Spoiling for a Fight III

One of the great ironies of the duopoly system of government is that precisely because third party and independent candidates for office are systematically marginalized by a wide array of exclusionary political practices, their power is magnified beyond all proportion to their actual relative strength. The so-called spoiler effect might be considered as proof of this proposition. We're all familiar with the scenario: if the number of votes received by a third party or independent candidate exceeds the margin of victory between the Republican and Democratic candidates, assuming one of them wins the race, and this third party or independent candidate's positions are said to approximate those of the losing duopolist, it is concluded that the contest was spoiled. The implicit – and likely false – assumption here is that the third party and independent voters in question would have voted for the losing duopolist candidate were it not for the alternative choice on the ballot. Hence the bipartisan fervor to keep third party and independent candidates off our ballots at all costs. But this is pure speculation and cannot be known with any reasonable degree of certainty, unless one were to interview the great majority of those voters. That the latter is not done is yet another example of the ways in which third party and independent voters are marginalized by everyday duopolist praxis.

If the spoiler argument has any merit, it is to be found in what it reveals about the psychology of disappointed and disenchanted partisans of the duopoly parties. The spoiler argument rationalizes their loss by scapegoating third parties and independents, and thus allows them to avoid assuming responsibility for that loss, while robbing their opponents of responsibility for their success. The power of such rationalizations in still apparent today among liberal Democrats who bristle a the thought of Ralph Nader's presidential campaign in the 2000 election. Consider, for instance, this recent post by Digby at Hullabaloo:
nobody believed that an incumbent Vice President in a roaring economy would have a race so close that the Republicans could steal it. But we know differently now don't we? And you would think that the Democratic establishment would also know that because of that, it may not be a good idea to alienate the left to the point where they become apathetic or even well... you know. It can happen. It did happen. Why the Democrats persist in believing that it can't happen again is beyond me . . . the fact remains that if a slice of the left hadn't been so disgusted by the New Democratic, mushy centrism of the Clinton years, he would have won. [Emphasis added.]
While Digby finds it incomprehensible that the leadership of the Democratic Party would not implement a progressive, left-wing agenda, the assumption that they would do so is equally mystifying. 'Credo quia absurdum' is among the most powerful tenets of the duopolist's political faith. On the right, there are still many who believe that the Republican Party stands for, and is capable of delivering, small government conservatism. At Gay Patriot, B. Daniel Blatt argues that the GOP can succeed if it returns to its principles, and in the process provides us with virtual a mirror image of Digby's position:
since the first Tea Parties in February, growing numbers of Americans have publicly expressed their opposition to increased government spending . . . With a Republican President and Congress not holding the line on spending, many of those conservatives became disenchanted with the GOP and either didn’t bother to vote or registered their disapproval by pulling the lever for a Third Party candidate or even the Democrat . . . With polls showing a growing distaste for big government and a solid conservative plurality, Republicans have great opportunity to recover from the losses of the preceding two election cycles.
Duopolist are fond of the historical argument against third party activism, which states that, if history is any guide, third parties do not stand a good chance of success in attaining their stated political goals. However, if recent history is any guide, neither do the duopoly parties. And progressives and conservatives alike will certainly revisit the record.

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