Third Party Strategy and the Cult of the Executive

There are a ton of articles and commentaries today discussing the possibility and necessity of a third party movement to confront the bipolar disorder of the reigning two-party state.  A commentary out of Georgia notes that Libertarians are "polling higher than ever," and argues that "the third party road is a tough one, but voters should have the option."  The Massachusetts Metro West News reports that there are a record number of independent candidates for office in the state this year.  At The Huffington Post, Charles Ellison argues there is a potential for moderate former Republicans to spearhead a third party movement.  And finally, Thomas Friedman sees a "Third Party Rising" in his New York Times column today.  In discussions of third party and independent politics, mainstream journalists tend to consult political scientists in order to regurgitate the conventional wisdom that maintains the structures of power that support the Democratic-Republican two-party state and buoy the ruling corporate-political class.  To his credit, Friedman finds a political scientist who is willing to speak the truth about the tyranny of Democratic-Republican party government:
“We basically have two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country,” said the Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond. Indeed, our two-party system is ossified; it lacks integrity and creativity and any sense of courage or high-aspiration in confronting our problems. We simply will not be able to do the things we need to do as a country to move forward “with all the vested interests that have accrued around these two parties,” added Diamond. “They cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term anymore because both parties are trapped in short-term, zero-sum calculations,” where each one’s gains are seen as the other’s losses.
Friedman then proceeds to call for a third party movement to bust the Democratic-Republican party's monopoly on political power:

We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies. “If competition is good for our economy,” asks Diamond, “why isn’t it good for our politics?”
Interestingly, it is liberal Democrats who have responded most vocally, and critically, to Friedman's piece, arguing that were it not for the evil Republicans, the Democrats would have already succeeded in providing everyone in America with their very own "pony."  (I use the latter term so that Democrats themselves are capable of understanding this point; as this word has become something of a technical term among Democratic thinkers and strategists, it also provides us with some amount of insight into the level of thought common among liberal Democrats.)  See Memeorandum for an overview of the discussion.  Steven Taylor responds with a post entitled "Silly Third Party Musings."   Steve Benen writes at Washington Monthly:
To hear Friedman tell it, this mystery party is, in effect, needed to pass a bolder, more sweeping version of the Democratic agenda. Why not just elect more and better Democrats to make that possible? Friedman doesn't say.
Finally, a third Democratic Steve, Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog, writes in a similar vein:
If Tom Friedman knows how a centrist third party, even one run by a guy who's richer than God, can wave a magic wand and make Fox News/fat cat propaganda and demagoguery just go away, or at least render it unable to drive (and ultimately monopolize) the debate, I wish he'd explain a subsequent column.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this general response is what it reveals about the partisan Democrat's mindset.  Like their Republican counterparts, Democrats are true believers.  They really do think the Democratic Party stands for something other than the consolidation of power in the hands of the ruling corporate-political class, and the expansion of the global warfare and corporate welfare state.  If it didn't represent a serious threat to our rights, liberties and the rule of law, such political naivety might be considered charmingly quaint.  And the same might be said of Friedman's commentary as well.  While I obviously agree that the Democratic and Republican parties are enemies of constitutional government and represent interests that are diametrically opposed to those of the people of the United States, Friedman is a member of the cult of the executive, a proponent of the imperial presidency, a representative of the messianic impulse common to Democratic-Republican party government.  His discussion of third party politics focuses entirely on the presidency.  He writes:
Barring a transformation of the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her — one definitely big enough to impact the election’s outcome.
The fetishistic obsession with presidential politics is a lingering sign of Friedman's continued dependency upon the ideology of the two-party state.  As I've written before:
The authoritarian tendencies of the Democratic-Republican Party, the duopoly system of government and the two-party state are perhaps nowhere more clear than in the cult of the executive that views all political antagonism and struggle through the prism of presidential politics. The fantasy of the "great leader" capable of resolving irreducible conflicts by means of charisma and force of will is as at home in the Republican church of Ronald Reagan as it is in the Democratic myth of Camelot. The nostalgia for a golden age that never existed is the flip-side of the utopian desire for that which will never come. And these people call themselves pragmatists!
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a third party or independent presidency would be its demonstration of the relative impotence of the president, as Democrats and Republican lawmakers banded together in opposition to to a leader who represented a real threat to the reigning party government and ruling political class.  On the other hand, would it not be highly ironic to see a third party or independent president consolidate all the powers that Democratic and Republican lawmakers have ceded to the executive in creating the imperial presidency, and wield that power against them?

1 comment:

John Rivera said...

I do agree that the Friedman article was not only important but inspiring. I have been fighting for decades to help build an alternative to the two-party dictatorship. The time is ripe.

This has led me to start the American Independence Party. But whatever we do, let's not be complicit in voting democratic or Republican. The greatest enemy is the myth of the 'lesser of two evils' propaganda.

It might require that we vote Tea Party in November as a way of getting a foothold. Maybe not in this election cycle, but a revolution is coming. And it's about time.