German Elections 2009: Major Parties at a Loss, Minor Parties on the Rise

In the coverage of Germany's federal elections, which took place on Sunday, the mainstream media have, to a great extent, framed the results as if the election were only a contest between the country's two biggest parties, in which the conservative CDU won out over the liberal SPD. Arguably, however, the election represents a loss for duopolist government in Germany as such. As a New York Times editorial points out:
Both parties lost ground on Sunday, the Christian Democrats slightly, the Social Democrats precipitously. Both registered their lowest percentages since the 1940s. The big gainers were the new Left Party, the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats.
Indeed, while support for both the CDU and the SPD is at an historic low, Germany's three biggest minor parties each had their best showing in a federal election yet. Returns for minor parties, as such, outpaced support for either of the country's major parties. Taken together the CDU and the SDP garnered only 57% of the vote (33.8% and 23% respectively), with the remaining 40% split between six minor parties. Among these, the libertarian-leaning Free Democrats, the new Left Party and the Green Party are the most prominent, and received 14.6%, 11.9% and 10.7% of the vote, respectively.

Germany's fledgling Pirate Party – which was founded in 2006 and supports information privacy and patent reform while standing in opposition to the surveillance society – received over three-quarters of a million votes, not enough for a seat in parliament but more than enough to qualify for future federal campaign funds, according to Deutsche Welle.

Though turnout for the election was at an historic low, at just over 70%, voter participation rates in Germany continue to far outpace those in the US. For the sake of comparison, in the 2008 presidential election, voter turnout did not even reach 60% in the United States, and this represented a forty year high. It can likely easily be demonstrated that the the array of choices offered to voters and the rate of voter turnout are directly proportional.

Three-Way in NY's 23rd CD

As expected, New York Governor David Patterson has called a special election for Tuesday, November 3rd, to fill the congressional seat vacated by Republican John McHugh, who was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of the Army last week. The Green Papers relay the executive's press release. The race is shaping up to be a close three-way contest between Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, Republican Dede Scozzafava, and Democratic candidate Bill Owens. Recent polls put them in a statistical tie. In the last month, Hoffman has received a fair amount of positive press and a number of endorsements from prominent conservative publications and groups. Since last week, he has received endorsements from former Senator and radio talk show host Fred Thompson, the Club for Growth, the American Conservative Union and the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund.

Media coverage of the race provides us with some fine examples of duopolist bias in the political press. At The Hill, Reid Wilson, for instance, reports that "Republican worry over McHugh seat builds," but proves incapable of liberating himself from the trappings of duopoly ideology. He writes:
Republicans are dismayed by a third-party candidate who could sap their candidate to fill Army Secretary John McHugh's old House seat, effectively handing a win to Democrats.
This, of course, is nothing but the old third party spoiler argument, with which Republicans, in the case of a loss to the Democrat, clearly seek to create a narrative which absolves them of any responsibility for that loss while robbing the Democrat of any responsibility for his win. The Republican Party candidate is arguably the most liberal of the group, which is why conservatives are flocking to Hoffman. And this leaves liberal Democrats in a bind. At Daily Kos, Kos himself has noted that "the Republican appears to be the most palatable option." Do they support the liberal Republican Scozzafava, or the conservative Democrat Owens? Are they liberals first or Democrats first? The Republican and Democratic candidates may well split the liberal and moderate vote, handing a win to the conservative third party candidate Doug Hoffman.

When Fascism Comes to the United States, It Will Be Wrapped in Riot Gear and Wielding a Billy Club

Sinclair Lewis was not entirely correct in his prediction from 1935. The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The disembodied voice-recording of the militarized police state:
To those who remain, by order of the chief of police, I hereby declare this to be an unlawful assembly. I order all those assembled to immediately disperse, you must leave the immediate vicinity. If you do not disperse you may be arrested and/or subject to other police action.
The latter quotation is transcribed from a video shot by protesters outside last week's G-20 summit in Pittsburgh immediately before squads of riot police carrying plastic shields and wielding batons moved in to clear the streets and sidewalks of yet another American city with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets:

At Counter Currents, Shamus Cooks sets the scene to place it in a broader context:
When word first arrived that the G-20 would be meeting in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, activists began organizing protest demonstrations. Events like this are what freedom of speech is made for. What better occasion to protest than a meeting of the world’s 20 top leaders — most of them deservedly hated — where they will be imposing policy on billions of people worldwide? The majority of protesters consisted of labor and community groups; they encountered an army of police, literally.

The New York Times paints an intimidating picture: “…the police were out in force, patrolling on bicycles, foot and horseback, by river and by air … protesters trying to march toward the convention center…encountered roaming squads of police officers carrying plastic shields and batons. The police fired a sound cannon (a new weapon) that emitted shrill beeps … then threw tear gas canisters that released clouds of white smoke and stun grenades that exploded with sharp flashes of light . . . Riot fences lined the sidewalks. Police helicopters, gunboats and Humvees darted to and fro. City officials announced they had up to 1,000 jail cells ready after county officials freed up additional space last week by releasing 300 people who had been arrested on minor probation violations.” (September 25, 2009).

What threat required such a military-like response? None was given. The New York Times article and many like it imply that the mere existence of marching protesters warrants a colossal reaction . . . The G-20 police presence is not a terrible surprise to anyone who has attended a legitimate, community-organized protest over the years. Non-provoked usage of brutal weaponry is becoming commonplace; the police-enforced use of “free speech zones” at protests — small areas surrounded by fences in some cases — is nothing new. But the staggering police presence at the G-20 confirms that the stakes have been raised.

Two turning points that deserve special attention — since the mainstream media continues to ignore them — are last year's Democratic and Republican National Conventions. In both cases incredible abuses of police powers were witnessed, with the Republican Convention (RNC) showcasing the most extreme cases of state repression. [Emphasis added.]
The national security police state – the monopolization of violence under the conditions of the duopoly system of government – is the true face of the Democratic-Republican Party, and must be confronted at every possible opportunity. That the militarization of the police and the use of excessive force against peaceful assemblies of citizens has become a matter of course is but one more symptom of the incessant erosion of liberty in the United States.

Though many on the right decry international organizations such as the United Nations (–Mike Huckabee, for instance, speaking at the "How to Take Back America" conference over the weekend, suggested we "get a jackhammer" to "chip off that part of New York City" and "let it float into the East River," for which he reportedly received a standing ovation–), rarely do they raise their voices against the G-8, the G-20, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, NAFTA, CAFTA, etc. When push comes to shove, literally, they are nowhere to be seen.

Here we find yet another potential point of overlap between left- and right-wing protest movements. If tea party activists are disturbed about the loss of US sovereignty, the erosion of the Constitution, the safe-guarding of individual liberty, and the creeping fascist tendencies of the duopolized state, police actions like those against protesters outside the G-20, not to mention the summit and organization itself, should be a cause of great concern.

Toward a Popular Front for the Liberation of the People of the United States from the Apparatus of the Global Warfare and Corporate Welfare State

As I noted the other day, at Mirror on America Liberal Arts Dude has been contemplating the possibility and potential for a coalition of left and right wing political outsiders "to mount a legitimate populist challenge to the dominance of the two major parties." Like proposals for a Green-Libertarian alliance, this idea is not as far fetched as it might at first sound. Among the major tasks necessary for any such effort would be the delineation of common points of interest between left- and right-wing populist formations, bolstered by thoroughgoing critiques of the ideological prejudices of each against the other which are fostered by the duopoly system of government to prevent precisely this sort of people's alliance against entrenched political elites.

