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‘We’ve lost our way’: Americans rejecting the two-party system

Feb 8

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The Republican and Democratic Parties have had a two-party lock on American politics since the U.S. Civil War, with comparatively few successful third-party campaigns at the federal level over the past 150 years. While some Americans appreciate the two-party system, others argue for a more open multi-party democracy and want to make it easier for independent and third-party candidates to run. Some Americans, out of protest or for other reasons, choose not to participate in the current two-party system at all.

In this 33-minute episode of America Speaks, pollster and political analyst Dr. Frank Luntz interviews a sample of Americans who are either abstaining from voting or planning to throw their weight behind a third-party or independent candidate.

Luntz dives deep into the reasons why they made this choice and uncovers a near-unanimous unifying truth: Voting third-party is more about rejecting the current state of the two-party system, rejecting Trump and Biden personally, and rejecting what U.S. politics has become, than it is about embracing any particular third-party campaign, candidate or ideology.

With the 2024 election in full swing, and with Republicans and Democrats casting ballots for their chosen party’s nominee, we and America speaks wanted to hear from the 10s of millions of Americans who won’t be participating in the primaries. We want to give those who don’t like the two major parties or their candidates, the chance to be heard. So for the next 30 minutes, we will take you behind the scenes, and inside the minds of about 20% of the American people and growing, who say no, to the Democrats, no to the Republicans, no to both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and yes, to something entirely different, an independent third party candidate for president, you can only hear conversations like this on straight arrow news. So let’s get started. I want to thank you all for doing this. I think this could be a very historic session, I really want to understand what you think and feel about America at this moment, and what you think and feel about our political system. So the first question I want to ask you is one that, that I’ve done before, and I’ve never been able to understand why. Please choose? These are the best of times are these other worst of times? I’m not gonna say anything more than that. These are the best of times, or these are the worst of times for the country? How many of you by show of hands think these are the best of times? One, individual, two, three of you. Who thinks these are the worst of times? Okay, you’re the guys who want to hear from Brooke, how would you answer that question?
I think because of how divided we are, and we can’t You can’t even talk about an issue if you can’t agree on the truth or what actually happened. And so like, it’s one thing to be like, we all want to get the same where and I think you want to get there a different way than I do. But I think right now people think we are not trying to get to the same in places as I am. But I think we really are. But people don’t see that.
Either. Why are these the worst of times?
Because I’ve never been in my lifetime. Really scared of the of the election coming up? I think either way, we’re in a very, very dangerous patient. Elena,
I just think as a country, we’ve lost our way. And I blame both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. And I think there’s, I can’t even say any one issue because no major issue can seem to get resolved anymore. Because the work that it takes and not even the compromise, but the understanding of why each other feels the way they do and thinks the way they do. We don’t have time for that anymore.
How many of you believe that our democracy is actually at stake in this election cycle? Raise your hands if you believe that. Okay, that’s really, really strong point of view. Melanie, that’s a really strong point of view. It looks like almost half of you feel that democracy is at stake. Can you tell me why you are so concerned and then Sepi? I’m turning to you.
Melanie, your first. Okay,
so I just am afraid of the direction that we’re going the tribalism. I don’t like the tour authority, authoritarianism that Trump brings. And the you have to be in with what I believe in. I know there’s a lot of part of a lot of people in our country that like his policies, but I don’t think his style is going to go in the right direction. But then if we go a democratic way, I don’t believe that they’re even doing any things we’re moving more towards a socialist country rather than a capitalistic country. And I don’t like that direction, either.
Sharpie Why are you afraid
for the state of our democracy from a local level on up, the more and more that voting rights are chipped away at and the opportunity to get out and vote for everybody that is able to do it takes away your representation, saying
it’s at stake. There is so much at stake with this election. And it’s kind of scary with what some of the state Supreme Courts are doing. And, you know, I’m I’m willing to let everything play out in the courts about January 6 than certainly opposed to what happened on January 6, but I don’t think a court can just convict him they can’t just decide at Stennis without ever having been proven in court.
Keep going, what else? Are you afraid of? Anybody?
I, I’m very afraid. Like I said, in my lifetime, I haven’t been afraid. I’ve been. I’ve had preferences. But Donald Trump is telling us exactly what he’s planning on doing. And he was, it’s, it’s just everything that comes out of his mouth lately. It just gets more and more egregious. And that not only him, but the problem is, is there’s so many that are willing, it’s he’s a symptom. Really. Right. So I’m just concerned, when he gets in. It’s going to be I really think it’s like 1930s, the 1930s in Europe,
I really believe that, that I saw your hand up.
