Executive Tyranny and the Subversion of Constitutional Government

"The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure." – George Washington, 1793. 
The cult of the executive and imperial presidency favored by the Democratic and Republican parties is perhaps the single greatest threat to constitutional government in the United States.  Today, the lawlessness of the presidency is matched only by the fecklessness of the Congress.  From Talking Points Memo:
The White House would forge ahead with military action in Libya even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a classified briefing to House members Wednesday afternoon.

Clinton was responding to a question from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) about the administration's response to any effort by Congress to exercise its war powers, according to a senior Republican lawmaker who attended the briefing.

The answer surprised many in the room because Clinton plainly admitted the administration would ignore any and all attempts by Congress to shackle President Obama's power as commander in chief to make military and wartime decisions.
Is this not the very definition of tyranny?  The executive refuses to recognize any constitutional limitation of its power, and the Congress refuses to exercise its constitutional authority to limit the power of the presidency.  Such collusion amounts to nothing less than the outright subversion of Constitutional government.

The Homeless Moderate

From a commentary by Bill King at the Houston Chronicle:
if you believe both that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned and that the federal government needs to balance its budget, you have no political home in today's bifurcated partisan political landscape.  I do not think that I am alone in feeling disaffected in the current bipolar political dynamic. A number of organizations and even some third parties have recently been formed seeking to provide an alternative.

I recently spoke to a young lady who was involved in the organization of a third party known as the Moderate Party in Rhode Island's 2010 elections. What the party's name lacked in originality was made up in large measure by its motto, "Fiscally Responsible, Socially Tolerant." It describes very much my sentiments while avoiding the confusion attending the politically charged terms of "conservative" or "liberal".

Unfortunately the Moderate Party had modest success. It only polled a little more than 6 percent in the Rhode Island governor's race, but that was enough to secure it a place on the ballot in the next election. Interestingly, the governorship was won by Lincoln Chafee, an independent. Chafee and the Moderate Party candidate together polled more than 42 percent of the vote, 10 points ahead of the Republican candidate and 20 points ahead of the Democratic candidate.

Still, it is not easy to break the Democratic/Republican partisan oligarchy. The two dominant political parties have laced the elections statutes with provisions that stack the deck against third-party or independent candidates. For example, in Texas an independent candidate must collect about 50,000 signatures to get on the November ballot and the petitioners cannot have voted in the primary, a daunting task to say the least.

But it seems likely that the current dissatisfaction with the contemporary political landscape so dominated by bipolar extremism will find some form of expression. Whether that takes the form of the rise of a third party, more independent candidates or a repositioning of one of the two dominant parties, I cannot predict . . . .

The New War for Independence

In a lengthy and thoughtful post at Zero Party Politics, Gus Bridi argues that "it's time for an American revolution," and challenges his fellow Americans to declare their independence from the reigning two-party state and duopoly system of government this July 4th.  Excerpt:
As "we the people" see America’s infrastructure collapsing around us, as we see our national treasury usurped by military industry blood lusts and financial industry Ponzi schemes, as we see every news media outlet sponsored exclusively by large multinational corporations do the political "thinking" for us , as we see a country that imprisons more people per capita than any country on earth, as we see a country that denies pensions to working class citizens so that it can cut taxes to the same corporations those working class people invested in to fund the very pensions they are being denied, as we see a political process that requires candidates to be sponsored by the same corporations, military industrialists, financial institutions, and "news" media franchises that are robbing us blind and lying to us…it may behoove us to reintroduce the word “revolution” to the American-English lexicon.  

What more do we have to lose? Our homes? Our infrastructure? Our retirement? Our wages? Our access to healthcare? Our “democracy” which requires corporate sponsorship to run a candidate even for municipal office? . . . On July 4, 2011 let’s make a new Declaration of Independence and dissolve our ties with our 21st century kings and queens just as we did with our 18th century kings and queens . . . On July 4th 2011, I propose we as Americans who still have a dog in this fight take to the streets and peacefully, but in no uncertain terms, declare the independence of “we the people” from “them the corporations.”
Read the whole thing, join the comments discussion.  One might wonder if it is at all possible that we could witness the rebirth of radical political independence in the United States.  There is certainly no lack of Democratic and Republican hacks to argue that achieving political independence from the dictatorship of the ruling parties and political class is both impracticable and impossible.  Yet, whether it is possible or impossible, it has become necessary.   

On the Naturalization of the Two-Party State

In response to calls for third party and independent political activism, apologists of the two-party state and duopoly system of government will often seek to naturalize the system they support to inoculate it against criticism and critique.  On this view, the Democrat-Republican two-party state is not seen as a contingent historical-political formation, but rather the "natural" and necessary result of a metaphysical dyad inherent to American political philosophy, or an "organic" development from the structure of the political system itself, and so on.  What is lacking in such accounts is any mention of the agency of the interested parties themselves, as if the reigning two-party state were somehow born whole from the head of Zeus.  In this way, the monopolization and consolidation of all political power in the hands of two narrow, top-down, factionalist groups is made to appear self-evident, immutable, unquestionable.  We can see something similar at work in a post at Crank Crank Revolution, articulated from a position that is not unsympathetic to third party activism.  It begins:
Much has always been made about the "broken" two-party system in this nation. The arguments tend to fall into two alternating categories of "I'm sick of all the polarizing partisanship" and "There's not a dime's worth of difference between them," both of which represent completely different sentiments and occur at reasonably equal regularity depending on one's preconceived ideology and the current state of the parties in question.

The solution is--always--some sort of mystical messianic third party. I'm not against third parties in general--like I mentioned yesterday, they bring fresh, innovative ideas to the political marketplace--but they rarely, if ever, have a genuine chance at gaining power. And, despite what most people believe, this isn't because the Republicans and Democrats have constructed a biased system that inherently perpetuates the current party system.
It is indeed true that the election of third party and independent candidates will not result in the magical solution of myriad political problems.  But, today, the election of Republicans and Democrats only serves to ensure that those problems will simply be reproduced and exacerbated.  The funny thing on this score is that it is Democrats and Republicans who fall prey, time and again, to the messianic political impulse, in which the Republican savior will deliver us from the Democratic demon or the Democratic messiah will deliver us from the Republican rogue.  (For more on this, see the "messianism" category here at Poli-Tea.) 

The post at CCR goes on to argue that the two-party state has naturally resulted from the structure of the American political system, beginning from the assumption that Republicans and Democrats have not consciously constructed a biased system that perpetuates the two-party state and duopoly system of government, and hence their strangle-hold on political power and representation.  The latter is, of course, demonstrably false.  Republicans and Democrats have in fact constructed an elaborate and highly discriminatory system aimed precisely at perpetuating the two-party state and duopoly system of government.   One might point to any number of this system's multifarious aspects:  district rigging and gerrymandering to benefit Democratic and Republican incumbents, a highly restrictive ballot access regime which puts onerous burdens on third party and independent candidates while lowering the bar for Republican and Democratic candidates, the public subsidization of the primary elections for Republican and Democratic candidates, the refusal to include third party and independent candidates in public forums and debates, and so on. 

