Politics Abhors a Vacuum

The adage which states that nature abhors a vacuum dates back at least to the Renaissance, and is likely derived from Aristotle's reflections on physics. I wonder whether the ancient Greek philosopher ever brought this idea to bear on politics and culture. A certain form of horror vacui may account for the proliferation of theories attempting to make sense of Sarah Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska, since her Independence Day eve press conference has raised more questions than it answered. Though most if not all of these theories are nothing more than speculation mixed with pseudo-psychology, one of them nonetheless touches upon the subject of these pages, namely, that Palin may be opting out of the two-party system to pursue future efforts in independent or third party politicking. It would not be invalid to conclude as much from her remarks. She delivered the speech on July 3rd, emphasized her independence as well as the bipartisan nature of the legislation passed during her term, and repeatedly stressed that she is not interested in "politics as usual." On this reading, the key quote from her address is undoubtedly the following:
I will support others who seek to serve, in or out of office, for the right reasons, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all. Inside Alaska – or outside Alaska. [Emphasis added.]
Of course, commentators on both sides of the political spectrum are already musing over the meaning of this possibility for the 2012 presidential election. At Daily Kos, purplebird writes:
She knows her base intimately. It’s a base prized by the Republicans, but one that would choose her over the party, even in an election she could not possibly win. She could run on a third-party ticket, or, with the right kind of organization . . . in a true, 50-state strategy as an independent. She’d make waves. She could get twenty percent of the vote, perhaps. Maybe twenty-five.
Glenn Reynolds at Pajamas Media, on the other hand, highlighted speculation that Palin may become involved with the Tea Party movement, which held angry demonstrations in numerous cities and towns over the weekend: "The only way a new TEA Party can field candidates who will win is if they have a strong national leadership and access to a lot of fund raising power. In other words, Sarah Palin." Though I do not agree that local third party and independent campaigns require a strong national leadership (or any for that matter) to win elections, such a possibility is certainly intriguing in this case. Palin's support could very well change the fortunes of third party and independent campaigns in conservative locales, but it may also serve to reinforce the prejudicial and stereotypical image of the generic third party or independent candidate fostered by the duopoly system nationwide.

Update: At The Whig, Septimus has also been reflecting on the possibility that Palin may align herself with the Tea Party protesters, and the post is well worth quoting at length:
At first, I thought that it might snuff out our attempts to revive the Whig Party, as the far right sloughs off and joins the Palin Party, and the moderates regain control of the Republicans. But upon reflection, I grew more hopeful. Such an act might well be the nail in the coffin for the increasingly decrepit GOP. From the political chaos that would ensue, there would be opportunity in the uncertainty. It also illustrates one of challenges with the Modern Whig Party. We are truly a grass roots effort, with no central political figure, and no hidden Mr. Moneybags pulling any strings, either. Now, I like this; it is one of the things that attracted me to the effort, but it does present a challenge, as it would be easier to create a new party around a charismatic figure, and not an idea. [However] I distrust a personal political party, as I think it is unhealthy for our politics, being a feature of less developed and more corrupt electorates. It is better to be organized around an idea, or set of ideas, than to be beholden to the personal whims and idiosyncrasies of a single ambitious individual.
According to The Thirds, the Modern Whigs are currently backing two candidates in the upcoming House elections, Paul McKain in Florida and Adam Kokesh in New Mexico.


Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin is toxic. Any group or person hoping to get anywhere in politics should avoid her like the plague.

Michael said...

I strongly disagree with the remark by Mr. Reynolds when he says, "The only way a new TEA Party can field candidates who will win is if they have a strong national leadership and access to a lot of fund raising power. In other words, Sarah Palin." Though I understand the point he's trying to make, I think it serves as an affront to the very nature of building a true, viable and sustainable independent movement. It's this element of sustainability that I think may be most important, in fact. Substantive sustainability transcends fund-raising ability. A short-lived independent movement won't have real lasting impact and may actually thwart future efforts.

I agree with derek's analysis of Mrs. Palin: toxic. We'll need to do better than that. She offers limited success at best and despite her meteoric national rise, will ultimately prove one-dimensional and divisive, in my opinion.

Samuel Wilson said...

On the one hand, a base of actual political power would have given Palin a head start if she wanted to build an independent movement, unless you think celebrity is an adequate substitute for power. On the other hand, independents must dare to find leaders from within their own ranks if they wish to be seen as anything other than someone's personal faction. Ultimately, independent candidates' credibility must come from the way they're chosen rather than from pure notoriety.

d.eris said...

Derek, I disagree somewhat. I think Palin's support, say just stumping for a given candidate, could give them an advantage, but I think this would only be the case in very conservative locales; otherwise she is too polarizing a figure, toxic, as you say.

To continue the discussion from yesterday, Michael and Sam, I think the "unknowns" are the key to creating lasting political reform, and active local organizing should be the motor of that change. Celebrity, political or otherwise, is no substitute.

Just for the sake of clarity, the quote on the Tea Party's recruitment of Palin was not made by Reynolds himself, but rather one of his readers. Reynolds trotted out the old spoiler argument in response. But the fact that he posted it likely means a lot of folks wrote him in a similar vein.

Michael said...

You've definitley hit the nail on the head, Damon - any effort must be rooted in creating lasting political reform. I think Septimus has correctly identified what that will take - an effort focused around an idea. Celebrity won't cut it. It's a short-cut to ultimately nowhere. Celebrity is fleeting. Ideas are forever. (Palin is lost in her own celebrity in my opinion.) My local effort revolves around an idea (or more precisely, one grand idea complimented nicely by a set of equally important ideas). The idea is the celebrity, not us. (Yes, I said us.) We're just the guys motivated to breath life into the idea. If the idea is valid, then the voters will take it from there.