The Co-Dependency Caucus: to Be a Republican or a Democrat is to be a Tool of the Democratic-Republican Party's Corporatist Agenda

As a counterpoint to the previous post on Utah's independent candidates for Congress in 2010, it should perhaps be mentioned that not all independents in Utah are all that independent. At the Examiner, Kathleen Baker profiles the Independence Caucus, which describes itself as "a Citizen's movement to take our government back from the "Big Money" Special Interest groups." At the Examiner, Baker writes:
A group of ordinary citizens from Utah shocked the political world last year [i.e. 2007] by defeating a six-term incumbent and replacing him with a fiscally conservative candidate who was outspent six to one by his challenger. Now they are taking their model nationally with chapters in 45 states, including Colorado. Fed up with politics as usual, these citizens founded the Independence Caucus to replace politicians financed by special interests with fiscally responsible candidates who support Constitutional principles.
That congressman was Jason Chaffetz, who defeated incumbent Chris Cannon for the Republican nomination. That is no inconsiderable achievement. Unfortunately, however, the Independence Caucus' intention to "take our government back from the big money special interest groups" is immediately undermined by its explicit support for two of the largest "big money special interest groups" in the United States, namely, the Republican and Democratic Parties. Baker writes:
This organization does not view itself as a third party movement. It considers itself a caucus, working within the two-party system to return control of each political party to the voters. Since third party candidates historically receive less than 2% of the vote, the Independence Caucus views it as a waste of money to endorse these candidates. They believe the way to reverse political corruption is to work within the existing two-party system.
I happened to come across an explanation of this policy at Jane Q. Republican, who relayed a message from "Frank Anderson of Independence Caucus," from which one can only conclude, if it is authentic, that the group is nothing more than a front for partisan Republicans. Its defense of duopolist political strategy makes for cringe-inducing reading:
Anyone who disagrees with our policy on not endorsing 3rd party candidates, please consider this: Remember, not a single founding father wanted political parties, yet we saw 4 of the founders – John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – lead the development of 2 parties into existence before Washington even completed his first term.

Please Note: Those 4 founding fathers all wanted NO parties, but they immediately developed TWO parties…but not 3 or more parties. Think about that: Why would that be? They wanted NO parties…they could have set up as many parties as they wanted to…but they ended up with just two. Just like today…hmmm… Why would that be? It’s because of “ Duvergers Law.” Bottom line: Whenever “50% of the vote plus 1 more” wins EVERYTHING, people will eventually coalesce around 2 parties even when they DON’T want to do so…it’s “Duvergers Law” and it’s almost as unchangeable as gravity. [ . . . ]

we proved in 2008 that we CAN act as a caucus within the 2 existing parties, and we CAN root out the compromised incumbents from WITHIN the party…and we CAN take back control of the party from the RINO’s. We will do it in 2010 all over the country because of all of our members just like you [ . . . ]

To … anyone … who is unhappy with our policy: Are you saying that if YOU decided to run in a Republican primary, and we got behind you and we helped ELECT you and sent you to Washington…are you telling me you would somehow turn into someone who would be un-constitutional and fiscally irresponsible just because you won as a Republican or a Democrat? Of course not. [Emphasis added.]
It is difficult to know where to begin in response to such a text, or whether any response is even justified. But I have already come this far. So, in answer to the final question above, I would reply only that one is known by the company one keeps. As for Duverger's Law, it is nothing like the law of gravity, of course. To equate the two is to endorse a most vulgar form of political determinism. As I've noted before, Duverger's "Law" is no more a law than the Federal Reserve is federal. With respect to the founding fathers, in this context one might reference those early factions which confound the simplistic binary thought beloved by duopolists, such as the Tertium Quids, or consult Washington's oft-quoted Farewell Address, in which he likened duopolist-style government to nothing less than political tyranny:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.
Assuming that the above message does indeed reflect the group's position toward independent, third party activism, we can safely conclude that, given its deterministic outlook, its historical revisionist tendencies and its embrace of duopolist despotism – not to mention the contradiction immediately entailed by its support for the Democratic and Republican Parties: the Independence Caucus might be more reasonably termed the codependency caucus.


Frankie Ray said...

