Most people who grew up in America were taught the same thing at some point in school about their government — that our country has two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. We learn that these two parties tend to oppose each other, but they often work together to get things done.
This is what we were taught. But today, our country does not have two distinct political parties with significantly different views.
Instead, America has one party with two different wings. The party’s wings share their view on the size and scope of government.
The Democratic and Republican wings both believe in a massive federal government with broad powers in every area — economic, domestic, foreign and military — and a large and extensive
The two wings have different ideas on what this massive federal government should support.
Democrats generally want a large welfare system and economic regulations, while Republicans typically want a large military and an intrusive government domestically.
But it was not always this way. There was a time before the one-party system when there truly were two parties.
The Democrats were the party of the New Deal, believing in a large and powerful federal government that was involved in the economy, as well as a large and organized military force that was heavily involved in affairs outside the country.
The Republicans were the party of a more limited government, which did not get nearly as involved in economic affairs and citizens’s lives.
This two-party structure was established under presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, who created many of the early aspects of a large government, which was involved in economic and military matters.
This structure continued from the 1940s through the 1970s, during which time the Democrats were the party of big government, and the Republicans were the party of small government.
The two-party system started changing in the 1980s, when Republican President Ronald Reagan expanded the size and scope of the federal government far beyond its previous extent.
Such expansion continued under George W. Bush, and the Republican Party at large morphed into a big-government party throughout the 2000s.
The result of this progression of events is the one-part system we have now, in which the Democratic and Republican parties are two wings of a single party.
Both the Republicans and Democrats are now invested in the idea of a massive government with expansive powers. There is no longer significant opposition from either of the two groups on the nature of having a government that is intrusive in the economy and in the lives of American citizens.
Neither the Democratic nor Republican entities question whether an ever-expanding military, as well as the plethora of war-related industries and contractors that have spawned around it in the past several decades, is a system that should be continued or one that is healthy for our democracy.
It has now become an assumption by both the Democrats and Republicans that the nation will have a government as described above.
There are some politicians — most notably Ron Paul (R) — who argue against these assumptions about government. And there are others among both wings who also question the assumptions about government that both groups make, which have led to this ideological merging into one party.
With no sustained opposition, this ideology can go unchecked, and even if you believe in big
government, it is unwise and unhealthy for a belief to go unopposed in a democracy.
Challenge, debate and opposition are the core of a democracy; they force it to grow and thrive.
So there has to be a change or challenge to the assumption of big government.
Whether this comes from a change in one of the established political groups, recreating the two-party system or from another entity like a third party, the need for an organized and sustained level of opposition to the current one-party system is necessary.
Once again, our country must grow and thrive as old assumptions are challenged, and new ideas enter the political debate.