Earlier this month, the elections came and went, and a "great upset" occurred. If you talk to a Democrat, they will tell you that the substance of this "upset" is that the Republicans grabbed enough power to stalemate Democratic efforts, and the Republicans will be forcing in their own ill-conceived agendas. If you talk to a Republican, they'll tell you a different story, about how Republicans seized back control from an unpopular, and misguided Democratic party, and that now the proper agendas can be furthered. Guess what? They're both wrong! The real upset happening is the increased polarization of the parties, and how their pointless see-saw bickering only furthers real causes out of an indirect effect of the back and forth motion of policies.
I don't care much for politics, but I have always liked solving problems, which I think is what politics were originally supposed to be about. Somewhere the problem solving train derailed, though. Republicans gain a critical mass of power, and force through as many laws about their "core philosophies" as they can. The Democrats pull the pendulum of power over to their side, undo as much of what the Republicans enacted as they can, and begin placing their own agendas into law books. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
There's a fundamental game mechanic going on here, that would have a tremendous effect on the cycle if it was removed. Having only two parties is the problem. If there is such a thing as a "spectrum of political ideas", two parties will naturally gravitate towards the opposite ends. It allows an "us versus them" mentality, or more importantly an "if not them, THEN US!" one. You see, if there are only two parties, then there are two ways to win. First, you can just win, by arguing or proving your point, "the old fashioned way". Second however, you can win by just not letting the other person win, because by default if they don't win you're the only one left.
Assuming that both of the parties are nearly equals in terms of strength and capabilities, you end up averaging in a wash, like we do. It's a heads or tails, flip of the coin. Sometimes one party wins, sometimes the other, but neither overpowers the other enough to really dominate. If you can make the other party lose, it means you're the winner, because you hold the remainder of the power.
Add one or more parties, bringing the number to three or more, changes the game mechanics completely. It's the same reason to play a game to "best two out of three" to determine the winner. With three equal parties, even if you can force one to lose, there remains another party, of nearly equal power to your own, to challenge you still. You take the "win by default" off the table, and people are forced to consider the type of actions that will let them win by presenting the best, most popular ideas.
This is a bit of a ramble, I know. It just really makes me mad every time I go to vote, and my choices are one of two parties I know have a chance to win but are extreme positions I dislike, or a small third party that I know has little chance to win but actually seems to have some good ideas. Lose-Lose-Lose situation anyone?