On the Ideological Division of Labor in the Democratic-Republican Party: the Common Enemy

The traditional conservative critique of the two-party system is summed up by George Wallace's maxim from the late 1960's that "there's not a dime's worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties." More recently, this position has been termed "the Perot doctrine." At American Thinker, Steve McCann writes:
In the 1992 presidential election, Ross Perot ran on and promoted the "Perot Doctrine": there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. That theme resonated sufficiently to give him 19% of the popular vote, the highest amount ever achieved by a third-party candidate.
This theme continues to resonate with independent conservatives. This week Rush Limbaugh was forced, yet again, to defend the GOP against the charge that they are no different from the Democrats:
CALLER: To me there's no difference anymore between a Republican and a Democrat. There are conservatives and liberals. But I see nothing that distinguishes the two parties from each other anymore.
RUSH: Well, wait, wait, wait.
CALLER: I'm very frustrated by that.
RUSH: Wait just a second, now.
RUSH: (sigh) That's a wave that's starting out there that we're going to have to try to nip in the bud. What you're saying, I think, is all politicians are the same, whether they're Republicans or Democrats. And I know the Republican Party has let a lot of people down by not advocating conservatism or implementing it as they campaigned on . . . when I hear you say that there's no difference in the two parties, you're being set up for this third party stuff. The guaranteed outcome of that is Democrat power in perpetuity.
Limbaugh returned to the issue again and again:
RUSH: All right, folks. I'm detecting a trend here and it's time to let you in on what's going on. First, "The two parties, they're no different." That means we need to go third party. "There's no difference between the parties." Look, for one thing: The Republican Party, for all its faults, has always wanted to win when we deployed the military. Come on, folks! You gotta get real about this. The Republican Party, as bad as it is, is not the Democrat Party . . . [Emphasis added] . . .
RUSH: While I have your attention: third party. This third-party stuff has got to stop, folks, unless you are for a third party for the Democrats. I'm all for Ralph Nader running again . . . The problem is that there are people trying to confuse the issue. They're saying, "Well, the Republicans spent too much and they did this and they gave us new entitlements, they spend just like the Democrats, they all spend, they all spend the same." I get that. I fought them on those things. I was deeply upset and opposed to a lot of this spending.
Of course, Limbaugh is right, it is not correct to say that there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties. At the very least, we would have to admit that the Republican Party serves to delude conservatives and libertarians, while the Democratic Party works to hoodwink liberals and progressives. This ideological division of labor between the Democratic and Republican party machines is a prerequisite for the maintenance and reproduction of the Democratic-Republican two-party state, the dictatorship of the duopoly parties.

Some duopolist conspiracy theories of third party and independent activism are clearly inspired by Limbaugh's dogmatic arguments in favor of political co-dependence with the ruling parties. At The Hive, IDPNC writes:
It's time we snap out of this third party crap!! My country is just too important to let it be destroyed by the Democrats and their ignorants. I always hear this B-S about both the Democrats and Republicans are the same, nothing but B-S from the Liberal Democrats. They are no where near the same. . . . If you want to start a third party, start one in the Democrat party. These third party people are just liberal democrats in disguise trying to destroy the Republican party. [Emphasis added.]
"The Hive" mind is, perhaps unsurprisingly, overrun with dittoheads. In the transcript of Limbaugh's anti-independent diatribe we read: "Get real! Cut the third party crap . . . Snap out of this!" Consider, however, the irony of the fact that to the partisan Republican attempting to distance the GOP from the Democratic Party, independent conservative criticism of the Republican Party is indistinguishable from the liberal Democratic conspiracy to destroy the GOP. In reality, just as conservatives and libertarians are declaring their independence from the Republican Party, liberals and progressives are distancing themselves from the Democrats.

The People's Press Collective (via The Radio Patriot) chronicles a row between Colorado's establishmentarian Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott McInnis and the state's independent conservative groups. When media began to refer to McInnis as "the tea-party candidate," which the McInnis campaign happily allowed, the leader of the Colorado Tea Party group responded:
I am writing to express my extreme disgust with what is happening right here in Colorado with the GOP. My disgust lies primarily with Scott McInnis & Jane Norton, the state GOP, and the blatant hijacking of the Tea Party.
Meanwhile, among liberals and progressives there is no lack of third party and independent agitation. After detailing the failure of Democratic-Republican government, the Sagebrush Philosopher calls for "A New Federalist Party":
The time has come to create a political party that clearly represents the will of the people, by reigning in the sheer power and influence (both political and financial) of corporations and the vast wealth that has corrupted both major political parties. The massive corruption that has permeated our system of government needs to be routed out, integrity restored and safeguards put in place to ensure a government that is, unequivocally, based on the principle of “a government of the people, for the people and by the people.”
At the Reclusive Leftist, Violet continues to develop a proposal for "a new feminist-progressive movement or party in this country . . . the Justice Party":
Since the two-party system has an entrenched death grip on our government, attacking it purely from the outside is a Sisyphean task. Why not tackle it from the outside and the inside? Create a third party that has an external independent existence and a matching bloc within the Democratic caucus.
This is not dissimilar to Paul Kroenke's argument that Libertarians should "infiltrate both parties, while growing a third party," (which led to our debate over the merits of infiltration vs. independence). The larger point here is that we are witnessing third party and independent agitation across the political and ideological spectrum. Contrary to what the ideologues of the Democratic and Republican Parties would have us believe, there is significant overlap between the interests of conservatives, libertarians, liberals and progressives. To begin with, they share a common enemy: the Democratic-Republican establishment and the political apparatus of the two-party state.


Samuel Wilson said...

I'm increasingly convinced that we have to challenge the ideological bipolarchy of "liberals" and "conservatives" as much as we challenge the inevitability of the partisan Bipolarchy. The perception that "there are conservatives and liberals" is part of the problem. "Conservatism" and "Liberalism" are packages of ideas that aren't necessarily consistent or coherent. Their existence requires almost everyone to buy into some policies they don't necessarily believe in for the sake of some nebulous larger agenda -- but whose agendas are those? The practical effect of promulgating conservatism and liberalism is to rally most voters into two camps. I'm not suggeting that the Bipolarchy as a conscious entity made it that way, but I do suspect that the existence of a Bipolarchy shaped the manichean perceptions of the ideologues who set the terms of the present perpetual struggle.

d.eris said...

I think that's a reasonable suspicion. It's especially clear when conservatives are called "liberal Democrats" because they recognize the absolute bankruptcy of the Republican Party.

Viewed historically, the dominant conservative/liberal split is wholly nonsensical. One of the potential ways to undermine this false opposition is to underscore the continuity between and the overlapping of supposedly oppositional conservative and liberal positions. One example here could be opposition to the war among both progressives and libertarians.