So I want to pick up what Amanda said, I am petrified that a court would take a right to vote away from us by saying that someone can’t run without being convicted of it. Right. Susan,
you sat up when Scott spoke? I’m curious about your reaction.
I completely agree. I am not a strong Trump supporter. And any? Well, I won’t go into that right now. But I will completely agree with what he said it’s not just going to affect one party, it will affect our entire system. And I feel very strongly that a state should not deny voters their right to vote.
The reason I’m so scared is because is bought if Biden and Trump are the best this country can do. Like that’s, like, what are we doing? Um, because I can’t get behind either one of them. And Trump scares the crap out of me. But I I’m not happy with Biden either. So I’m looking at a third party praying that somebody comes forward, who can who can there’s both parties are just too far at to the extremes. We need something closer in the middle, we need to be able to compromise. That’s how this country works. And the Constitution works is with checks and balances. Joseph. Um,
so something that hasn’t been discussed yet. But if you look at the two leading candidates right now, we don’t know if you know, by the end of their term, if they will make it. So I think that’s something that a lot of voters have to consider. And it’s something that, you know, scares me,
Jesse.
Well, you asked specifically what we’re scared of. I think when I think with respect to democracy, what I’m genuinely fearful about I agree with folks, other folks who have said the system will hold with either one of them being elected, we can survive one more Biden term or one more Trump term. I’m really scared about what would happen in the streets in major cities were the pole position not to change and Trump to be removed from the ballot in any one state. I’m not familiar with the court case well enough to say one way or the other. But I know you know, if he’s the leading favorite in this nominee in this not just the nominating contest, but the election, we would see chaos if he were actually removed from the ballot.
And next step and unpacking what people really think and feel is to ask them and to force them to summarize their opinions in just one word. Here’s how our two party rejecters summed up American politics in a single word, and why they did. So I’m going to give you that those conversations are also I’m going to give you guys the opportunity to give me one word or phrase just one word or phrase to describe the political and electoral system in America right now. What would you say? Joseph? I’m gonna start with you.
disturbing.
Melanie, divisive. David
from South Carolina.
Not what the people behind you had in mind.
So from Florida confusing. David from Colorado.
I agree. It’s decisive.
Bro. Brooke from Tennessee.
I think it’s been manipulated.
sappy from Virginia.
misrepresented
theater from Connecticut.
Last legs.
Ricky from Pennsylvania
in adequate
Elena from Rhode Island,
dysfunctional
jersey. New York.
Right for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Now from Michigan
out of touch with reality,
Meredith from New Hampshire, very
inside the beltway, Amanda from Iowa,
messy.
Zach from Kentucky,
to polarizing.
Scott from Virginia, embarrassing.
Susan from Georgia,
utterly disheartening.
We’re from California,
inaccurate. Robert from DC, completely broken.
The aspect of my job I embrace the most is the chance not just to listen to the American people, but also to learn from them. Before conducting this session, I thought that there would be an equal degree of hope for what a third party could bring to the political process, along with the disappointment and what the two major parties have or have not done. Well, that was wrong. From today forward, I will call the 2024 election, the rejection election. Let’s listen. Which is the greater cause all of us precedent trust in voting for third party, a unity ticket. Which is it that you embrace and want a third party or that you reject and don’t like the two parties? Who would say that it’s more an issue rejection of what you have right now raise your hands. And who would say that it’s an embrace? Raise your hands? Okay. It is overwhelming. Okay, okay. Please explain to me, what are you rejecting? And be specific. When you’re rejecting Trump and you’re rejecting Biden, what are you rejecting? Zack?
I’m rejecting their failed policies on both sides.
David from Colorado, what are you rejecting and rejecting
Biden’s age and his policies for against fuel of fossil fuel and his border policies? And for Trump, I’m rejecting his narcissism.
Scott, what are you rejecting and rejecting
Trump’s personality and lack of responsibility? Lack of humanity with respect to Biden, I’m rejecting most of his policies except I support Biden’s Ukraine and Israel policies. Meredith,
what are you rejecting
the toxic culture that either of them being elected creates in communities?
Elena, what are you rejecting?
I’m rejecting the fact that neither party is allowing for competition in their party, and that they are not standing up to candidates like Trump. That got him to take over the Republican Party. Something happened there. Robert,
what are you rejecting?
