Political Parties Are Essential Democratic Institutions

Essay within "The Realistic Promise of Multiparty Democracy in the United States," a political reform report from New America.

In April 2023, New America, the Center for Ballot Freedom, Protect Democracy, Lyceum Labs, and Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law convened a conference at Stanford University on the future of political parties in the United States. The conference, titled “More Parties, Better Parties,” focused on the idea that U.S. democracy would benefit from stronger and more representative parties and that essential to that vision was opportunity for more parties beyond the current party duopoly to emerge. The essays in this collection, derived from papers prepared for the conference, trace the following argument: Parties are essential institutions in a democracy; there is an unjustified hostility to parties in much American political discourse; and fluid and overlapping coalitions of a multiparty system can improve governance and confidence. We then look at the promise of fusion voting, a practice once widespread and now prohibited in most states, which could allow new parties to gain a foothold by cross-endorsing candidates from established parties.