In a piece for Salon on "Glenn Beck and left-right confusion," Glenn Greenwald recently argued that traditional political shorthand for distinguishing between left- and right-wing positions on a host of issues has begun to break down. He writes:
Is opposition to the Wall Street bailout (supported by both parties' establishments) left or right? How about the view that Washington is inherently corrupt and beholden to the richest corporate interests and banks which, through lobbyist influence and vast financial contributions, own and control our political system? Is hostility towards Beltway elites liberal or conservative? Is opposition to the Surveillance State and endless expansions of federal police powers a view of liberals (who vehemently opposed such measures during the Bush era but now sometimes support or at least tolerate them) or conservatives (some of whom -- the Ron Paul faction -- objected just as vigorously, and naturally oppose such things regardless of who is in power as transgressions of the proper limits of government)? Liberals during the Bush era continuously complained about the doubling of the national debt, a central concern of many of these "tea party" protesters. Is the belief that Washington politicians are destroying the economic security of the middle class, while the rich grow richer, a liberal or conservative view? Opposition to endless wars and bankruptcy-inducing imperial policy generally finds as much expression among certain quarters on the Right as it does on the Left.
The internal debate among tea party activists continues to revolve around the question of the appropriate course of action for the future of the movement, in other words, whether to work within the existing two-party framework by infiltrating the major parties to change them from within or to work outside the exiting two-party framework, and begin to chip away at the Democratic-Republican duopoly on political power. Among those who advocate the former strategy we find self-described pragmatic realists as well as known duopolist shills. For the most part, the duopolist shill reveals the rot at the center of two-party ideology in his or her purely negative, partisan relation to the political order: Democrats (–or Republicans, as the case may be–) must be stopped at all costs, is their rallying cry. The fetishistic obsession with the political other here covers over their own lack of a positive program and distracts from the obvious conclusion that such a strategy, if successful, will change just enough to ensure that everything remains the same. The self-described pragmatic realist, on the other hand, admits that the two-party form is thoroughly corrupt, but argues that one must nonetheless work within the reigning system because all other strategies have little chance of success. Ironically, few such realists recognize the utopian character of this position: third party and independent activism is forever doomed to failure, they say, while maintaining that the Republican (or Democratic) Party can be "fixed," remodeled in our image and likeness over the course of the next election cycle.

The temptation to affiliate with either of the duopoly parties is the greatest threat to the future success of the tea party movement. Tea party activists could learn a great deal from serious study of the anti-war movement and its hijacking by the Democratic Party, so as to avoid the same fate, namely, complete and utter defeat of yet another popular movement at the hands of the political establishment. Many already grasp this simple fact. At American Revolution, Patrick Samuels writes:
It is my belief that only by destroying the monopoly of the two party system is there any hope for making real and lasting change in the direction of this country. The new leaders will not be Democrats or Republicans but independents from the tea party movement itself.
It is thus not difficult to see that, conversely, progressives and anti-war activists could learn a thing or two from the tea party movement. Instead, however, many are content simply to denounce conservatives and libertarians as racists, rather than consider, for instance, the possibility of a popular front for the liberation of the people of the United States from the apparatus of the global warfare and corporate welfare state. In this context, it should be noted that "you can be a Democrat and racist at the same time," as Melissa Harris-Lacewell reminded readers of The Nation just last week. Opposition to the global warfare and corporate welfare state is not confined to the left or the right. The bifurcation and compartmentalization of this opposition is nothing but a symptom of duopolist prejudice.

Declarations of Independence for Governor, 2010

The D.C. establishmentarian publication Politico finally takes notice that independent candidates "are poised to run serious campaigns for governor in at least a half-dozen states." The article highlights the campaigns of Chris Daggett in NJ, Lincoln Chafee in RI and Tim Cahill in MA, and speculates on the prospects of independent campaigns for governor in Maine, Minnesota and Vermont. At IPR, Peter Orvetti supplies some details and background:

NJ: Declare Your Independence

In New Jersey's APP, Michael Symons profiles independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett in a four page article highlighting Daggett's career and political history:
Chris Daggett is serious enough about his independent campaign for governor to journey to Maine to glean tips from Angus King, that state's former two-term independent governor. And patient enough to wait more than four years to make the bid . . .

though he's a distant third in public-opinion polls, hovering around 10 percent — he thinks he'll benefit from the mix of an angry electorate, an unpopular incumbent, a challenger with no experience in state government and online innovations that let candidates bypass political gatekeepers.

"We've never had a better opportunity for someone who's running against the grain," said Daggett. "When you add all those things together, and with the lousy economy being what it is, we have an opportunity to rethink and reshape and reorganize government like we've never had in my lifetime. When you add it all together, I think the climate is excellent for an independent candidate to win."

His campaign reaches a new level of exposure this week, when Daggett — with his mild-mannered, middle-of-the-road emphasis on his 30 years experience solving problems — joins Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie in the fall's first debate. One of 10 independent and third-party candidates, Daggett takes part in the debates because he has raised more than $415,000, qualifying for $2-for-$1 public matching funds.

Folk Politics and Tea Party Activism

At Mirror on America and Folk Politics, Liberal Arts Dude has recently been delving into the internal politics of tea party activism and providing an open-minded liberal, progressive take on the movement, aimed at locating commonalities between left and right wing populism in the interests of opposition to the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government. Today at Folk Politics he writes in part:
Absent a strong third party movement, the best thing voters who are fed up with the status quo can do is to take the reins and be active and engaged participants in the civic arena and to make their voices heard so they cannot be ignored. In short, be active, engaged constituents . . . the Left does not have a monopoly on civic engagement. Conservatives and Libertarians have as much right as I do to take the reins of asserting their fundamental rights and to make their case by being active in the public sphere. Thus, despite my disagreements with them on ideological and policy grounds, I can’t help but notice how effective the Tea Party movement has been at getting the attention of the Establishment and the nation at large . . .

Anyone who feels disenfranchised in the political arena dominated by the two major parties should be paying attention to the Tea Party movement. Because the Tea Parties are the first, high-profile and successful organizing effort that has successfully tapped into the wide dissatisfaction that most Americans have towards the two major parties, government and the direction of the country in general . . . Many of them even assert that they are against third parties as a political strategy against the major parties. But if they are not for forming a third party, how do they plan on opposing the two major parties?

Third Party and Independent Web Roundup

What's going on in the third party and independent blogosphere today?

Ballot Access News notes the series of upsets achieved by Independence Party write-in candidates against on-ballot opponents in Putnam County New York.

In NYS, the Conservative Party profiles its candidates for the upcoming New York City elections. At IPR, Peter Orvetti notes that their candidate for mayor, Stephen Christopher, is currently polling at 2%,

The Constitution Party questions the GOP's dedication to a pro-life agenda, in a piece by Kathleen Gilbert.

The Green Party highlights Javier Del Sol's campaign for mayor of Lake Worth, Florida, as well as the success of the CT Green Party's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's campaign finance law.

The Libertarian Party blog features an interview with LP Chairman William Redpath on Reason TV.

Attack the System provides an extensive news digest and web round-up.

Bonzai opposes the Obama administration's apparent belief that "global management of the economy is possible and desireable."

Buelahman takes issue with Ron Paul's claim that "no one has a right to health care."

Bulls Eye Politics argues that it is "our responsibility to throw the bums out."

Considering news on the expansion of the war in Afghanistan, Exposing the Two-Party Hoax wonders how the duopoly state came to be controlled by "warmonger group A and warmonger group B."

Green Party Watch has updates on a number of Green campaigns for local office in the Northeast.

The Hankster live-blogged President Obama's speech at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

At Least of All Evils, Dale Sheldon argues that score voting could make term limits unnecessary.

Manifestos from the Decline provides a "futuristic view of the health care debacle."

At On the Wilder Side, Kimberly Wilder questions the necessity of calling up thousands of military and police "to keep American citizens from expressing themselves to economic leaders" outside the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

At The Rotterdam Windmill, Michael O'Connor features a guest post on "Two-Party Paradox" by yours truly.

The Thirds relays a report on a possible independent candidate for governor in Nevada.

Reflecting on the protests outside the G-20 summit, Sam Wilson of The Think 3 Institute finds it odd that so few people today feel threatened by "the anarchist menace" (my term, not his), as opposed to 100 years ago.

At The Whig, Septimus relays a letter from Gene Baldassari, Modern Whig candidate for office in the NJ Assembly, on the need for a viable third party.

