On Political Independence: Against Infiltrationism, Charismatic Authoritarianism and Historical Determinism

Mitchell Langbert has responded to my post on "tea partisanship and the necessity of resisting the temptation of infiltration" by arguing that "tea parties should work within the GOP." Mr. Langbert puts forward two interrelated arguments in favor of infiltration and against political independence: 1) there is no national leader to galvanize a third party movement, and 2) historically, Americans have demonstrated a commitment to the two-party system. He writes:
It is unlikely that the Tea Party will ultimately constitute a major party. The reason is its inability to find a national leader . . . There are several reasons why a third party will not work. First, Americans have been committed to a two party system almost since the first Congress . . . If you look at the history of the parties they were all started by charismatic or special leaders . . . Second, there is a long history of third parties playing a prodding role in American history . . . [but] the major parties have been good at integrating insurgent interests. In contrast, insurgents have been generally poor at building independent parties . . . Infiltration of the GOP is possible . . . That is a more fertile strategy for the Tea Party than to start a third party.
Langbert thus advises accommodation with the Democratic-Republican two-party state and the duopoly system of government on the basis of charismatic authoritarianism and historical determinism. Each of these arguments is easily refuted and I have dealt with each at some length before. In the present historical juncture, the central contradiction inherent to charismatic authoritarianism is not difficult to discern. From a post on the leader principle and the messianic impulse in Democratic-Republican politics, last November:
for those who have not yet fully liberated themselves from the straitjacket of duopoly ideology, [freedom from the Democratic-Republican Party] appears possible only on the basis of a mass movement subsumed under the leader principle. The paradox here is readily apparent: the devolution of power is conceived as contingent upon its gross consolidation.
The historical argument, on the other hand, is negated by the very existence of a third party and independent political tradition in the United States; and, though it was revived by doctrinaire Marxists over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the sort of historical determinism it presupposes was refuted by David Hume in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding from 1748, where the Scottish philosopher wrote:
That the sun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation that it will rise.
Finally, Langbert simply does not account for the fatal flaw inherent to all infiltrationist strategy, namely, its capitulation to the ruling political establishment. Rather than confront the greatest political problem facing the people of the United States, infiltrationism reproduces the greatest political problem facing the people of the United States: the dictatorship of the Democratic-Republican Party and the duopoly system of government. The infiltrationist prefers political co-dependency to political independence.

1 comment:

Mitchell Langbert said...