I’d say their age, both of them.
Ah, Amanda, what
are you rejecting the hypocrisy from the Republicans.
Jessie, what are you rejecting?
With Biden, I’m
really rejecting the staff and the people around him in the White House. I worry about what direction that will take him in including the vice president. With Trump. I’m rejecting everything, but the staff from the last time around. I’m hoping they’ll still be there. And they’ll still be allowed to play a role in another administration. Namely, you know, foreign policy from Mike Pompeo law from Bill Barr education from Betsy DeVos. And folks like that, who I liked from the first time around,
either What are you rejecting when you reject the two party system and the two candidates?
I’m rejecting? Biden’s age I rejecting his border policy and obviously not knowing what his his war guys doing. And for Trump it’s fascism. Straight up fascism.
Cepi What are you rejecting the
status quo I mean, we the actual change that needs to happen the people that really need help can’t wait on it whether it’s from homelessness to abortion rights to climate change, there’s there’s no time for just more talk.
Anyone else is like,
where you rejecting, just like
the lack of civility around the conversation, like people are so busy to attack instead of like discussing the actual problems.
Basically, I’m rejecting the way but Biden isn’t consistent like with the student loans and stuff. It was something that he had an idea and all of a sudden people started rejecting and he’s like, pushed that way out. And it was silent. That nobody does dumb. He does stuff to silence them. Meet when you come to notice when he’s already signed in the bill was being rejected. And Trump is basically Trump is too gung ho he needs to put that gun away.
Okay, that’s a really good line. Ricky, what are you rejecting?
Both parties, Trump and Biden’s lack of integrity. They, you know, they go with the polls and what’s popular and instead of like they neither one seems to have any kind of really strong personal integrity.
Melanie, what are you rejecting?
I’m rejecting the bullying that Trump brings. I think he’s a total bully. And I’m rejecting the policies and the integrity of Biden, and Biden as part of the swamp. He’s been there for ages. And looking at what his son has done. It’s just that so I don’t like either direction.
I need a word or phrase from each of you to explain the 2024 election. David from South Carolina. I’ll start with you.
The world is laughing that we chose the same folks again.
Susan,
I echo what David said. I think it’s just pitiful that we have gone back to the same two bad candidates. It seems Scott,
embarrassing. Now
it’s a deja vu of 2020.
Reader. Gary. Robert.
I’d say it’s embarrassing at the highest magnitude as well. Zack,
the potential end of democracy. Amanda?
Defensive narrative. That’s attic. Cow.
failure of the system. Ricky?
Terrifying.
Peter. The end.
Okay, guys,
come on. I know you’re listening to me as I go through this. I know you heard all those comments. It is absolute, my God. Where are we? Where are we headed as a country?
Anybody,
nothing’s changing, nothing’s changing. Everything is if anything, almost this lack of I want less of this perceived civility. I want actual change. I don’t care how good you sound saying something, do something.
Somebody, I don’t want that some of the changes the changes that are going on? Now I dislike I’d rather as be like we were in the 80s.
Right? No. Like, I know people who’ve had an extreme reaction to some transit. And that’s really not what they feel. They just feel like something is being pushed on them. And if it wasn’t so pushed, they wouldn’t have had that extreme back lash reaction and
feelings and my actual right to live comfortably are two different things that I’m sorry, I just
like feel the reaction. This is where like this, you just have to not assume someone’s totally against you,
just at a certain point when realistically the changes that need to happen, or the rights that really need to be solidified, have nothing to do with the people that want to stop them. I don’t mean
to be too subjective. The rights and the changes that you want is one thing, but that doesn’t mean it needs to happen.
It was now time to ask our election rejecters to explain why they support an independent candidate and party. Some of them are clearly more anti Trump, others more anti Biden, but they all show one essential trait in common. They don’t want more of the same. And they’re eager to vote for change. Let’s listen. You all told me the system is broken. You tell me you don’t like the two party system. You gave me the worst descriptions of it. Why must be tossed out? Why must we bring about such fundamental change, including an independent unity candidate, Elena,
or the two party system? Neither party represents the majority of the people in this country.
Ricky why must be changed. Because
it’s not working. If Biden and Trump can can be added again. After the last mess. It’s obviously not working.
Scott, why must be changed.
I don’t oppose two parties. I oppose the two parties we have today. Both parties are broken. The system is not broken.