Supporters of the two-party state often argue that the US two-party system results from the fact that coalition building happens before elections take place in the US, whereas in multi-party parliamentary systems coalition building happens after the fact.  The CCR post continues:

Unlike most other democracies, the United States isn't run as a parliament. In, say, a European system, there are usually four or five parties, all across the political spectrum. After an election, various parties will form coalitions and govern. In the United States, we've simply skipped that coalition-forming step.

Pretty much throughout the history of our nation, we've always had multiple parties. They just aren't organized as separate entities . . . Republicans generally represent a coalition of religious evangelicals, suburbanites, businessmen, and the military, while the Democrats have a coalition of laborers, progressives, cities, Catholics, and environmentalists.
The pre-election coalition-building argument is not especially convincing as an account of the genesis of the two-party state, at the very least because coalitions are sometimes formed almost on a vote-by-vote basis in the US House and Senate.  It is true though that "we've always had multiple parties."  There is a long history of third party and independent political activism in the United States.  The argument here, however, is that the two-party state effectively amounts to a multi-party system because there are discrete factions within the Republican and Democratic parties:

What might be a Green Party in, say, France, or Germany--which also generally represents far-left sentiments--is simply a faction within the American Democratic party. Likewise, what would be a nationalist party in Europe would be a faction within the GOP.
Actually, the US Green Party is not a faction of the Democratic party.  It is in fact a separate entity.  Similarly, the US National Party and the American Nationalist Party are separate entities from the GOP.  If anything, the wide array of third party and independent political organizations in the United States demonstrates the breadth and depth of the public's discontent with the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  Few Americans think that they are well-represented by Democrat-Republican party government.  A new Rasmussen survey, for instance, finds that just 16% of likely voters think the country would be better off if most incumbents were re-elected.  Only 40% believe their own representative should be re-elected.  The reason for this is not difficult to discern.  The Democratic and Republican parties do not represent the people of the United States.  They represent the interests of the Democratic and Republican parties.  

Privatize the Primaries

The new top two primary system in California is forcing the state's political parties to re-evaluate, if not entirely overhaul, their traditional political and electoral strategies.  Since all candidates for a given office will appear on the same primary ballot, and the top two vote-getters –regardless of their party affiliation or lack thereof–, then advance to the general election, party strategists fear that the potential fragmentation of the vote will result in an outright loss by default.  For instance, if there are two Democrats and three Republicans represented on the ballot, the Republican candidates will necessarily be at a disadvantage, since the GOP vote will be split between three candidates, while the Democrats rally around two. 

This dynamic provides a potential strategic opening to third party and Independent candidates.  If the Democratic and Republican party vote is split among an array of candidates, an Independent or third party candidate could conceivably advance to the general election by garnering, say, 20% of the primary vote – or even less depending on the particulars of the election.  The California Republican Party is therefore preparing to run a "pre-primary," in which the party would nominate its candidates ahead of the official primary election.  W.E. Messamore reports at CAIVN:
At its convention this year, the California Republican Party has adopted changes to maintain its ability to influence the outcome of California's primaries. The new measures would allow the Republican Party to run a "pre-primary" of sorts. At least that's how critics see it. The state GOP will now officially be able to pick party favorites via early endorsements. . . .
This "pre-primary" would not be a public election, but rather a private affair, fully funded by the state's Republican party itself.  This is a step in the right direction.  The public primary election process effectively functions as a massive subsidy to the Democratic and Republican parties for which all taxpayers are forced to foot the bill.  Why should Democrats, Independents and third party supporters be forced to pay for the nominating elections of the Republican party?  Why should Republicans, Independents and third party supporters have to pay for the nominating elections of the Democratic party?  From The Desert Sun, via The Hankster:
Riverside County is starting to evaluate what cost savings would come if political parties' internal elections were no longer part of the primary election ballot.  Candidates for the parties' central committees comprise a significant portion of ballots in California's primaries.
In 2008, 53 percent of the candidates on Riverside County's June ballot were central committee candidates. They comprised 40 percent of the county's primary ballot last year, according to an analysis published last week in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Now an effort is starting, led by the San Diego registrar, to take such candidates off the regular ballot and instead create a separate selection process. The change needs the Legislature's endorsement, but it could save millions statewide, according to the Union-Tribune's report.
It is long past time to remove the private affairs of narrow, factionalist groups such as the Democratic and Republican parties from the public ballot.  From The Political Party Pooper:
Primary elections are paid for by the residents of the jurisdiction, they are included in the budget of the Election Board as provided for by the Legislature. What are Primary elections about? The simplest answer is that Primaries are about narrowing the field of candidates for a General election, whatever that election be for, such as a Presidential, Congressional, or local office . To simplify it even further, typically, in the United States, the Primary Election is all about choosing a Party Candidate to run in the General Election. Primary Elections are the tool by which the two political parties, Republicans and Democrats, choose their candidates.

Does it seem odd to you that local citizens are forced to pay for a political party’s candidate selection process? Isn’t that something the political party ought to pay for? After all, it’s their gig, it’s for their benefit, why are taxpayers footing the bill for their election? And we DO KNOW that these are Party Elections, because the Supreme Court has called them such.

With a cost of around $33 Million per State (averaged), the total bill is over $1.6 Billion for these elections across the nation. That includes money for poll workers, sites, ballot counting, and all of the other things necessary for a fair election process.

So the question I want answered by political party supporters is: why are we, the taxpayers, paying for your political party’s election?

It’s not constitutional, and in fact, I’d have to say that if anything, it’s probably illegal. Especially considering that no political party in America has the legal authority to tax citizens for their election. So, let’s hear from the party supporters. Let’s hear your excuses.
This situation is all the more egregious in states with closed or semi-closed primaries in which only party members are even allowed to cast a ballot.  The primary process then becomes a recruitment tool for the party: "Let your voice be heard! Join the party so you can vote in the primary!"  If Democrats and Republicans do not want the public at large to be allowed to vote in their primary elections, then those elections should not be publicly funded, but rather privately administered and funded by the parties themselves.

On a related note, I've been trying to track down dollar amounts for the cost of publicly administering the primary elections of the Democratic and Republican parties on a state by state basis, but have not had much luck finding the relevant info.  Anyone out there have any ideas on where to look?

Thomas Paine: Party vs. Principle

No party system whatsoever is mandated by the Constitution of the United States. To maintain that political representation in the United States cannot function otherwise than by means of the reigning two-party state is to imply that the Constitution of the United States does not in fact constitute a functional representative government.

On Party Animals

Some political satire from The Spoof:
Washington D.C.- Hundreds of Thousands of protesters converged on Washington this week filling the Capitol Mall and monuments.  "We demand the Republicans and Democrats choose new Mascots, they do not embody the fine qualities of Donkeys and Elephants. Donkeys are stubborn, yet strong resilient creatures with brains the size of pecans. Elephants are huge majestic creature with intelligence beyond our comprehension. Neither party lives up to these characteristics!" said one protester. . . . 
We need more party animals.

