In The Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer argues that "a third party is no panacea." She thus begins by setting up a straw man. Who claims that a third party is a political cure-all? One is much more likely to encounter such an arrogant self-opinion among the professional partisans of the Democratic and Republican parties who openly assert that they have all the answers to all our political problems, when in fact they themselves are both cause and symptom of those very problems. Supporters of third party and Independent alternatives, on the other hand, are much more likely to make the modest point that they are simply not represented by the corporatist stooges of the ruling parties. Kaminer's position is symptomatic of a political fight or flight response. Her position is conditioned, above all else, by fear. She writes:
divided government too easily devolves into dysfunctional government. So count me out of efforts to create a strong third party: I suspect that increasing the divisiveness -- splintering Congress into three formal parties instead of two -- would only increase the dysfunction.Of course, there is no evidence to support this claim, it is nothing more than a suspicion, as she herself says. The opposite suspicion is equally justified, namely, that if a third party were represented in the Congress, such that no party had a majority, all legislation would be the result of political compromise, thus decreasing divisiveness and dysfunction. The reason why Kaminer would suspect the former and not the latter is simple to determine: she is ideologically and financially invested in the universality of dysfunctionality. As her bio states, she is the author of a book entitled I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional.
Kaminer's post is instructive, however, because it reveals that even critics of third party and Independent political advocacy implicitly accept the most common critique of the two-party system. She continues:
liberals complain repeatedly, we don't quite have a second party. The complaint is hyperbole: there are clear differences between Congressional Democrats and Republicans on economic and social issues. But, like a lot of hyperboles, it's partly true: Democrats have not pursued their policy preferences as doggedly and effectively as Republicans, (which is how we ended up with the Bush/Obama tax cuts and a chasm between rich and poor;) and the parties are generally united in their hostility or indifference to civil liberty and their reflexive support for the national security state.One might add here that many conservatives complain that they don't have a second party either. Ironically, however, Kaminer does not seem to recognize that with these lines she has contradicted the argument she desires to forward. She says it's false to claim that there are no differences between the Democrats and Republicans, but then she admits outright that Democrats and Republicans are both enemies of civil liberties, reactionary supporters of the national security police state, and united in their support for monied corporate interests over those of the American people! Kaminer calls herself a "civil libertarian." But from her own analysis, it is clearly apparent that no civil libertarian should support the Democrats or Republicans. She concludes with a jab at the alleged hubris and arrogance of third party supporters. Excerpt:
perhaps the greatest fallacy of the third party movement is the unspoken, perhaps unacknowledged, underlying assumption that members of a third party would be more informed, intelligent, and rational and less self-interested and demagogic than members of the first and second parties.If you reject the Democratic and Republican parties, and advocate third party and Independent alternatives, you are more informed, intelligent and rational than members of the Democratic and Republican parties, many of whom continue to believe, against all the evidence, that Democrats and Republicans represent the interests of the American people. Indeed, it is precisely out of self-interest that we should support alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats. For example, if you are a civil libertarian, it is highly irrational and against your self-interest to support the Democrats and Republicans, even though you recognize that the Republican and Democratic parties are enemies of civil liberties.
See Part II.