Compromising the System: Third Party Scapegoating in the Two-Party State

Though 'responsible party government' has been a popular slogan among partisans of the duopoly since at least the middle of the last century, today one would be hard pressed to find its instantiation among the Republican and Democratic Parties, at least in the common sense meaning of the phrase. Indeed, it is clear that the opposite is the most often the case, unless, that is, you believe for some reason that political parties and their candidates for office should be responsible to corporate lobbyists and other special interest groups rather than to the Constitution and the people of the United States. One of the discursive means by which ideologues of the duopoly parties absolve the two-party state apparatus from responsibility for political monsters of their own creation, is by scapegoating minor parties.

In Westchester County, New York, we are provided with an example of this rhetorical tactic by Mike Edelman at the Yonkers Tribune. For a piece entitled, "I Hate to Say I Told You So," Edelman sure does seem to be enjoying himself. He writes:
Its been many years since I took the position that the ability of minor parties to cross endorse major party candidates would wind up compromising the two party system. And I took that position over the years knowing full well that Republican candidates whom I supported needed first the support of the Conservative Party and then the support of both the Conservative and Independence parties to win elections as the registration edge which the Democrats had continued to increase.
In other words, the Republican strategist recognizes the threat posed to the stasis of the duopoly system by the very existence of fusion voting in New York State. Significantly, however, he does not propose that Republicans make a push to register new voters with the party in order to overcome the Democrats' advantage, rather, his solution is that state laws should be changed to prohibit fusion voting, and thus deny third parties the little leverage they currently possess over the electoral process in the state. Proving the proposition that the one thing duopolists fear more than one another is actual competition, he concludes: "unless and until the state legislature changes the rules, the two party system will be totally compromised in New York." Such statements reveal the anti-democratic and anti-republican impulse that drives duopoly ideology: as if compromising the reigning two-party system were not a legitimate goal of political activity in a free state. In the present context, a better argument might be that Republican and Democrats need no help from outside parties to compromise themselves! Ironically, despite Edelman's wishes, the state legislature is unlikely to change any rules any time soon since the "coup" in Albany has thrown the Republicrats and Demoblicans in the State Senate into an even deadlock, 31-31.

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