The Political Inquisition at the Daily Kos: Diarist Forced to Publicly Recant Third Party Proposal

It is a primary conceit of the apologists for the reigning political status quo that the Democrat-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government is a "natural" result of our nation's constitution.  Some will even go so far as to portray it is an incarnation of some eternal, Platonic form of the political.  This is the mythology of the two-party state.  It is both the means by which the ruling parties are provided with their imaginary, quasi-metaphysical ground, and the rhetorical ploy with which their strategists obscure the disciplinary role the parties themselves play in the maintenance and reproduction of the system which ensures their continued monopolization of political power and representation in the United States. 

There is nothing "natural" about this process.  It is regulated by strictly enforced codes of thought, speech and action.  It is no coincidence that two of the most popular websites devoted to supporting the Democratic and Republican parties have explicit rules and regulations prohibiting the discussion of third party and independent alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans.  The surest way to be booted from the Daily Kos and Red State is to advocate for rational alternatives to the major parties.  I have previously documented such controversies at Red State in the past.  A recent incident at the Daily Kos demonstrates the prevalence of this practice. 

On Sunday, Daily Kos diarist tmax published a post entitled: "I am THROUGH with Democrats: WE NEED A THIRD PARTY!"  In the piece, tmax argues that "President Obama needs to start his own party."  An excerpt:
The Progressive Party can be a reality. We can jettison the Blue Dogs on the right, the Professional Liberals on the left, and basically suck the heart out of the existing corporate-owned DLC driven Democratic Party. By including the vast moderate middle that strongly supports the President's "avoid the gridlock and Get Things Done" approach we can explode our numbers in a way that tying ourselves to the Identity Politics crowd prevents us from doing now. By aligning the Progressive Party with the moderates, rather than the left, we can accomplish progressive/liberal goals without alienating the soft conservatives that have become extremely disillusioned with the Republicans.
Shortly after the diary was posted, a "note" in bold-faced type was appended to the top of the article.  It reads:
This diary is now Snark. I have received a warning from Admin stating that it "crosses the line" between "theory" and "advocating", in terms of discussing the possibility of a 3rd party on Daily Kos. I have confirmed that I will not continue to call for the President to start his own party. The diary will remain up as a basis for discussion of the issues it addresses. I am proud and happy to be a Democrat, although I continue to join many of my fellow Kossacks and fellow Democrats in believing that party (and the system as a whole) needs improvement.  [Emphases added.]

In other words, tmax was forced to publicly recant his third party heresy.  At Red State and Daily Kos, to stray beyond the proscribed lines of thought, speech and argument that are deemed necessary for the preservation of the two-party state, is to invite expulsion. The point here is not that these sites should not be allowed to regulate the speech of those who publish their views on it.  That is their right.  What such incidents reveal, however, is that there is nothing "natural" or "organic" about support for the Democratic and Republican parties. Rather it is the result of discipline and enforcement, prohibition and punishment. Indeed, one might go so far as to argue that a primary condition for the reproduction of the Democrat-Republican two-party state today is the curtailment of free speech, including the prohibition of any speech or argument that might endanger the modes of thought necessary to maintain the misrule of the Democratic and Republican parties.

As a final thought, one might add that if support for the Democratic and Republican parties is predicated upon the negation of free speech, this might go some part of the way toward explaining the hostility of Democrats and Republicans alike to rights and liberties guaranteed in the First Amendment.


Samuel Wilson said...

I encountered that attitude during my brief time as a Kos diarist. The forced loyalty to party that prevails there and at Red State follows inevitably from the real purpose of each site. At Kos the purpose is to whip up hate and fear of the Republicans, while Red State does the same with Democrats. When one party is to be kept out of power at all costs, the pressure becomes inexorable to support the next strongest party. On each side, the bipolarchy depends on the perpetuity of an enemy that can not, must not ever be destroyed.

TiradeFaction said...

Can't say I'm surprised at all, DailyKos is a sort of propaganda training mill masquerading as a "Grassroots" bottom up effort. It's honestly fairly creepy how far they take their devotion to their particular political party (Democrats), insofar that their entire political lives seem to focus on it, not unlike fascist states where the party is "everything". I'm glad you're here to report on these events though D.eris.

I should point out though, there is already a "Progressive Party" in the United States, or at least a variant, dubbed the Vermont Progressive Party, which is by far the most successful third party in the nation, though almost is never brought up in the third party blogosphere, interestingly enough...

d.eris said...

Sam, I was actually thinking a little bit about that point as I was writing the post. At DK and RS you can make the most outlandish statements about your duopolist counterparts, up to and including the most outrageous insults (ex. goat fuckers, pedophiles and so on), but suggest a plan to modestly change the partisan composition of the government toward a multiparty state and YOU'RE OUTTA THERE. Sometimes it seems like each side is literally more invested in maintaining the other than they are in their own. Actually, you kind of touch upon this point in your recent post at Think 3 on "who keeps serving the tea."

d.eris said...

