Apology for the Anti-Duopoly

In a post offering 'A New Political Strategy for Conservatives' at Intellectual Conservative, Phillip Jackson argues that if conservatives want to save the Republican Party, they should simply become Democrats. Though tongue-in-cheek, the piece is noteworthy at least because arguments in favor of infiltrating either duopoly party are usually articulated from positions found outside the mainstream of both duopoly parties. However, Jackson also offers three arguments against third party activism, all of which I have previously touched upon in one form or another. But let's consider them again. He begins:
First, unless you want to wait another 10-20 years to develop the local, state and national infrastructure to run a successful third-party campaign, you're just spinning your wheels.
I have addressed the political impatience of apologists for the duopoly before. Regarding this point, I would note only that 10-20 years is not a very long time to begin with, and add that in the age of digital reproduction and electronic social networking this estimate could likely be cut in half. Jackson continues:
Institutionally, this is a two-party system of government, and pretending it isn't to feed your need to protest, or delusions of self-aggrandizement, isn't going to change these facts on the ground.
Simple reference to the brute fact of the two-party system is a favored rhetorical tactic of Republicans and Democrats alike. We might term this parry 'the duopoly fallacy,' or perhaps 'the Duverger fallacy.' In Duverger's Law and the One-Party State, I suggested one possible response: "even though SMDP voting tends to reduce a given district's system to a duopoly, it does not favor a particular duopoly constellation." Jackson's next point is an argument by rhetorical question. He asks:
Why is it more effective to form a new third party (or invigorate an existing third party) if your candidate can't win the primary fight as a Democrat or Republican? If the voters of these two parties — which constitute the majority of all voters — wouldn't even nominate your guy/gal to run for office, what makes you think that the combined voting public will now elect them to office?
These questions rest on a series of false or shaky premises. It is assumed that: 1) it is inherently superior to engage in a primary challenge rather than an independent or third party campaign; 2) that Republicans and Democrats constitute the majority of all voters; 3) the interests of the Republican and Democratic Parties are the same as those of the voting public. The folly of the primary challenge consists in the fact that it shares many of the drawbacks of a third party or independent camapaign (ex. opposition from the party bureaucracy and the financial backers of the incumbent), and has none of their advantages (ex. independence from the incumbent's party bureaucracy, the autonomy to effectively represent the voting public as opposed to entrenched special interests). Republicans and Democrats do indeed constitute the majority of all voters, but only when taken together, and even then not by a great margin. In some locales they are rather a distinct minority. Independents and third party affiliates account for more than 50% of the registered voting public in Utah, for instance. Finally, that the interests of the Republican and Democratic Parties are, in many if not most cases, diametrically opposed to those of the US public is virtually self-evident. Neither of the duopoly parties has garnered the support of a majority of the public in quite some time, as polls consistently indicate.


Michael said...

I can personally attest to the folly of the primary challenge. I never thought that it would be part of my strategy but a unique wrinkle developed that made it a plausible if not essential component. My initial reservations about it have been reinforced through the process.

The positives for me as a political novice were that it allowed me to get more familiar with the ballot requirements, the grueling nature of signature gathering, and most importantly, gave me an earlier opportunity to talk to a slice of the electorate to determine the viability of my message. The independent effort starts next week and I hope I've learned a few lessons.

d.eris said...

It's definitely a plus getting the lay of the land, as it were, before beginning the independent effort. And right after Independence Day no less! Good luck.