This is Frank Anderson of the Independence Caucus, and I wrote the piece that you've somewhat quoted correctly above:

I think you have set up a false choice, of being a choice between supporting an Independent Candidate vs. supporting the 2 parties. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I would asks you to consider the following 2 scenarios:

Lets take a very good Independent candidate, and lets assume that this candidate embodies everything that you want and is in no way your typical Democrat or Republican candidate that you dislike.

In other words, for you and me, we both LOVE this candidate!

OK, now pick a scenario from below:
Scenario A: This Independent candidate does 5 times better than most Independent Candidates, and so on election day they receive a very impressive 20% to 25% of the vote...whats the Result? Well, the candidate goes home while the Typical Democrat or Republican candidate that our independent was running against is the one who wins and they head to Washington where they will continue to play the current games we all hate in Washington.

Scenario B: This Independent candidate instead does exactly what Jason Chaffetz did in 2008: Instead of running as an Independent, he enters the Republican Primary (or it could be Democrat primary it doesn't matter)and organizes the Independent grassroots to help him win that primary...even though "the Party" doesn't want him to be their candidate.

What would be the Result? The independent candidate WINS the Primary and then the General election and our Independent candidate heads to Washington and opposes the games that have been going on in Washington, while the typical Democrat and Republicans who normally would have won have to go home.

Now: Which scenario is our Independent candidate the enabler?

I respectfully submit that getting the Independent candidate to run in and win the major party primary is the wise course of action and leads to electoral success of candidates YOU WOULD LOVE, and the Independent tilting at windmills is the enabler who allows the candidates we hate to keep getting re-elected.

If you get the GOOD Independent candidate elected as the major party candidate, you have served the candidate and our nation. That's the position of the Independence Caucus, which I would submit is the opposite of enabling.

d.eris said...

Hi Frank. Thanks for your reply and comment. It wasn't clear to me whether that text was "authentic" or not because I could not locate it at the link provided by Jane Q.

In response, I would respectfully submit that the choice between the two scenarios you propose is a false choice because it unreasonably excludes other possible scenarios. Further, a situation analogous to scenario A is entirely possible within the primary challenge scenario B: you mount a challenge, get 25% of the vote, and the typical Republicrat/Demoblican gets the nomination.

That aside, the possible scenario you exclude is the following: the third party or independent candidate wins the general election and heads to Washington not as a Republican or a Democrat but as an actual Independent, who owes the parties nothing (except perhaps the contempt they deserve!). If 'independence' only ever consists in mounting a primary challenge within the duopolist order, you will never achieve independence, even if your candidate wins, because you will only ever elect Republicans or Democrats, who are always dependent upon the party machines, i.e. co-dependence.

I have written more than a handful of posts on what I call the primary folly, where I make this point in greater detail, if you are interested.

If they pass your questionnaire process, I see no reason why your group should not support independent candidates such as Glissmeyer and Kelly (who I profiled in the previous post), except for the stated bias against independent and third party candidates. But it is precisely such bias which reproduces our dependency on the Democratic and Republican Parties. Political independence begins with active independence from the political organs of the two-party state.

I urge you to re-consider the policy of categorically excluding any and all actual independent and third party candidates for office.

Frankie Ray said...

Hello d.eris...

I don't know your full name, so I apologize for using just your signature initial.

You make some excellent points, and I would agree that my 2 scenarios are as limited as the 2 scenarios of yours that I originally objected to.

I will look at your "primary folly" links in the future when I have more time, but without seeing them yet I will concede that an independent challenge in the primary could indeed duplicate the "split" vote scenario that Independence Caucus members want to avoid in a general election.

That being said, I believe that one CAN you achieve independence from the duopolist order even while winning one of the party primaries...and I submit Jason Chaffetz as exhibit A.

First, for background, those of us who founded I-caucus originally came together as volunteers on the Chaffetz campaign...and we saw in Chaffetz exactly what we wanted to see in an Independent candidate: Someone who spoke up for principles, denounced their own party for either not having any principles or at least not holding to them, and someone who was committed to fiscal responsibility and adherence to constitutional authority.

The most important thing, in our opinion, was that he denounced the Republican party even as he was seeking to become the candidate for that party. Nice and Independent!

Since being elected, he has voted as we would want our independent candidates to vote and he has continued to denounce his own party many times while he is serving in Washington.