Tea Party Activism and Two-Party Ideology

When the tea party movement began gaining steam last spring, the Democratic response was to tie it as quickly as possible to the Republican Party, in order to discredit it among liberals and progressives. Ironically, however, Republicans also sought to bind themselves to the movement, in order to regain credit among grassroots conservative activists. It is no coincidence that both Democrats and Republicans sought and still seek to reign in this movement by demanding that it be neatly fit within the two-party paradigm of the reigning duopoly system. But there is resistance in the movement. At The Bellingham Tea Party, Kimberly Fletcher writes that Rush Limbaugh is wrong to assume that tea party activists are simply "fed up with Democrats and the Democrat president":
I completely agree with Rush that this is a conservative movement, but he is equating Republican with conservative as if they are synonymous – and they are not. Rush insists the two parties are not the same, and while I agree that the platforms of the parties are dramatically different, the people serving in office are not. The Republican Party looks great on paper, but the people who call themselves Republicans (but for a few exceptions) either have no idea what the Party stands for or they just don't care.

The tea parties are not protesting a party; they are protesting an oppressive, out-of-control government, and both parties are guilty.

It wasn't the Democrats who pushed No Child Left Behind or the massive expansions to Medicare. It wasn't the Democrats who pushed through the $700 billion TARP. It wasn't a Democrat president who threw the Constitution out the window and expanded the powers of government well beyond the Constitution with the Patriot Act and Homeland Security. It wasn't a Democrat president that tried to legalize millions of illegal aliens and basically called the American people stupid and uncaring for fighting against it. This fight did not begin with President Obama, his taking office just escalated it.

The reason Barack Obama was elected was because of the two-party system. The people of America didn't know where else to go. How can you be heard when you are told you only have two choices and they both stink? In 2006, voters came out in mass numbers and voted Democrat down the ticket to "teach Republicans a lesson." Not only did that strategy not work, it totally backfired. In 2008, the people bought into the "Change" theme because that is what we all wanted – change in Washington. But the change we got was not what we were promised. We have taken the easy way out for too long. There is no accountability in Washington. There is no transparency. And the only way we are going to get it is to vote both parties out
Interestingly, rather than arguing for a third party option, Fletcher essentially makes a strong case against parties as such and for independent political activism:
Voting "third party" simply for the sake of change will only exacerbate the problem. We've already tried the changing of the guard, and it doesn't work. The answer is not to vote third party; the answer is to vote NO party! We need to stop voting by letters the way preschoolers color by numbers. It's time we take all the letters away and stop taking the easy way out. We need to vote people not parties, and issues not politics. That is what these tea parties and protests are about – taking the government back into our own hands where it was always meant to be. But if we allow Rush Limbaugh to convince us we are protesting a party and this whole thing comes down to Republicans versus Democrats, the movement will come to a screeching halt and we will lose all the ground we have gained.

Duopolist Prejudice and Progressive Politics

At Open Left, Paul Rosenberg argues against third party and independent activism in a piece entitled "Putting Third Party Folly into Historical Perspective." In Rosenberg's variation on the historical argument, national third party activism is doomed to failure in the future because it has only rarely been successful in the past. He writes:
(1) National third parties can be deemed to succeed in one of two ways-either they elect a government (president and working majority of Congress), or they influence one or both major parties to significantly change their politics to include the goals that third party is organized about. Neither of these forms of success is the least bit plausible at the this time.

(1a) The only time that national third parties have come to power has been when one of the two major parties utterly disintegrated, which has happened just twice, with the demise of the Federalists circa 1820, and the demise of the Whigs in the mid 1850s. Although both parties are looking pretty messed up at present, there is simply no parallel to what happened to the Federalists or the Whigs. Things might be different a few years down the line, but for now it's purely a pipe dream.

(1b) The only time that national third parties have pressured the two major parties into modifying their policies in any significant degree has been when they were built on much broader political movements. But the problem we face right now is precisely that of turning a range of progressive tendencies into a coherent movement. So, again, this strategy might have some historical precedent going for it several years down the road, but it would be putting the cart way before the horse to engage in national third party activism today on this basis.
If the goal of national third party activism is to fundamentally change the two-party system of political representation, providing a greater range of options for the voting public, in order to represent a wider array of views among the populace, then Rosenberg's point (1a) is highly misleading, as the goal of independent and third party activism is not to replace one of the two duopoly parties, thus reproducing the duopoly form, but rather to break it open and create a space for the emergence of new political formations. As for point (1b), national third parties constantly influence the policies forwarded by the Democratic-Republican Party. In calling for universal single payer health care, for instance, liberal and progressive Democrats have done little more than appropriate decades-old policy prescriptions of Socialists, Communists and Green Party activists.

Rosenberg admits that "Today's national Democratic Party is a piece of shit," as he puts it, and continues:
The miserable state of the Democratic Party is due to the larger failure of our political system as a whole. We need to direct both critical attention and political organizing effort to altering the system as a whole, in order to create a different political context in which the Democratic Party can be significantly improved over its current pathetic state.
The question is thus: how can the system as a whole be changed in order to effect this end? Rosenberg proposes a series of local organizing efforts from the development of community oriented blogs to the creation of neighborhood councils nationwide. However, despite his claim that he does not identify "primarily as [a] party activist," Rosenberg's duopolist prejudice in favor of the Democratic Party rules out, from the very beginning, forms of activism that stand the greatest chance of upending "the system as a whole," namely, third party and independent organizing.

The latter is demonstrated by another Open Left diarist, David Sirota, who sees in the efforts of the Working Families Party an effective "instrument of raw progressive power":
that's exactly the WFP's formula - they focus their work not on glam or celebrity politics, but on the local races where the rubber hits the road.

Just as important, they have succeeded in a crucial task for progressives: Holding Democrats accountable once we help elect them. From its inception, the Working Families Party has used the power of fusion to improve the lives of the non-wealthy - minimum wage, reform of the racist Rockefeller Drug Laws, tax reform, paid sick days and a groundbreaking Green Jobs bill, to name just a few . . .

The more groups like the WFP build capacity, the more likely we are to see significant legislative and political results. Indeed, the WFP - despite flying under the radar and not getting lots of big D.C. headlines - is perhaps today's most encouraging model for achieving those results over the long haul. You don't have to look at its successes to know that - you just have to look at the intensifying vitriol being aimed at it by the right-wing. The fact that Big Money Republicans and Rupert Murdoch's media machine are now constantly railing on the WFP and trying to manufacture controversies about it shows how frightened the political establishment is of genuine progressive power.

Independents: Wave Goodbye to the Two-Party State

New Jersey's interviews Chris Daggett, independent candidate for governor in the Garden State. Asked about the difficulty of running an independent campaign in a two-party state, Daggett replied:
"I along with many people in New Jersey have become very disillusioned and disappointed by the inability and unwillingness of either party to step up and face the problems facing us," Daggett said. "I and others believe very strongly the only way we're going to solve the problem is with an independent governor because the problems we face today can be traced back through Democratic and Republican administrations."

A third-party approach also could help on the national stage, Daggett said. Daggett said President Barrack Obama's policies would have clear sailing if not for the president's Democratic affiliation. "We're about to see an independent wave come across the country. You're seeing more and more people fed up with both parties. [Emphasis added.] You see it best expressed with Barack Obama. He ran a masterful campaign with a message of bringing people together, but what happened when he got to Washington? Within three weeks, they were at each other's throats, Democrats and Republicans pounding away at each other, unable to agree on the most simple of things. If it was a Democrat idea, the Republicans were against it, and vice versa. Barack Obama would have been a better president if he was an independent," Daggett said.

"People think they don't have a choice. Actually, they do."

At The Brownsville Herald, Carlos Rodrigues makes the case for third party activism in general and the Libertarian Party in particular. A long excerpt, via IPR:

Many Americans — a majority, it seems — believe they are taxed so much that their standard of living is compromised. They question many of the programs, and the cost, of programs promoted by the Democratic Party. Many are horrified to think that their tax dollars are being used to fund things they consider morally wrong, such as abortion. They might not like union-friendly legislation that impedes workers’ ability to make independent agreements with employers.

