The Crisis of the Democratic-Republican Party is an Opportunity for the People of the United States

At Buzzflash, self-described "Fifth Columnist" P.M. Carpenter reflects on the state of the race in NY's 23rd and attempts to draw some conclusions about "what a Hoffman victory could mean for liberals." By liberals, of course, Carpenter means Democrats, and writes:
Should Hoffman pull this off, moderate to conservative Congressional Democrats -- those who rely most on middle-of-road independents for reelection -- will sense yet another broad electoral shift to the right. In brief, rather than be pulled in any progressive direction -- as conventional wisdom on the left has urged for their own protection -- they'll hunker down on the "right" side of every issue.

In fact, at this stage, even if Hoffman loses, he may have made a lasting point to the nervously conservative among Congressional Democrats. Yes, the Hoffman-Scozzafava spat is an intriguing look into the GOP's family problems, but its ramifications could be far larger, and far more ominous, for liberal Democrats.

Ironically, then, the self-described "fifth columnist" is little more than an establishmentarian liberal Democratic ideologue, and hence the rise of a Conservative third party candidate is an evil omen. However, the radical import of Hoffman's candidacy is crystal clear for 'third columnists' across the ideological spectrum. Consider, for instance, Sam Wilson's take on NY's 23rd at The Think 3 Institute:
someone who wants to advance the Democratic agenda, but is not greedy, should support Hoffman. Since the seat was Republican in the first place, Hoffman's victory would not be a loss in Democratic voting strength, even if people argue that anything short of Democratic victory in every election is a rebuke to President Obama. Never mind him. The opportunity here, not just for opportunistic Democrats but for all enemies of the American Bipolarchy, is to give a "third party" the elusive viability that would come from electing a member to Congress. My hope is that, given the climate of dissatisfaction with Republican representation of the conservative movement, a Hoffman win would embolden the Conservative party to contest more elections in its own right rather than complacently endorse Republican candidates. The benefit to Democrats in the short term would be, ideally, a permanent split in the anti-Democratic bloc. The benefit to everyone in the long term would be the emboldening of progressive and leftist New Yorkers, in the absence of a monolithic Republican-conservative bogeyman, to make their own break from the Democratic party, to challenge incumbents or fill vacancies in "blue" districts with actual independents committed to the agenda of progressive constituents rather than that of a big-tent national committee.
It may appear counter-intuitive, but if conservatives succeed in electing Hoffman in NY's 23rd on a third party ballot line they will have effected concrete "progressive change" by demonstrating that the Democratic-Republican Party's supposed iron lock on elected office is nothing more than a paper tiger. It is for this reason, I submit, that the Republican establishment has come out so strongly in favor of Hoffman's candidacy. Michael Steele, for instance, has now stated that a Hoffman victory "is a win for the GOP." By alleging that Hoffman is the "real" Republican in the race, GOP ideologues are, perhaps successfully, veiling the dangerous truth his candidacy reveals: the duopoly can be defeated. To his credit, Democrat strategist Joe Trippi has come right out and said it in plain English:
What we are seeing in 2009 is that incumbents or the “in” party in each race is having trouble holding on, and that where voters have a choice outside of both major parties enough voters are choosing the independent or third party candidate to rattle both major parties and effect the outcome, if not win the election outright

I am a Democrat and have been a Democrat all my life and I want Democrats to win in 2009 and 2010. But Republican, or Democrat, it would be a mistake to not see that both of our parties are in trouble and that many of our incumbents in 2010, in both parties, will be in jeopardy . . .

What voters are ready to tell anyone who will listen is that they would like to reject both parties right now if they could. They are trying to find a way to say to both parties, “We want you to change or get out of the way.” Both party establishments are in denial. Both party establishments are hard of hearing. And, both party establishments are likely to see the results on Tuesday as Karl Rove sees them – a victory of one party over another. That is the real danger in 2010 and beyond for both parties.
Recognition of this fact is beginning to gain traction in the mainstream media as well. In an AP article on the NJ gubernatorial race and the special election in NY's 23rd, Beth Fouhy writes of the nascent independent and third party insurgency: "Both parties ignore such sentiment at their peril in 2010 and perhaps into the 2012 presidential race." That which is a clear and present "danger for both parties" is hope and promise to the people of the United States. The current crisis of the Democratic-Republican Party and the duopoly system of government is nothing less than a golden opportunity for the American public to strike a serious blow against the nation's ruling political elite and the entrenched interests they represent. To vote Democrat or Republican in any race is to squander that opportunity and instead reproduce, once again, the political status-quo.

The Yes Men vs. the Chamber of Commerce

The first item in the platform of the United States Pirate Party calls for the "abolition of the DMCA and related subsequent provisions within copyright law." The Pirate Party elaborates:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 provided for legal repercussions for circumvention of copy protection, as well as making backup copies of any media illegal. This act has resulted in the intimidation, prosecution, and/or conviction of tens of thousands of people in our country--people who are otherwise law-abiding and who are not interested in being labeled thieves or crooks for doing what the internet was intended to do: share ideas. This is therefore a First Amendment issue, being freedom of expression, and we call for a repeal of this highly illogical and vertically-oriented law.
While one might think that the DMCA protects copyright holders against illegal downloading, file sharing and the "piracy" of media, it has also become a tool for the prosecution of political speech and activity. Consider the case of the US Chamber of Commerce vs. the Yes Men. On October 19th, the activist group – which specializes in what they call "identity correction: impersonating big time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them" – effectively employed this method to convince a number of corporate news outlets that the US Chamber of Commerce had reversed its position on climate change policy. As the Yes Men tell it:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a dramatic announcement at the National Press Club today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reversed its position on climate change policy, and promised to immediately cease lobbying against the Kerry-Boxer bill.


Within minutes of the Chamber's dramatic announcement, it was revealed that the "Chamber spokesperson" was an impostor, and the press conference an elaborate hoax designed by activists to draw attention to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "troglodytic" fight against climate change legislation. At the close of the news conference, a visibly rattled Chamber of Commerce spokesperson (Eric Wohlschlegel) barged into the room and declared the event a fraud. (Video here.)

The US Chamber of Commerce has now responded with a lawsuit, basing its claim on the DMCA. The New York Times reports:

The U.S. Chamber filed a lawsuit yesterday against activists who last week staged a fake news conference announcing that the business trade group had changed its policy on climate legislation. The suit filed in federal district court cites trademark and copyright infringement and said that the Yes Men group staged the press conference stunt for financial gain . . .

Yes Men member Jacques Servin, who also goes by the alias Andy Bichlbaum, in response to the lawsuit said "it's really disappointing that the chamber would take this approach to something that's clearly political speech." Asked whether using a group's trademark and copyrighted information is free speech, Servin said "yes."

Servin, who is named in the lawsuit, was one of the leaders of the Oct. 19 stunt in which the Yes Men held a press conference at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C. Prior to the press conference, the group set up a Web site at the address The lawsuit came after the Yes Men refused to take down the site, the chamber press release said. The chamber on Thursday sent a letter to Hurricane Electric, the Internet service provider of the site, demanding they remove the fraudulent content, said chamber spokesman J.P. Fielder. Hurricane took down the page, Fielder said. The Yes Men then restored the site through a new ISP, Fielder said. The fake site is up today.

The Web site appears identical to the chamber's actual site but contains a fake "press releases" and "speeches" page, the chamber's lawsuit said. It also includes a link to the actual chamber site -- what the lawsuit called "painstaking, sophisticated design," -- to ensure that the fake identity of the site would be concealed. The Yes Men on its Web site criticized the chamber action against the fake Web site Friday, saying it resulted in Hurricane Electric temporarily also taking down 400 other businesses.

The Yes Men have been targeted by their marks with DMCA complaints before. As Interactivist points out:

The Yes Men have in the past received DMCA notices from Exxon, Dow Chemical, DeBeers, and the New York Times. In each case, the the Yes Men (represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation) refused to comply, and prevailed. Even the George W. Bush campaign sent a complaint to try to interrupt service to, in 2000, resulting in extensive ridicule that culminated in Bush's mind-boggling gaffe that "There ought to be limits to freedom."

