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As I read about the evolution of political parties in the U.S., I became curious about why we have settled in on the present two-party system, especially when research indicates that a majority of Americans agree that there should be a major third party beyond the Republican and Democratic parties. Then it struck me: Perhaps a two-party system strikes a chord with our evolved tendency to classify people into one of two categories, in-group vs. out-group, or us vs. them. Research indicates that the bias toward categorizing members of our species into us vs. them has been in the primate line for at least 25 million years. The two-party system nicely fits this bias—you are either a member of my in-group (us) or you are an outsider (them). A system with three or more parties is too complicated for our primitive bias toward us vs. them thinking.
When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can't.
But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president's control.
The flipped perceptions on gas prices isn't an aberration, said Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan. On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard.
Recent years have brought a polarization of people across the world
originally posted by: GeauxHomeYoureDrunk
a reply to: CriticalStinker
We could break out of this two party system easily enough if people would just vote 3rd party. Take this last election for instance: so many people did not really want EITHER of the two main party candidates but were convinced that voting 3rd party was just throwing away their vote, so rather than vote 3rd party or voting FOR a candidate they chose to vote AGAINST whichever main candidate they despised most by voting for the opposite main party candidate. If all of THOSE people had instead voted Libertarian, Green Party... ANTHING but Republican or Democrat.... one of those parties might have won or at the very least garnered enough votes that come next election cycle their party would have gotten equal funding, air time, press attention and most importantly would be included in all of the major debates- giving us a chance to break the two party system!
originally posted by: NthOther
Modern partisanship has degenerated into cultism. People who blindly adhere to the tenets of one "side" or the other are cultists, having substituted their political ideologies in place of religion, and are each on their respective crusades to either convert or annihilate one another.
The parallels between partisanship and cultist fanaticism are striking.
The Political Brain
During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, while undergoing an fMRI bran scan, 30 men--half self-described as "strong" Republicans and half as "strong" Democrats--were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.
The neuroimaging results, however, revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning--the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex--was quiescent. Most active were the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in the processing of emotions; the anterior cingulate, which is associated with conflict resolution; the posterior cingulate, which is concerned with making judgments about moral accountability; and--once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable--the ventral striatum, which is related to reward and pleasure.