While they might want fiscal restraint, however, many Americans have a real problem with institutionalized xenophobia, edicts that mandate the promotion of a specific religion to the detriment of others, or restrictions on media, behavior and expression the Republican Party espouses.

The obvious question, then, is, why do Americans, who ostensibly decide who gets elected and what party gains power, allow these political aberrations to run the country? Why don’t we have a strong political party that reflects the majority view? After all, other parties do exist; they just don’t have the strength of the two biggies.

You can pick your answer: Maybe the assumption is wrong, and people really are gathered at either ends of the spectrum. Maybe people prefer a two-party system that precludes the formation of coalitions that would lead to compromise legislation rather than the all-or-nothing battles we have today. Or maybe the incumbent parties have stacked the deck in their favor, and a vote for a minority party might as well be thrown away. People don’t think they have a choice.

Actually, they do. Several other political parties exist, although most of them are single-issue groups like the Green Party, America First Party and the U.S. Marijuana Party. Some, however, do offer comprehensive philosophies that can be applied to all aspects of life and government. The largest of these is the Libertarian Party. Traditionally most in line with our country’s Jeffersonian founders, it combines the small-government views that conservatives espouse, while defending the social freedoms that many modern political liberals tout.

Declarations of Independence: The New Independent Majority

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll finds independent affiliation at an all time high. 43% of respondents identified themselves as independents, as opposed to 32% who called themselves Democrats, and the 21% who said they are Republicans. Taken together Republicans and Democrats barely constitute an absolute majority. These are the "dead-enders" of the duopoly parties. Via Septimus, at the Whig:
Both parties face a fundamental challenge: Democratic allegiance has slipped to a two-year low in this poll and Republican affiliation is back near its lowest ever; instead 43 percent of Americans now identify themselves as independents, the most since ABC/Post polls began 28 years ago . . . While the Republicans have moved closer to Obama on some issues, they haven't gained in allegiance overall. Just 21 percent of Americans in this poll identify themselves as Republicans, matching the number in April and the fewest since the record low in ABC/Post polls, 19 percent in September 1983.

Instead, as noted, the number identifying themselves as Democrats has slipped to 32 percent, compared with averages of 35 percent this year and 36 percent in 2008. The previous high for independents, now 43 percent, was 41 percent in July and in an early 1996 poll. The number of independents wasn't so high last month (34 percent), leaving the durability of these readings unclear. But it certainly doesn't make the task of partisan persuasion easier for either side.

Threeway in NY's 23rd: Independents in the Breach

On Wednesday, Rep. John McHugh was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of the Army, which will likely lead to a special election to fill his congressional seat on November 3rd. As noted here on numerous occasions, the election is shaping up to be a close three-way race between Republican Dede Scozzafava, Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. At The Hill, Reid Wilson writes:
The first public poll in the race, taken for Hoffman's campaign, showed Scozzafava earning 30 percent of the vote to Owens's 20 percent; Hoffman was statistically tied for second place, with 19 percent, a surprisingly high number for an unknown third-party candidate. [Emphasis added.]
Of course, there is nothing surprising about relatively broad support for a third party candidate in today's political climate, unless, that is, you are incapable of seeing the duopoly charade for what it is. Unfortunately, this is often the case at The Hill. Despite his surprise, Wilson's piece has little to offer in the way of explanation for the apparent strength of Hoffman's campaign. He continues:
There are 46,000 more registered Republicans in New York's 23rd District, which stretches from the Vermont and Canadian borders to Lake Ontario. But President Barack Obama won 52 percent of the vote in the district.
There are indeed upwards of 46,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the district, at least as of April. According to New York's Board of Elections, there are 160,138 registered Republicans in NY's 23rd, to the Democrats' 115,117. However, there are over 371,000 registered voters in the district overall, thus leaving 96,073 who are not affiliated with either the Democratic or the Republican Party. Independents will decide this election, it could go any way.

The Lesser Evil: Enemy of the Greater Good

In an opinion piece at the Athens Banner-Herald, Jeffrey Moss argues against lesser-of-two-evils voting:
Most of the folks I talk to don't even actually vote for a politician, they vote against the other guy - or gal. They've been conned into voting for what they consider to be the lesser of two evils. Sadly, most voters won't even consider casting a vote for a third-party or independent candidate, for fear their vote will be "wasted" - or worse yet, will be taken from the not-so-bad candidate, thus essentially giving a vote to the really bad candidate. If this really were true, we'd still be having political contests between the Whigs and the Federalists. Our two-party system needs a makeover . . .

I wrote to state Sen. Ralph Hudgens, R-Hull, a few years ago and asked if he would be willing to introduce legislation that would make it easier for independent and third-party candidates to qualify for elections. After all, I reasoned, if a candidate is secure in his or convictions, what's the harm in a little competition? Hudgens responded by indicating that having more than two parties on the ballot would make it "crowded." All Georgians should take offense at that response. One of our elected officials believes his constituents aren't intelligent enough to decipher a ballot with more than two choices [emphasis added] . . . Is voting Republican year after year and expecting fiscal responsibility sane? How about voting Democrat year after year and expecting social reform?

The major parties have evolved into more of a ruling class than a representative class. Continuing to send incumbents to Washington and the statehouse is insane. Voting for an independent isn't a wasted vote. Voting independent sends a message to both parties.

Poll: Majority Support for Third Party Alternatives

At Forbes, John Zogby reflects on some recent polling data indicating high levels of discontent with the reigning two-party system and wide support for viable third parties:
In a July Zogby Interactive survey of more than 40,000 U.S. adults . . . even slight majorities of both Democrats and Republicans want another party. Not surprisingly, 73% of Independents agree . . . Fifty-eight percent of both liberals and conservatives want a third party, leading me to conclude that most liberals don't believe the Democratic Party is liberal enough, and most conservatives don't believe the Republican Party is conservative enough. Then there are the 61% of moderates who apparently believe that neither party is moderate enough.

Consumer Alert: Beware of Political Campaign Contribution Scams

Any worthy history of grift and graft would certainly detail the reciprocal relationship between the art of the confidence trickster and that of the political huckster. The duopoly system of government constructed by the Democratic-Republican Party has transformed the apparatus of political representation into a front for organizations of carpet-bagging hobos, parasitic tramps and panhandling bums, whose hysteria rises in direct proportion with their want for funding.* Of course, no one likes to think of themselves as an easy mark, yet, every year millions if not billions of dollars are extorted from the people of the United States to fill the campaign coffers of the duopoly parties and their willing shills, in a wealth redistribution scheme that ensures the reproduction of the duopoly system of government and the continued alienation and disenfranchisement of the American voting public.

One of my favorite series of posts at The Think 3 Institute is dedicated to analyzing campaign fund-raising letters. Reading the most recent installment, I began to ponder the similarities between this genre of political panhandling and traditional schemes of advance-fee fraud, such as the Nigerian 419 scam. Suddenly, the following document appeared on my desktop:
Request for Urgent Political Action from the Bipartisan National Policy Review Panel

Dear Sir or Madam,

I must solicit your strictest confidence in this endeavor, which is of the greatest importance to the future of our country and even to liberty itself. I am sure of and have confidence in your ability and reliability to engage in an undertaking of such importance which requires your maximum confidence as well.

We are top party officials and members of the highly respected Bipartisan National Policy Review Panel who have unearthed sensitive intelligence regarding pending legislation and policy proposals currently making their way through relevant committees and executive working groups. In order to thwart the subversion of justice and our very way of life represented by these policy proposals, some of which you have likely read about in the independent media, we solicit your assistance to enable us to transfer into your possession funds that would otherwise support the proponents of said proposals and their passage.

The source of these funds is as follows: during the most recent [insert: Republican or Democratic] administration, various government and party officials set up independent action committees to collect monies both in support of and against necessary foreign and domestic policies, however, they grossly overestimated the costs of this political struggle, resulting in a large surplus of funds, which can now be accessed by the new regime to ensure passage of its radical [insert: left wing or right wing] agenda.