If You Support the Republican Party, You Are Not a Libertarian

At the Think 3 Institute, Sam Wilson reflects on the tension between young libertarians and the Republican party.  Excerpt:
The SFL [Students for Liberty] president tells Glaser, "Older generations may try to classify us by the bipartisan dichotomy through which they understand the world, but this just reflects their misunderstanding of who we are. We're more interested in advancing liberty than being restricted by the structures that others impose upon us." Admirable sentiments, but at most they can be but partly true. As long as libertarians define themselves as anti-statist, and as long as there exists a powerful party identified as statist, there will be a temptation to make common cause (or merge) with the next strongest party in order to save themselves from statism. While some libertarians now feel that "both sides, and Republicans in particular, suppressed and tried to rout the limited-government tendency," many may still believe that the GOP remains the strongest, if not the most reliable bulwark of limited government.  
It does indeed appear to be the case that many young, self-described libertarians believe the Republican party "remains the strongest, if not the most reliable bulwark of limited government," as Sam puts it.  What remains unclear, however, is why anyone in their right mind would believe this.  Aside, perhaps, from the voting record of Ron Paul, all the evidence points to the fact that the only thing the Republican party stands for is the endless expansion of the global warfare, corporate welfare, national security police state – and, by extension, the corresponding erosion of rights, liberties and the rule of law.  In this regard they can hardly be distinguished from the Democratic party.  The funny thing is, many young self-described libertarians appear to be intellectually aware of this fact but ignore it in practice in much the same way that young progressives like to pretend that the Democratic party stands for social justice. 

Of course, Republicans like to pretend that they stand for limited government, and their rhetoric reflects this fact.  Could it be that young libertarians have simply fallen for the rhetorical ploy and been taken in by the GOP's propaganda machine?  Or is it perhaps the case that they are just not libertarians, but rather garden variety Republicans who like to pretend that they stand for liberty?

News Anchor: "The change we really need is to somehow dump these two parties."

Via Rise of the Center comes a link to a video from 2008 in which influential Detriot news anchor Bill Bonds signs off from his final broadcast with a commentary stating that "we need to dump these two parties."  A partial transcript, video below:
Like you I love America . . . but more and more frequently I don't trust my government, I don't believe what some of our elected leaders are telling us . . . this America is in deep, deep crisis . . . if we're going to successfully maneuver our way through these nightmares, I think we're gonna have to play a little hardball with these two political parties of ours and the people who control them . . .

we have to find a way to tell these Democrats and these Republicans, these liberals and these conservatives that, "before you were a Democrat or a Republican, you were first an American." I believe there are a lot of Americans who are now convinced that you've forgotten that. I think a lot of Americans believe that maybe you're just more loyal to your parties than you are to your country and your fellow citizens. And maybe the change we really need is to somehow dump these two parties and form a new one, because whatever it is you guys and gals are doing just ain't working anymore. And that's kinda scary.

CA: Independents Outnumber Republicans Among Latino Voters

According to California's Secretary of State, the percentage of registered independents in the state is at an all time high, just over 20%.  Earlier this month, an article at the OC Register projected that, based on current trends, independents would outnumber Republicans statewide by 2022.  Interestingly, among Latinos, they already do.  From this week's article at CAIVN:
Voters who decline to state an affiliation with any political party are among the fastest growing segments of California’s electorate.  In 1998, only 14% of California voters chose political independence over party affiliation.  By 2010, that number increased to 20%, while identification with the Democratic and Republican parties fell.  As the Secretary of State’s office reported last week, the number of registered voters who decline to state a party affiliation is at an all-time high [of 20.25%] . . .  while 44% of California voters are Democrats and just under 31% are Republicans.

If current trends continue, it is only a matter of time before Independents overtake Republicans in the Golden State.   A projection published earlier this month in the Orange County Register suggested that Independents could outnumber Republicans statewide by 2022.  Significantly, among Latino voters, they already do.  This is just one finding from a new survey of likely Latino voters published by Republican consultant Bob Moore and pollster Marty Wilson.  The survey was intended to assess ways by which the GOP could gain a larger share of the Latino vote; however, since the report breaks down its findings by partisan affiliation, it also provides a good look at the views of Independent Latinos.

According to the survey, Independents and third party supporters already outnumber Republicans among California’s Latino voters.  61% of respondents to the survey stated that they are Democrats, compared with 21% who identified themselves as decline-to-state voters or third party supporters, and just 18% who said they are Republican. . . .
Read the rest.

Neither Workable nor Sustainable: the Ideology of the Two-Party State and Duopolist Doublethink

Among Democrats and Republicans, the two-party state and duopoly system of government provides the absolute horizon of politics as such.  From this perspective, independents and third parties can suddenly appear in a menacing formation at that horizon, but for the most part they disappear beyond the committed duopolist's line of sight.  The ideology that sustains the two-party state has numerous internal blind spots as well.  Reflecting on the well-documented civic ignorance of the American public, Matthew Yglesias writes:
I’m never that upset about reports of Americans’ widespread civic ignorance. The nature of our party system means that a voter can really only express a very crude kind of thumbs up or thumbs down preference at the ballot box, so it’s not clear to me how a more nuanced understanding of the world would actually effectuate itself in terms of policy change.   But this is one of the reasons why I worry about the lack of accountability in our system. . . . . if things go well, then at the margin this helps incumbents. If things go poorly, then at the margin this hurts incumbents . . . That’s not necessarily ideal . . . but it seems workable and sustainable.
In other words, the two-party state thrives under the conditions of public ignorance.  And, as a supporter of the two-party state, Yglesias is effectively content with high levels of public ignorance because it is a condition for the reproduction of the two-party state.  On this view, the more informed a voter is, the more frustrated he or she is likely to be by the forced, false choice between the Republican and Democratic parties.  If things "go poorly," as Yglesias puts it, and a given voter is motivated to cast a ballot against his or her sitting representatives, the only choice within the two-party frame is to support the representative of the other major party.  Needless to say, this is not considered a viable option by most eligible voters, judging from the high re-election rates of incumbents and the high level of public discontent with the Democratic and Republican parties.

Rather than cast a ballot, the wide majority of eligible voters simply opt not to vote in the wide majority of elections.  Thus, in addition to public ignorance, low voter turnout is likely yet another condition for the reproduction of the reigning two-party state.  Of course, there are minor reforms that would improve significantly upon the "very crude kind of thumbs up or thumbs down preference at the ballot box," such as range voting, but incumbent lawmakers are hesitant to support such reforms for obvious reasons.  Interestingly, though Yglesias states that the current party system is workable and sustainable, he goes on to argue that this is not in fact the case.  He concludes:
What doesn’t seem sustainable to me is the system we’ve been evolving toward in which a legislative minority is able to block action and then reap the rewards of any policy failure that results. This feature of our institutional set-up, much more than public ignorance, threatens to wreck the “market” for sound public policy.
We are thus provided with a classic example of duopolist double-think.  For this supporter of the two-party state, the current party system is workable and sustainable, but it is in fact neither workable nor sustainable.

What's the Difference?

A new video from Libertarian John Jay Myers asks, "What's the difference?"

The Global Warfare State and the Independent Anti-War Movement

Barack Obama, March 19, 2011:
Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians.  That action has now begun. In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people . . .
George Bush, March 19, 2003:
On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than 35 countries are giving crucial support . . .
Though neither Obama nor Bush bothered to obtain a declaration of war from the Congress as stipulated by the Constitution ahead of these military actions, at least Bush sought an "authorization for the use of military force" before launching his misguided invasion and occupation of Iraq.  Obama cannot even claim ignorance on the matter.  As he told The Boston Globe in an interview from 2007:
The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
The global warfare state and imperial presidency promoted by the Democratic and Republican parties is a grave threat to Constitutional government in the United States.  It is no coincidence that the anti-war movement is now dominated by independents and third party supporters.  A graph from a 2010 study of the anti-war movement (.pdf) from the University of Michigan:

Nader: Prosecute Bush and Obama for War Crimes

In an interview with Democracy Now, Ralph Nader calls for the impeachment of President Obama:

Where do pragmatists and moderates get a fair hearing? Nowhere?