In their response to the Chamber's lawsuit, Andy Bichlbaum writes for the Yes Men:

The Chamber complains that we've misled the public. But the Chamber misleads the public every day when it claims to speak for 3 million business, effectively masquerading as a populist lobbying organization - when a closer look reveals it represents barely a tenth of that. In fact, the Chamber repeated that debatable number in the press release sent out announcing the lawsuit against us. Now that's chutzpa!

Bragging about their size is only the tip of the iceberg, of course. Among many other things, the Chamber routinely undermines American democracy by spending millions to oppose sane climate legislation, health care reform, and employee free choice - not to mention so-called 'grassroots' campaigns to kill banking regulations on derivatives trading. That's right: the Chamber is lobbying to prop up the same system that left the American economy in a shambles.

No wonder 63% of Americans distrust the news: powerful business lobbies and their massively funded PR campaigns are subverting the media every day, expensively and effectively, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It's shameful that the Chamber has decided to lash out at a public interest group like ours for trying to push back and call attention to the Chamber's outrageous positions.

Digust Discussed: the Duopoly Dialogue and an Alternate Reality Cable News Political Debate

For ideologues of the two-party state and the duopoly system of government, perhaps the most incomprehensible dynamic at play in recent public opinion polls is that distrust of and discontent with the Democratic majority, in particular, and government in general, has not translated into support for the GOP. At Mirror on America, Angry Independent relays word of an NBC/WSJ poll which found that 46% of respondents favored a strong, credible independent candidate for president in 2012, with 30% opposed to the idea and 20% expressing neutrality. Unsurprisingly, the main WSJ article on the poll does not mention this finding in its report, though it does register the public's "total disgust with Washington".

Angry Independent also provides video of a discussion on the poll's findings from Chris Matthews' MSNBC political game-show, Hardball. Of course, ironically, Matthews appears deeply ignorant of the fact that the "debate" and "discussion" format of his program perfectly embodies everything that is wrong with the duopolized dialogue characteristic of political discourse under the conditions of the two-party state. Matthews first introduces the segment's leitmotif – namely, widespread discontent with both Democrats and Republicans, and by implication the two-party system as a whole, and a correspondingly high level of support for independent, third party alternatives to the duopoly charade – and then goes on to introduce his two guests, Todd Harris and Steve McMahon, apologists and shills for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. One wonders if it has ever occurred to the producers of infotainment programming that they could invite an advocate of third party or independent politics to discuss such matters, rather than continue to allow representatives of the two completely discredited factions of the nation's ruling political class to dominate our political discourse. It might at least make such discussions interesting. Allow me to provide a transcription of the discussion from the video embedded below, supplemented by the imaginary inclusion of a potential third party to the matter:
Matthews: We're back with Steve McMahon and Todd Harris for our politics fix, with our new NBC Wall Street Journal poll out today. Look at these numbers. 65% of the country trusts Washington to do the right thing "only sometimes". 46% of the country likes the idea of creating an independent third party to field a presidential candidate in 2012. That's very high, by the way, historically, 46 %. And 57 % of the country blames both parties for partisanship. Todd, it looks to me like it's a curse on both houses, they don't like either Democrats or Republicans. Least of all your party, I must say. Least of all.

Discredited Republican Shill: Well, you know I'll tell you what, with numbers like that I tell you who I wouldn't want to be, and that's the party in power, because they might be saying a pox on both houses, but there's only one party in power right now that controls every lever of government in Washington, and that's the Democratic Party. They are on the ballot just as Republicans are. I would not want to be sitting on top of those numbers trying to ask for two more years of being in control

Discredited Democratic Shill: Todd, Todd, Todd, you don't want to be the party in office, is what you don't want to be when you look at those numbers, but what you also don't want to be is the party of "no," which this party, Todd's party has become, the party of "no."

Matthews: Well, suppose the country's in a "no" mood. What do you think, advocate of third party and independent politics?

Independent Advocate: Yes, well, thanks Chris, first I'd like to point out that I wasn't even invited onto the program today. Apparently, you thought it was appropriate to only consult representatives of two completely discredited special interest groups, namely the Democratic and Republican Parties, to discuss the fact that the majority of Americans no longer find Democrats or Republicans to be credible representatives of the public interest.

[Cross talk]

Independent Advocate: Secondly, perhaps you'll be surprised to hear it, but I completely agree with the discredited shills to my right and to my left. And here's why. As Todd says, he wouldn't want to be the Democratic Party right now, and as Steve points out, he wouldn't want to be the Republican Party. However, like most Americans, I wouldn't want to be either of you. And that's the point, that's just what the numbers in these polls are showing. And that's precisely what the American people are saying. They're perfectly capable of seeing the present system for what it is. They're fed up with the false choices offered by the party bosses, they're fed up with the lesser and the greater evil, they're fed up with two-party charade, and they're fed up with two bit hacks like Todd and Steve delivering cynical apologia for the two-party political status quo and regurgitating talking points cribbed from one of their respective party's preferred PR flacks.

Matthews: Well, we're out of time, we're gonna have to leave it there. Thanks.

Duopoly Ideology and the Falsification of Reality

In its most extreme form, duopoly ideology amounts to nothing less than the overt falsification of reality. As I argued in a post on the ideology of the two-party state last week, the "limits of two-party ideology become readily apparent when one attempts to think third party and independent politics within the frames established by duopolist narratives and categories. The logic literally begins to break down, miring the thinker in both contradictions and tautologies." The conservative Republican enthusiasm for Doug Hoffman's third party campaign in NY's 23rd has led to the proliferation of such contradictions, in their most extreme form, precisely because the stance requires the partisan duopolist ideologue to fully endorse a third party candidate while still retaining credibility as a partisan duopolist ideologue, thus heightening the contradiction. Rush Limbaugh provides us with a prominent example of such dialectical gymnastics at work.

Since the first national tea party mobilization in April, Limbaugh has been a vocal opponent of independent and third party political activism. On April 16th, Limbaugh argued that the "tea parties were a great success, but [conservatives must] resist the third party temptation . . . there's a possibility that this is going to lead to a third-party movement, and that's death," as I emphasized at the time. In July, Limbaugh struck similar tones: "I'm telling you, there's a lot of talk about third party out there; that we ought to go third party. No. Let me tell you who ought to go third party, the people that hijacked our party" (see here also).

Yesterday, to justify his support for third party candidate Doug Hoffman, Limbaugh proffered the assertion that NY's 23rd "isn't a third party race"! We're all familiar with some version of this argument by now: Conservative Party candidate Hoffman is the "real" Republican, while the Republican candidate is a Republican-in-name-only; Hoffman will join the Republican Party once he's elected etc. Limbaugh's position is more well-developed, and so it offers a more nuanced perspective on the ideology that sustains the two-party state even in the defense of third party advocacy. However, one interesting thing about the radio host's monologue is – though he immediately hedges the statement – he begins from what can only be termed a radical independent or third party proposition, namely, that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties. Astounded that the GOP is running ads against Hoffman, Limbaugh states:
The Republican Party, as constituted, is as dangerous to this country as the Democrat Party is. "But, Rush, party loyalty is party loyalty, and the local Republican committee up there has endorsed Scozzafava." So? I'm saying the two parties are the same. I guess I need to amend it a little bit, but, man, when I saw that they were running ads, as I say, [it] ruined two hours of my day.
He then goes on to elaborate the circumstances of the current situation. Since Limbaugh emphasizes that this "teachable moment" is extremely "nuanced," let's consider his reasoning at some length:
In New York, the rules allow for very strong third parties in certain elections. The Conservative Party in New York generally, now, only runs candidates when the Republicans are liberal. Otherwise they don't work against the Republicans to help the Democrats, but here, you have an off-year election, you have an extreme liberal Republican. This is not a RINO. This is not a Republican-in-name-only. This is an extreme liberal Republican who may as well be a Democrat . . .