By virtue of our positions on the Bipartisan National Policy Review Panel, we cannot acquire this money in our names, but we can control the flow of these funds, and direct it to individuals and groups whose consistent support of liberty and justice, the Constitution and a vigorous two-party system, is beyond question, and can be trusted in such sensitive matters, thus denying it to radical [insert: liberals or conservatives] whose motives are open to serious doubt.

I have therefore been delegated as a matter of trust by my colleagues on the panel to seek partners into whose accounts we would transfer portions of the $35,628,320 in question. Hence we are writing you this letter. We have agreed to apportion the funds thusly: 2.5% for every account whose owner abides by the terms of the agreement, until the funds are depleted enough so as to ensure that they cannot be utilized for the effective implementation of the above-mentioned legislation and policy proposals. Please note that this transaction is 100% safe and we will commence the transfer seven days after the receipt of the following information by tel/fax at XXX-XXX-XXX: on your personal or business, signed and stamped, letterhead paper, your relevant bank account information and personal identification number. This information will enable us to compile letters of claim for the funds in question, to be deposited directly into your accounts.

We are looking forward to your support in thwarting the radical agenda of the new [insert: left wing or right wing] regime and solicit your utmost confidentiality in this transaction. Please acknowledge the receipt of this letter using the above tel/fax numbers. I will send you more detailed information of this project once I have heard from you.

Should you decide not to participate, please consider donating even modest sums to relevant party officials and committees dedicated to ensuring the continued existence of our two-party system of checks and balances in government.

Yours truly,
Dr. Eberhard Crook
Chairman, Bipartisan National Party Policy Review Panel

Note: please quote this reference number (FD/S/09/09) in all your responses.
It is a common refrain among partisans of the Republican and Democratic Parties that the factions which constitute the duopoly system of government "check" and "balance" one another. Yet, for all intents and purposes, the only checks and balances that are of any significance to partisan flim-flam artists are the balances of their campaign funds accounts and the checks that augment them. Every year millions of Americans fall prey to such frauds. Do not be taken in by these scams. If you receive a letter such as that above or have been the victim of a Democratic or Republican campaign "contribution" scheme, notify relevant authorities.

*The comparison with professional politicians is not intended to denigrate our nation's homeless.

Do you support Republicans or Democrats? I've got a bridge to sell you.

The most interesting take I've read thus far in the mainstream media on Saturday's tea party mobilization in Washington D.C. comes from Gerald Seib at the Wall Street Journal, who sees in the movement a resurgence of the form of populism that helped drive Ross Perot's campaigns for the presidency in the 1990's:
Protesters steamed up about government spending and decrying the advent of "socialism," may appear to represent a rich new vein in American politics. In fact, though, these Tea Party Patriots and like-minded brethren represent the latest resurfacing of a vein that has always been there and that simply goes below ground from time to time. This vein is populist and antiestablishment; it alternates between suspicion of government in general, and anger at the idea that government seems to be doing more to help fat cats or the other guy. In some fashion or another, it has been around since the time George Washington quelled the Whiskey Rebellion. The last big appearance came when Ross Perot tapped into it in the 1990s.
Seib is certainly not alone. At the 2012 Presidential Election, Consti Tution makes a plea for third party opposition to the two-party system and begins: "I miss Ross Perot." Perot's name also came up on Rush Limbaugh's radio show on Monday. A participant in Saturday's rally called in advocating third party activism:
Caller: to a person the Republicans that I spoke with were just fed up with government in general. There was a lot of anger at the Bush administration. They had all the levers of power at their disposal and they did nothing. They did not represent us. There's just real anger out there, and so I really believe that this movement is bigger than the political parties. I really think there's going to be a movement soon to maybe form another party. I've been a Republican my whole life, but those people no longer represent me . . .

Limbaugh: . . . we've gotta be really, really careful here, Dana, about this left versus right government thing. You mentioned third party, and we've been through this with Perot . . . a third party is not going to do anything other but ensure the reelection of Obama and every other Democrat running for office . . . Folks, we need to take the Republican Party back. The Democrat Party was co-opted, has been co-opted by a bunch of communists, socialist, fascists, what have you from the sixties and the seventies and that's what we're up against now. We have allowed our party to be co-opted by a slate of Ivy League elitists and country club, blue-blood Republicans . . . We've gotta address the biggest emergency first, and that is stopping Obama. That has to happen. If that doesn't happen then all the rest of this is academic. The second thing is, Ross Perot gave the White House to the Democrats in two successive elections.
At American Independent Party News, Bob Bailey writes in response:
Limbaugh's argument that there is a difference between the Republican and Democrat party sounds hollow given the two candidates offered in the last election. It sounds hollow given that the last Republican President abandoned the free market system (allegedly to save it). It sounds hollow given the actions taken by the Republican party when they had control of the government.
Indeed, Limbaugh's position is nothing more than a chain of duopolist cliches, and perfectly encapsulates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of two-party ideology: third party candidates are spoilers, we've got to take our party back, Democrats are the greater of two evils etc. Ironically, with the appropriate substitutions, Limbaugh's "arguments" against third party and independent activism are identical to those put forward by progressive Democrats: Ralph Nader put George Bush in the White House, we've got to take the Democratic Party back, Republicans must be stopped at all costs etc. Duopoly ideology allows Republicans and Democrats to avoid taking any political responsibility for the failure of the two-party system to effectively represent the people of the United States: the election was spoiled, our party has been hijacked, the other guys are evil. Duopolist shills play the victim in a confidence trick aiming to extort support for the reproduction of the political status quo. Everyone's a potential mark.

Peter Camejo: 'One of the Ten Most Dangerous Men in California'

At As It Ought to Be, Matt Gonzales remembers activist Peter Camejo, who died at this time last year. A long excerpt:

Most people know Peter Camejo as a three-time Green Party candidate for Governor of California and for his run with Ralph Nader in 2004. Others recall his days with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), when he ran for US President in 1976 (with running mate Willie Mae Reid) against both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Peter was also an author. He wrote about post-American Civil War politics (Racism, Revolution, Reaction 1861-1877, The Rise and Fall of Radical Reconstruction) and about progressive financial investing (The SRI Advantage: Why Socially Responsible Investing Has Outperformed Financially).

Many of his speeches from his period with the SWP were published by Pathfinder press in pamphlet form including: Who Killed Jim Crow?; Allende’s Chile: Is It Going Socialist?; Liberalism, Ultraleftism, Or Mass Action; How to Make a Revolution in the US; and Cuba and the Central American Revolution.

Peter marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma and participated in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, culminating in his expulsion from the University of California and subsequent run for mayor of Berkeley. It was during this era when then Governor Ronald Reagan declared Peter “one of the 10 most dangerous men in California”.

It is without question that Peter was one of the important members of the American Left of the last half-century. He had combated injustice his entire life and helped plant the seeds for many progressive ideas that are popular now.

None of the things we fight for today: gay marriage, equal rights for women, fair wage laws, immigrant rights, universal health care, would exist had there not been men and women like Peter pushing from one side — agitating and making people uncomfortable. It amazes me how once these ideas are commonplace, we celebrate the politicians who joined the effort at the last moment, when victory was all but assured. There’s little credit given to how we got on the beachhead in the first place.

What does it mean to stand up against something that won’t budge, long before it’s poised to be the majority sentiment? Peter knew the system would crumble someday. Politics as we know it will someday buckle under the pressure of human desires for a more egalitarian and democratic world. And when it happens, the “successful” politicians will not be remembered. They were the ones that took the easy path. Worked for change on the margin. Wanted the winner’s circle at all cost. Even if it meant denying what they knew to be the truth.

Peter believed the two-party system was a failure, pure and simple. He mused how years from now historians will scratch their heads and wonder how was it that people put up with its oppressiveness? Its days are numbered. Just as slavery was, just as the overt subjugation of woman was, just as concentrated capital’s refusal to pay decent wages and give human beings the benefits they deserve cannot be sustained for much longer.