The California Moderates blog is devoted to the proposition that removing the Democratic and Republican parties from power is "fair payment for their corruption and failures."  In a post on "why political parties can't change," Calmod argues that moderates and pragmatists need to form their own party if they desire reasonable and responsible political representation.  Excerpt:
Consider the Democratic and Republican parties. Who has real power and influence? Outsiders and newcomers? Life-long insiders, hard core partisans and major campaign contributors like MoveOn.org, American CrossRoads, Crossroads GPS, the American Enterprise Institute or Emily's list? Neutral and objective analysts? People like you? People like me? Common sense argues the real influence is with the money and life-long or partisan insiders. The money probably carries the most weight. . . .

How can anyone reasonably expect that to change? Why should it change? Money is a major pillar of the two parties. Without it, they would have to survive more on the merits and less on the publicity spin that hundreds of million of dollars buys. If the two parties had to survive on the merits, they would die. The money is critical life-support. . . . 
The post concludes with a call to third party action:
So, where do pragmatists and moderates go to get a fair hearing? Nowhere. No major third party is free of ideology. That seems to be why pragmatists and moderates slosh back and forth between the Republican and Democratic parties. Neither party represents their views, but there is no other place to go for political power. Nationally, people registered as independents are on a par with Democrats and Republicans. Despite the parity, pragmatists and moderates get no fair hearing for the most part.

Until pragmatists and moderates understand that the two big parties and the third parties do not share their views, those viewpoints will be largely ignored. The only way to change that is to form a third party based on (1) pragmatic thinking and politics and (2) rejection of special interest "access" bought by special interest money.
Fortunately, it is not necessary for moderates and pragmatists to form a new party.  An alternative already exists!  Reading Calmod's post, I couldn't help but be reminded of the platform for the Modern Whigs.  They already have a California affiliate.  Calmoderate should check out the California Modern Whig Party:
California Modern Whig members are independent-minded voters who want to be affiliated with a moderate common-sense party. We believe that independent voters are the silent moderate majority and all-to-often have to settle for the “lesser of two evils.” We also realize that establishing a new party is an uphill climb under the current system. This is why our growing membership is key.

The California Modern Whig Party is geared toward those independent voters who want to be affiliated with moderate state party.Our goal is to obtain ballot access for the Modern Whigs in California; we hope to obtain that status by 2012. We know how hard it is to establish a viable alternative to the major parties. But strength comes in numbers. We are also not delusional in believing that people will flock to our party, we know that we have to earn you support and your trust. Our goal is to express our common-sense ideals and slowly gain ground into the mainstream consciousness. In short, the California Modern Whig Party is the party for everyday Californians.

Wisconsin Activists Plan Formation of Labor Party USA

From an article by Dan Riehl at Big Government:
Shankman also claims to be one of approximately ten individuals who have recently started a new movement they hope to grow, ”Labor Party USA.” He also claims to have once been a member of the International Workers of the World, saying his membership is not current but he may join again. I believe this is it.
This is the official web-page of the International Workers of the World, IWW/AI – affiliated to the IFA – L’Internationale des Fédérations Anarchistes – The International of the Federations of Anarchists – The International of Anarchist Federations (IAF) and the Anarchist International (AI). For the history of IWW/AI in general, see link to the history of IFA/IAF/AI, at “Links” below. The Confederation consists of anarchosyndicalists in the Anarchist Federations of Denmark, Finland, Norway, Finland, and in several other countries of the Anarchist International broadly defined, from Iceland to the New Artisan and Workers’ Union in Mauritius (click on: NAWU ), etc. i.e. world wide.
Shankman doesn’t see much of a difference between Republicans and Democrats, but feels it’s only Progressives that are trying to fix things in America.

NY: Political Prankster to Enter Special Election Race as Green

From Roll Call:
Just when you thought you had seen it all in New York special elections, Ian Murphy has emerged as a likely, though long-shot, candidate in the race to replace Rep. Chris Lee (R). . . . The editor of the satirical news website Buffalo Beast, Murphy was behind the prank phone call to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) late last month that made national headlines. Murphy pretended to be billionaire conservative activist David Koch. . . . Murphy is likely to capture the the Green Party ballot line, state Green Party co-chairman Peter LaVenia told Roll Call on Wednesday.

“The local out in western New York has talked to a number of different candidates, and they forwarded the recommendation,” LaVenia said. Murphy "was the only one that they came to the conclusion represents Green values ... and is willing to change his registration to Green and run as a Green.”
Murphy was hailed as a veritable hero by Democrats and progressives for his prank phone call to the Wisconsin governor.  It will be interesting to see how they respond to his campaign.

Update: As Richard Winger notes, this special election may well end up being a four-way race, featuring a Green and a Tea Party candidate in addition to the stooges of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Lawmaker For Sale: One Utah State Senator, Used

It is a widely held belief that our elected representatives are bought and paid for by the highest bidder.  But what if you tried to sell yours off along with some of the other junk you might have lying around the house?  Are you confident that you'd find a buyer?  "Who in their right mind would pay for them?" you might ask yourself before you set up your political garage sale.  Indeed, you might even wonder if you'd have to pay someone else to come and take them off your hands.  Well, it seems that Randy Miller from the Utah League of Independent Voters may well find out.  He put his State Senator, Jerry Stevenson, up for sale on eBay last Friday to protest a political system that puts party before people and raise some funds for his fledgling political organization.  From this week's column at CAIVN:
Bidding opened early last Friday on an eBay auction for Utah State Sen. Jerry Stevenson.  The seller was Randy Miller, founder and president of the Utah League of Independent Voters.  Judging from the original listing, which has since been deleted by eBay, Miller was not confident that he would find a buyer.  Indeed, he even warned: “Buyer beware. This toy is broken. I wish it would be recalled. It is a representative that does not represent.”  The opening price for Sen. Stevenson was just one penny, and the seller stated that he would even consider a simple trade for a representative that represents the people of its district rather than the interests of its party. . . .

By Friday afternoon, word of the auction began spreading in local media, the Independent blogosphere and on Twitter. Before eBay deleted the listing, it had received hundreds of views, and 19 bids had been placed for State Sen. Stevenson. The highest bid was for $305.  Encouraged, Miller added a listing for his State Representative, Brad Wilson, in a parallel Dutch-style auction.  Of course, Miller had no intention of “selling” the Senator or the Representative.  As he wrote in the listing, all proceeds would be used to support and expand outreach efforts for the Utah League of Independent Voters.  In that regard, the media stunt was a great success.  Miller says he received pledges totaling almost $1000, and there is now a movement to transform ULiV into an officially recognized political action committee. . . . .
Read the whole thing.  The action caused a small stir in the local press, the Independent political blogosphere and on Twitter, and even provoked a response from the Senator himself.  The listing, however, was deleted by eBay in short order.  Yet Randy was undeterred.  He's put Sen. Stevenson back up for sale at boocoo.com, an eBay rival.  The current price is listed as $0.01.  The reader can decide if that's a bargain or a ripoff.  But, in either case, you might still consider making a donation to the ULiV.  Randy was kind enough to answer some questions about his media stunt and the mission of the ULiV for an e-interview with Third Party and Independent Daily.  He states:
Generally, the GOP in Utah thinks they have been given some magic mandate from the people of Utah and they have taken a number of measures for the last 3-4 years to constrict the political process and set themselves up as a 'merchant in the temple' whereby to participate in the political process, one must go through them . . . . The mission of ULiV is to open up the democratic process to the people to whom our government rightfully belongs--the people. We are not concerned about ideological differences. I am not concerned if the voice of the people goes in a direction that I think is imprudent or doesn't fit with my ideology. The mission of ULiV is to act as a voice for the nearly 800,000 strong, 51.5% plus majority of Independent voters in Utah.