NY-23 is a special election. There was no primary. Doug Hoffman would have challenged Scozzafava in the Republican primary had there been one. He would have had the backing of New York's Conservative Party as is often the case there. You have to understand that the Conservative Party does not look at themselves as a third party. Only do they get in gear when the Republicans nominate some liberal. Ronald Reagan opposed third-party races because he believed that conservatives needed to take back the Republican Party . . .

Hoffman wanted to run as a Republican. He is a Republican. He was passed over by the GOP, who picked Scozzafava instead. So he's running on the Conservative Party ticket because the GOP passed him over, but this is a wake-up call for both parties . . .

I know the temptation for a third party is tempting, but right now conservatism is on the ascendancy, it's actually good to be a conservative, and this is the time to reassert control over the Republican Party. It's not going to be easy but the Democrats, the far left didn't go out and form a third party. They took over the Democrat Party . . .

So a lot of prominent Republican conservatives are stepping up here and look, I want to emphasize on this third-party business again, in a functioning two-party system the primary system is the check on the worst impulse or impulses of the party bosses. That's the theme here that I think people need to understand because it's easy to understand, and it's right on the money . . . When you have primaries, the rank-and-file cannot only overrule the party bosses, they can actually make the party bosses behave better.
Limbaugh thus argues that since this is a special election for which there was no primary, and since New York has a strong Conservative Party, and the Republican establishment's candidate is unpalatable, it is necessary to support the third party candidate Hoffman, who is a Republican, and who represents a third party that "does not look at themselves as a third party"; but, otherwise, conservatives should focus on infiltrating the Republican Party because that's what Reagan advocated and because the far left did not form a third party but rather infiltrated the Democratic Party.

First, we should register the deep irony of the fact that the "far left" here functions as a strategic model in Limbaugh's thinking. Nonetheless, infiltrationist strategy refutes itself. Conservatives and libertarians have been "taking over" the Republican Party for upwards of forty years, when has this strategy ever succeeded?

Second, Limbaugh emphasizes the importance of primaries: "in a functioning two-party system the primary system is the check on the worst impulse or impulses of the party bosses," he continues, "when you have primaries, the rank-and-file cannot only overrule the party bosses, they can actually make the party bosses behave better." Perhaps it has never occurred to Limbaugh that, in a functioning democratic republic, the people should not have to "check" the "impulses" of any "party bosses". Indeed, that the impulses of party bosses need to be checked at all is evidence that a "functioning" two party system does not function to the benefit of the people, the "rank-and-file." In the end, the best check on the Republican and Democratic Party political establishment is third party and independent opposition to the two-party system.

Finally, we come to Limbaugh's ideological falsification of reality. He states: "the Conservative Party does not look at themselves as a third party. Only do they get in gear when the Republicans nominate some liberal." Actually, the Conservative Party of New York State is not affiliated with any other party, national or local, though they are affiliated with the American Conservative Union. Limbaugh is correct to state that they often only nominate a separate candidate for a given office when neither the Republican nor Democratic candidates is deemed acceptable. However, it is in precisely these cases that the Conservative Party effectively functions as an independent third party against the stooges of the Democratic-Republican duopoly. And this is the case in the present race. How does the Conservative Party describe itself? On its "history" page, we read:
The Conservative Party was formed in 1962 to restore a meaningful choice to the voters of New York State. At that time, the three existing political parties espoused the doctrinaire liberal philosophy of the welfare state at home and the collectivist ideology abroad. In just four short decades, the party has grown from a small band of conservative-minded men and women to a statewide organization of almost 170,000 individuals dedicated to the traditional American values of individual freedom, individual responsibility and individual effort.

From a humble beginning garnering 141,000 votes on ballot Row F, our principles have attracted Empire State voters in sufficient numbers to raise the Party to Row C and twice received over a million votes for our candidate in a statewide election. From the founding of the party, it has been successively chaired by Kieran O’Doherty, J. Daniel Mahoney, Serphin R. Maltese and Michael R. Long. Through the leadership of these men and the hard work of committee members, the Conservative Party elected James L. Buckley to the U. S. Senate, William Carney to the House of Representatives, Serphin R. Maltese to the State Senate, Rosemary R. Gunning and Charles Jerabec to the State Assembly, and numerous county, city, town and village offices.
No matter how Limbaugh and his duopolist ilk choose to spin it, Doug Hoffman is a third party candidate, and his candidacy proves that third party candidates are viable contenders for public office.

NJ: Are you independent or co-dependent?

Yesterday, I highlighted results from a poll out of Rutgers that revealed one of the many paradoxes that results from the ideology of the duopoly: "Daggett's Challenge: New Jersey Voters Say They Want Choices but Still Support Major Party Candidates." I asked: "Why do voters continue to throw their votes away in support of Democrats and Republicans knowing full well that the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government does not "work well," if at all, one might add?" At, Kevin Manahan attempts a psychological explanation:
For years, the Angry Jerseyans have been fuming. They march on Trenton, rant to their neighbors, fire off scathing e-mails to elected officials and vent on talk radio in one big pity party. And lately, instead of throwing fits, they’re throwing tea parties. Instead, they should be throwing incumbents, present governor included, under the bus. But they probably won't . . .

The Angry Jerseyans . . . embrace their rage. It’s who they are. And it seems they don’t want to make that anger go away. What would they do if they couldn’t complain about living in New Jersey and constantly threaten to leave? . . .

For the past two decades, the message of the Angry Jerseyans has been the same: The two-party system is broken and corrupt and manipulated by party bosses and special interests. Taxes are out of control . . .

"We need an independent candidate to save us!" the masses shouted as they scanned the political horizon for a savior. This year, a year like no other in New Jersey politics, Daggett fell into their laps . . .

In the end, the Angry Jerseyans could lose again if Corzine wins. But that means they’ll keep their pain. And, of course, they’ll blame it all on the media. On election day, I’ll vote for Daggett, and I won’t worry about whether he has a chance to win because I agree with our editorial: "New Jersey needs radical change in Trenton" and "Neither of the major parties is likely to provide it."

Michael Medved Replaced by Alien Pod Creature: Suggests Only Voting Third Party

By far, one of the more entertaining facets of the special election in NY's 23rd has been provided by the long train of duopolist Republican shills falling all over themselves to endorse a no-name third party candidate in a minor congressional election. One of the more recent converts to the Doug Hoffman camp is radio entertainer Michael Medved. In an article for Town Hall, Medved writes:
Doug Hoffman in New Yorks 23rd Congressional District could actually win his race and send a powerful message to the GOP and the country. A political party isnt a family, or a church, or an army, so the strategic support of an independent contender with a real chance of victory isnt a betrayal and may offer a common sense means to advance a conservative agenda.
I was surprised to read this, for, if you recall, not three weeks ago Medved was berating "disgruntled conservatives who irrationally resist the iron logic of electing Republicans as the only counterweight to Obamanism." At the time, I noted that Medved's position would put him in the Scozzafava camp in NY's 23rd, and suggested that, "given both his historical fatalism and his incomprehensible loyalty to party, Medved would have made a fine Bolshevist." The alien pod-creature that has replaced Medved is not a third party activist across the board, however. To prove the fact, he takes a few swipes at the Constitution Party, while arguing that conservatives should not support Chris Daggett's gubernatorial bid in NJ. Given his track record, is it unreasonable to assume that Medved will come out as a Daggett-supporting Constitution Party activist in his next column?

