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Political Diversity

             Americans first became familiar with the two-party political system as early as 1787, when the fight over ratification of the Constitution was the most important issue on the political agenda. The federalists, such as John Jay and Thomas Jefferson, fought for a strong central government as opposed to the anti-federalists, led by James Madison, which supported a system of strong state governments. However, after the Constitution was adopted, the struggle for power shifted to maintaining states" rights. The early 19th century saw the rise and fall of many different political parties until, in 1824, the Republican and Democrat parties came to power and have enjoyed a permanent monopoly over American democracy ever since. There has only been one small exception to the rule. In 1912 former president Theodore Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive Party platform, garnered 27.4% of the popular vote, the largest percentage of any third party in election history. Even in the last election we saw third parties such as Ralph Nader's Green Party gaining notoriety. The American public, political arena and news media still have a long way to go until the value of having a strong third party candidate is fully realized. .
             When arguing for a transformation of the present system it is important to explain how certain aspects of the system work. First, it is valuable to describe the role the media plays in discriminating against third parties. While everyone has heard of the Democrats and Republicans, little is known of the other parties. In fact, a past issue of Harper's magazine found that there are currently 37 different parties running for office this year, 37 and still over half of the population remains oblivious to their existence. Why? Studies have shown that 69% of Americans receive all or most of their news, including political information, from the media. By not giving equal coverage to strong third parties, the media is inadvertently swaying popular opinion into the belief that third party politics are of less importance or have less substance.

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