I would like to respond to Damon's first point first. He claims that infiltration shares many of the drawbacks of a third party independent effort, but has none of the advantages. I disagree. First and foremost, for a libertarian to win the hearts and minds of a republican district by working within the Republican Party, he/she is immediately capable of accessing the resources (read: money) of the Republican Party . . .Thus, Paul argues that infiltration is a viable strategy because: 1) it potentially provides access to the funding apparatus of a major party; 2) it will bring more independently-, and in this case, libertarian-minded activists into the fold of that party, and 3) it will not suffer the social and political stigmatization of a third party or independent effort. Allow me to restate my position once again: limited resources preclude a strategy of infiltrating both parties while mounting a third party or independent effort against the two-party order; and infiltration has many drawbacks of a third party or independent effort and none of the advantages.
Furthermore, the opportunity presents itself to have a larger campaign staff than one might otherwise assemble, thereby bringing more libertarian-minded people into the fold of the major party . . .
Damon's statement that infiltration shares many of the drawbacks of a third-party effort is also slightly off in my opinion. The majority view of third parties in general remains that they are full of cranks who bring nothing of substance to the table. When discussing liberty and freedom, however, this is truly not the case. Federal level libertarian candidates in the upcoming elections, for example, include the likes of Peter Schiff and Rand Paul, who offer some of the most intriguing ideas to the political spectrum. Both are running for the Republican nominations, rather than for third-party nominations, wherein they would most assuredly be horrendously marginalized.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of a third party or independent campaign, at least in comparison with an infiltrationist strategy, is to be found in its very name, that is, in its independence from the major parties, including their fundraising apparatus. Obtaining access to the resources of one wing of the Democratic-Republican Party is a drawback of the infiltration strategy insofar as it puts one in a position of dependency on one of the major parties and their fundraising apparatus. There are always strings attached, which is why both Democratic and Republican politicians are little more than the marionettes of corporate lobbyists, rather than advocates of their constituents. Secondly, if the infiltration strategy brings more independently-, and once again in this case, libertarian-minded folks into the fold of a major party, then that leaves fewer such people to do the important work of third party and independent organizing. Every day spent knocking on doors for a Republican, for instance, is wasted insofar as it could have been spent bringing new members into the fold of the Libertarian Party. Finally, the infiltration strategy usually entails running an insurgent primary campaign, likely against the candidate favored by the party establishment, who will seek to marginalize such upstarts in any way possible.
Paul references the US Senate campaigns of Rand Paul in Kentucky and Peter Schiff in Connecticut. Consider the establishmentarian GOP response to Rand Paul's campaign that I highlighted in "On the Temptations of Pragmatic Opportunism." Jonathan Gaby's Capital Conservative, a Kentucky-based news blog, wrote:
Paul’s nomination effectively represents a different faction within the Republican Party, that of the anti-establishment. Paul’s campaign, in essence, has taken on a more “libertarian” feel . . . He seems at least cold to especially the democrat party but also to the Republican party. A newcomer in politics and campaigns should know to win Republicans to his cause is critical. As a registered Republican and party official I think he complains more about what’s wrong with our party than inspiring me toward becoming a better GOP . . .Though he's working "within the system," his effort is still marginalized as if it were a third party or independent campaign. Further, Rand Paul has demonstrated that he is capable of raising tons of money independently of the Republican Party fundraising apparatus. What were the advantages of working within the GOP again? In Connecticut, on the other hand, Joe Lieberman has already demonstrated that voters in the Constitution State are willing and able to elect independents to the US Senate. Indeed, the majority of voters in Connecticut are enrolled as independents (see "Independent Connecticut"). It is unlikely that the bump supplied to Shiff by allying himself with the GOP will, of itself, be able to overcome the antipathy toward both the Democratic and Republican Parties by everyday folks. In his argument in favor of infiltration, Paul at OE remarks that: "The majority view of third parties in general remains that they are full of cranks who bring nothing of substance to the table." The same could be said of the majority view regarding the Democratic and Republican Parties, and that would be a particularly nice way of putting it. Rand Paul and Peter Schiff may win the nominations of the Republican Party, and they may even go on to win their respective contests in 2010, but they might also have won as independents, or, imagine that, as Libertarians. In the latter cases, they would also have struck a major blow against the two-party system and the ideology of duopoly that sustains it, rather than compromise with it from the outset and, likely, end up compromised by it in the end.
A self-professed “independent Republican,” Paul continues his theme of independence, almost to the extent of a flavor of a third party run. If he continues with that approach towards the GOP he stands at losing voters in the primary. If he is serious about securing the GOP nomination he needs to dial back the rhetoric and flavor of a third party candidate and get with the GOP. [Emphasis added.]
By far, the greatest drawback of the infiltration strategy is that it cannot address the greatest political obstacle facing the people of the United States, which is the two-party system itself. Even if it is effective, the infiltration strategy will simply reproduce this problem. The motto of Organized Exploitation is a quote from H.L. Mencken: "All government, in its essence, is organized exploitation." In the United States, the two-party system is the political form of and the primary vehicle for this exploitation of the people by entrenched elites and the political class. To oppose the two-party system is to oppose the reigning organization of this exploitation. To work within it is to help in the maintenance of it.
Paul closes his piece with a statement against "fragmentation": "While fragmentation appears attractive, infiltration practiced by men and women of principle will get the job done much more quickly." The aim and goal of third party and independent activism is not fragmentation as such, but more effective representation. Arguably, the two-party system is structurally incapable of representing the diversity of interests to be found among the people of the United States. If "fragmentation" is what results from the smashing of the two-party state, then everyone should have a sledge hammer.