In justifying his decision, Medved tells his readers that, "before supporting a campaign outside the two party system, there are four major questions responsible voters ought to answer." Ostensibly, one would think that these "four major questions" would underscore the exceptional nature of any decision to vote for a third party or independent candidate. Ironically, however, they demonstrate nothing more than the bankruptcy of the two-party system and suggest that "responsible voters" should only support third party and independent candidates for office.
1- Is the independent contender more ideologically forthright and consistent than the major party contenders, or less so?
The prevaricating representatives of the Democratic and Republican Parties are only consistent in their willingness to sell out their constituents in the interests of their corporate donors. Independent and third party candidates do not have institutionalized incentives to lie, cheat or steal.
2- Could the third party contender do a successful job in the office for which hes running?
Arguably, an ape randomly pulling levers in a cage would be a better decision maker than the great majority of Democratic and Republican politicians.
3- Whats the message that the election of an independent candidate would send the country?
The Democratic and Republican Parties represent interests that are diametrically opposed to those of the people of the United States; the two-party system is the form of the people's alienation from a supposedly representative government; political independence is the only cure for the disease that is the two-party system.
4- Is there a legitimate reason to bolt from the major parties in this particular race?
This question must be turned around on the questioner: is there a legitimate reason to continue to support the major parties in any race?

Ideological Mystification and the Reproduction of the Two-Party State

One of the most perplexing ideological paradoxes generated by the politics of the two-party state is the contradiction between the electorate's recognition that the two-party system is neither democratic nor republican in character, on the one hand, and its general unwillingness to support anyone but Republicans and Democrats when casting a vote, on the other. A new poll on the NJ gubernatorial race from the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers gets right to the heart of the matter. In "Daggett's Challenge: New Jersey Voters Say They Want Choices but Still Support Major Party Candidates," we read:
While a large majority of New Jersey voters wants an alternative to the two-party system, independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett has yet to capitalize on this discontent, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The poll finds that only 27 percent of likely voters say the current two-party system works well. Given a choice, 37 percent would prefer more than two strong parties while another 32 percent believe candidates should run without party labels at all. Despite nearly 70 percent support for an alternative to Democrats and Republicans, just one-in-five likely voters supports Daggett . . .

Only 17 percent of voters who think the two-party system works well support Daggett, compared to 46 percent for Democrat incumbent Jon Corzine and 34 percent for Republican Chris Christie. But even among those who say New Jersey needs more than two strong parties, Daggett wins only 25 percent, while the major party candidates win about one-third each. Finally, voters who think candidates should not run under party labels also fail to support Daggett. He wins 20 percent of these voters, compared to Christie’s 40 percent and Corzine’s 36 percent.

"It is striking how many New Jersey voters say they want an alterative, yet how unwilling they are to vote for that alternative when available,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers.
Let's consider the first of these findings without, however, focusing on Daggett. After all, he is but one of ten third party and independent ballot-qualified candidates for governor in the Garden State. The report notes that "despite nearly 70 percent support for an alternative to Democrats and Republicans, just one-in-five likely voters supports Daggett." The ideological contradiction at work here is much more clear when we remove Daggett from the equation: despite nearly 70 percent support for an alternative to Democrats and Republicans, nearly 80 percent of likely voters say they will vote Democrat or Republican. Why do voters continue to throw their votes away in support of Democrats and Republicans knowing full well that the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government does not "work well"? In the poll, almost 40 percent of likely voters stated that they want "more than two strong political parties to give us more choice," yet only one in five is willing to cast a vote for someone other than the duopoly party candidates, even though there are ten alternatives to the Democratic-Republican status quo. Is it possible that Americans simply want more choices, but have no intention of ever actually making a different choice?

Defeat the Democratic-Republican Political Alliance: Vote Conservative, Vote Socialist

One facet of political polarization that often goes unnoticed by those in the professional commentariat is that polarization is not only an inter-party phenomenon. In fact, and in many respects, the appearance of polarization between the Democratic and Republican Parties is strictly rhetorical in nature, and is necessary in direct proportion to the level of convergence between them. In other words, the more similar the duopoly parties become, the greater the need to distinguish themselves from one another. While such rhetoric turns off moderates, the underlying ideological reality alienates hard-liners. The result is thus intra-party polarization on both sides of the duopoly divide. In a commentary for McClatchy, Carl Leubsdorf draws attention to this phenomenon:

Recent years have seen the Democrats and Republicans evolve into predominantly liberal and conservative parties, respectively, rather than the broad coalitions of the past. But some current developments suggest neither has achieved total unity and that internal conflicts threaten both parties' short-term goals — and possibly their long-term ones.

For the Democrats, resistance from their more conservative members, mainly from Republican-leaning states in the South, the Plains and the Mountain West, threaten passage of the health care bill, President Barack Obama's top legislative priority. For the Republicans, conflict between conservative purists and their more pragmatic faction could undercut efforts to rebound from sweeping electoral defeats in the past two elections.

Leubsdorf goes on to cite the campaigns of Doug Hoffman and Chris Daggett as indicative of the "split within the GOP." Clearly, he has not been paying attention to Daggett's campaign for very long, since, unlike Hoffman, the independent NJ gubernatorial candidate does not refer to himself as the "real" Republican or the "real" Democrat in the race, but has rather explicitly positioned himself against the two-party system as such. Hoffman's candidacy, on the other hand, is significant precisely because it has externalized the "split within the GOP." If conservative Republicans –including Hoffman!– have to tell themselves that Hoffman is the "real" Republican in the race in order to rationalize their support for someone other than the actual Republican candidate, that is fine, but it does not change the fact that Hoffman is a third party candidate. As Brian Mann recently argued at the North County Public Radio blog In the Box, Hoffman is a "true third party candidate":

The media -- including myself -- generally accepted the notion that his candidacy reflected a deep divide within the Republican movement. But the two independent polls conducted so far contradict (or at least temper) this portrait of the race. In fact, Hoffman is winning only a little more than a quarter of Republicans -- 27%. That's a whopping twenty points behind Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava, a landslide of difference. Hoffman is only faring 9 points better among Republicans than Democrat Bill Owens, who's attracting 19% of the GOP vote. What's more, as the race has continued, Hoffman's share of the GOP vote hasn't grown much, if at all, when compared to the earlier Siena Research Institute survey. Hoffman's strength, such as it is, comes among independent voters. He's splitting that part of the electorate pretty much evenly with Owens (35% for Hoffman, 32% for Owens).
Though they benefit from the mainstream liberal's and progressive's inability to conceive a politics that is not bound to the duopoly charade, Democrats, on the other hand, are under significant pressure from both the left and right wings of their party's electoral alliance. Ironically, among principled liberals and progressives, the conservative Republican strategy of branding the reigning Democratic majority as "Socialist" has served to underscore the Democrats' similarity to the GOP, that is, the extent to which the Democratic Party is nothing more than an arm of corporatist interests, bought and paid for by the sponsors of the global warfare and corporate welfare state. Liberal Pro just joined the Socialist Party, and explains why:

I recently paid my dues and joined the Socialist Party USA. Why did I do this? It’s pretty easy to figure out. I don’t believe that this nation has ever been threatened by those that control the government and Wall Street as it is today . . . in this country, with few exceptions, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer . . . both the Republicans and Democrats are virtually a “millionaires club”. If they are not millionaires when they get elected, they are after a few years in office. They are controlled by corporations that pay for their re-election campaigns. If that isn’t bad enough, each member of the House and Senate has over two lobbyists for every elected official in Washington. They are given presents and in some cases outright bribery. Want me to go on? We are fighting wars overseas to keep the military industrial complex humming along. Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon, General Electric, the list goes on and on. Does anyone try to stop this wholesale slaughter and financial giveaway? A few, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul are two that come to mind. There’s not many . . .

So why did I choose Socialism? It’s because Socialism wants to give back the power to the people. They want democratic elections paid by federal funds with no corporate money involved. They want democracy, not just in government, but in the workplace. They want and end to this robber baron society that makes its wealth off the backs of the workers. It wants those “institutions that are too big to fail” to be owned and run by their workers and accountable to the people. Democracy is Socialism.

Ironically, the first comment on the post is, I assume, from a bot and reads: "Make Money Online From Investment (High Return Liberty reserve Investment Plans Without risk)."