The Price of an Appropriation in the Democratic-Republican Party's Culture of Corruption

If you do not live in New York, you probably did not hear the news that two Democratic state lawmakers from Brooklyn were indicted in federal court last week on a wide assortment of corruption and bribery charges.  Indeed, it is entirely possible that you did not hear the news even if you do live in New York.  And if you did happen to catch a report, you might then have wondered: "This is news? Corruption in the political class?"  As the Daily News reported last week:
State Sen. Carl Kruger set up an elaborate bribery scheme that brought him $1 million in payoffs from hospital execs, a developer and a lobbyist, prosecutors charged Thursday.  In the latest example of sleaze at the state Capitol, Kruger was hit with a breathtaking assortment of corruption charges along with his fellow Brooklyn Democrat, Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., and six others.

"Once again, I am here to report, sadly, that the crisis of corruption continues in Albany," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in unveiling a 53-page criminal complaint. [Emphasis added] . . .
A key player was co-defendant Michael Turano . . . Turano controlled a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development, that served as Kruger's indirect ATM. . . .
An analysis in the Wall Street Journal puts the indictments in context and recommends a modest reform:
In the last two years, a dozen elected and appointed state officials have been convicted or accused in crimes. Nine were elected to office. That doesn't include former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was swept into office in 2006 by New Yorkers clamoring for reform. He resigned in 2008 after he was named in a prostitution investigation. . . .

"You have to stop to think, 'Is it a problem with the laws, or something more cultural,'" said Karl Sleight, former executive director of the state Ethics Commission. "That's the threshold conversation that needs to be honestly had, and isn't." [Emphasis added.] . . .
The sticking point now in the debate over a new ethics law is over whether legislators must disclose clients in their law and consulting businesses to identify any conflicts. But Brodsky notes law already requires disclosure of any conflicts. The attention needs to be on the private efforts by lawmakers to influence the executive branch on awarding state contracts. That's perhaps a dull reform if you're trying to impress voters, but it's the crux of most of the recent corruption cases.
Of course, as Democrats and Republicans have themselves helpfully documented, the two-party state  is defined by its "culture of corruption."  The supposed "crisis of corruption" alluded to by the prosecutor above is in fact the traditional mode of operation for the ruling political class under the long-standing misrule the Democrat-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government.

Reading these reports, I couldn't help but be reminded of a hilarious passage from Mark Twain's The Gilded Age, published in 1873.  In the scene, a naive young land speculator, Henry Brierly, meets with the politically connected president of the Columbus River Slack-Water Navigation Company to inquire about a Congressional appropriation the company had procured to ensure that the federal government would purchase land in which Breirly had a major stake.  As Brierly learns, the initial appropriation of $200,000 is not marked to purchase the land, but rather the Congress and the public.  Excerpt from Chapter 28:
"Where is that appropriation?--if a stockholder may make so bold as to ask," [asks Brierly.]

"The appropriation?--that paltry $200,000, do you mean?" [asks the president of the company.]

"Of course--but I didn't know that $200,000 was so very paltry. Though I grant, of course, that it is not a large sum, strictly speaking. But where is it?"

"My dear sir, you surprise me. You surely cannot have had a large acquaintance with this sort of thing. Otherwise you would not have expected much of a result from a mere INITIAL appropriation like that. It was never intended for anything but a mere nest egg for the future and real appropriations to cluster around."
"Indeed? Well, was it a myth, or was it a reality? Whatever become of it?"
As the company man explains, first you have to lay out funds for a majority of the relevant committee members:
"Why the--matter is simple enough. A Congressional appropriation costs money. Just reflect, for instance--a majority of the House Committee, say $10,000 apiece--$40,000; a majority of the Senate Committee, the same each--say $40,000; a little extra to one or two chairman of one or two such committees, say $10,000 each--$20,000; and there's $100,000 of the money gone, to begin with.
Then you need lobbyists to ensure support from the rest of the upper and lower chambers, not to mention various incidentals in addition to donations to charitable causes:
"Then, seven male lobbyists, at $3,000 each-- $21,000; one female lobbyist, $10,000; a high moral Congressman or Senator here and there--the high moral ones cost more, because they give tone to a measure--say ten of these at $3,000 each, is $30,000; then a lot of small-fry country members who won't vote for anything whatever without pay--say twenty at $500 apiece, is $10,000; a lot of dinners to members--say $10,000 altogether; lot of jimcracks for Congressmen's wives and children--those go a long way--you can't spend too much money in that line--well, those things cost in a lump, say $10,000--along there somewhere; and then comes your printed documents--your maps, your tinted engravings, your pamphlets, your illuminated show cards, your advertisements in a hundred and fifty papers at ever so much a line-- because you've got to keep the papers all light or you are gone up, you know. Oh, my dear sir, printing bills are destruction itself. Ours so far amount to--let me see--10; 52; 22; 13;--and then there's 11; 14; 33-- well, never mind the details, the total in clean numbers foots up $118,254.42 thus far!"


"Oh, yes indeed. Printing's no bagatelle, I can tell you. And then there's your contributions, as a company, to Chicago fires and Boston fires, and orphan asylums and all that sort of thing--head the list, you see, with the company's full name and a thousand dollars set opposite-- great card, sir--one of the finest advertisements in the world--the preachers mention it in the pulpit when it's a religious charity--one of the happiest advertisements in the world is your benevolent donation. Ours have amounted to sixteen thousand dollars and some cents up to this time."