Amanda? Yeah, I agree with what he just said. I think I think the Republican Party is going to collapse. And I think we just need an another another party.
sappy Why must the two parties be changed?
We can do so much. So much better than this. There’s so many other options that a country Have more than 350 million people. There’s no way that that much power should be given to such a single or two system kind of way. There’s more than that.
Peter, I just feel like the parties have taken this for granted. They know like someone had said earlier, they said, You know what we have to, there’s nothing else we can do. That’s exactly where they want us. And so that’s why we need to change it. If we have a third party, they’re going to have to start coming back to compromise, to civility, to to reality.
Narrative, they
become too top heavy. It’s like the only people making decisions are the ones sitting in DC. It’s not the people across the country, and the parties who are making the choices. It’s just a few people making decisions and forcing them upon Everyone. Melanie,
I think we need a third party because we need somebody to bring us to the middle and somebody to have some reasonability because the two parties and how they’re leading in DC are just so extreme. And we we can’t get anything done.
Okay, I want to flip the script here. You all are clearly telling me that you want this third alternative. What scares you the most about a third alternative? What is your greatest hesitation voting for an independent candidate?
Joseph, go ahead.
So I think the biggest thing is not really knowing where they’re going to align with my values. You know, even though I have disagreements with the Republican Party, majority of the time, I’m going to line up with them. I don’t know, if an independent candidate work to get in, if they would align with my values enough.
What is your greatest hesitation about voting for a third party? And
that they’re going to end up? No different from either the other parties that they’re going to be self serving? They’re going to just attack instead of something positive forward.
Marius, what’s your grace hesitation about a third party candidate?
Are they able to compete with the infrastructure that the two parties already have? Can? Can they even win at? I don’t know. Susan,
how will we know what we’re voting for? Until they elucidate what it is they stand for?
Scott Grace hesitation.
A waste my vote.
Explain that.
So in other words, I may get my least favorite candidate by voting for my most favorite candidate, because I’ll take votes away from someone who I could tolerate better.
See, I feel like my vote doesn’t count because I live in a state where I would do a protest vote because I’m like, Oh, my state’s going red no matter what. And so I feel like, like they don’t even run ads, which I’m not I don’t want ads, because you mean they don’t run ads in my state.
Theater, what’s your grace hesitation?
Scott kind of kind of took it is just the idea of for me that I could possibly put Trump back in office. But I feel like I’ve come to grips with that. I’m just going to have to, I’m going to have to do it no matter what happens. Now
that we have identified why so many voters are so unhappy with the current system, and they’ve been given the chance to explain their personal hesitations about a third party candidate. We wanted them to tell us specifically, what attributes traits and talents mattered most of them in the next President of the United States. Their answers will surprise you. Of all the attributes that a candidate can have, what is the most important, it can be anything you want? What must that candidate be able to do? So you say that’s the person I want to vote for? That’s the person I really care about. That’s why I want as President David, I’ll give you another shot.
Character.
What do you mean by character David?
Integrity. putting America first, not not their own political interests.
Humility, not nobody can know everything that they need to do as president and they need to know when to defer to others and who to defer to Robert,
I’d say youth and vitality. Someone who’s new to this political system.
Jesse colorblind,
I want a candidate who is going to be kind of openly anti woke reject the oppression Olympics game and embrace meritocracy wholeheartedly.
Brooke, I’m
just considering everyone’s overall Like needs like trying to get everyone to a better spot, not just your group.
Amanda, integrity in that say what you stand for it and mean it don’t just say what’s politically expedient.
Melanie
collaborative i We need somebody who’s going to be able to work with the issues that arise collaborative and flexible, like issues are going to arise and we need somebody who can work around that and work through that and work with the people and resources they have around them. Theater,
courage and integrity to do stuff that’s not politically politically expedient. But but we’ll do what’s right, even if they take a hit for it.
Elena,
someone who can speak in full sentences to the American people.
So if you like to third party candidate, but they’ve got less than 20% of the vote, yes. You vote for the third party candidate,
if I like them. Yeah. Peter, who would you vote for? Your party? Because because
I’d rather go down swinging for democracy than then voted in a dictator or voted a man whose way past the party has to go home?
I’m going to stop with you because I’m looking at the zoom. And so all these people shake their heads. Yes. When you said you’d rather go down swinging. Would anyone like to add to that comment? Because I see it’s a comment you agreed with.
I think voting third party shows like The more you vote for it shows that there is a movement and gives other people who might be questioning where they want to vote, or whether a third party is actually viable, that maybe it is and what people would want to work harder than next time around.