The Politics of Ballot Positioning

As I've noted before, even modestly strong campaigns by independent and third party candidates have a disproportionate effect on political discourse and policy debates. In New Jersey, Chris Daggett's campaign for governor is leading to more calls for ballot reform in the Garden State. The Star-Ledger, which has endorsed Daggett for governor, discusses the politics of ballot positioning:
Finding the incumbent, Jon Corzine, is easy. He’s right there, under the column with the capital letters that read, "DEMOCRATIC." He couldn’t have a better ballot position if he’d bought it. Locating Chris Christie is a snap, too. His name is under the "REPUBLICAN" column. They’re a cinch to find because, in New Jersey, the Democrats and Republicans are in the first two columns. Always.

Meanwhile, Daggett, who is pulling about 20 percent in the latest polls, is swimming among the ballot flotsam and jetsom, all of them under the confusing heading, "NOMINATION BY PETITION." To find him, voters must wade through candidates of the Fair Election Party, or the Socialist Party, or — no kidding — the They All Laughed party.

It’s fitting, because, when it comes to ballot position, the two major parties are laughing at the independents. The Legislature, controlled by the Democrats and Republicans, has refused to reform a system that guarantees the best positions to the two major parties, thanks to century-old laws tilted against independents, who are treated like second-class candidates . . .

"The whole system is so insidiously set up against anybody but the two parties," Daggett said. "In my mind, it’s just corrupt."

Daggett’s candidacy shows it’s time for ballot reform in New Jersey, time to level the playing field for legitimate independent candidates. Because after battling for money, name recognition and legitimacy, there’s still one more hurdle for them on Election Day: The ballot.

Poli-Tricks: the two-party system is the Janus-face of the corporate welfare state.

In a reader commentary for the Wisconsin Rapids Tribube, Joseph Bachman considers the promises of change once made by candidate Barack Obama, but concludes that the president –and by extension the Democratic-Republican Congress– is incapable of delivering the change that is necessary, precisely because what is necessary is the dismantling, if not the outright destruction, of the two-party system:
The change [must] come from within our ruptured two party system. Above that the power large corporations hold over this country and its politics also needs to not only change, but come to an abrupt end . . . there is no politics anymore, only politricks. It's a complete facade of what our country used to be, at a time when the people truly cared, and when the words of politicians actually carried value . . .

where the flow of money goes as does the power to control this nation. Every night we see on cable news networks the ongoing battle between Republicans and Democrats over issues that will never be resolved, and an ideology that essentially is the same collectivist jargon only shouted in different mannerisms. Politics are no longer relevant, because it is only there to meet the status quo, while the nation and its progress or in this case regression is under the duress of a small group of rich and powerful men . . .

When you have money primarily controlling all voices in this democracy, you block out the voices of dissent and the voices of something outside of the status quo. Voices that demand an end to corporate funded campaigns, the end of the useless two party system, the removal of the Federal Reserve and an unbalanced and uncontrollable money supply that is created out of thin air with no substance, and many other voices that recognize that our entire social structure along with this nation are and have been diseased for some time, and it's only getting worse.

Republican-in-all-but-name or Conservative-in-name-only?

With her endorsement of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the special election in NY's 23rd, Sarah Palin has held to her statement from the 3rd of July, in which she announced her resignation as governor and declared that she would go on to "support others who seek to serve, in or out of office, for the right reasons, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all," as I emphasized at the time. In her endorsement, Palin's language illustrates how the discourse surrounding this race has changed over the last three weeks, as more conservative Republicans have come out against the Republican Party's nominee in support of the third party candidate. Palin states:
Doug Hoffman stands for the principles that all Republicans should share: smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense, and a commitment to individual liberty.
Just two months ago, Hoffman's status as a third party candidate was a point that had to be excused, up front. In his early endorsement of Hoffman, Eric Erickson wrote: "One state where there is an exception to my “no third parties” rule is New York." In other words, from being a "fringe" third party Conservative candidate, Hoffman has become the "real" Republican standard-bearer, while Republican Party candidate Dede Scozzafava is now termed a "radical liberal." This outcome reflects the success of what has been the Hoffman campaign's linguistic strategy from the very beginning. As the president of the Club for Growth, Chris Choccola, wrote in his explanation of the organization's endorsement of Hoffman in early October:
for the first time in our organization’s history, we endorsed a third-party candidate . . . I’m proud to defend our endorsed candidate, Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman . . . The Conservative Party’s Hoffman calls himself the “real Republican” in the race.
Ironically, upon winning the endorsement of the Conservative Party, Hoffman explained his move in the very same terms used by Arlen Specter when he defected to the Democratic Party. In the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, E.J. Conzola quoted Hoffman on August 7th, stating: "I have not left the Republican Party. The Republican Party has left me." Nonetheless, to a great extent, Hoffman has been able to overcome the viability hurdle faced by most third party political contenders precisely because he has been accepted as the "real" Republican candidate by conservative activists who have been laying the groundwork for such a linguistic coup for years, by denouncing actual Republican politicians and nominees as Republicans-in-name-only, i.e. RINOS. In other words, according to this logic, if Scozzafava is Republican-in-name-only, then Hoffman is Republican-in-all-but-name. Conservative and libertarian third party strategists would do well to study the dynamics of these sorts of reversals, which this race has supplied in great number.

While conservative Republican activists are busy pretending that Hoffman is the "real" Republican nominee, one hopes some might remember that he is, in fact, a third party candidate, and that, were it not for the extant third party ballot line supplied by the Conservative Party, he would have been effectively shut out of the race. Perhaps Hoffman himself will remind them of this some time, unless, that is, he is Conservative-in-name-only.

The Fix Is In, or, Everything Would be a Lot Easier if We Lived in a Dictatorship

At The Washington Post's 'The Fix,' Chris Cillizza does his duty as a shill for the two-party political establishment in an analysis of new polling data showing that self-described independents now far outnumber the co-dependent dead-enders of the Democratic and Republican Parties:
The latest Post poll shows 42 percent of the sample describing themselves as independents, more than double the number who called themselves Republicans (20 percent) and even far ahead of the 33 percent who referred to themselves as Democrats. While three of the last four Post surveys have shown the independent number over 40 percent, as recently as last year independents comprised just 31 percent.
Cillizza remarks that third party and independent candidates for office are having a significant impact on the New Jersey gubernatorial election as well as the special election in NY's 23rd, but then notes: "it's important to remember that talk of a third party and the reality of it are too far different things." Indeed, let's keep this in mind as we ponder Cillizza's regurgitation of duopolist memes and establishmentarian mystifications. He begins:
First, while people like to describe themselves as independents, there are actually very few people who are entirely unaligned politically . . . That means that the vast majority of independents -- roughly eight in ten -- are not in fact the sort of people who would be building blocks for the creation of a third party.
The fact that independents are not an ideological monolith is little more than a triviality, one I've touched on here on more than a few occasions. Further, it is an equally trivial point that if independents voted for actual independents there would be fewer Democrats and Republicans in office. Yet, declaring one's independence from the two-party political charade is the first step toward real political autonomy. In this context, Cillizza's conclusion is a non-sequitur. Why would one assume that a highly heterogeneous segment of the electorate, united only negatively, by their collective disgust at the politics of the two-party state, would or could come together to form one single "third party"? The answer is simple: because you are incapable of conceiving a politics that is independent of the two-party charade, each faction of which is motivated by nothing more than collective disgust for the partisan adversary, and united negatively under the banner of the lesser evil. If independents vote for third party or independent candidates independently of one another, this would likely lead to something entirely different from "the creation of a third party," for instance, the empowerment of a plethora of third party and independent alternatives to the stooges of the political establishment offered up by the Democratic and Republican Parties. Cillizza continues:

Second, the institutional hurdles to the creation of a new party -- or even running a third party candidacy for president -- are massive. The most basic challenges are from a financial and organizational standpoint where each national party has spent decades honing their approaches and have deeply entrenched advantages that would take years for a new party to learn.