"Good heavens!"
Then there's the marketing campaign and the kickbacks to reporters and editors in both the religious and the secular press:
"Oh, yes. Perhaps the biggest thing we've done in the advertising line was to get an officer of the U. S. government, of perfectly Himmalayan official altitude, to write up our little internal improvement for a religious paper of enormous circulation--I tell you that makes our bonds go handsomely among the pious poor. Your religious paper is by far the best vehicle for a thing of this kind, because they'll 'lead' your article and put it right in the midst of the reading matter; and if it's got a few Scripture quotations in it, and some temperance platitudes and a bit of gush here and there about Sunday Schools, and a sentimental snuffle now and then about 'God's precious ones, the honest hard-handed poor,' it works the nation like a charm, my dear sir, and never a man suspects that it is an advertisement; but your secular paper sticks you right into the advertising columns and of course you don't take a trick.
Give me a religious paper to advertise in, every time; and if you'll just look at their advertising pages, you'll observe that other people think a good deal as I do--especially people who have got little financial schemes to make everybody rich with. Of course I mean your great big metropolitan religious papers that know how to serve God and make money at the same time--that's your sort, sir, that's your sort--a religious paper that isn't run to make money is no use to us, sir, as an advertising medium--no use to anybody--in our line of business. I guess our next best dodge was sending a pleasure trip of newspaper reporters out to [the land in] Napoleon [Tennessee]. Never paid them a cent; just filled them up with champagne and the fat of the land, put pen, ink and paper before them while they were red-hot, and bless your soul when you come to read their letters you'd have supposed they'd been to heaven. And if a sentimental squeamishness held one or two of them back from taking a less rosy view of Napoleon, our hospitalities tied his tongue, at least, and he said nothing at all and so did us no harm.
And then there's basic salary and layouts to acquire support from individuals in the monied class:
Let me see--have I stated all the expenses I've been at? No, I was near forgetting one or two items. There's your official salaries--you can't get good men for nothing. Salaries cost pretty lively. And then there's your big high-sounding millionaire names stuck into your advertisements as stockholders--another card, that--and they are stockholders, too, but you have to give them the stock and non-assessable at that--so they're an expensive lot. Very, very expensive thing, take it all around, is a big internal improvement concern--but you see that yourself, Mr. Bryerman--you see that, yourself, sir."
An appropriation costs a lot of money.

Will Social Media Kill the Two-Party System?

Joe Trippi seems to think so, and he predicts it will happen within the next two presidential election cycles.  From Politico:
Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi said Sunday that it’s just a matter of time before a third-party candidate comes out of nowhere to upend a presidential front-runner . . . Speaking at the South by Southwest Interactive conference about how social media continues to transform politics and campaigns . . . He said some underdog candidate is going to seize on social media tools in ways that no one has even thought of. . . .

Trippi went on to predict that a third-party candidate will soon raise so much money through the Web that Obama’s 2008 haul will look modest by comparison.

“There's going to be a moment, and it could be in 2012 – you know for my party’s sake, I hope it's in 2016 – but some independent candidate is gonna just come out of nowhere and raise a billion dollars on the Internet, saying ‘screw both these parties, it's you and me baby, let's go change this thing.’”
Trippi predicted this would have a radical impact on politics, as we know it. “It will be the end of the two parties,” Trippi said.
It can't happen soon enough. 

Party Over People in Wisconsin

At the Wisconsin State Journal, Chris Rickert argues that it is a good time for the people of Wisconsin to consider third party alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats.  Excerpt:
at the local level — state house and senate and Congressional district races — our two major parties long ago agreed that carving up the electorate by party affiliation was preferable to democracy . . . by and large, there is a bipartisan understanding that some areas lean Democrat, some Republican — and it's better to pack like-minded voters into noncompetitive districts and save one's considerable resources for battles in a dwindling number of competitive ones.

More than collective bargaining rights, human rights, corporate rights or any other right, two-party hegemony and a broken redistricting process is the reason Wisconsin's state Capitol is a battleground.

What motivation would the 10 Republican and Democratic legislative leaders have for actually debating and amending Gov. Scott Walker's radical proposal to curtail public sector collective bargaining rights when, collectively, they won their most recent elections with a whopping 82 percent of the vote, including four that ran unopposed?

Those aren't elections, those are cakewalks. And if you represent a district rigged in your favor, toeing the most extreme borders of the party line and paying blatant fealty to your party's financial contributors are smart moves . . . 

You'd think this would be a great time for third parties — such as they are — to make their pitch to voters.

Monkeys in Suits

I have suggested before, only half jokingly, that caged monkeys randomly pulling levers to cast legislative votes in Congress would likely result in better outcomes for the people of the United States than the considered actions of today's Democrats and Republicans.  Now, it appears, researchers in Italy have found that this may not be so far from the truth.  The study reveals that introducing randomly selected Independent lawmakers into a two-party parliamentary system "always improves the performance of parliament."  From MIT's Technology Review:
Alessandro Pluchino and amici at the Universitá di Catania in Italy . . .  have modeled the behavior of a two-party parliament and examined how it changes as randomly selected independent legislators are introduced into the system.

Their counter-intuitive conclusion is that randomly selected legislators always improves the performance of parliament and that it is possible to determine the optimal number of independents at which a parliament works best. . . .

They ran their model for various distributions of power in the two party system and found that in every case, adding random legislators improves the performance of parliament.
Read the whole thing for details.

Foolish, Wicked and Improper: Hereditary Succession in the Two-Party State

Is there anything more un-American than hereditary succession in government?  One of the most disturbing aspects of the two-party state and duopoly system of government is the extent to which it has fostered the creation of a ruling political class in which hereditary succession is not only accepted but even fostered and encouraged by the parties with the approval of their deluded supporters.  From Politico:
The House of Representatives has long been seen as a playground for political dynasties, where family bloodlines play an outsize role in determining succession. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon. As they near the twilight of their political careers, nearly a dozen House members may be succeeded by one of their relatives. . . .

The newest batch of up-and-coming potential successors provides a window into the dynasty-friendly House, which has often been dotted with lawmakers who succeeded a family member. The 112th Congress includes several lawmakers who hold seats once occupied by a parent — some of whom directly inherited the seat . . . 
“It is very difficult to beat a well-known name in politics,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “The children of the officeholders have enormous advantages when the parent is still in office. The parent is still casting votes on legislation. He has a full stable of contributors that can be transferred to junior. The party people feel comfortable with the name and have enduring alliances. The son or daughter has grown up in the system and often knows the key players.” [Emphasis added.] . . .
Faced with a ruling political class which more and more resembles a ruling caste, it stands to reason that we might consider reviewing the sections on "Monarchy and Hereditary Succession" from Thomas Paine's Common Sense.  Some excerpts:
Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind. . . .

As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture . . .

For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho' himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in Kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ASS FOR A LION. . . .

it is not so much the absurdity as the evil of hereditary succession which concerns mankind. Did it ensure a race of good and wise men it would have the seal of divine authority, but as it opens a door to the FOOLISH, the WICKED, and the IMPROPER, it hath in it the nature of oppression. Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent. Selected from the rest of mankind, their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed in the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions. [Emphases added.]
Foolish, wicked and improper.  That sounds about right.

