Introduction to The Two-Party System, Part II

Against the Current, No. 174, January/February 2015

The Editors

WE PRESENT HERE the second of a four-part series by historian Mark Lause on the history and evolution of the two-party system in the United States. The first installment in our previous issue, “The Other Peculiar Institution,” discussed the system from its British-derived origins through the U.S. Civil War (ATC 173, online at The present essay is a conversation on the American Two-Party System from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the Crash of 1929.

The relevance of this discussion is increasingly evident in the wake of the November 2014 midterm elections, with the Congressional ascendancy of rightwing Republicans, the continuing debacle of the centrist corporate Democrats, and signs of a potential emerging independent political challenge — as seen for example in the strong showings of Green gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins in New York, independent socialist Angela Walker running for Milwaukee County sheriff, the victory of the Richmond Progressive Alliance in that California city, and previously the election of socialist candidate Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council.

How to build from these and similar candidacies toward a break from the stranglehold of the capitalist parties is a critical and urgent discussion for the left.

January/February 2015, ATC 174