The contemporary American political environment has been vastly impacted by the dichotomous role of two leading political parties, which are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These forces have developed ideologically opposing views on some crucial governmental issues over the history of the state. The polarization of the attitudes toward governmental programs puts restraints on public administrators’ work that have to shift their approaches following the leading party’s directions.
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The world’s democracies demonstrate multi-party approaches or independent public administration bodies ‘ initiation as a way to mitigate partisanship in governance. Since the political stability and the economic development of the state have been impacted by the rivalry between the Democrats and Republicans, it is vital to consider effective practices for the improvement of the situation. The paper introduces the scope and the context of the problem, its implications, and the possible ways of its resolution in accordance with the leading practices of other democratic states. The history of the issue, comparative perspectives, and best practices are presented to validate the necessity of reforming the political environment in the US.
Contemporary US politics is traditionally characterized as a two-party system where the long-established Democratic Party and Republican Party have been leading the elections for almost two centuries. The overall power of one leading party or another defines the main strategies of state development, thus opposing the ideas of the leading party to the one in opposition. It is known that the perspectives of the two parties’ representatives on some key issues in political life drastically differ. Such polarization of opinions and attitudes of the highest-level policy-makers provokes polarization in the society, as well.
The Democratic Party prioritizes equality in social and economic domains, centralization of governmental power, and the role of modern liberalism in politics. On the other hand, the Republican Party adheres to conservatism. It views the role of government in enforcing more rights to local branches of power, overall decentralization of governmental role in politics and economy. Every time the elected leading party changes, the direction of governmental initiatives shifts, thus causing the shifts in public administration approaches. In this paper, it is argued that the current polarized two-party system of US politics imposes significant difficulties in the implementation of basic responsibilities of public administration and threatens the consistency of the country’s development.
Current Controversies Regarding the US Two-Party Political Environment
The problem under discussion entails a significant impact on the way the state proceeds in its legislative, judicial, executive, and economic directions. The long-established opposition between the Democratic Party and the Republicans has created a solid ideology-driven polarization of opinions in the society. However, such a state of affairs is characteristic of any democratic state where the essence of democracy is validated through equal opportunity to express one’s opinion about some crucial political issues (Balliet et al. 797).
It is a traditional practice for most democratic societies of the modern world, where disputes between different parties’ representatives are aimed at the fostering of best developmental strategies for a state. Nonetheless, the two-party system in the US imposes significant limitations to the execution of consistent public administration due to the partisanship of parties’ representatives.
Since public administrators must align with the developmental directions of the party in power, they are exposed to continuous shifts in the implementation of governmental programs. Moreover, the recent trends of public administration downsizing as the method of mitigating the economic crisis impose more restraints on the successful completion of administrators’ work. At the same time, as Hershey emphasizes, the growing role of partisanship in the modern political environment of the USA implies more severity in the rivalry between the two parties (xxiv).
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Therefore, the Democrats and Republicans are strongly opposed to each other, make an effort to express their disagreement on significant issues with their opponent, and pay less attention to the consistency of state development. It is vital to review the history of the issue, the perspectives on its resolution, and the examples of best practices to find the most compelling solution.
The literature on the political environment in the USA primarily deals with specific governmental issues and the role of ideology in the performance of the core state powers. Also, the search for relevant literature showed that the two-party political reality of America imposes dichotomy not only in the attitudes to governing and public administration but also in the perception of politics by society. It is essential to provide an overview of the history of the US political parties to validate the necessity of the mechanisms to mitigate the restrains of the dichotomy on public administration.
The History of the Issue
The history of the US political party system emerged centuries ago and has developed into a long-established opposition of two leading political forces. As Hershey states, the first parties in the world were created and directed by Americans (15-16). The emergence of the first US parties was initiated by a dispute between Federalists and their opponents. Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, claimed that in the industrial state, “nation’s economic survival required centralized … control over the economy” (Hershey 15).