The Absent Center of the Two-Party State

At the Wash Park Prophet, Andrew Oh-Willike reflects on the "entrenched disconnect" between the people of the United States and the elected representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties.  He argues that the two-party system has led to the systematic under-representation of moderates throughout the country.  Excerpt:
Actual partisanship in legislative districts has a bell curve distribution. Elected legislators have a bimodal distribution, like a two humped camel. The political middle is systemically underpopulated by elected officials, despite the fact that the vast majority of voters are in the political middle between the typical elected Democrat and the typical elected Republican on the spectrum of ideology from the political left to the political right.
Oh-Willike then goes on to argue that there are electoral and legislative structural biases against moderation.  Electorally, he faults single member district plurality voting for "naturally gravitating toward" a two-party system.  I would argue, on the contrary, that there is nothing "natural" about this process whatsoever, since it is entirely controlled by the interested parties themselves.  But Oh-Willike would seem to agree, as he admits SMDP doesn't "necessarily" result a two-party system:
Single member plurality district election system naturally gravitates towards having two dominant political parties in any one geographic area. . . . [but . . .  The single member plurality district system doesn't necessarily have to create a two party system. It can support regional parties that have majority support in a particular area, like a Quebec Nationalist party or Irish Republican Party. It also doesn't require that the party of the right be the same everywhere, or that the party of the left be the same everywhere.
As potential fixes, he suggests a majority requirement, i.e. runoff elections, to ensure that elected officials have the support of over 50% of voters, or proportional representation, which he terms the "strong fix."  Oh-Willike then goes on to argue that the two-party state has a legislative bias against moderation as well, since political polarization and the ideological "realignment" between the major parties has resulted in the systematic purging of moderates from elected office.  Excerpt:
Today, after a process called "realignment" that has largely run its course, this isn't the case any more. There are few notable blocks of "moderates" in either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party in Congress who deviate from their party in a systematic way on a particular way.
He then elaborates on the biases against moderation in majoritarian legislative processes, and the risk of legislative gridlock, and concludes that the two-party state traps American voters in a Catch-22:
in American politics, voters are left between insisting that government function with deals negotiated between the left and right in exchange for a risk a damaging deadlock, within divided government, and government by a right of center, or left of center consensus with little to encourage it to be inclusive.
Read the whole thing.  It's a lengthy blog post that should make for interesting reading in the context of the ongoing discussion of moderation, centrism and independent political strategy that has taken place in the comments here over the last few days.

Independent Majority in Massachusetts

From Mass Live:
long-term, the percent of the state’s 4 million voters not affiliated with a political party leapt from 40.6 percent of the total in 1982 to 51.9 percent in 2010.  Over the same 28-year period, the percent of registered Democrats in the state fell from 45.3 percent to 36.5 percent.  Republican totals also dropped from 14 percent in 1982 to 11.3 percent in 2010. . . .

Voters in Massachusetts are notorious ticket-splitters and fiercely independent, Cignoli said. Last year, independents were key in re-electing the Democratic governor but they also pulled the lever in the voting booth for enough Republicans to more than double the party’s numbers in the state House of Representatives from 15 to 31 including the win of Nicholas A. Boldyga in a three-way contest for the Agawam-based seat in the House.

Independents elected one of their own to a major office in Hampden County. Mark G. Mastroianni, a Westfield lawyer and independent, won by a decisive victory for Hampden district attorney after running on a platform of keeping the office above the politics of both parties.. . . .

Independent in 2012

At the Daily Beast, Douglas Schoen makes the case for an Independent centrist candidate for president in 2012.  Excerpt:
The American people are hungry for a third-party candidate for president, be it a moderate insider or an outsider with a proven record of experience from the business community or the military. . . .  Polling that was conducted before the midterm elections shows great support for a major third party in the United States. . . . A New York Times/CBS News poll that was released in mid-September reported that a majority of Americans think the country needs real, viable alternatives to the Republican and Democratic parties. . . .  a USA Today/Gallup poll released at about the same time as the Times survey found that only one-third of voters say the two parties do an adequate job of representing the American people. Indeed, a solid majority of liberals, moderates, and conservatives in that survey all said a third major party is needed, as did three-quarters of independents. . . .

But the two parties, who agree on nothing else, have shut the door on the possibility by setting up a nominating process with a series of ballot access rules and tests that make it virtually impossible for anyone to run as an independent without joining the Democratic or Republican Party.

America needs a centrist alternative to the dysfunctional party primary process, not only to break the stranglehold of the political elites but to expand the field of candidates and issues that are given serious consideration during the election campaign. The list of potential candidates from either side of the political aisle is much broader and all-encompassing when one holds out the possibility that such a candidate might compete as an independent rather than in one of the primaries. . . . 
He concludes:
The only way any candidate who is committed to real fiscal discipline, social tolerance, and economic revitalization can be nominated for president is on a third-party ticket. . . . unless the system changes and changes fundamentally, individuals with a central role to play in our political process—who can address even more important ideas and questions—will almost certainly be ignored.  That is a profound tragedy.

Divided Government and Independent Strategy

In a recent comment, MW from We Stand Divided relays a link to a post there on The Centrist Granfalloon, which takes a discussion at Rise of the Center and Poli-Tea as the jumping off point to consider a number of issues relating to independent and third party political strategy.  Regular readers might recall that We Stand Divided was featured in an "On the Radar" post from last September, where it was noted that the site is devoted to the proposition that "divided government is better government." And Kurt Vonnegut readers will surely recall that a 'granfalloon' is defined in Cat's Cradle as "a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless."  MW writes:
Anyone purporting to identify a meaningful Independent coalition must be able to answer four questions with crystal clarity about their potential base. Who are they? What are their numbers? How are they organized? What are they voting for?
MW argues, on the basis of a CATO analysis, that Independents are socially liberal and fiscally conservative and that they constitute approximately 14% of the electorate.  He also suggests that, as a voting bloc, they might coalesce around specific personalities (ex. "Perot, Nader, Anderson, Wallace, Roosevelt"), or in support of a discrete set of issues, but that, in practice, they tend to vote for Democrats and Republicans, effectively revealing themselves to be weak partisans rather than strong Independents.  He concludes with a call for divided government:
Divided government not only helps keep both major parties honest, it is an easily understood and easily communicated tactical organizing principle for herding those 14% truly Independent cats.
Let's consider each point one by one.  First, it should be noted that the CATO analysis referenced by MW does not purport to gauge the strength and outlook of Independents as such, but rather the "libertarian vote in the age of Obama."  It explicitly argues that socially liberal and fiscally conservative voters "seem to be a lead indicator of trends in centrist, independent-minded voters."  In other words, the 14% of the electorate identified by the CATO analysis constitutes only a subset of those Americans who identify as Independents.

Ideologically speaking, Independents tend to mirror the breakdown of the electorate as a whole.  There are progressive, liberal, moderate, conservative and libertarian independents.  The fact that Americans across the ideological spectrum increasingly identify themselves as Independents rather than Democrats or Republicans indicates the growing discontent with the two-party state and duopoly system of government as such.  Nationally, around 50% of Americans say that they are open to a third party or Independent alternative to Republicans and Democrats, and an outright majority of Independents say so.  Recent polling indicates roughly 19-20% support in the general electorate for a third party or Independent alternative that is more conservative than the Democratic party and more liberal than the Republican party.  A potential national base of at least 15-20% support for such an alternative is not insignificant, especially given that the approval rating of the Democratic and Republican parties themselves can often be found hovering at this range or slightly above it.

In his analysis, MW argues that voting blocs tend to coalesce around specific personalities or discrete sets of issues, as is widely understood.  But by viewing the Independent bloc through the prism of national presidential politics (i.e. the reference to "Perot, Nader, Anderson, Wallace, Roosevelt"), he arguably falls prey to the fractal fallacy beloved by Democratic and Republican party strategists.  Nationally, Independents may constitute a third of the electorate, but one can find Independent majorities at the state and local level across the country.  There are more than ten states in which Independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined, and there are a couple more in which they outnumber one or the other.  The majority of registered voters in Rhode Island, for instance, are Independents.  Last year they elected their first Independent governor.  Independent strategy should be considered from the ground up rather than from the top down. 

