American Political Parties are a Duopoly (Spoiler: Its not Symmetric)

In the United States we have effectively only two political parties to choose from, the Democrats or Republicans. Unlike in other developed nations that are characterized as two party systems, America has zero representation of third parties in national government while in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada the third biggest parties hold 14.4%7.52% or 5.38% (depending on who you count), and 23.9% of seats in national government respectively. Therefore, it is fair to say that the parties act as two firms unchallenged within a market for votes and thereby power within the American political system. Now this isn’t a shocking claim to most Americans, but inspired this post was an article from the weekly periodical, The Economist, entitled “The mid-terms produce a divided government for a divided country.” The article discusses how it is in the Democrat’s best interest to have a functional government more than it is for Republicans’ because Democrats are more linked to ‘big government’ and should not act as obstructionists like the Republicans did under president Obama. If this problem is taken as a duopoly problem, then it is more easily understood why the Democrats may hurt themselves in an attempt to copy the Republicans. The Republican and Democratic strategies of taking political action to please their bases and get people out to vote for their parties, can be taken as vote-maximization functions (profit functions). In a symmetric duopoly the functions would be the same and therefore the vote share would be split evenly as the Parties responded to each other’s actions with the same actions. However, the fact that the democratic party is more likely to harm their voter approval and turnout by decreasing the efficiency of the government means that they have a different vote-max. function than the Republicans. So, when the Democrats steal the Republican’s response (response function) to President Obama, to use against President Trump, then they are using the wrong response. If this was a true duopoly market and one were to model it, it would be clear that the Democrats using the Republican response would lead to less voters overall, but especially less voters for the Democratic Party.

About Brennan

Brennan is a fourth year economics major at the University of Puget Sound.

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