So I believe that you and I are looking for the same results...with only one difference that I can see in our persepectives:

From your perspective, it is possible to rally enough people away from the 2 parties for an Independent candidate to win a general election and from my perspective it is virtually impossible.

You may be correct, or I may be correct. Time will tell.

Despite our difference in opinion on that, I respectfully submit that you would be able to see that we are not trying to enable either party.

Our bias is not against independent candidates, our bias is towards taking the route we believe will lead top success and avoiding the route that historically hasn't done so well.

Also, despite our different viewpoints I can promise you this: Independence Caucus will never endorse or enable a typical machine duopolist candidate.

If we endorse a candidate, it is because they are as Fiscally responsible and as committed to constitutional authority as any Independent candidate would be... and they will also be as independent of the party system.

Ross Levin said...

Frankie, I can understand supporting duopoly candidates that further your own agenda, but why limit yourself? Why have you (unless I misunderstand) ruled out entirely endorsing third party or independent candidates?

d.eris said...


I am familiar a little bit with the Chaffetz campaign, mostly from what I've read through the IC-related info sources. Clearly you developed a powerful model which demonstrated that underfunded underdog candidates can defeat entrenched incumbents with grassroots people power.

You write: "From your perspective, it is possible to rally enough people away from the 2 parties for an Independent candidate to win a general election and from my perspective it is virtually impossible."

At the same time, I imagine people probably also thought that it would be "virtually impossible" for the Chaffetz campaign to win the primary and the general. And yet it wasn't. Such expectations of impossibility likely also played a part in the upset - perhaps you retained the element of surprise etc.

I'm glad you are satisfied with your representation. However, as such, you are part of a dwindling minority in the United States. It is my position that this is the case, in large part, because the bipolar Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government is incapable of adequately representing the multipolar order of the US electorate, and that the Democratic-Republican two-party state serves interests which are, in many cases, diametrically opposed to those of the people of the United States.

I wish you luck in your search for independent candidates within the duopolist frame, but, once again, I urge you to consider candidates who are (f)actual Independents, including third party candidates for office. You might be surprised how far just a little bit of support goes in this regard.

Frankie Ray said...

Hello Ross,
So far it has been a rather refreshing discussion here on poli-tea with d.eris about our two different perspectives towards achieving the same common goal.

However, I have no idea what you mean when you say that you "understand supporting duopoly candidates" as I have clearly said in both of my previous posts that the Independence Caucus doesn't support duopoly candidates.

Are you saying that you support them?

I also don't understand what you mean when you refer to "furthering my agenda" as if my agenda and your agenda are different.

Since you are here at Poli-tea, I would assume that your agenda and the agenda that d.eris and I share would be identical agendas, i.e. the electing of good apples into Congress and the removal of bad apples out of Congress. Yes? No?

If my assumption is wrong, I apologize for making that assumption and would have to ask what your agenda is so I can understand what your points are.

Frankie Ray said...

We are very happy with Jason as our rep, but we will never be satisfied until there are a majority of reps like him in Congress.

You wrote: "Clearly you developed a powerful model which demonstrated that underfunded underdog candidates can defeat entrenched incumbents with grassroots people power."

Just to be clear, the Independence Caucus didn't develop that model...we are only trying to show other people what we did and help them duplicate it in their own neck of the woods.

The model was taught to us by Jason Chaffetz himself, as I-caucus didn't formally exist until just before the primary.

We were just a bunch of highly motivated volunteers who were too dumb not to know that we couldn't beat the entrenched 6 term incumbent so we listened to him and then went out and executed the model.

At the risk of over-simplifying, what Jason taught us was that we couldn't win the money game against the incumbent and the mainstream media wouldn't help us...(two self-evident truths that I'm sure you can relate to)...and that we needed to BYPASS the normal political channels that the two parties set up, and instead take our message directly to the mass of fed up voters in one home cottage meeting after another.

We then went out and executed that strategy, and as you can see it really is no different than what poli-tea and every other tea party and 912 group is trying to do as well: Bypassing the 2 party channels!

So here is how we look at it.

Take the two independents you mentioned, Glissmeyer and Kelly. Great individual candidates you would support, yes?

If one or the other announced they were entering the democratic primary to run against Jim Matheson...wouldnt you still support him?

Wouldn't he be the same candidate you could support?...and wouldn't it be fun to help him defeat Matheson in the primary and stun the party?