Peter stood up to say that both parties defended corporations such that the differences, we’re told matter, hardly alleviate any true suffering. Peter wanted to live in a democracy. He wanted an economic system that produced for human needs not profits. He often said that the only reason someone hires you when you’re looking for a job is that they decide you can make them more money than what they’re going to pay you. He dared to say this was wrong.

Lose Your Illusion: Common Mystifications of Duopoly Ideology

When pressed to defend their opposition to third party and independent activism, partisans of the Republican and Democratic Parties – who are themselves dissatisfied with the reigning two-party status quo and the duopoly system of government – will often simply assert the brute fact of the two-party system. Despite their recognition of the fact that the two-party system distorts and warps our political process, and that the Democratic and Republican Parties are no longer effective vehicles for political representation, but have rather become obstacles to effective political representation, they state that because we have a two-party system, we have to work within the two-party system. This is the logic at the heart of both the mentality of lesser-evilism and the argument in favor of infiltrating the major parties, "taking them back" or "fixing" them, as the slogan of the day may have it. Otherwise principled liberals, conservatives, progressives and libertarians thus find themselves compromised by one party before they even confront the other, defeated from the outset by an ideological tautology.

Ironically, among the illusions that sustain the two-party system is the illusion that we have a two-party system. The US Constitution does not mandate any party system whatsoever; the framers where highly suspicious of what they called the "spirit of faction." The reigning Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government is rather an extra-constitutional political convention. In many ways it is little more than a fiction. At the local, state, and federal level, polities across the country are dominated by a one-party system of government in which the Republican or Democratic Party has a virtual monopoly on seats for elected office. Elsewhere, the major parties band together to ensure that there is no political opposition to the reproduction of the system which maintains their power. At the Libertarian Party blog, Mark Meranta relays a report from the Free and Equal Elections Foundation on recent actions by the Board of Elections in Suffolk County New York:
The Board of Elections in Suffolk County New York has ruled that the Libertarian Party candidates for three county offices will not be on the ballot come November. This action by the Board of Elections means that voters will only see one candidate on the ballot in the races for District Attorney, Sheriff, and Treasurer. The local Democrat and Republican parties have cross-endorsed one candidate for each race. “It is absolutely appalling that the voters in Suffolk County will have no choice on their ballot for these races,” said Free & Equal Founder Christina Tobin. “The Democrat and Republican commissioners at the Board of Elections have determined that they alone have the ability to choose officers in Suffolk County, not the voters.”
The fiction and fraud which is the two-party system is, of course, sustained by a myriad of prejudices and illusions. Among these is the erroneous notion that a two-party system is necessary in government. At the Huffington Post, Deepak Chopra, for instance, writes: "A vigorous two-party system is necessary to the body politic." More likely, the duopoly system of government is necessary to confirm Chopra's dualistic metaphysics in the realm of politics. Whatever the case may be in that regard, at Yes, But, However, we read in a similar vein: "Our country, every country, needs a robust two party system. Without it, you have unchecked power and graft." Yet, arguably, the two-party system is the very form for the concentration of unchecked political power, with each faction serving as an apparatus for the circulation of graft. The idea that the Republican and Democratic Parties function to "check" and "balance" one another is fairly widespread. NorCal Blogs provides an example: "Our two party system exists, in part, as a check and balance against each other." This notion is one of the most pernicious mystifications of duopoly ideology, blurring the line between the Constitution of the United States and an extra-constitutional system of political hegemony – as if the Republican and Democratic Parties were checked by anything other than the limitations of fund raising. Still, some believe it is their patriotic duty to support the duopoly system of government. From a letter to the Baltimore Sun: "it is patriotic to believe in democracy, a two-party system, and the process of checks and balances that are inherent in our government." In the final instance, it may well be the case that the ideology of the two-party state rests above all on a willing suspension of disbelief. At the HuffPo, Peter Clothier comes right out and says it: "in a political culture that my more rational self deems utterly deranged and utterly beyond redemption, I make the active choice, for now, to suspend my disbelief."

[Portions of this post are adapted from a guest piece for the Rotterdam Windmill.]

Third Party Tea Party: Dump the Duopoly

A Washington Post article on today's 'Tax Payer' march on Washington D.C. highlights the Republican Party's awkward relationship with the tea party movement: "'Taxpayer March Attracts Party Leaders, but Some are Wary."
The groups behind the protests include a broad array of self-described libertarians, independents and other factions, who have emerged as a force largely independent of GOP leaders in Washington. Some of that is by design: Leading activists among the conservative groups say they remain suspicious of a party that endorsed runaway deficits, a Wall Street bailout and other Bush-era policies they found objectionable.
However, the GOP's attempted hijacking of the movement is now fully operational:
In addition to Pence, Thursday's kickoff rally featured House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and other top House Republicans. Pence, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and several other lawmakers are to speak at Saturday's event. Republican officials will be distributing literature and collecting e-mail addresses in hopes of attracting more supporters to the GOP.
Clearly, party officials fear the prospect of an opposition which maintains its independence from the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of political representation:
"It's hard to tell if this will help the Republican Party win," said Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who said he expects a primary challenge from a "tea party" activist. "What it's done is energize people. The question is what will happen with the energized people: Are we going to maintain an effective two-party system or are some of them going to split off?" [Emphasis added.]
The difficulty of addressing this latter question stems from the array of false premises on which it is based. It presupposes at least: 1) that the two-party system is effective, and 2) that it should be maintained for that very reason. But what is an "effective two-party system"? Without question, the two-party system effects the disenfranchisement and alienation of huge swaths of the public, as evidenced by the massive protests against both the Bush and Obama administrations. To maintain the two-party system is to reproduce this disenfranchisement and alienation of the people, election after election, and ensure the continued concentration of power within the hands of the interests represented by the duopoly parties, which stand in diametrical opposition to the public interest. Dump the duopoly.

Third Party Tea Party

At Publius' Forum, John Armor argues that the Tea Party movement has the opportunity to restructure the dynamics of the two-party system. He takes the formation of the Republican Party as his guide:

All new party efforts since 1854 have failed at the national level. The reason for that unbroken history of failure is because all those new party efforts sought to reinvent the wheel and create parties from scratch. All successful efforts up to 1854 followed a different path. In the successful examples, elected officials changed their party labels, and later captured the support of voters who’d made the same shifts.

In 1856 the Republican candidate, John Fremont, won a third of the votes though his Party wasn’t one of the two strongest parties, going into that election. By 1858, the Republicans held a majority in Congress, not because they had elected a majority of the Senators and Representatives. They elected many. But the Members who put them over the top had been elected under other party labels, but switched to the Republicans . . .

What is the situation of the current major parties? The Democrats are split into three groups, the hard left, the center, and the moderate right . . . The Republican Party is also fractured, into the hard right, and the squishy moderates . . . And where do the American people stand? They have contempt for both the Republican and Democrat Parties . . . if a majority of Republicans and a minority of Democrats all support these four issues — obey the Constitution, cut taxes, reduce government control of lives of Americans, and support term limits – as a group they will dominate the elections and control both Houses of Congress . . . No pundits are currently talking about this new party possibility . . . this has happened several times before, and can happen again.

Third Party and Independent Web Roundup

What's going on in the third party and independent blogosphere today?

At The Whig, Septimus reports on the series of town hall style meetings that will be held by Paul McCain, the Modern Whig Party's candidate for congressional office in Florida.

IPR provides and update on the Modern Whig Party, which is set to announce their second candidate for congressional office.

Thomas Knapp makes the case that labor unions "represent exactly the kind of competition one would expect to see in a free labor market." Delaware Libertarian responds to Knapp's libertarian case for labor unions.

Green Party Watch reports that the Green Party candidate for city council in Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Cummins, won the run-off contest preceding the November election.

At A Green State of Mind, Darin Robins reflects on 'President Obama as Sublime Object of Desire.'

On the independent front, The Hankster is following the debate on closed vs. open primaries in Idaho.

Manifestos from the Decline does what the mainstream media are apparently unwilling to do, namely, some fact-checking.

At The Melting Pot Project, Joe wonders whether Massachusetts is ruining the sanctity of divorce.

