It is time for a multi-party system

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A recent Washington Post Editorial [1] argues that the U.S. needs a democracy overhaul. I agree. Such overhaul should be profound enough to enable a true multi-party system to emerge.

Our political views are simply too diverse to fit into a ‘red or blue’ choice. Political disenfranchisement is staggering. In 2016, 97 million eligible Americans did not vote in the presidential election, for an abysmal (but not uncommon) 56% turnout. Even in 2020, the much-higher-than-usual turnout appear to be just around 70%.

Gallup polls [2] routinely show independents outnumbering those affiliated with either major party. This December, 41% of Americans self-identified as independents, versus 31% as Democrats and 25% as Republicans. A 2020 Knight Foundation study [3] found that Americans don’t vote because they “lack faith in the election system and have serious doubts about the impact of their own votes.” 

A multi-party system would not cure all ills of our democracy. But it would better represent us, and break a self-destructive loop of dogmatic political alternation.  The type of alternation that, with (or is it through?) Mr. Trump, has devolved into a naked attempted at autocracy.

Profound procedural, legislative, and constitutional reforms are needed for multiple parties to have legitimate paths to government. Such reforms can best be achieved if a major party champions them. But will either major party ever muster the desire, resolve and confidence to end the duopoly?

Democrats missed a golden opportunity in 2020 [4]—by failing to recognize that an electoral promise of a future multi-party system could be natural, effective and transformative. Will a Biden presidency champion the idea, with the support of principled Republicans [5]?


[1] Washington Post Editorial Board, “The U.S. needs a democracy overhaul. Here’s what Biden’s first step should be.”

[2] Gallup polls

[3] Knight Foundation study:

[4] A. Baptista, “Why Democrats should champion a multi-party system,”

[5] T. Friedman, “Will Trump Force Principled Conservatives to Start Their Own Party? I Hope So,” NYT:

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