Independent in a One-Party State II: Duverger's Law and Third Party Activism

At CQ Politics, Emma Dumain reports positively on the outlook for Lincoln Chafee's independent campaign for governor of Rhode Island in 2010. As I argued in 'Independent in a One-Party State,' using Rhode Island as an obvious example, on the basis of Duverger's Law one could reasonably conclude that third party and independent candidates stand the best chance of success in states or districts with radically lopsided majorities in favor of one major party or the other. This may appear counter-intuitive to some. Duverger's Law is often referenced by partisans of the reigning two-party state to dissuade others from engaging in third party and independent activism. They maintain that because plurality voting systems like that in the United States tend to result in a two-party political system, third party and independent activism is doomed to failure. However, like the spoiler argument, Duverger's Law cuts both ways. Because the duopoly system of government has devolved into a one-party, monopoly-style system in many districts across the country, Duverger's Law suggests that a third party or independent movement should arise to fill the political void left by the deterioration of the locale's second party. Such a development seems to be afoot in Rhode Island. In the CQ Politics article, Dumain provides further substantiation for the claim:

State Rep. Joe Trillo, meanwhile, is the only Republican so far to express sincere interest in the race. But many agree that he does not have the name recognition, the financial cushion or the support he needs to be a formidable opponent. Unless a strong Republican candidate comes along, the race could come down to the Democratic nominee and Chafee. [Emphasis added.]

This appears much more likely given the most recent voter registration data from the state. Dumain again:
Unaffiliated voters constituted 48 percent of registered voters in June 2009. Registered Democrats make up 42 percent, while Republicans count for only 10 percent.

1 comment:

Nancy Hanks said...

Good point! You might be interested in Walter Karp's Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America where he shows how the deals get made between the Dems and Repubs in carving out their territories.