Anyway, I look forward to reading your "primary folly" link and appreciate what you are doing at poli-tea.

d.eris said...

In addition to the "primary folly" posts, you might also be interested in the posts on infiltration, which argue in favor of open opposition to the Democratic and Republican Parties, rather than accommodating them.

You write: "Take the two independents . . . Great individual candidates you would support, yes? If one or the other announced they were entering the democratic primary...wouldnt you still support him? Wouldn't he be the same candidate you could support?"

My point here comes down precisely to this: no, that would no longer be the same candidate. Before entering the duopoly primary, the candidate was an independent. After entering it, he becomes co-dependent, part of the problem. As an independent, that candidate has credibility in opposing the Democratic-Republican two-party sham. As a Democrat or a Republican, they become a representative of that sham. As an independent, that candidate is responsible only to his or her constituents. As a Republican or Democrat he has responsibilities first and foremost to the party machine and its corporate sponsors.

As I originally wrote, you are known by the company you keep, and when you keep company with Republicans and Democrats, well, it is difficult to imagine two groups of people that would reflect more poorly on any individual. I exaggerate, but only slightly.

Michael said...

I have been enjoying the discussion so far, hoping that you'd find the "answer." :) I've encountered the same discussion numerous times myself when I campaigned independently. I resisted entering the Republican Primary for exactly the reasons d.eris described but appreciate Frank's point of knocking off the preferred party candidate in the primary. That was especially sweet. Even after that, I never received party support, nor did I want it.

I don't agree with your final remarks: "My point here comes down precisely to this: no, that would no longer be the same candidate. Before entering the duopoly primary, the candidate was an independent. After entering it, he becomes co-dependent, part of the problem. As an independent, that candidate has credibility in opposing the Democratic-Republican two-party sham. As a Democrat or a Republican, they become a representative of that sham. As an independent, that candidate is responsible only to his or her constituents. As a Republican or Democrat he has responsibilities first and foremost to the party machine and its corporate sponsors." I maintained my independence and never, ever had a responsibility to the party. Had I not narrowly lost, the votes I captured on the major line would've been my constituients as much as those captured on the independent line but I was the exact same candidate either way and only beholden to the voters, never the party.

I continue to spurn party advances in the election aftermath. I'm not interested in rebuilding parties. But the approach of independence + party primary works if the candidate is true. Running and winning soley on an independent third party line does not guarantee a corruption-free candidate. Taking money, even from independent sources, can create potential interests to serve (other than the electorate's). For me, it really comes down to whether the candidate is true.

d.eris said...

Good to hear from you Michael. Funny, I was actually just thinking about your strategy and some of your past blog posts as I was reflecting on this discussion. I appreciate your position here, but – with regard to your strategy –, imho, having first established the independent ballot line made your candidacy something very different from what we normally think of when we think of a Dem/Rep primary challenge (which, obviously, isn't possible in many states, since NY has fusion).

You're certainly right that being independent or third party is not a guarantee that a candidate is corruption-free. But it seems like the corrupting, corrosive institutional party pressures on elected Democrats and Republicans kick in after the election, with arm-twisting, quid-pro-quos of all sorts, running the gamut from the ethically questionable to the downright prosecutable etc. This is what passes for so-called 'culture' and 'norms' in the Democratic-Republican Party.

One of the reasons I push so hard for independents and third party alternatives is because even the smallest success in this regard has the potential to change the way we think about politics in the US, transforming notions about what is possible and what is impossible.

Michael said...

I am in full agreement with you on the transforming power of third party politics on the overall landscape. For now, my mind seems to have settled on independent ballot lines as the necessary first objective, but complimented by a major party primary contest in an attempt to accelerate the prospect of viable, sustainable third party efforts. It won't work everywhere as you point out but I think it can be a valuable approach to bridging what sometimes appears to be an unbridgable chasm. The major parties always seem to want to co-opt any independent movement for their own means and I suppose this is my way of trying to turn the tables and co-opt their might for my purposes without compromising my integrity. :)

Ross Levin said...

Frankie - let me clarify. By "duopoly" I meant Republican or Democratic candidates, and you seemed to specifically say you would not endorse anyone who isn't one or the other. As for "agenda," I am a progressive and a populist, so I doubt we have the same definition of "good apple."