Finally, the fact that so many Independents tend to vote for Republicans or Democrats rather than Independent and third party candidates is arguably less indicative of the fact that Independents are not "independent" but rather that, in the context of the two-party state and duopoly system of government, Independents often have little choice but to vote for major party candidates.  MW cites a report from Miller-Mccune arguing that "most Independents aren't," which I responded to in some detail in the summer of 2009: 
If an independently-minded voter is confronted with a choice between a Republican and a Democrat, and they consistently vote for one side over the other, this does not imply that they are not independent, but it would seem to imply that they lean conservative or liberal, and points toward the pernicious prevalence of lesser-evilism. They could be voting for what they see as the lesser of two evils, or against the greater of two evils, and they may well do so against their inclination or their better judgment, simply because they would rather vote Republican or Democrat than not vote.  
On the other hand, it may well be the case that many Independents chose not to vote rather than vote for a Republican or a Democrat.  In the vast majority of elections, the wide majority of Americans opt not to vote rather than vote for a representative of the ruling parties.  And who can blame them?  If an Independent or third party candidate in any race at any level of government could manage to mobilize even a fraction of traditional non-voters – whatever that magical strategy might entail – they would dominate Republicans and Democrats who thrive on low voter turnout. 

On the third hand, one might also simply accept the argument that "most Independents aren't Independent" if they vote for Democrats and Republicans.  But it should be noted that the same basic argument can be made for almost anyone who votes for Republicans and Democrats.  For example: most progressives aren't "progressive" if they vote for Democrats, and most conservatives aren't "conservative" if they vote for Republicans, and so on.  What are they then?  If you support the Republican or Democratic party, chances are you are a reactionary.  Many voters even admit this.  A large proportion of Democratic voters do not vote for Democrats, they vote against Republicans.  Similarly, a large portion of Republican voters do not vote for Republicans, they vote against Democrats.  (See this post for an extended argument on this point.)

In other words, the Democratic and Republican parties are the dominant granfalloons in the United States.  Indeed, the alleged opposition between the Democratic and Republican parties is as meaningless as the party labels themselves.  They are united, for instance, in their unflinching support for the endless expansion of the global warfare and corporate welfare state.  As I've argued before, so-called "divided government" has become the norm over the last sixty years precisely because the Democratic and Republican parties have so thoroughly undermined the separation of powers.  But under the conditions of the reigning two-party state and duopoly system of government, divided government is not enough to "keep them honest," as MW puts it. 

The reason for this is well known: they work in concert, in the interests of further consolidating and centralizing power in the hands of the ruling parties and political class.  Needless to say, those interests are often diametrically opposed to the interests of the people of the United States, and the means by which those interests are pursued are equally often at odds with the principle of Constitutional government.  But we need not throw up our hands, because we can just roll up our sleeves: independent strategy can only work from the bottom up because Democrats and Republicans control virtually all levers of power from the top down.  Yet this may not be as difficult as it might seem.  At the federal level, and in numerous states and locales, the election of just a handful of Independent or third party candidates would be enough to ensure that NO PARTY has a governing monopoly.  Now that's divided government!

Chamness v. Bowen: Coffee Party Activist Files Suit Against Top Two

From this week's column at CAIVN:
California's top two open primary system is facing a legal challenge from an Independent activist affiliated with the Coffee Party movement.  On February 17th, former State Senate candidate Michael Chamness filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction against the implementation of the top two open primary in the upcoming special election to replace Congresswoman Jane Harman in California’s 36th Congressional District.  Harman announced her retirement from the office on Monday, triggering a special election to fill the seat.

A non-profit consultant and Coffee Party activist, Chamness was a candidate in the special primary election for State Senate District 28 last month, one of the first elections to be held under the top-two system in California.  Because Chamness is not affiliated with a ballot-qualified party, the legal scaffolding for the top two open primary system – namely SB 6 – prohibited him from stating his party preference on the ballot, nor was he permitted to identify himself as an Independent, as would have been the case under the old primary system.  Instead, he was listed on the ballot as having “No Party Preference.” . . .

As he intends to run in the primary race for CD 36, the lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of SB 6 in that election on the grounds that Chamness has already been forced “to lie to voters about his political views” and would be made to do so again if he must state on the ballot that he has “no party preference.” . . .
The suit names California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles Dean Logan as defendants.  Coincidentally, Chamness and Bowen will also face off in the primary election for CD 36.  Bowen has already officially declared her candidacy for the House seat being vacated by Jane Harman.  As the complaint points out, Bowen will seemingly benefit from what some view as a double standard established in SB 6:  while she will be allowed to state her particular party preference on the ballot, Chamness will be prohibited from doing so [Emphasis added.] . . .
Read the whole thing.

VIPR: TSA's Snakes in the Grass

Since the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration launched their "strip search or sexual assault" program late last year, small groups of local and state lawmakers around the country have begun to push back against the national security police state.  There appears to have been some non-trivial movement on this front in the Northeast, from both Republicans and Democrat.  From The New American, last November:
At the press conference, [New Jersey State Senator Michael] Doherty indicated:
We’re very concerned with what’s going on in America and we’re very concerned with what’s going on in New Jersey at our airports as far as the new TSA procedures used. We believe that there are constitutional violations taking place. We believe that there are violations of New Jersey law that are taking place…When you buy an airline ticket, you do not give up your constitutional rights.

Doherty declared, “American citizens should be able to travel freely without being harassed and intimidated by their government. There are other procedures that can be used, and there are other countries around the world serving as role models of how to do this.”
From Wired, also last November: 
A New York City lawmaker on Thursday introduced legislation to prohibit the TSA from using its advanced body scanners at New York airports, including JFK, the busiest international airport in the country. Democratic councilman David Greenfield says six fellow council members have signed onto the proposal, which comes amid growing unease over the so-called Advanced Imaging Technology scanners . . .
Now, a group of Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire have introduced a bill that would make "touching or viewing with a technological device of a person's breasts or genitals by a government security agent without probable cause a sexual assault."  Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the bill is the fact that it is even necessary.  Its explicit statement of "what shall not constitute probable cause" provides a short summary of those everyday activities which have been effectively criminalized, or rendered somehow suspicious, by the professional hysterics in the ruling political class.  Excerpt from the bill via the NH Liberty Alliance:
the following shall not constitute probable cause: discussing or possessing a copy of the Constitution, discussing the security apparatus of an airport, being on the premises of an airport, possessing an airplane ticket or any other type of ticket for access to mass transportation, driving a motor vehicle on a public way, or ownership of firearms.
These sorts of measures will quickly become ever more important, and ever more necessary, as the DHS and TSA expand their police state security apparatus over the whole of the country under the blanket of the so-called VIPR program, i.e. Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response.  As Verbellum reports:
VIPR is basically a roving search-and-seizure task force. . . . The authorities exceed every limit established by a citizen’s fundamental right to security of person and property. Generalized fear replaces probable cause; searches are conducted and property seized in broad strokes following no oath or affirmation. Practices and procedures are openly unreasonable.
The truth is that, as soon as this behavior was permitted in airports, it was just a matter of time before it started spreading. If fear of generalized threats is the key to a full override of the Fourth Amendment, then it doesn’t end at airports. It doesn’t end at train and bus stations either. It doesn’t end at all. VIPR will slither into every aspect of our lives that it can reach.
Consider this recent video of a VIPR security checkpoint in Savannah, Georgia, in which passengers were subject to random search and seizure in a train station after they had gotten off their train!