In opposition, Thomas Jefferson and his supporters had a different point of view on the role of government in the state’s independence and required a less dominant position of the government within the political system. As a result, the Democratic Party was formed in 1832 as a political power that opposed high tariffs and national banking, and the Republican Party was created in 1854 as a power to oppose slavery (Hershey 17). These are the worlds’ oldest active political parties, which remain highly important in the US political environment.
Historically, the two-party system is viewed as secure for the country, where any minor parties do not gain any substantial support (Hershey 37). However, the dominance of the two parties has been a trend in American elections since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Indeed, according to the data presented by the United States Senate, the party division of Congress shows very similar patterns throughout the history of American politics. From 1789 till 1831 the Congress was represented by two leading parties titled “majority party” and “minority party,” where the majority political power constituted significantly more sits than the other (United States Senate par. 1-17). Also, the majority of consecutive Congresses up to today were dominated by two parties.
Despite its long history, the rivalry between the parties has been criticized by many politicians in the early years of US history. Indeed, in his work entitled “Farewell Address,” George Washington stated that the parties are the obstacles on the way to the legitimate government (Hershey 5). The Founding Fathers, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison who defined the dangers of emerging “two minds about parties” (Hershey xxvi). In other words, the challenges of the lack of unity in the perception of political parties were recognized as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Today, the polarity between the two parties is the most severe in history. This fact is validated by numerous research studies and poles, one of which was presented by Hershey and illustrated the partisanship in US politics. The attitudes of the representatives of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party toward their opponents have significantly increased toward “very unfavorable” between 1994 and 2016, as seen in figure 1 (Hershey 5).
The tension between the leading powers obstructed the flow of necessary governmental programs and diminished the opportunities of public administration to bring change to US politics.
The views on the problems related to two-party politics in the USA and the partisanship in public administration differ. The issue is less acute in other countries where the political environment is formed by a multiple-party system. Indeed, the two-party system is limited to two opposing opinions that diminish the role of social institutions by implementing radical changes (Li 7). The disagreement between the two might lead to stagnation of a problem resolution and even shutdown of the main bodies of government, as it has happened several times throughout US history.
The two-party systems, although they provide for more effective decision-making, might encounter significant difficulties in administration if the executive and legislative branches of power are represented by the opposing parties (Li 8). One such example might be the dispute over the budget between the Republican legislature and Democratic executive powers in 2013 (Li 8). Unfortunately, the contemporary reality of the US politicians and society’s perception of dichotomous power obstructs the opportunities for smooth public administration.
Most world democracies have more than two leading parties and work under the rule of a coalition in the parliament. Most European countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, as well as Canada, and New Zealand, employ multi-party systems of government (Hershey 30). These democracies have shown better opportunities for sustainable governmental development in accord with public administration (Li 8).
The multi-party system provides a chance to represent the views and values not only of the majority but of the subgroups of the population. Moreover, according to Li, the inclusion of several parties in the discussion of the relevant issues and the process of their resolution is maintained in an issue-to-issue manner (8). Thus, it is more productive to adhere to the same global framework of state-building while resolving one issue at a time than ineffectively arguing over the general issues. It allows public administrators’ to be guided by the general course of the states’ political strategy rather than by the shifts in the trends of a leading power.
A Review of Best Practices
Since the issue of shifts in leading parties’ role in the government is inherent to democratic societies, it is only natural that there have emerged particular practices of mitigating the adverse impacts of an unstable political environment on the crucial element of the states’ functioning. One such element is economy and budgeting, which deem to be the key forces of governmental performance, as well as the wellbeing of the citizens.
The prevailing dichotomy between public administrators and politicians has been at the center of research conducted by Chohan. The researcher presents a substantial overview of the leading countries’ endeavors aimed at the resolution of such dichotomy and preserving the independence of the state body’s responsible for budgeting. According to Chohan, the financial crisis of 2008 has become a booster for the initiation of the Legislative Budget Office (LBO), or, as it is also known, Independent Fiscal Institution (IFI) (1009). Such bodies exist in the USA, Canada, and other countries and have been used as a method of independent budgetary.