Somebody else? Why would you rather go down swinging, David,
as my vote, my vote still counts even is not for winter. So I’ll, I’ll live with that.
One more person,
why would you rather go down swinging,
I’m happy with the 20% because I don’t have to vote libertarian and I don’t have to write in like vote for candidate and a process that I truly believe in. And that is what going down swinging means to me.
And what happens in America matters everywhere. And polls
20% of the vote and RFK Jr. is that 12 That’s really not that low at all.
Okay, no, I’m a pollster polls cannot be wrong by finally, we gave participants the chance to speak up and speak out to the media, to the pundits and to anyone analyzing and explaining 2024. If this is one of you pay attention. What message would you send to the media? They are critical of a third party candidate? What would you tell them? Scott, I’ll start with you.
We tell them that they can be wrong. Um, you know, people are fed up with these two candidates, swimming, they’re the nominee. And they’re the dough labels candidates better? I don’t think no tables candidates will work if you have popular Republicans and Democrats.
Amanda, what would you tell the media when they said the third party candidates are irrelevant?
I’d say it wasn’t true with the Abraham Lincoln. Yeah.
Ricky Welch, would you tell a third, the media when they say a third party candidates irrelevant?
I think the media is just as slanted and and warped in this country as the two party system. So that just makes me want to support third party even more
savvy. What do you tell the media?
That if they weren’t such a mouthpiece for the system as it is then I would have a shred of belief in what they have to say one way or the other about a third party candidate.
David from Colorado, what
would you tell them?
I tell them they’re being held hostage by the to report to parties. Peter, why
would you tell them?
I would say thanks for showing the disasterpiece movie over and over again. But I’m going to change and try to bring back democracy. That’s what I would say. Sad.
What would you tell them?
I will tell them that the media doesn’t matter because they’re as worse as the Democrats and the Republicans. Even worse, they’re they bring on more line. More lies, more drama, everything. So why can’t a new face a new party have a better chance that can probably do more than both of them put together.
Meredith, what would you tell the media when it says that the only reason for a third party campaign is to elect Donald Trump?
I would say that that’s not like they’re wrong, and they just never give the full picture of anything anyway, they only speak what they want to say not what people are really feeling.
Cow, how would you answer that question?
I’m going to pick the person that I like best to vote for. It doesn’t matter why they why they’re there. Why, why that party exists or is on the ballot? Read?
How do you answer that question?
I would just tell the media that my goal is so that Trump isn’t elected. So they got their story wrong.
Zach, what would you tell them?
I’d say that they’re being an arm of the Democratic Party, and it’s my vote and my voice.
Honestly, the hardest, the hardest, people who are fighting against the labels right now is the Democrats. They’re trying to limit the the ballot access, they’re trying to shut it down. Because they know there’s probably more independents, that kind of lean conservative, that would vote for a third party. So I think I think they’re scared. And that’s why I would I would agree with that what he was saying just now,
David from South Carolina,
most of the mainstream media leans left if not far left, and their big concern is that no labels candidate will tip the election to Trump. And that’s why they’re trying to get no labels out of out of the race.
Why would no labels pull more votes from Biden than from Trump?
They might, they might not. But the big concern is if they’re there at all, there’s the possibility they take more from Biden, and they don’t like the possibility have
a bright side. David, you did have a point because originally, a lot of people said that even if they don’t like Trump, you’re still gonna vote for Trump. I was a Biden kind of girl. But I’m still not voting for Biden, right? I’m going for third party. So But David said, has some value to it.
Because Biden’s not progressive enough. He’s not left leaning enough. He doesn’t actually do anything that is remotely representative of people that would vote for the Democratic Party. So if there’s a third party candidate, and they seem better than the alternative, those votes that will go to Biden, by automatic default to just take away from Trump would go to the third party taking away from Biden,
I answer the journalist question. Yeah. I would say get out of the beltway and do some investigative reporting out in the States.
And why do I say that?
Because I think they’re kind of, you know, it’s a lot of nepotism that goes on there in DC, and everybody whether you’re right or left, or Trump or Biden, it’s all like, well, this third party is going to be a problem. And I think if they went out and talk to real Americans and hear the real frustration of real Americans, they would maybe realize that a third party candidate is a real possibility this year.
What an amazing way to end such an important conversation and the only place you can go to hear conversations like this is on American speaks right here on straight arrow news. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. See you next time.

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