjoys some kind of legal enforcement. It doesn't. There is nothing in the US Constitution or anywhere else in US law to mandate such a system. Nevertheless, the two major parties have been able to keep alternate parties -- Green, Progressive, Justice, Democratic Socialist, Constitution, Libertarian, etc. -- so at bay as to have them essentially neutered. And the Big Two work to keep it that way.
Consider the impact of the Big Two taking control of the "debates" formerly conducted by the League of Women Voters. In 1988, the parties demanded so much control of the debate format as to make the debates "a fraud" and a "hoodwinking of the American public" in the view of the League, which then withdrew its support.
The Commission on Presidential Debates now running the debates is a private entity sponsored by corporate money. As a protector of the Big Two from alternate party influence, the Commission is essentially bullet proof. In 2000, Ralph Nader, running for President in the Green Party, was not only barred from the debates but was kept from even entering the auditorium as a spectator. Just four years ago, Green Party candidate for President Jill Stein was not merely barred from the debate. She was arrested, taken to an unpublicized site, and handcuffed to a chair for eight hours in the presence of some thirteen uniformed police. The two-party system is a damned stranglehold keeping a broad range of political views out of the public sphere.
As the Republican Party has tried to find a way to counter Donald Trump, and as the Democratic Party has done all it can to favor Clinton and to subvert Sanders, there have been many suggestions that either could conceivably run as an independent or under another party's banner. That could be the best thing to happen in decades. The rise of populist candidates in both major parties at the same time is a rare opportunity to expand the world of political possibilities in the good old USA.
Recent days have seen a barrage of demands from both democratic politicians and media figures that Sanders "unite the Democratic Party" by yielding to Clinton, lest he become a spoiler and cause a Trump victory (Actually, polls show Sanders stronger than Clinton against Trump, so who should yield to whom?). This is the Two-Party System struggling to maintain itself. But Bernie Sanders cannot "unite the party" by yielding to Clinton, because there is no room to "come together". Hillary Clinton is the very embodiment of everything Sanders and his supporters despise and stand against. If he were to capitulate to the degree that the Democratic Party hierarchy would deem acceptable, it would be Sanders saying, in essence, that his "revolution" has been a failure. It would be the cruelest of betrayals.
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Sanders, and the huge segment of the US population that believes in him, have been so dissed by the Democratic Party that they owe it no allegiance whatever. Why not have Sanders run as an independent or even as a Green? Why not? Sanders has already been described as basically a "New Dealer". When you get right down to it, the Green Party of today differs hardly a whit from the Democratic Party of old and the social values of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal".
Bill Willers is emeritus professor of biology, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh