There are different party systems around the world.
The government structure in some countries only has one major party.
The power of this single party is usually maintained through institutional controls that forbid the development of opposition parties, or through corruption and informal means of physical control.
Any meaningful party competition is prevented by these systems.
Democracy is impossible without choices at the ballot box.
Some countries have so many parties that no single party can control the government.
The parties may try to form a coalition when that happens.
Parties can represent a variety of interests.
Parties can either make elected leaders toe the party line or give them loose instructions that they can obey.
There is no single model of party government.
The American party system is distinctive, but it doesn't fit a single model.
Third-party movements have come and gone throughout our history, but it is mostly a two-party system.
The American system tended to be more moderate than other multiple-party countries.
The parties are at least as far apart as they have ever been in our history.
The party system has a high level of party discipline.
The characteristics are explored in this section.
The United States has a two-party system.
The Democrats and the Republicans have been the only parties that have a chance of winning most of the offices in the United States.
The governing process is dominated by officeholders representing these two parties.
The United States, along with countries like Great Britain and New Zealand, is a different type of democratic party system than those in Sweden, France, Israel, and Italy.
The United States has rarely experienced serious political splits due to divisive issues such as language, religion, or social conflict.
The Democratic and Republican Parties have been around for a long time, which shows the lack of deep and enduring cleavages among the American people.
Both parties have weathered several wars, including the Civil War and two world wars, as well as numerous economic recessions and depressions.
Proponents from one era may still support a political party.
The most important reason the United States maintains a two-party system is that the rules of the system are designed by members of the two parties themselves.
The proportion of votes that each party gets in an election is used to distribute seats in the legislature.
If a party gets 20 percent of the vote, it will get 20 percent of the seats in the legislature.
Small parties can still participate in government even if they don't get a majority of the votes because of proportional representation systems.
The United States uses a single-member-district electoral system.
The candidate who gets the most votes in the district wins the seat and the loser gets nothing.
The winner-take-all system creates strong incentives for voters to cast their ballots for one of the two established parties because voters know they are effectively throwing away their votes when they vote for a third-party candidate.
Donald Trump's surprising victory in the Republican primary race led to the rise of "Never Trumpers," Republicans opposed to their party's nominee and his bold, norm-breaking style.
Perhaps most prominent of these was Evan McMullin, who launched an independent bid for the presidency and Mullin claimed 21 percent of the vote in his home state of Utah, but he was not able to break through nationwide.
The two-party system is reinforced by other legal barriers.
Legislators from both parties have created election laws that regulate each major party's activities, but they also protect the parties from competition from other parties.
State election laws make it difficult for third parties to gain ballot access and ensure the place of both major parties on the ballot.
Potential independent or third-party candidates need to gather a lot of signatures in order to get their names on the ballot.
A common state law requires a third party to have at least 25% of the votes in the previous election in order to conduct a primary.
Federal election laws make it difficult for third parties.
If the presidential candidates agree to limit their spending to a certain amount, the federal government will provide dollar-for-dollar matching money for their campaigns.
Third-party candidates cannot claim federal campaign funds until after the election is over, and even then their funds are limited by the percentage of past and current votes they received.
They need to have gained at least 5 percent of the national vote in order to be eligible for federal funds.
Even though regulations are in place to ensure that the broadcast media give candidates equal access to the airwaves, Congress has insisted on a special exception that allows participation in televised debates to be limited to candidates from the two major parties, and the Debate Commission requires candidates to reach 15 percent in the polls before
Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party candidateJill Stein, and independent Evan McMullin were unable to participate in the election.
The Democrats and the Republicans have dominated the party system, but that doesn't mean they have taken over.
Many third-party movements have tried to change the make-up of American politics.
These parties have arisen to represent specific issues that the parties failed to address, or to promote ideas that were not part of the ideological spectrum covered by the existing parties.
Third parties have sprung up from the grassroots or have broken off from an existing party.
As long as the Republican Party adopts most of the issues the Tea Partiers care about, they are not likely to separate and form a new party.
Teddy Roosevelt, George Wallace, and Ross Perot are just a few of the strong leaders who have headed up third parties.