Death of the Duopoly

Nothing in American life today seems as archaic, ubiquitous and immovable as the Republican and Democratic parties.

The two 19th-century political groupings divide up the spoils of a combined $6.4 trillion that is extracted eachyear from taxpayers at the federal, state, county and municipal levels. Though rhetorically and theoretically atodds with one another, the two parties have managed to create a mostly unbroken set of policies andgovernance structures that benefit well-connected groups at the expense of the individual.

Americans have watched, with a growing sense of alarm and alienation, as first a Republican administration andthen its Democratic successor have flouted public opinion by bailing out banks, nationalizing the auto industry,expanding war in Central Asia, throwing yet more good money after bad to keep housing prices artificially high,and prosecuting a drug war that no one outside the federal government pretends is comprehensible, let alonewinnable. It is easy to look upon this well-worn rut of political affairs and despair.

And Americans are, in increasing numbers. Perhaps the mostimportant long-term trend in U.S. politics is the four-decade leak in market share by the country’s two dominant parties. In
1970, the Harris Poll asked Americans, “Regardless of how youmay vote, what do you usually consider yourself—a Republican, a Democrat, an independent or some otherparty?”

Fully 49% of respondents chose Democrat, and 31% calledthemselves Republicans. Those figures are now 35% forDemocrats and 28% for Republicans. While the numbers havefluctuated over the years, the only real growth market in politics is voters who decline affiliation, withindependents increasing from 20% of respondents to 28%.

Read More By Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, the Wall Street Journal