Spoiling for a Fight II

A few days ago, in 'Spoiling for a Fight,' I suggested that in response to a conservative two-party strategy like that envisioned by Newt Gingrich, Democrats might consider formulating a third-party strategy in which they would support the efforts of third party and independent candidates to the right of the GOP in order to draw votes away from Republicans. A Daily Kos Diarist, demomoke, makes this precise case in the form of a fictitious letter from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, arguing:
the best way to create a truly permanent Democratic majority is if there were two choices for our conservative opponents. We ought to do what we can to strengthen the Libertarian Party, to make it a viable alternative to the Republican Party, which has repeatedly broken its promises to the libertarians within it, both fiscally and socially.
Of course, this is not a new idea, and has already been implemented by duopoly strategists across the country. Just last year there were numerous reports documenting Republican "infiltration" of the Green Party, for instance. In August 2008, The New York Times published a story on Green Party activist Young S. Han, whose most active supporter was Republican campaign consultant Stan Shore:

Mr. Shore's role in the state legislative race, and that of his wife in a similar situation in a county race in Seattle, are at the center of a growing political fracas featuring accusations by the Green Party that Republicans have been infiltrating their ranks and cries of shame and foul by Democrats.

In Mr. Han's case, the seat he seeks in the Seattle suburbs in a special election next month is hugely important to both major parties: with the state House split, 49 to 49, control of the chamber is at stake. There are two Democrats vying in a Sept. 18 primary to face Joe Marine, a Republican. If Mr. Marine, who was appointed to the seat last year after the incumbent stepped down, loses, the Democrats will be in the majority.

The Greens and the Democrats have accused the Republicans of hypocrisy for aiding Mr. Han and another Green candidate in the Seattle county race, Michael Jepson, 21, who had no prior involvement with the party.

This phenomenon is likely more widespread than one would think, yet not so common that it has become standard practice. But why not? The spoiler argument is virtual dogma among partisans of the duopoly parties. By their own logic, it is in both major parties' immediate interest to support candidates who would siphon votes away from their duopoly opponent. It would be absurd to assume, however, that duopolists do not support such candidates because they are hesitant to engage in hypocritical or unethical behavior: deceit and duplicity are their primary modes of operation. It is much more likely, rather, that they fear the potential unintended consequences of such a strategy, namely, the weakening of the duopoly system of government itself.


Samuel Wilson said...

This happened in Troy, New York, where I work: the Republicans infiltrated the local Working Families party and got a stooge nominated for state senator at the last election to draw votes away from the Democratic candidate. They even printed up a ludicrous mailing that photoshopped the stooge alongside Barack Obama. Of course, this would not have happened had Working Families voters shown any dedication to their party, but since that particular party mostly exists to endorse major-party candidates one can understand the apathy of the rank and file.

d.eris said...

Yeah, the WFP appears much more interested in endorsing duopolists than running independent candidates, it's too bad. Did the Republican stooge strategy work? It really is somewhat surprising though that the duopoly parties do not do more to support third parties on the other side of the aisle.

Samuel Wilson said...

It was probably redundant. The district was Joe Bruno's (the former state senate majority leader), so it was probably going to stay Republican in any event, but the GOP wasn't taking any chances.