The institutional hurdles to third party and independent activism are massive indeed. However, Cillizza's incomprehensible focus on "the creation of a new party" is typical of the duopolist ideologue who apparently believes that third parties do not exist because they are ignored by the mainstream press. There is, of course, no need to "create a third party" because there are literally dozens of extant alternatives to the Republican and Democratic patronage machines, a significant number of which have already overcome many of the "institutional hurdles" to third party activism. Let's also not forget that these "institutional hurdles" to third party and independent activism and the "entrenched advantages" of the major parties are not simply aspects of a neutral political landscape, but rather the result of biased and discriminatory laws, rules and regulations written into law by representatives of the Democratic and Republican Parties themselves in order to ensure their continued duopoly on elected offices. However, there is no reason to think it would "take years" for any number of minor parties to achieve significant levels of success, all it would take is for voters to cease believing the propaganda spewed by the major parties and their mouthpieces in the mainstream political press, and stop supporting the Democratic-Republican political charade, which they can do in the very next election by voting for third party or independent candidates for office. Though it is true that it would likely take years for a new party to gain ballot access in all fifty states, there are numerous alternative parties that have been active for years, decades even, and have already overcome many of these hurdles. Again, just because the mainstream media ignores third parties, this does not mean they do not exist.

At the end of the piece, we are treated to the conclusion Cillizza had been aiming at all along, which is symptomatic of the authoritarian fetishization of the executive common among partisans of the duopoly parties and their enablers in the American media:

Yet, even if a third party candidate does emerge in 2012 or 2016 there is no guarantee that such a candidacy would lead to the creation of a legitimate third party (Perot's candidacies, for example, did not serve as the jumping-off point for another political party.)

Apparently, in Cillizza's mind, a political party only exists to the extent that it participates in the glorification of the office of the President of the United States. His silent assumption all along, as is obvious from his conclusion, is that the aim and end of all political activity is to control the executive branch of the federal government, which is exalted above all others. I see little difference between this attitude and practical monarchism. As former President George W. Bush put it: everything would be a heck of a lot easier if we lived in a dictatorship.

Historical Fatalism + Hysterical Alarmism + Political Impatience = the Reproduction of the Two-Party Staus Quo

In an article for American Thinker, Steve McCann provides us with an object lesson in the complete and utter bankruptcy of duopoly ideology. In the piece, pure reaction mixes with historical fatalism and condescension, yet its deeply ironic conclusion leads one to wonder whether it is not rather an ingenious parody. As I've documented in these pages time and again, supporters of the two-party state are often incapable of marshaling anything other than cliches and platitudes in support of maintaining the reigning two-party political status quo. While this is not convincing, it is nonetheless good for a laugh. McCann begins by setting a histrionic tone: "The 2010 [sic] will be the most important midterm election in the history of our nation." Of course, demagogues and those who allow themselves to fall prey to the delusions of political enthusiasm trot out this claim or some version of it every election season. Following the elections of 2008, at the American Spectator Daniel Allott chronicled its use and abuse over the last thirty or so years:
In 1992 Bill Clinton called his challenge to President George H.W. Bush "the most important election in a generation." In his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, Sen. John Kerry informed us, "My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime." In 1984 Ronald Reagan said, "This is the most important election in this nation in 50 years." And in 1976 President Gerald Ford, running against Jimmy Carter, declared "I think this election is one of the most vital in the history of America." . . . John McCain supporter Rudy Giuliani said in September that "2008 is the most important election in our lifetime. And we'd better get it right." Campaigning for Obama, Caroline Kennedy said, "But I do believe this is the most important election since I was a child."
Unveiling the purely negative motivation of the piece, McCann continues:
The coalition necessary to vote out of office those members of Congress who are supporting President Obama's effort to turn the country into a socialist utopia is still fractured and pursuing individual agendas.
In other words, the author urges nothing more than a lesser-of-two-evils strategy of electing Republicans, not in order to implement a positive program of political reform, but simply to displace one set of duopolist legislators with another. Arguing in support of conservative third party candidate Doug Hoffman in NY's 23rd, Manly's Republic notes that a strategy of lesser-evilsim is insufficient:
Reversing and then destroying the Obama agenda will require more than simply voting Democrats out of office - it means they will have to be replaced with conservatives.
McCann bemoans the fact that more and more Americans have begun to realize that the two-party system is nothing more than the form of their political alienation and a tool for their economic exploitation by the parties of the political establishment and the interests they represent. He counters what he calls the "Perot Doctrine," i.e. that there is no difference between the two factions of the Democratic-Republican Party, with a well-known duopolist cliche:
History has shown that with our representative republican form of government combined with the effect of 50 individual states and an independent executive branch only a two major party arrangement is viable.
This is nothing more than historical fatalism, and is highly unbecoming of any "American thinker." Moreover it is false. US history demonstrates the powerful effect third party and independent movements have had on our politics, society and government. The two-party dictatorship, on the other hand, has brought us to where we are today. However, even granting the absurd assumption that "only a two major party arrangement is viable," there is no reason why we should assume that the Democratic and Republican Parties are the ideal vehicles for the representation of the interests of the people of the United States. Rather the opposite is the case.

In explaining how Democrats have been able to construct a governing majority, "despite the wishes of the majority of the citizens," McCann condescendingly argues that the ignorant conservative masses have been duped by liberal elites:
There are four distinct factions among the groups that make up the right of center majority. The first are the single issue voters. The Democrats quickly learned that mere words well delivered would successfully affect these voters . . . The second faction is the fiscal conservative, but social liberals . . . The third and fourth groups are even more easily manipulated. These are the ideological purists and leave-me-alone fundamentalists . . . Thus we had the campaign to portray the entire Republican Party in Congress as corrupt, spendthrift, not responsive to the people and with President Bush, an illiterate, bumbling, incompetent fool thus besmirching the Republican brand. [Emphasis added.]
In the deeply, and likely unwittingly ironic conclusion of the piece, McCann constructs a counter-strategy "to benefit the Republican Party" that attempts to dupe these very same people, whose political intelligence and media literacy he has just finished insulting, into reproducing the reigning two-party political status quo:
To our conservative and libertarian pundits, talk show and television hosts: swear off the promotion of the Perot Doctrine even if it means lower ratings . . . To the folks organizing the tea parties: these gatherings, while allowing the participants to vent, should have a purpose and an objective. That objective should be the nomination of true Republican conservatives . . . More importantly support the winner of the nomination . . . To our libertarian friends: the ideological purists and leave-me-alone fundamentalists, please understand what is happening in our country will directly affect you . . . You must now get involved in the political process within a major party. [etc.]
Ironically, in making this pitch "to the benefit of the Republican Party" McCann demonstrates the truth of the "Perot Doctrine," namely that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties insofar as both are interested in nothing more than perpetuating their duopoly on political power and elected office in the United States. As I've noted before, historical fatalism, hysterical alarmism and political impatience are three primary characteristics of the duopolist mentality. With his parting shot at third party activism, McCann hits upon all three: "There is not the time for a third party to achieve sufficient power to influence events." Time is indeed a precious resource. It's time we stopped wasting it to the benefit of the ruling parties and their corporate masters.

On the Ideology of the Two-Party State: Tautology, Limitation and Contradiction

The two-party system is sustained and reproduced in part by a discrete set of beliefs and practices, the sum of which amount to what I often refer to as duopoly ideology, the logic of the ideas that bind us to the reigning two-party political status quo. While it is often quite obvious that the ideology of the two-party state functions to limit what we do and how we act – resulting, for instance, in lesser-of-two-evils voting, incentivizing certain forms of lobbying and campaigning over others and hence privileging certain segments of the electorate and sectors of the economy at the expense of others etc. – it is not always equally apparent that duopoly ideology functions to limit what and how we think. In other words, the ideology of the two-party state conditions what is politically conceivable, even when the inconceivable is well within the realm of actual political possibility.

But the limits of duopoly ideology become readily apparent when one attempts to think third party and independent politics within the frames established by duopolist narratives and categories. The logic literally begins to break down, miring the thinker in both contradictions and tautologies. Such conceptual failures are not symptomatic of an inherent defect in any third party and independent strategy, but rather mark the limitations imposed upon our thought by the ideology of the two-party state.

