Infiltration or Independence?

Among those of us who recognize that "government grows in power whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats," as Mike Farmer argues in a post on libertarianism and limited government at Bonzai, there are many who nonetheless believe that the best way to bring about radical change to the duopolized system of government is within the duopoly parties themselves. However, the argument in favor of infiltration refutes itself. One moment, the would-be infiltrator plainly states that the Republican and Democratic Parties are hostile to the very idea of liberty itself, and then urges that we join up with them in the next.

In the preamble to his address to the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, Sean Ryan states that the Republican and Democratic Parties "are corrupt to the core and stand for no principles except self-aggrandizement and the expansion of government control over the lives of individuals," but inexplicably maintains that "the rapidly-growing movement of young libertarians will do best not to attack the system by way of a third party, but by taking over one of the two existing parties."

One could perhaps be led to believe that the author is a Hegelian, were it not for the fact that he adheres to the Austrian school of economics. Nonetheless, Ryan makes a persuasive case that both the Republican and Democratic Parties are hostile to individual liberty, support policies that endanger our national security, and have wrecked the national economy. What were the reasons for believing that it is in our best interests to join them in their efforts? None are supplied. Infiltration has all the drawbacks of an independent or third party campaign and none of the advantages. I wish Mr. Ryan the best of luck in his effort to change the face of the Massachusetts Republican Party, but the deck is stacked against him. Consider, for instance, the fate of Bobby Constantino, which I touched upon in an explication of internal exclusion in MA state politics.

Meanwhile, down in Louisiana, The Daily Comet reports on a gathering of local 'tea party' activists in the city of Houma. Compare their outlook with that of those who favor infiltration:

“We’ve been duped into this whole two-party system,” Comeaux said, adding that throwing support to the GOP would not resolve what some considered the excesses of the Obama administration. “I promise you, the solution to this is not the Republicans.”

Comeaux, a former Democrat who now has no party affiliation, pointed to a growing bloc of voters who are not affiliated with either major party as evidence that Republicans and Democrats have lost touch with the electorate.

He said part of the tea parties’ mission is to educate members about the failings of both parties.

“They want you to dissent, but they want you to dissent in a box,” Comeaux said. “To me, George Bush and Obama are the same thing. … I don’t think the solution is in a party.”

The tea parties, including the April 15 protests that thrust the movement into the national debate, are sometimes dismissed as propaganda manufactured by the Republican Party and conservative media rather than grass-roots efforts. Comeaux said the GOP and Fox News, which has covered the tea parties extensively, are trying to “hijack” the movement.

Wayne Mire, a 62-year-old semi-retired insurance agent from Thibodaux, said he became disillusioned with the two-party system after more than 40 years as a registered Republican.

“I’m fed up with Republicans and Democrats. All they do is bicker back and forth,” Mire said. He encouraged others to lose their affiliations to deprive the major parties of their clout.

“I liked a lot of what I heard,” Mire said. “It’s the voice of the people that I heard. … We want a true change.”


Samuel Wilson said...

The infiltrationists act on a belief that the major parties can be converted into exclusive ideological parties that can ignore the imperative to practice "big tent" politics in order to win national elections. They're encouraged in their belief by histories that teach them that it's been done before: by conservatives within the Republican party in 1964, 1980 and arguably in 1994, and by progressives within the Democratic party in 1972. The fallacy is the identification of parties with men: Republicans with Goldwater, Reagan or Gingrich; Democrats with McGovern. Infiltrationists will declare victory if they nominate the right person without acknowledging the structural imperatives that will compromise any victory.

d.eris said...

It would be interesting to compare the infiltrator with the type of party purists we were talking about a week or two ago, i.e. the conservative or progressive who equates the heart of their preferred duopoly party with their own brand of ideology and maintains that the 'moderates,' or whoever, are leading the party astray. The purists see themselves as insiders, whose party has strayed from its core principles, while the infiltrators perceive themselves as outsiders, who want to push the party in a certain direction, which may or may not overlap with the vectors desired by the purists. They both seem to share the fantasy of some original state of affairs to which we must return, but which probably never existed to begin with.

Samuel Wilson said...

On the Republican side, I imagine that some infiltrators do also feel that the party has been rightfully theirs since 1964, but the number of times they've had to infiltrate to take over since then, and the apparent need to do so again, ought to tell them something. But since the Republican party means power and money as well as its platform, I don't expect infiltrators to give up and start from scratch anytime soon.

d.eris said...

And on the other side? Undoubtedly many Democrats are still stuck in the 1960's as well. The very fact that Obama made it a point of his campaign that he wanted to get beyond the political rivalries of the 60's demonstrates that he too is still stuck in that mentality. Of course, many right-wingers argue that the Democrats have been successfully infiltrated by Marxist-Communists! Which only reveals their lack of familiarity with contemporary Marxism-Communism.

Michael said...

I've contemplated an independent political run before this year. It was suggested to me on more than one occasion that I really ought to operate within the Republican party structure - work to take it back if I thought it was broken. I always found that peculiar. The work is equally challenging, so why not just start fresh without any restrictions? The concern, I think, as Tea Party participants are finding, is that if you get any traction at all, the major parties will try to hijack your effort - which I also find pretty interesting. That fact alone reinforces my belief that third party efforts scare the heck out of them! I am convinced the time for third parties to succeed is now.