The Socialist Party NYC blog is carrying an article on how the 'private health care lobby dictates terms in health care reform.'

The Catholic Knight considers the positions of US bishops toward health care reform.

The Constitution Party headlines an article by Chuck Baldwin against flying the Chinese flag at the White House.

Gun Toting Liberal reflects on the sex lives of lawmakers in bed with lobbyists.

NJ: Show Your Independence, Daggett for Governor TV Spot

In New Jersey, independent candidate for governor Chris Daggett has launched his first television ad, featuring lookalikes of incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie helplessly stuck on a broken escalator. Via IPR:

Pyrric Strategy and Two-Party Ideology

Partisans of the Democratic-Republican Party and the duopoly system of government will often admit their disdain for the major parties, but justify their continuing loyalty, rationalized as pragmatism, on the basis of the brute fact of the two-party system. The rigidity of this ideological formation is nowhere more clear than in their defenses against the appearance of advocating third party or independent activism. At Open Left, John Emerson asks: "Why is the Democrat Party so worthless?" But he is careful in pointing out: "But before anyone gets hysterical, I am not proposing a third party, at least not nationally." On the other hand, at Axis of Right, Sal draws attention to a purge of the Liberty Caucus from the Florida GOP, concluding:
If Conservatives start to be shut out from the primaries, what is the recourse then? One thing is for sure — if the GOP continues to try to court conservatives at election time, but treat them as unwanted children the rest of the time, the GOP will die a slow and painful death. I am not advocating a third-party here, as it will almost certainly lead to electoral defeat.
Given that self-described progressives and libertarians both clearly recognize that the Democratic and Republican Parties are hostile toward their interests and the aims of their activism, one might reasonably wonder how much longer they will continue to entertain the fiction that the Democratic and Republican Parties are the appropriate vehicle for securing those interests and achieving those aims. The liberal progressive strategy of electing "more and better Democrats" is fatally flawed, insofar as "more" Democrats are not "better" Democrats, as the current congressional majority demonstrates. Ironically, progressives could have learned this lesson from the failed conservative libertarian strategy of electing "more and better" Republicans, which resulted in the disastrous Republican congressional majority under the previous administration.

It is almost comical how vociferously some progressives and libertarians will argue against third party and independent activism, asserting that it leads only to defeat, while they opportunistically espouse the virtues of Democratic-Republican partisanship, even though this strategy demonstrably leads only to Pyrrhic victories.

Guest Post: And They Said It Was Impossible

Reflections on the process and politics of independent petitioning to establish a local, third party ballot line in a two-party state, by Michael O'Connor of The Rotterdam Windmill and the No New Tax Party.

The experiences of campaigning and specifically petition signature gathering have taught me a great many lessons. Though I had been warned by experienced politicos, jaded voters, and even close friends and family that I was about to get into more than I bargained for, somehow my naïveté prevailed. The reality is they were right in many respects.

Signature gathering to satisfy election requirements is quite specific (and vague in the same instant) and it made for a completely different animal than other petition efforts I have participated in. The complexities are mind boggling and resulted in a lot of consternation throughout the process. Because I also decided to run a Republican primary in addition to the independent run, the process became doubly grueling. Though the primary petition effort helped me hone certain skills and better understand election law, the independent petition process had its own unique intricacies to navigate. It’s called an impossible task for good reason.

But our effort proved it’s not an impossible task. It will hopefully help open a door for others to follow through – a door they previously thought couldn’t be opened. Belief drives effort. And effort is the one variable that you can control completely. We have demonstrated that exceptional effort can deliver extraordinary results. I can already hear the perpetual naysayers starting to grumble. Let’s be clear. Our effort didn’t revolve around gobs of money. It didn’t revolve around party structure. It didn’t revolve around an army of mindless minions. It revolved around dedicated and motivated ordinary people who desired better. It started with just the four of us as candidates and literally a handful of volunteers who believed as strongly as we did. All we could control was our effort.

Of course, effort needs to be focused and organized in order to be effective. One lesson learned was that I should’ve been better organized. The problem with being a political rookie is that it’s hard to understand the landscape until you’re on it. The adjustments were constant and probably largely avoidable, with the benefit of hindsight. Strategy must always be flexible because the situation is always fluid but if I had it to do over again, I’d have been better organized on virtually every aspect. I had fooled myself into thinking I was prepared, but it turned out I wasn’t. However, our incredible effort overcame that deficiency.

But there are aspects that are absolutely essential that I had previously discounted, incorrectly. I probably underestimated the minimum amount of money I will need. That’s okay because the number I started with was virtually next to nothing. I’m not totally surprised I’ll need a little more than I thought I could get away with. That amount is still significantly less than what conventional wisdom says it takes. One component I thought I didn’t need was a lawyer. Thank goodness we not only had one, but we had the best. I simply didn’t realize how much the election law minutia would matter or that the major parties would come at us with challenges. Competent legal advice is essential. I never realized how much of the equation is driven by power and the disinclination to relinquish it. My decision to run has since been reinforced by that realization. Power has slowly ebbed away from the people and it needs to be restored. Our effort is hopefully a step towards that goal.

This attempt is different than the one I intended in my head. Originally, there was no primary. There were no other candidates, just me. There is absolutely no question in my mind though that the original notion in my head would’ve failed. It was leaner, sleeker, and more organized because it was single-minded. But it was fatally flawed in that it didn’t have the manpower necessary to succeed. It also didn’t offer the appeal of having multiple like-minded candidates that afforded better presence in the short-term and better staying power in the longer-term. Collectively, we achieved better objectivity and our message gained strength. When it comes to politics, I operate on a concept of Trust No One. I had to learn that the hard way. It’s a valuable concept, and one that remained intact, but was adapted to developing an iron-clad core of trust between the four of us before we embarked. Other experiences have taught me how critical that is to being able to strategize effectively. Too often, it proves elusive. We’ve been fortunate.

The personal confirmation for me is that my heart is wholly in the independent effort. The Republican Primary was my acquiescence to the uncertainty that surrounded whether we’d be successful in creating the independent line. I rationalized it many different ways but in hindsight, it was driven by fear. Fear of failing to create the independent line. I guess I took the easier road while simultaneously traveling the harder one. I think the concession was a productive one for me, however. I gained an appreciation and perspective I didn’t quite have previously while reinforcing my disdain for other elements of the process. And I believe I’m better off for it.

The very best part of the experience was the interesting people I got to meet. No one wants some politician knocking on their door interrupting their busy lives but the vast majority of people I met were receptive and supportive. The concern that resonated with me most in those visits, and undoubtedly fueled our effort daily, is that no one is listening anymore. People feel they have no voice, no advocate. They want accountability. Each door knock crystallized the need for us to be successful.

[Michael O'Connor maintains The Rotterdam Windmill and is a candidate for town council in Rotterdam, NY. Together with three like-minded individuals, Michael established a local, third party ballot line for the upcoming fall elections, the No New Tax Party, by means of an independent nominating petition filed in August. -d.eris]

Three-Way in NY's 23rd (Update)

Among partisans of the Republican and Democratic Parties it is virtual dogma that third party and independent activism is at best superfluous and at worst counter-productive. This conventional wisdom is slowly being upended in New York. The last time I checked in on the special election taking shape in New York's 23rd CD, I noted the irony of Republican ideologue Eric Erickson's endorsement of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, (Ideology Trumps Ideology). Hoffman continues to garner the support of otherwise dogmatically duopolist conservative publications. Last week, Hoffman was profiled in a commentary for the Washington Times, and is featured in an article for the current issue of the Weekly Standard, which notes that "New York's 23rd could elect a conservative. But the GOP hasn't nominated one." At Daily Kos, Kos himself writes: "you know an election is fucked when the Republican appears to be the most palatable option." The pressure is surely building on Republican Party leaders, both locally and nationally, to drop their nominee, Dede Scozzafava, in favor of Hoffman. If they do not, it will certainly be interesting to see whether the Republican and Democrat split the liberal vote or whether the Republican and Conservative split the conservative vote. This one could go any way.