There are significant obstacles in the implementation of such an approach of the independent body’s initiation since the LBO and alike have been introduced to the political environment only recently. Since governmentally driven budgetary initiatives are defined by the ideologies of the party in power, the decision in terms of all spheres, including a budget, health care, warfare, education, and others, depending on the party’s preferences. As the Canadian experience shows, the work of an independent body, such as LBO in the sphere of budgeting, enhances a more stable financial situation and diminishes partisanship in public administration (Chohan 1010-1011). Canadian well-known stable democracy only facilitates achievements in this regard.
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At the same time, the existing measures in the USA show essential results in terms of the elimination of partisanship within the core elements of public administration. The American Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that originated as a small federal body comprised of economic experts has become a “powerful and influential arbiter in the budget process (Chohan 1012). CBO is equally comprised of the representatives of the Republican Party and the Democrat Party, thus showing the possibility to find mutual solutions between the rivals.
Also, another example of beneficial cooperation between public administrators and politicians has been demonstrated by the successful collaborative efforts within the Affordable Care Act (Chohan 1013). Such endeavors and approaches to the organization of both federal and independent budgetary organizations must be analyzed for further adoption within other crucial spheres, such as health care and education.
As has been stated earlier, the adherence of leading world democracies to a multi-party political system is one of the best practices of mitigating dichotomy in both politics and society, as well as improving the opportunities for the proper performance of the public administration sector. Indeed, the multi-party political environment provides more ways for the citizens to express their governmental preferences and program requirements.
Under the circumstances of the modern trends of globalization and the growing number of the diverse population residing in the USA, it is relevant to enforce multiple parties’ activity. In such a way, the voters will have an opportunity to choose the best candidate represented by more than two opposing political forces (Hershey 50). Thus, more flexibility to the execution of democracy might be achieved through a multi-party system.
However, taking into account the long history of party dichotomy in the political environment of the USA, the initiation of multiple parties might be a problematic issue to maintain. As history shows, minor parties neither demonstrated relevant ideological ideas nor reflected the requirements of the public (Hershey 38). Substantial reformation of the political system enabled by collaborative inclusion of the leading policy-makers must be initiated to boost the creation of new parties and to strengthen their positions among their primary opponents.
Therefore, the process of improvement of the current political environment in the United States is a long-term goal that requires a systematic reconsideration of the primary political role of the parties in state governance. Public administration will be able to eliminate performance limitations in the form of downsizing and ideological shifts when it is provided more independent opportunities.
In summation, the historically formed two-party system of US politics demonstrates the values of a democratic society, for which the disputes between the political parties are inherent. However, the dichotomy and polarization of the opinions of Democrats and Republicans concerning some crucial questions in terms of governance and public administration impose performance difficulties and restraints on continuous state development. While the leading parties try to maintain their approaches by vastly opposing them to those of their rivals, the downsizing of the public administration sector imposes limited resources of governmental programs’ implementation.
It is vital to review the best practices that have shown successful results in the issue resolution and adopt them to mitigate the adverse impacts of political partisanship in public administration. Such practices include independent budgeting, joint federal initiatives that are implemented by politicians and public administrators, and initiation of the multi-party political system. The experience of the world’s leading democracies shows the benefits of governing political approaches other than those limited to mere two-party opposition. The adoption of new strategies to the relations between public administrators and politicians will benefit the political environment of the state and the wellbeing of the whole society in general.
Balliet, Daniel, et al. “Political Ideology, Trust, and Cooperation: In-group Favoritism among Republicans and Democrats during a US National Election.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 62, no. 3, 2018, pp. 797-818.
Chohan, Usman W. “Independent Budget Offices and the Politics – Administration Dichotomy.” International Journal of Public Administration, vol. 41, no. 12, 2017, pp. 1009-1017.
Hershey, Marjorie Randon. Party Politics in America. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
Li, Richard. Political Parties and Party Systems. University of Hong Kong, 2015. Web.
United States Senate. Party Division. N. d. Web.