Making the Lesser Evil the Enemy of the Greater Good: Mystical Realism and Other Common Mystifications of Duopoly Ideology

At Manly's Republic, Manly provides a thorough summary of our ongoing debate in his response to my last post on the folly of two-party statism. Unfortunately, however, aside from a false analogy, Manly does not supply anything other than common duopolist mystifications – with which we are already familiar and which I have refuted in the past – to make his case in support of the Democratic-Republican two-party state. In response to my proposition that duopolist historical revisionism results in political determinism, he holds that the United States has always effectively had a two-party system and displaces the opposition between the Democratic and Republican Parties onto the philosophical-political opposition between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists – thus providing one more piece of evidence in favor of my position. Manly writes:
There is no “revisionism” here, there is only history and D. Eris need only avail himself of the Federalist papers and Anti-Federalist Papers for the foundation of my argument. The fact remains that two major schools of thought emerged regarding the form and substance of a federal government long before the constitutional convention assembled and these are best summed up by comparing and contrasting the Jeffersonians with the Hamiltonians . . . The fact remains that the factions which contended with each other during the administrations of both Washington and Adams eventually emerged as political parties . . . The fact remains that Americans are used to two major political parties because these represent the two differing approaches to the size and scope of the federal government. [Emphasis added.]
This, of course, is also a clear instantiation of what I call the "brute fact argument". From a post on the common mystifications of duopoly ideology, last September:
When pressed to defend their opposition to third party and independent activism, partisans of the Republican and Democratic Parties . . . will often simply assert the brute fact of the two-party system . . . they state that because we have a two-party system, we have to work within the two-party system.
Manly transposes the brute fact of the opposition between the Democratic and Republican Parties onto the early debate between the federalists and the anti-federalists on the "form and substance" of federal government. But this comparison does not hold; it is a false analogy. Take the Massachusetts Compromise, for instance: the federalists demanded a strong federal constitution and the anti-federalists demanded a bill of rights explicitly limiting the power of the government created by that constitution. On even a cursory glance, it quickly becomes clear that the Democratic and Republican Parties cannot be equated with either side in the Federalist/Anti-Federalist dispute because Democrats and Republicans are not concerned with the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The fact remains that the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government is conditional upon contemptuous disregard for the Constitution and the active erasure of the protections codified in the Bill of Rights. If anything, the Democratic and Republican Parties today could be more appropriately compared with the Whigs and Tories in the 18th century Parliament of Great Britain: increasingly distant, increasingly irrelevant, increasingly bankrupt, increasingly arrogant.

Manly admits that he is attracted to the Conservative Party and the Constitution Party, but rejects them on the basis of the assessment that "neither has a chance in hell of gaining national traction." The fact remains, however, that having "national traction" is not a necessary condition for elected office at the local, city, county, district or state level, which is to say, for almost all elections. Why would one view all politics through the prism of national, presidential politics? It is likely no coincidence that Manly subscribes to Hobbes' deterministic view of human nature and history, as he stated in his initial post. The Hobbesean view of human nature and history led Hobbes himself to advocate authoritarian monarchism, of course. How different is that really from the cult of the executive fostered by Democratic-Republican Party government? Manly justifies support for the two-party system, as we shall see, on the basis of what I've previously alluded to as duopolist mystical realism. He writes:
unlike D. Eris, I know and understand both history and human nature. In any constitutional representative republic, partisan politics will always emerge insofar as two schools of thought will always exist regarding the degree to which the government of that republic governs. One school will argue for a stronger and larger central government while the other will argue for a weaker and smaller central government. It has been that way in our own nation since before the Constitution was ratified and, much like human nature, is a state of political nature that will never change.
Yes, the Democratic-Republican two-party system is eternal! The position refutes itself: on this view, political history is seen as a-historical. He continues:
The difference between us is that I’m a realist who is willing to work with the tools and materials at hand in an effort to get as close to that goal as I can. I accept whatever good I find whenever I find it and refuse to make that good the enemy of the perfect. As it happens, the best shot we have at making an effort to return to the type of government that more closely resembles what the Founders envisioned lies with the Republican Party - more specifically, a reformed and Reaganized Republican Party.
The partisan of the Republican Party (or the Democrat, as the case may be) is a realist! Regular readers of Poli-Tea might recall that I have confronted duopolist mystical realism before, with Hume. From a post last December:
it is a mystical dogma of duopolist ideology that the two-party system is a quasi-eternal condition of politics as such. Among partisans of the reigning duopoly form, this mystical dogma goes by the name of realism. Its primary function is to transform discontent with the dictatorship of the Democratic-Republican Party into support for one of its factions via the illusion of opposition to the other.
Ironically, Manly calls me a dreamer. He wites:
D. Eris, on the other hand, is a dreamer. He makes the good the enemy of the perfect because he refuses to settle for anything less than a trouble-free glide path back to the year 1789. In spite of the ideological chasm that now separates the Democrat and Republican parties he insists on conflating them. He offers no concrete strategies or detailed plans for achieving his constitutional desideratum - only criticism of those involved in the fight and a desperate wish for a return to the “good old days.”
Obviously, I disagree. I rarely engage in nostalgic longing for a non-existent past. This is a duopolist pastime, as exemplified by self-described FDR Democrats and Reagan Republicans, among others. And, clearly, Manly has never read the strategy pages here at Poli-Tea. Continuing in reverse order: the "ideological chasm" separating the Democratic and Republican Parties is a reflection of the ideological division of labor between the Democratic and Republican Parties in the reproduction of Democratic-Republican Party government and the relations of power that sustain the ruling political class: the Democratic Party dupes liberals while the Republican Party dupes conservatives. In this way, all those who vote Democrat or Republican make the lesser evil the enemy of the greater good. Given the conscious pursuit of evil required by the politics of the two-party state, the fact remains, we may well have to conclude that the Democratic-Republican two-party system is demonic.


Ross Levin said...


Samuel Wilson said...

Leaving Jefferson out of the equation, since he was out of the country during the drafting of the Constitution, let's recall that Madison and Hamilton, later bitter rivals in the Washington administration, were on the same side, even unto submerging their identities behind the by-line of "Publius," against the anti-federalists. That leads one to suspect that the primal bipolarchization of the republic had less to do with fundamental issues over the size and scope of government than modern ideologues might claim. Yet just last week I read a column (unfortunately I dont just now remember whose) drawing a direct line of descent from the anti-federalists to the Tea Parties, as if to affirm your antagonist's point. More likely, even in the 1790s sectionalists and other interest groups were using ideology to build coalitions to win national support for their "special interest" concerns. But for bipolarchs and their partisans, of course, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.