Toward a Green-Libertarian Alliance (Update)

The article by J.E. Robertson at Cafe Sentido, which considers the the possibility of a Green-Libertarian alliance, and which I excerpted here the other day, also caught the attention of Green Party Watch and Independent Political Report. At Green Party Watch, Gregg Jocoy writes:
If we are to break the stranglehold the corporate parties have on the American electorate, we must take some risks. As Congresswoman McKinney said, If we are to get something new, we must do something new.
At Independent Political Report, Paulie Cannoli picks up on the GPW post, and publishes an email exchange on the subject of 'Libertarian Greens' in which he relays links to two relevant articles by Roderick Long on the topic. The first triangulates libertarianism with respect to the traditional distinction between the left and the right, while the second provides a charitable libertarian reading of the Green Party's ten key values.

Left Wing Opposition to the Global Warfare and Corporate Welfare State

The Liberty Voice posts a transcript and video of a presentation delivered at the Socialism 2009 Conference in San Francisco by John Pilger entitled 'Power, Illusion and America's Last Taboo.'
here is the 44th President of the United States, having stacked his government with warmongers and corporate fraudsters and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, teasing us while promising more of the same.

Here is the House of Representatives, controlled by Obama’s Democrats, voting to approve $16 billion for three wars and a coming presidential military budget which, in 2009, will exceed any year since the end of World War Two, including the spending peaks of the Korean and Vietnam wars. And here is a peace movement, not all of it but much of it, prepared to look the other way and believe or hope that Obama will restore, as Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, the “nation of moral ideals" . . . .

During his brief period in the Senate, Obama voted to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He voted for the Patriot Act. He refused to support a bill for single-payer health care. He supported the death penalty. As a presidential candidate, he received more corporate backing than John McCain. He promised to close Guantanamo as a priority and has not. Instead, he has excused the perpetrators of torture, reinstated the infamous military commissions, kept the Bush gulag intact and opposed habeus corpus . . .

Yes, a lot of good people mobilized for Obama. But what did they demand of him — apart from the amorphous “change”? That isn’t activism . . .

What Obama and the bankers and the generals, and the IMF and the CIA and CNN fear is ordinary people coming together and acting together. It is a fear as old as democracy: a fear that suddenly people convert their anger to action and are guided by the truth.

At Docudharma, ToqueDeville makes the case against infiltration and continued progressive complicity with the Democratic Party:

Some, in an attempt to remedy the situation, have advocated making the Democratic party more progressive by taking it over. "Be the party you want," they say. "Infiltrate."

This is a pipe dream. The entire structure of the two party system is designed to prevent that from happening. There will be no crashing of the gates. No progressive Democratic revolution. I explained the pipe dream in more detail here. But long story short, almost every bought out, sold out, corrupt Democrat in Washington started off trying to crash the gates.

The truth is, both parties are controlled by the same monied interests. This way, as the late Carroll Quigley observed, when an election occurs, real power doesn't change hands.

The Democratic party is not designed to represent the common people. It is designed to contain us. To create the illusion of representation so that we don't revolt . . .

Only when we realize this, and use our leverage accordingly, will we gain real political power. The only leverage a politician understands is the power to make him or her LOSE.

You want a more progressive Democratic party? You have to be willing to lose. It's that simple. Sure, it may cost them their "majority", but they will never fuck with us again.

This is how you get "better" Democrats. This is how we change this country. This is what our enemies have long understood. There is no other way. Leverage.

Toward a Green-Libertarian Alliance

In a piece reflecting on the split between moderate and conservative Republicans, J.E. Robertson argues at Cafe Sentido that the current weakness of the Republican Party could be exploited by an alliance of Greens and Libertarians to break open the two-party system:
there is significant overlap between the policy goals of the Green party and those of the Libertarian party, despite deep philosophical differences on the role of government. A multi-state coalition among representatives of these two parties could forge a path for viable opposition to the two-party stranglehold on power. The effects would likely see one of the two major parties pushed into third place.

As the numbers stand now, a Green-Lib coalition might be able to shave as much as 10% off Democratic support nationwide, assuming Democrats or liberal independents —still wary of repeating the 2000 election, where a Green candidate effectively denied the Democratic candidate the White House— believed the coalition was big enough to keep the Republicans at bay. Republicans might lose anywhere from 20% to 35% of their support, as they struggle against Green-Lib claims that they are not rights-oriented and not green enough . . .

The question of why or how a Green-Lib coalition might play out —and that is really just one example— will have a lot to do with what party is bleeding votes in what way, and why? Right now, the Republican party is bleeding votes because 1) Bush’s politics failed on a grand scale; 2) the party has acquired an air of radical intolerance; 3) the party appears to be “out of touch” with the average voter; and 4) because Obama’s 21st century message of dynamic vision, inclusiveness, public service and sustainability, is prevailing.

Those four factors all suggest a Green-Lib coalition would more easily capture would-be Republican votes —perhaps all of them independents— than Democratic votes, as the Democrats are now more united and more determined than at any time in nearly 50 years . . .

if the Republican party loses more ground to the Democratic party in 2010, or in both 2010 and 2012, it is virtually impossible to imagine that the American electorate would not start searching for a viable opposition, to avoid a concentration of power that is generally seen by all as unhealthy for democracy.
A Green-Libertarian alliance is not as far fetched as it might sound at first. Robert Milnes makes a strong case for what he calls the 'progressive alliance strategy.' Furthermore, the Green and Libertarian Parties are already working together to challenge discriminatory ballot access laws in states across the country (for instance, in Pennsylvania and New Mexico). One might also question Robertson's assumption that "the Democrats are now more united and more determined than at any time in nearly 50 years." Liberal and progressive Democrats continue to be frustrated by the Democratic majority's unwillingness or inability to deliver "change they can believe in." Ironically, it is likely the depth of liberal and progressive support for the Democratic Party that allows the party's leadership to effectively ignore them. If liberals and progressives will vote Democrat no matter what Democrats do, then the party can safely pander to the conservative faction of its coalition. At the Public Policy Polling blog, Tom Jensen writes:
80% of Democrats are liberals or moderates and they tend to pretty much be in agreement on issues like the public option, but they're also the most reliably Democratic voters. That quite often causes a lot of officials to spend their energy appeasing that remaining 20% who are a threat to stray, even if it means working against what a significant majority of Democrats overall want. Absent primary challenges there isn't a whole lot frustrated progressives can do about that at the polls in a two party system- the alternative is worse. Persuading party leaders in Congress to do the right thing is the only, but often ineffectual, way to get things done.
Though this analysis of the internal dynamics of the Democratic Party coalition rings true, its duopolist bias is on full display in the conclusion that "there isn't a whole lot frustrated progressives can do about that at the polls in a two party system." Liberals and progressives can organize outside of the two-party system, or independently of the party system altogether. In an article on the relationship between organized labor and the Democratic Party, David Lindorff, for instance, argues that the proper response to "Democratic betrayals" is active opposition to the Democratic Party:

The only way to really make Democrats stop these kinds of betrayals is for labor to decide “which side it is on” and to actively oppose those who sell labor out. Trumka, as head of the AFL-CIO, is in a position to make a fundamental change in labor’s relationship with the Democratic Party. He should announce plans to encourage the formation of a new labor party, which would run its own candidates for office in key districts. Labor, uniquely, is in a position to do this. It has the money and the numbers to be able to easily get on the ballot in every state even by as early as next year . . .

Running candidates on a labor party ticket would be a much bigger threat to sell-out Democrats than just running candidates in the Democratic Primary. And with good candidates, some labor party candidates would certainly win their races, becoming a third force in Congress.

Until liberals and progressives demonstrate some amount of independence from the Democratic Party, they will continue to be taken for granted by that party, and the same holds for conservatives with respect to the Republican Party. A Green-Libertarian alliance is a promising strategy to weaken the positions of Democrats and Republicans that are hostile to the interests of both conservatives and progressives, and could very well effect change that would, paradoxically, be palatable to activists on both the left and the right.