Three-Way in NY's 23rd: Duopolist Narratives and Third Party Strategy

Regular readers of Poli-Tea may well already be bored with the special election in NY's 23rd congressional district, which I've been following since July. But the race has now effectively demonstrated that the usual ideological mystifications aimed at dissuading the public from engaging in third party and independent activism are nothing more than maxims for the maintenance of the political status quo to ensure the reproduction of the two-party state. Among these, we could name any number of duopolist cliches: third party and independent candidates only act as spoilers, third party and independent candidates are not viable alternatives to the duopoly parties' candidates. Ironically, with polls now putting Democratic candidate Bill Owens in the lead, it appears Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava may well spoil the election for the conservative blogosphere's sudden favorite, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. This reversal furthermore reveals the falsehood of the viability argument against third party and independent candidates: the only difference between a viable and a non-viable third party or independent candidate for office is the willingness of the public to support an alternative to the representatives of the political status quo, namely, Republicans and Democrats.

The greater portion of the conservative commentariat came out in support of Doug Hoffman over the last few days, while the representatives of the Republican establishment have gone out on a limb for their professional political colleague, driving coverage of the race to the top slot at Memeorandum. (Actually, I was kind of surprised at this. Don't they have more important news to cover, like the boy trapped in the balloon, who actually wasn't, or Meghan McCain's latest tweet about her boob-shot?) However, and nonetheless, the false assumption underlying the conservative calculus here is that Hoffman would be able to take the stand he has as a Republican. In other words, they continue to believe that he is the "real" Republican candidate in the race. The illusion is that Hoffman stands for the Republican Party's true principles. The reality, however, is that the GOP does not stand for any principles, just like its Democratic counterpart. Rather, as ever, the duopoly parties stand for nothing more than the perpetuation of their hold on political power and the reproduction of the two-party political status quo.

From a third party and independent perspective, the strategic danger in the outcome of this race lies, as always, in the familiar narrative frames of duopoly ideology. If Hoffman wins, conservative duopolist hacks will argue that it represents the success of the "true" Republican candidate, while if he loses it may dangerously reinforce duopolist ideologemes among a large segment of the population that had begun to think and practice the idea of political independence from the two-party system.

Whatever the outcome, however, and hopefully, New York's Conservative Party will have enough sense to use their candidate's new-found popularity to their advantage, and by extension, to the advantage of everyone who is interested in expanding the scope of political representation in the United States, perhaps by facilitating the foundation of chapters in other states or by means of a tactical or strategic alliance with any of the nation's many conservative parties with national aspirations, such as the American Conservative Party, America's Independent Party or the Constitution Party.

Update: With regard to that latter point, a post at the Motley Fool demands: "Bring the Conservative Party to Michigan NOW!"

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