Could you make a viable many-party system without ammending the constitution?

I feel like only 2 viable parties is the number one reason we got Trump. Obviously things are highly skewed in the US to favor only two viable parties. Is there any way to have several viable parties that have a an actual good shot at winning without a constitutional amendment, or another, equally unlikely process?

AFAIK, there’s nothing in the federal constitution that requires the states to have fixed Congressional districts. If states decided to select their Congresspeople and Electors with proportional representation from party lists that would start getting third parties some power.

But the chance that states are going to do that is probably just as unlikely as a Constitutional amendment.

I think just changing from First-past-the-post to either ranked-choice or approval voting would have a tremendous impact on 3rd parties. I don’t think there’s anything that prohibits either method.

There’s nothing that prevents it right now, assuming you’re okay with the House of Representatives the President from among the top three electoral vote winners.

Heck, they did it in 1824.

I don’t know if you (the OP) intended to imply otherwise or not, but political parties in their entirety are not created within, supported by, or mentioned whatsoever in the constitution, so their status is informal.

The best way to support something other than a two-party binary system is to follow the lead of Maine and institute instant-runoff elections. IANAL but I think that doing so on a Federal election level would require a federal law and possibly a Constitutional amendment. Perhaps not for Presidential elections, though. Neither Maine nor Nebraska had to get a federal Constitutional amendment in order to allocate their electors according to who won in each district instead of doing winner-take-all. So perhaps a state could decide that they could allocate their electors to whoever received the majority of votes, reallocating the least vote-getting candidates’ votes to those voters 2nd choices until someone obtains a majority. I would imagine attempting to do so would be challenged in the courts. Changing it for SENATORS or HOUSE OF REP looks to me like it would be more difficult.

This probably requires a change to the election procedures of every individual state. The federal constitution doesn’t prohibit ranked or other voting systems I don’t think, individual state laws specify election procedures. Which is basically impossible, state governments have little incentive to change the very rules the current politicians were elected under.

Don’t forget that in summer of 1992 Ross Perot was leading in polls before he imploded. Hard to say what would have happened had he stayed in the race - he got back in later and ended up with 19% but won no states.

The main problem third parties have is a lack of popular support. If a third party has a plurality of the votes, its candidates would be elected. That’s how the Democrats and the Republicans get candidates elected.

Do we really want a system that essentially says “You came in third? Good enough. You’re elected.” That seems to be making a mockery of holding elections if you decide before the election that some candidates are entitled to win regardless of the actual vote count. And who decides which parties are so entitled?

To do it everywhere would require a federal law (because there’s no way all 50 states would individually decide on the same solution), but would not require an amendment. The Constitution specifically authorizes Congress to pass laws concerning how members of Congress are elected. Congress has so far mostly not chosen to use that power, but they could.

Little Nemo, you misunderstand the problem. The problem is that our current system, despite not mentioning political parties at all, is nonetheless very hostile to third parties. If you vote for anyone other than the big two, then your vote is wasted, and so therefore most people don’t vote third party (because they have good reason not to), and so third parties never get a chance to get off the ground. If we were to switch to IRV or approval voting or the like, however, people could still vote third party without worrying about potentially spoiling the election, and so third parties could grow, and eventually one of them might surpass one of the existing big two, or even reach the #1 spot.

Ranked voting doesn’t essentially say that. How ridiculous. And voters would decide which parties are so entitled. Myself, I don’t particularly hate FPTP but your defense of it here is extremely lame.

I think the system in California has some merit as well. Have the two candidates with the most votes in the primary move on to general election. It wouldn’t surprise me if some districts in California end up with a Democrat running against a Green Party candidate. If a deep red state did this you might end up with a Republican vs. a Libertarian. For that individual race it would still be just two parties, but it would be a potential starting point for third parties.

As regards the states and how they setup their own governance the only thing the constitution mandates is that they have a “republican form of government”.

From other discussions on this board over the years it has been said that the Supreme Court studiously avoids ruling on what a “republican form of government” is as they consider it a “political question”.

So it seems the states can do what they want on their own elections and governance because the SCOTUS won’t touch it (which amazes me and I consider an abdication of their responsibility but there you are).

This. As things currently exist, there’s no way a third party can get to the point of contending in more than isolated instances. Ranked choice voting for Congress would open up that door, so that a vote for a third party wouldn’t effectively be a vote against whichever of the two major parties one is more aligned with.

Another reform that would help, though less significantly than ranked-choice: at present, in most states, a candidate can only appear on one party’s ballot line. So if the Green Party wanted to field a full ticket, but wanted to just list the Democratic candidate as its ballot entry for offices where it didn’t have a particularly good candidate, it can’t do that in all but a couple of states. Damned if I can understand what the objection is to that,. but changing that would be a plus for evolution of third parties.

Is that anything like how, in the 1896 election, William Jennings Bryan was the presidential candidate for both the Democratic and the Populist parties, but with different running mates for each?

The Whigs replaced the Federalists. The Republicans replaced the Whigs. The Populists elected at least one governor and several members of Congress. The Socialist Party also elected a couple of members to Congress. Bernie Sanders and Angus King are NOT Democrats; neither was Joseph Lieberman after 2006.

The way to build a third party is from the bottom up. Win some state offices, show people that you actually have a plan for governing, build an organization that lasts longer than the next campaign.

Having the House select the President more often might not be a bad thing.

It’d sure make the midterm elections more interesting.

The voters. A party which gets, say, 25% of the vote may well be only the third-most popular party, but that’s no reason why they shouldn’t end up with about 25% of the representation.

How is it you think the person who comes in third wins?

More broadly a first past the post voting system will always gravitate to a two party system (strategic voting). There can be occasional hiccups here and there but by-and-large it saddles whoever does it with two parties most of the time.

Even if you adjust state voting systems to make third parties more politically viable you still have the gigantic hurdle of the executive branch is winner take all. So you could get third parties in legislative functions, we do now.

Splitting any votes for the presidency can result in a single party rule by a party that might not have otherwise gotten a majority of votes. If you want your issue to be able to make it through the executive branch you need to either control the seat or have a super majority in the legislative. This leads to two strong parties who will continually fight over the middle to remain viable, I don’t see away around that.

Parliamentary systems are simply better imo. They have democracy 2.0. We are still stuck with 1.0 and can’t fix that without changing the constitution.

I know this is kind of a religious dream of singularitarians/transhumanists, but I keep thinking if we could just build a computer program that was smart enough, we could ask it what the truth was. And this program (or suite, really) would be truly unbiased and truly give correct answers. Well, I mean, no question actually has an absolute answer, a really objectively right answer is always a probability distribution, but you could nevertheless ask this software almost any question and get the truth as best as is known.

And then we could finally shut up all these incoherent lying voices in politics, because it’s hard to argue you know better than software that is more intelligent than any human who has ever lived. Because even if the software’s analysis is imperfect (just superhumanly good), it can also pull upon more data than any human can recall.

Still wouldn’t really fix our broken political system, though. Even in this world where hypothetically it was known which government policy had the highest policy of success, and objectively which candidate has the highest probability of enacting good policies, another party would still exist. The “luddite” party or whatever. Where they would claim that the results of this software only reflects the biases of the programmers, and while they could not produce their own legitimate AI that gives different answers, they could throw up some uncredible charlatans on Faux News and throw up a cloud of doubt.