An article by cchrisr at Zeal for Truth entitled "Third Party's Future Failure" provides perfect examples of ideological tautology, contradiction and limitation, and this just in its introduction. We read:
There is growing support for a third political party in the US. However, because of ideological reasons, it will never survive. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t say the particular party will not survive but that the concept of three parties will never survive in the US. Because of the emphasis of the two-party right/left divide, there can be only two parties. A third party may replace an existing party, but the only possibility there is of three political parties in the US political landscape would be if they divided along similar ideological lines (i.e. a ‘left’, ‘centre’, and ‘right’). In the remainder of this article, I will use this spectrum to hash out two generic examples of why a third party will always (ultimately) fail. I will use current popular third parties as exemplars of their position in the spectrum.
Tautology. Commonly, the phrase "begs the question" is now often used as if it meant that some statement "raises a question," however, in the strict sense, question begging is a logical fallacy, a rhetorical artifice, which assumes the very proposition that is meant to be proved. In the present instance, it takes the form of a tautology. The author writes: "Because of the emphasis of the two-party right/left divide, there can be only two parties." Of course, the emphasis on the two-party left/right divide is the most basic mystification of duopoly ideology. Its assumption does not prove anything but the speaker's inability to think outside of the categories most conducive to the reproduction of the two-party state.

Limitation. One favored tactic of the duopolist rhetorician is the unreasonable limitation of the realm of political possibility. In the present case, this limitation is made explicit: "the only possibility there is of three political parties in the US political landscape would be if they divided along similar ideological lines (i.e. a ‘left’, ‘centre’, and ‘right’)." This example furthermore illustrates how the two-party ideologue often draws conclusions on the basis of relational or relative concepts as if they were absolutes. Of course, 'left,' 'right' and 'center' are not absolutes, indeed, none of these categories is stable precisely because they are relational. Political antagonism is always de-centered. In Massachusetts, the political center is on the left, and is determined by the squabbling of Democrats, while in Utah it is on the right, its placement on the political spectrum being the result of bickering among Republicans.

Contradiction. In the above passage, we read: "I will use this spectrum to hash out two generic examples of why a third party will always (ultimately) fail. I will use current popular third parties as exemplars of their position in the spectrum." Do not the very existence of "popular third parties" falsify the proposition that is meant to be proved, namely, that third parties "will never survive"?

As I've stated before, perhaps the greatest mystification of two-party ideology is the production of the illusion that we have a two-party system. This illusion is produced not by argument, persuasion or deduction, but rather by assumption, insinuation and manipulation. The constitution does not mandate any party system whatsoever; in polities across the country, the so-called two-party system is little more than a facade for a one-party state; and, finally, there are a plethora of third parties and independent organizations that are politically active across the country, the fact that they are ignored by the political class does not mean they do not exist. In fact, the latter may be employed to our advantage. We can retain the element of surprise.

The Generic Third Party or Independent Candidate: More Popular than Congress

Though ideologues of the duopoly parties and their spokesmouths in the mainstream media like to portray the two-party system as the absolute horizon of the American political universe, the hold of Democratic-Republican Party ideology over the minds of many voters is in reality quite tenuous. Even modestly strong campaigns by third party and independent candidates for office have the potential to disrupt set patterns of thought and provoke contemplation of scenarios that would otherwise have been considered fantastical or impossible. Chris Daggett's independent campaign for governor in New Jersey and Doug Hoffman's third party candidacy for congress in NY's 23rd are a case in point. They have raised the profile of the "generic" third party or independent candidate, who is polling quite well. Public Policy Polling recently took the radical step of offering poll respondents three choices on the so-called generic ballot and were surprised by the results:
We asked two forms of the generic Congressional ballot question on our national poll this week- one was the standard Democrat/Republican choice and the other was a Democrat/Republican/Independent or Third Party choice.

Reflecting the disgust many voters are feeling with both parties right now, 22% of respondents said they would choose an independent or third party candidate. Predictably 45% of independent identifying voters said they would but so did 19% of Republicans and 10% of Democrats.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down any more specific numbers from this survey, for instance, how the 22% support for the generic third party candidate compared with support for the generic Democrat and Republican. The fact that generic third party and independent candidates are not routinely placed in such polls is a result of nothing more than duopolist bias.

Third Party and Independent Web Roundup

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

In news:
• At IPR, Ross Levin reports on the Modern Whig Party's two newest candidates for congress in Florida in 2010.
• Ballot Access News compares Washington state's "top two" reform law with California's.
• The Constitution Party announces that former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo will address the national Constitution Party in Phoenix.
• The Green Party website features the campaign of Mary DeCamp for city council in Tucson.
• The Libertarian Party blog is conducting polls on troop levels in Afghanistan, Reagan, Obama and non-interventionism, and the hypocrisy of Republicans.
• The US Pirate Party is considering its options for alliances and cross-endorsements with other minor parties. At the top of the list is the Green Party. Certainly, many Libertarians would also find little to disagree with on the Pirate Party's platform.
• The Socialist Party reports on the results of their national convention held earlier this month in New Jersey.

In the blogs:
• Attack the System relays an article on your Basic Bakunin.
• At Bonzai, Mike Farmer reflects on the importance of demystifying the state.
Bulls Eye Politics argues that the Democratic-Republican two-party state equals the death of representative government.
Delaware Libertarian considers "the continuing militarization of American foreign policy in places most of us never think about."
• At Folk Politics, Liberal Arts Dude responds to Jackie Salit's recent article on independents and the health care debate.
Green Party Watch relays a message from Cynthia McKinney from Cape Town, South Africa.
The Hankster has headlines on independents in the national news and on the NJ governor's race and NYC's mayoral election.
• At The Maine View, Derek Viger interviews independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.
Mirror on America subjects the results of the recent "Democracy Corps study on race" to serious criticism.
NJ Election 2009 has the latest news on the NJ gubernatorial race.
• At On the Wilder Side, Kimberly Wilder likens the Obama administration's "new" stance on the criminalization of medical marijuana users to "baby steps."
• At The Rotterdam Windmill, Michael O'Connor takes stock of his campaign for town council in Rotterdam NY. Michael successfully established an independent ballot line for the No New Tax Party and won the GOP primary.
The Thirds continues their wall to wall coverage of the NJ governor's race and the special election in NY's 23rd.
• At The Whig, Septimus urges Texans to vote yes on proposition 4.
• Sam Wilson reflects on yet another advanced obit for the newspaper industry.

Toward a Progressive Libertarian Alliance

TocqueDeville, at Docudharma, on "the myth of the two-party system":
The little joke about putting the interest's name after a politician's name instead of the state they're from -- Max Baucus (D-Wellpoint)-- dates back to the muckraker era. Nowadays, however, the joke would be far more appropriate to replace the party affiliation and keep the state --Charles Schumer (Goldman Sachs-NY)

In fact, when you look at the Senate, with it's binary seating arrangement, you may think you see Republicans and Democrats, neatly divided on each side of the isle. But I assure you this is merely an illusion. If you could see each senator's real affiliation as a little sign above their heads, what you would really see is corporate logos bobbing up and down on the Senate floor.

Robert Higgs, at The Independent Institute, on "partisan politics – a fool's game":

Because I despise politics in general, and the two major parties in this country in particular, I go through life constantly bemused by all the weight that people put on partisan political loyalties and on adherence to the normative demarcations the parties promote . . . Of course, it’s all a fraud, designed to distract people from the overriding reality of political life, which is that the state and its principal supporters are constantly screwing the rest of us, regardless of which party happens to control the presidency and the Congress. Amid all the partisan sound and fury, hardly anybody notices that political reality boils down to two “parties”: (1) those who, in one way or another, use state power to bully and live at the expense of others; and (2) those unfortunate others.

A vote for a third party or independent candidate is a vote for a third party or independent candidate.

