Political Zombie-ism and the Two Party State

I have remarked before how the de-centering of power relationships in the context of duopoly politics confronts third party strategy with both challenges to be surmounted and advantages to be exploited. The current realignment of the two-party state, that is, the reversion from undivided Republican government to undivided Democratic government - coincident with the polarization of duopoly ideology and the shifting political affiliations of the public-, has re-centered multiple political antagonisms in the United States.

Legislative gridlock, for instance, may now be the result of intra-partisan politics within the Democratic Party, the most conspicuous faultline being that between the so-called Blue Dogs and progressives. D-day writes: "It's intra-partisan gridlock, between those Democrats bought off by big money interests or fundamentally conservative-thinking versus the rest of the caucus." In such a context, the existence of partisan gridlock is a strictly Democratic affair. (However, despite the negative connotations of 'partisan gridlock,' and the corresponding idea that if only it weren't for the evils of partisanship, the Congress would be able to "get down to business," we must also remember that gridlock is built right into the system by the separation of powers, which presents constitutional hurdles even to a rubber-stamp congress coupled with an activist unitary presidency.)

The lack of an effective external political opposition thus exposes the internal limitations of the Democratic coalition. And it is therefore not surprising that so many liberals and Democrats have ceased to gloat about the implosion of the GOP. They do not want the Republican Party to fail for the same reason that Rush Limbaugh and his so-called Dittoheads do not want Obama to succeed: it would reveal their impotence. In this regard, not all displays of such concern are acts of concern trolling. As Sam Wilson of Think 3 recently noted: "However individuals may feel, institutionally speaking neither party wants to destroy the other. Part of convincing the public that the two parties are the only real choices is maintaining the existence of two major parties for people to choose from."

Unlike the Congress, which is almost entirely beholden to the interests of the bipoligarchy, the electorate does not breakdown along the partisan fault lines of the duopoly landscape. At the Huffington Post, Byron Williams considers recent polls which show that a majority of Americans identify with neither the Democratic nor Republican Parties: "43 percent identify as Independent/Other, which ought to be a concern to both parties because that number has been trending upward over the past decade" (emphasis added). Marc at In One Ear, Out the Other points out the reason why: "now is the perfect time for the growth of a 3rd party. Right now, non-party affiliation is higher than either parties’ affiliation." The question that remains, however, is what portion of the electorate would or could form the base for such a party.

Clearly, many newly declared independents are former Republicans fleeing the taint of the brand. If hardline conservatives regain and retain control of the GOP, many commentators see the potential for a new party among disaffected moderates. Robert Toplin writes at HNN:
A third party may emerge in the style of moderate, Eisenhower-style Republicanism. That new party could present a formidable challenge if the G.O.P. continues to appear radical and marginal to a majority of the American electorate.
We should always be careful, however, of falling prey to the illusion that the two-party system is in a state of collapse, or in its last throes. As the American Conservative reminds us, and as Pete Abel of the Moderate Voice recently noted, "Those who periodically pronounce the two-party system dead have little sense of history." Indeed, would it not more correct to liken the duopoly system to the undead, parasitically drawing its life from its living host?


Samuel Wilson said...

Think of the "duopoly" as the Rings of Power, the Two Rings if you please, because it's the promise of power, or the promise of a shortcut to it, that draws people to the two parties in efforts to take them over rather than build anew from the grassroots up. When ambitious people see no advantage to taking over one of the two parties instead of building their own, the Bipolarchy finally will be finished.

d.eris said...

The high number of people who call themselves independents but have not yet broken with the two party system as such suggests the Abilene paradox is at work here too.