Democratic-Republican Solidarity and the Iron Law of Oligarchy: Forging a Viable Opposition to the Dictatorship of the Two-Party State

Following the news that Republican Dede Scozzafava suspended her campaign and then endorsed Democrat Bill Owens in the special election in NY's 23rd, the conservative Republican response was completely predictable: Dede Scozzafava is a Democrat, they cried, echoing the sentiment of the Hoffman campaign itself. At The Other McCain, Stacy McCain, for instance, writes: "in the span of 36 hours, Scozzafava has gone from being a RINO to being an ex-Republican." Though she has not technically withdrawn from the race, Scozzafava's suspension of her campaign reduces the contest to a two-person race between Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Ideologues of the two-party state have been dumbfounded by this election from the very beginning. Here they sense an opening, an opportunity to translate the dynamics of the contest into the well-known dialect of duopoly ideology: if Scozzafava's endorsement of Owens makes her a Democrat, then Hoffman is a Republican, and we can safely presume that the reigning two-party order will be reproduced intact, that NY's 23rd is not and never was a "third party race," even though it seems fairly certain that the third party candidate will win by a large margin.

The duopolist ideologue might well respond: but Hoffman calls himself the "real" Republican in the race, and his campaign has labeled Scozzafava a Democrat. Perhaps here it would do to recall a few apt lines from the Apology of Socrates on the "wisdom" of politicians and poets:
After the politicians, I went to the poets . . . I took them some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the meaning of them . . . I am almost ashamed to confess the truth, but I must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better about their poetry than they did themselves.
Republican Scozzafava's endorsement of Democrat Bill Owens does not demonstrate that she is a Democrat, but rather that the respective factions of the Democratic-Republican Party and the duopoly system of government function as a unit, that the rhetorical opposition between Democrats and Republicans is little more than a facade veiling their shared opposition to independent and third party threats to their lock on elected office and monopolization of political power. Though Hoffman may turn out to be nothing more than a partisan Republican opportunist who is more interested in maintaining the dictatorship of the two-party state than opposing the ossified structures of the duopoly system of government, this does not change the fact that his campaign demonstrates the ease with which the "iron law" of the two-party oligarchy can be broken by an engaged citizenry.


Samuel Wilson said...

I'm inclined to agree with your assessment but I'm also open to taking seriously Scozzafava's belief that movement conservatives of Hoffman's stripe are a menace. In a non-bipolarchy polity it should neither surprise nor alarm us if Republicans and Democrats ally against a perceived extremist. In the present case, however, it seems to prove Hoffman's argument that Scozzafava stood for nothing. That doesn't mean that there can't be Republicans who want the party to stand for something besides movement conservatism, but those people clearly need to make a better case than Scozzafava did if they want more people to believe them in the future.

d.eris said...

Scozzafava's campaign was extremely weak. Their assumption, it seems, is that it was a safe Republican seat and so they did little to nothing to ensure that they would win. It is not very dissimilar to what happened with the Christie campaign in NJ. The GOP assumption was that Corzine was unpopular and all Christie would have to do is sit back and welcome discontented voters into his camp? Where else were they gonna go - this question is virtually a strategic principle for duopolist challengers to duopolist incumbents. Back to NY's 23rd: Hoffman's campaign was also pretty creative in a lot of their rhetoric, and their messaging. Both races go to show I think that duopolist candidates really don't know how to react when they are confronted by even moderately strong third party candidates.

With respect to your point though, I think Republican moderates clearly do not feel welcome in the GOP, obviously it's up to them whether they stay with that party or not. I think we'll see a lot of conservative to moderate independents upending various races in 2010. Lincoln Chafee, Trevor Drown come to mind here.