Though he is a consistent critic of third party and independent activism, Chris Bowers at Open Left responds to a statement by a Republican congressional representative aimed at third party and independent swing voters by debunking the widespread myth that "a vote for a third party or independent candidate is a vote for the duopoly candidate you dislike more":

Statements like these, whether they are made by Republicans or by Democrats, are loathsome pieces of political arrogance.

  1. It is a lie. Voting for a conservative third party is simply not the same thing as voting for a Democrat, just as voting for progressive third party is not the same as voting for a Republican. Rather, voting for a third party has the same effect on the overall outcome as not voting (except in the unlikely event that a third-party actually has a realistic chance to win, in which case voting for a third party would be exactly like voting for a third party).

    No matter what happens, voting for a third party is never the same thing as voting for the opposing major party candidate, since a vote like that actually adds one to the column of the opposing major party. But I guess Democrats and Republicans alike think that people considering voting for third-parties are too stupid to grasp this fairly obvious fact, and so they just lie to those voters instead.

  2. People considering voting for third-parties are swing voters, too. I simply don't understand why swing voters who regularly flip between Democrats and Republicans receive fawning attention from politicians, while swing voters who regularly flip between third parties and major parties are overtly insulted by those same politicians. It's true that voters who oscillate between third parties and one major party are only half as valuable as swing voters who oscillate between the two major parties, but they are still swing voters none the less.

    Neither the liberal nor the conservative vote is static, and changes in those voters can cause candidates to win or lose elections. Fully one-quarter of the electorate thinks that either Democrats are too conservative or Republicans are too liberal, beliefs that can often cause them to stay home or vote third party. As such, politicians might actually try to win those voters over, instead of insulting them by grouping them in with their ideological antipodes.

  3. Its arrogant. The implication whenever politicians send out missives like these is that the votes of ideological die-hards are the permanent, lifelong property of one political party or the other no matter what that political party does in office. Its flagrant, anti-democratic arrogance from elected officials who are effectively telling their constituents to STFU and do as they are told. Which is, of course, the opposite of democracy.

Independent Autonomy: Breaking the Cycle of Electoral Codependency

Can we speak of an independent movement in the United States? Public opinion consistently indicates historic levels of discontent with the Democratic and Republican Parties. More Americans identify themselves as independents than with either of the duopoly parties, and by significant margins. Last month I noted in a post on 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.
Indeed, majorities of Americans across the ideological spectrum recognize the two-party system's inability to represent the interests of the people of the United States and desire more adequate representation in government. John Zogby recently emphasized that there is majority support for third party alternatives to the Democratic-Republican Party:
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 . . . Then there are the 61% of moderates who apparently believe that neither party is moderate enough.
This raises a number of questions. If a majority of the population is dissatisfied with the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government why do majorities continue to vote for and otherwise support Democrats and Republicans? What does it mean to be an independent in such a scenario? Who are independents anyway? This is a question I've touched on before:
Are they people who describe themselves as independent? Or people who vote for independents? Or people who are registered as independents? Are they a-political or anti-political non-voters, disengaged from the political process? Or are they swing voters, whose voting habits cannot be predicted, that is, who may vote Republican one election and Democratic the next? Or are they split-ticket voters? Are they non-partisan or anti-partisan, and concentrate on a given candidate's character and stance on issues without consideration of party affiliation? Or are they hyper-partisans, fed up with both major parties and the political charades characteristic of the duopoly system?
Such uncertainties make it difficult to formulate any conclusive judgment as to whether or not we may speak of an independent movement in the United States. In the comments to my post on the promulgation of independence, Nancy Hanks of The Hankster responded with a number of good points and difficult questions. Among others: how can we account for the spike in independent affiliation following the elections of 2008? If the independent vote can swing an election one way or another, do they not effectively constitute a "third force" in US politics?

I do not think we can make sense of the spike in independent identification without taking into consideration the drop in Republican affiliation and the rise of anti-establishment conservative activism, ex. the tea party movement. These are all likely facets of the same phenomenon. It will be interesting to see whether tea party activists will be able to maintain their independence from the Republican Party or whether they will be defeated and folded back into the duopolist order, as happened with the anti-war movement.

Despite the common "wisdom" purveyed by the mainstream political press, independents are not a centrist monolith. There are conservative, liberal, libertarian, progressive and moderate independents. However, though they span the ideological and political spectrum they are united in their rejection of Democratic-Republican Party politics. This purely negative unity must figure in any consideration of the practical ideological paradox alluded to above, namely, why self-described independents continue to support Democratic and Republican candidates for office over superior independent alternatives. So long as independents are able only to play the "mommy party" off the "daddy party" and vice versa, they will not constitute an autonomous force in US politics, but will rather reproduce their dependency on the two-party status quo. Yet, might one not turn this conclusion right around? If neither Democrats nor Republicans can win elections without the support of independents, aren't the duopoly parties dependent on them? Indeed, in many cases they are. But co-dependency is not autonomy either.

Unquestionably, independent activists have made great strides in recent decades organizing those who find no shelter in big tent circus politics. Arguably, however, this is still prelude and preface. As a number of this season's elections have demonstrated, third party and independent candidates are capable of mounting "surprisingly strong" campaigns, as they say in the duopolized press. In 2010, no doubt, we will still have the element of surprise, and this is potentially a great strategic advantage, given the relatively high number of promising third party and independent campaigns that are taking shape across the country.

Republicans to Libertarians: Hey, it's raining again.

At The Kn@ppster, Tom Knapp weighs in on the special election in NY's 23rd from a partisan Libertarian perspective:
Why should any of this be of interest to a libertarian, especially a partisan Libertarian? Two reasons:

- First, it sets up an interesting argument about whether or not conservatives and libertarians are allies, even within the confines of the GOP.

Conservatives are backing Conservative Party candidate Hoffman versus Republican Party candidate Scozzafava, but as Eric Dondero at Libertarian Republican points out, they weren't willing to back Libertarian Party candidate Bob Smithers versus Republican write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs in Texas back in 2006.

To put as fine a point as possible on it, conservatives have proven over and over that they'll pout and turn a seat over to the Democrats rather than back a partisan Libertarian; and that they'll pout, bolt to a third party, and turn a seat over to the Democrats rather than back a partisan Republican who leans libertarian.

Is that how allies treat each other?

- Second, it highlights the tendency of conservatives to piss down libertarians' backs and try to tell us it's raining. At least some conservatives are trying to sell Hoffman as the more libertarian choice versus Scozzafava . . .

"Small-l libertarians" don't really seem to have an obvious horse in this race. Based on campaign web site statements, I'd rate Scozzafava as slightly preferable to Hoffman, though.

Conservatives want libertarians as allies in their revolts against the GOP Establishment, but they decline to ally themselves with libertarians against that same Establishment when there's a real L/libertarian in the race. The "coalition" they propose runs one way: Libertarians are to support besieged conservatives, but conservatives must never be called upon to reciprocate.

The Third Party and Independent Opposition: Testing Ideas, Questioning Assumptions

In his remarks at a DNC fundraising reception on October 15th, President Obama stated: "I believe in a two-party system where ideas are tested and assumptions are challenged -- because that’s how we can move this country forward." At Notes from a Burning House, Algernon points out the flaws among the president's assumptions:
The problem is, that is not what a two-party system (duopoly) does. It preserves the status quo; it protects the basic assumptions on which that status quo rests. Which might be okay if things were working well. The times, however, require a politics that does allow us to re-examine some of the assumptions on which our social order rests . . .

Our two-party dictatorship does not allow for testing those ideas or challenging any of our unconsidered assumptions about how to order our lives and communities. It can't even deliver some simple and sensible regulations of the private health insurance industry -- the corporations are, in fact, more powerful than our Congress. This is not our government; it is not accountable to us in any meaningful way. Vote out a Democrat, you'll either get a Republican or some other Democrat.

The duopoly is effective at one thing: preserving power for these two parties alone, and keeping other political parties that might test their ideas and challenge their way of conducting business -- the libertarians, the socialists, the greens -- out of power and sidelined in elections.

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!"