Wyoming Republican: Here's how the two-party system — and partisan gerrymandering — are wrecking democracy

Wyoming Republican: Here's how the two-party system — and partisan gerrymandering — are wrecking democracy
Mitch McConnell/Shutterstock
Mitch McConnell/Shutterstock
Election '20

Critics of United States politics often complain about the two-party system, noting that in many European parliamentary democracies, having five or six major parties in the federal government is the norm. But Wyoming Republican David Dodson, in a May 20 op-ed for the New York Times, addresses another problem that contributes to a lack of real competition in U.S. politics: party primaries, which Dodson complains, discourage competition.

“Through a series of anticompetitive tactics,” Dodson asserts, “the two political parties have created a hidden monopoly structure that accounts for a Congress with a 77% disapproval rating yet a nearly 90% reelection rate.”

In 2018, Dodson challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. John Barrasso in a GOP Senate primary in Wyoming, but Barrasso won the primary and the general election as well.

Dodson complains, “The political parties understand that in a political world made up mainly of partisan-drawn districts, where 90% of the seats in Congress are not competitive in the general election, controlling the primary process protects incumbents and controls the ultimate outcome.”

The Republican discusses his experience running against Barrasso in 2018, explaining, “When I contacted a law firm known to serve Republicans, that firm told me it couldn’t work for a candidate running against an incumbent because it would put its entire practice at risk. As I tried to build an organization to run a credible primary challenge, this story repeated itself, whether I was recruiting campaign staff or a marketing firm.”

Dodson offers some possible, solutions, however. First, Dodson writes, “nonpartisan committees must take control of the taxpayer-financed primary process and run a single primary ballot, forcing incumbents to compete with members of the opposing party as well as of their own party.”

Second, according to Dodson, “federal term limits would break incumbents’ domination, create more open seats and attract new talent to the political process.”

And Dodson’s third recommendation is “a constitutional amendment against partisan gerrymandering so that voters choose their politicians instead of politicians choosing their voters.”

Dodson wraps up his op-ed by stressing that competition is as important to politics as it is to free-market capitalism.

“The monopolistic forces I witnessed are not inevitable,” Dodson writes. “The solution is to restore congressional accountability to where it belongs: with voters. Just as our economic engine relies on competition to remain healthy, so does our democracy.”

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