Moral Impotence and Political Inferiority in Duopoly Ideology

The moralization of political categories is a common practice among ideologues of the duopoly parties. One criticism of third party and independent activism which I have not yet explicitly addressed in these pages is that of the pragmatic moralist. This line of argument alleges that third party voting is a function of moral excess, sustained by fantasies of ideological purity. Melissa Clouthier makes this precise point apropos of the Libertarian vote in the 2008 election, while implicitly suggesting that Bob Barr spoiled John McCain's chances of defeating Obama. Asking "How can you claim moral superiority voting for Bob Barr?" Clouthier sparked a rather strong backlash among Barr supporters, who proceeded to refute her position, and its duopolist underpinnings, point by point. At The Moderate Voice, Jazz Shaw writes:
In the likely vain hope that I might be able to offer a clue, here are some things to consider. First, not every voter in the country is beholden in slave-like fashion to one of the two major parties. Some us don’t find a comfortable fit with either, and when we do vote for a Republican or a Democrat, it’s often a compromise ballot, settling for the better of two flawed candidates who don’t fill up our dance card completely. And when we find somebody we like better, it’s not a “protest vote” if we fail to “grow some balls and pick a side” and vote for one of yours.

She also breaks out the tired old strawman of claiming that Barr voters are somehow smug traitors who wish to claim a mantle of “moral superiority” for our vote. I’m not sure about the rest of Bob’s backers, but it’s rather hard to muster feelings of any sort of superiority when your candidate does’t pull a single electoral vote. But it doesn’t mean that we regret trying, voting for the best choice for what we want for the country, and keeping alive the tradition of recognizing that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are mentioned by name in the Constitution.

You want to know why the Republicans have been getting their butts kicked for the last four years, Melissa? Because you fielded candidates that didn’t convince enough voters to cast their ballots for them. The end.

The Other McCain responds rhetorically:

When the Republican Party nominates a guaranteed loser who -- surprise! -- loses, how is this result to be blamed on those who opposed the nomination, who specifically, accurately and concisely predicted what events would happen?

And, finally, Q and O refutes the spoiler argument and takes Clouthier to task for taking the Libertarian vote for granted:

Apparently Clouthier believes that libertarians are a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP and due a righteous lecture for their lack of support. It may be time for a little reality check for the good doctor . . . The reason the GOP sucked so badly in the last election has absolutely nothing to do with Bob Barr and/or libertarians. It had to do with how poorly your party governed . . . Barack Obama sits in the White House not because of Bob Barr or the libertarian vote. He sits there because the GOP has completely and totally failed to live up to its claimed philosophy and its word for decades. John McCain’s nomination told libertarians all they needed to know about the lack of seriousness within the GOP to remedy that situation.

It is reasonable to suppose that most third party and independent voters do not vote the way they do out of a sense of moral superiority, but rather on the basis of the determination that a third party or independent vote is politically superior to one in favor of the status quo. That partisans of the duopoly parties are often unwilling or unable to countenance this possibility reveals less about the mindset of the third party voter than it does about the moral impotence of the duopolist's political inferiority complex.


Samuel Wilson said...

An implicit duopolist premise is that the purpose of voting is to prevent the worst outcome rather than choose the best candidate. Republican critics of Barr voters believe that those who voted Libertarian reneged on their duty, not just to vote against Barack Obama, but to prevent him from becoming President in the most effective manner -- by voting for John McCain. Enemies of the Bipolarchy want people to vote for their sincere favorites instead of against the "greater evil." If that's what they want, they have to (perhaps counterintuitively)help convince the public that no candidate is an "evil," and that there is no "worst" outcome in a democratic election.

d.eris said...

Heh, this basically inverts one of my arguments against lesser-evilism, namely, that the duopoly parties constitute twin-evils: they are both worse. Lesser-evilism is basically enforced by the populace on itself. This is one of the major ideological hurdles that needs to be overcome to break open the two-party system.