TF, you make a good point about the "party ├╝ber alles" crowd among the Dems and Reps. Actually, last year, I wrote a post comparing the GOP infiltration strategy of misguided tea party activists with that of Vladimir Lenin's vanguard party strategy, which you might find amusing (see: Tea Party Bolshevism).

The tmax proposal is fairly typical of the disillusioned duopolist insofar as it completely ignores already existing third party organizations in favor of a strategy to reinvent the wheel.

You are right about the VT Progressives, they don't get very much coverage even in the third party blogosphere. I don't have a good idea why that is the case. Reports and blog posts on the VT progressives rarely appear in my news alert feeds.

Maybe it's simply that because they are already fairly successful they are involved in day to day local affairs in state and local government, rather than waging campaigns that speak to wider issues, fighting for ballot access etc.? Or maybe it's because they are such an anomaly in US politics?

DLW said...

There's nothing wrong with intra-party discipline and/or enforcement of rules at a partisan blog. So long as we get more pluralism in our politics through the diversification of the election rules used, folks will have adequate exit-threat from the major parties.


TiradeFaction said...

@D.eris Yeah, the proposal by the Daily Kos kid was indeed absurd, but it does highlight the policies of the website, and the fact it's not really a "grassroots" effort. Again, thank you for documenting it here.

I enjoyed the Lenin piece a lot, thank you for linking it to me :)

As for the VT progs, I'm not really sure, I guess it's a mix of ignorance (Not going to hear the MSM talk about a successful third party after all, and the fact it's purely confined to one state), as you put it, grounded purely in local politics (which makes it less sexy), and I think probably jealousy to an extent as well. When I was in dialogue with some Green Party movers n' shakers, they seemed rather uninterested in discussing the VT progressive party, even though it could have helped their cause. I figured they didn't want to bring up an alternative party that is going after the base they're pleading towards. Still, I think they're worth investigation, and in fact I think I'm going to contact them and ask them for a more detailed history, and their strategies they've employed that have obviously given them a fair amount of success. I'll let you know if I get anything, if you're interested D.eris


Strict party discipline is fine, for the lemmings that is. Not all of us are interested in that though.

d.eris said...

I'd definitely be interested in hearing what you come up with if you look into the VT Progressives more closely, TF. Generally speaking, it seems like there is a greater openness to Independent and third party candidates among voters in the Northeast than elsewhere in the country, but that's just an impression.

DLW, I definitely agree that such partisan discipline is completely acceptable, and indeed a right guaranteed by the first amendment. What I object to is the obfuscation of the fact that support for the parties is the result of discrimination, marginalization, exclusion. The professional partisans of the ruling parties pretend that the dictatorship of the two-party state is the "natural" or "organic" product of the American experiment in politics, even as they simultaneously rig the system in their favor.

I'd actually like to invite the Kos Diarist tmax to publish an extended post at Third Party and Independent Daily. But there doesn't seem to be an obvious way to contact him from his profile page, and I've never been registered at Kos.

TiradeFaction said...

@D.eris You'd assume right. Both Vermont and Maine for example, have a fairly recent trend of openness in regards to third parties and independents. Why this is I can't say for sure, but with VT, you have the Progs, and Maine, you have a long history of voting in Independents into office there (and if not, usually strong polling, an Independent there recently got I believe something like 38% in the last gubernatorial election in Maine, which caused some controversy among the Democrats who called him a "spoiler", despite the fact their candidate got LESS votes!), they also have an established Green party there, that has won seats in local and state level offices there, and they poll very well often as well.

d.eris said...

I closely followed Eliot Cutler's campaign in Maine and even interviewed him for TPID last June. (By their own logic, Maine Democrats who voted for the Dem gov candidate in fact voted for the Republican by not voting for the Independent lol). There are currently elected Independents in both Houses of the Maine legislature, one of whom is a former Green, I think. Elsewhere in the Northeast, Connecticut has also had a third party governor in recent history (early 90's, i.e. Lowell Weicker), and of course both Independents in the US Senate are from the Northeast. And Rhode Island just elected its first Independent governor (Chafee) in 2010.

TiradeFaction said...

Yeah, Eliot Cutler is whom I was thinking, I couldn't remember the name (was working on purely by memory, and I live on the opposite side of the nation from Maine). This is really just a wild guess, but perhaps one of the reasons they are more independent of the duopoly in that region is they have maintained (somewhat) the old colonial American practice of "self governance". Vermont for example, still practices the direct democratic style of "Town Governance", and in comparison to most of the country, that region tends to be rather politically active. I've heard they have a fairly strong local publicly financed media in those parts as well, which probably plays a role as well.

TiradeFaction said...

Oh and btw, thanks for the interview, I'll give it a look now!