Americans Elect Breaks Through the Media's Two-Party Filter

It looks like the mainstream media are finally beginning to pick up on the Americans Elect ballot access project, and they are doing so in their typically slipshod manner.  From the Christian Science Monitor:
Funded with at least $20 million, the majority from large, mostly unnamed donors, Americans Elect is vying to become the most serious third-party insurgency since industrialist H. Ross Perot nearly upended the 1992 presidential campaign.

And they're doing it in a decidedly 21st century way by creating an "open source" virtual primary in which the public is invited, via the Internet, to nominate a presidential ticket, ostensibly of moderates, and get the names on ballots in all 50 states.

Privately, political scientists say, some of the principals have debated a potential Gen. David Petraeus-Michael Bloomberg ticket as one possible outcome to challenge Obama-Biden and a potential Republican ticket such as Mitt Romney-Rick Perry. The group is also considering floating congressional candidates.

The effort is a new twist on a long tradition in American politics of third-party insurgencies, including Mr. Perot in 1992, John Anderson in 1980, and George Wallace in 1968. The hurdles Americans Elect faces are daunting. None of those recent third-party bids managed to collar more than 9 percent of the popular vote.  [Emphasis added.]
That last declaration of fact is entirely false, demonstrating the ignorance of third party and independent history that is par for the course in the political press.  In 1992, Ross Perot received nearly 19% of the vote.  It is interesting to see how the article explains the fact that there have been virtually no reports on the group in the mainstream media over the last six months.
But Americans Elect isn't daunted. County registrars in California began receiving 1.6 million signatures from the group on Thursday as part of a requirement to be included in the 2012 election. Largely under the radar, the group has already gained ballot access in Nevada, Alaska, Kansas and Arizona, is seeking certification in Michigan, Hawaii, Missouri and Florida, and plans to be on the ballots in 18 states by the end of the year.  [Emphasis added.]
Of course, it is impossible to gain ballot access in any state and be "under the radar" since such information is completely public.  Indeed, a number of states have already published the corporate by-laws of the organization as part of the process.  Irregular Times, Ballot Access News, Independent Political Report, the California Independent Voter Network and Politea, among other third party and independent oriented political blogs, have been following developments regarding Americans Elect for months.  If the mainstream media are behind the curve, it is only out of ignorance, laziness, or collusion with the organization's marketing and media strategy.

Reactionism: the Iron Law of Duopolist Punditry, Part II

As I wrote yesterday in Part I of this piece, it is an iron law of political punditry that, whenever discussion of third party and Independent alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans breaks through the mainstream media's exclusionary filter, we are sure to be inundated with innumerable articles and commentaries regurgitating the ideological dogmas that sustain and maintain support for the two-party state and ruling political class.  Most recently, the phenomenon is apparent in the reaction to support for Americans Elect among a handful of mainstream political commentators.  Part I dissected a recent post by Wendy Kaminer at The Atlantic, today we'll take a look at an article in The American Prospect by Ben Adler, entitled, "Crashing the Party System."

Much of Adler's piece is nothing more than a series of attacks against Americans Elect and "the views of people like [Thomas] Friedman and [Michael] Bloomberg."  Ironically, it appears Adler did not bother to research Americans Elect in any serious manner, or else he would have undoubtedly cited many of the concerns that have been raised about the group by people like Jim Cook at Irregular Times, who have been critically investigating it, rather than engage in the standard forms of political snark that pass for discourse among Democrats and Republicans.  Indeed, Adler does not even appear to have read the sources he does cite in the article.  He writes:
the repeated failure of the centrist third-party movement has not discouraged its promoters . . . The usual pundit suspects, though, are foolishly promoting Americans Elect . . . Other third-party proponents have also weighed in . . . At Tech President, Micah Sifry asserts that “the third-party moment is back,” and “Americans Elect is going to strike a nerve.”
It appears fairly certain that Sifry's prediction is already coming to pass.  Americans Elect has clearly struck a nerve in people like Adler.  If he had bothered to read Sifry's lengthy article, however, he would have learned that Sifry is a vocal critic of the organization and its method. Sifry writes:
Our country desperately needs more viable political parties to expand the political conversation and engage more voters . . . Unfortunately, I have severe doubts about the prospects of Americans Elect being that party . . . 
Of course, a shoddy method is only to be expected from the mainstream media's proponents of the two-party state.  Nonetheless, I have no interest in defending Friedman or Americans Elect.  I began relaying suspicions and concerns about the organization on the basis of ongoing investigations by Richard Winger and Jim Cook almost two months ago.  If folks like Adler get their news about third party politics from columnists such as Thomas Friedman, well, let's at least try to hold back our laughter.
In the rest of his article, Adler puts forward a number of arguments against third party politics and advocacy as such, many of which should be familiar to regular readers here at Politea, thus demonstrating once against the lack of imagination and creativity that characterizes the supporters of the Democrats and Republicans.  The first is a variation on what I have previously termed the historical argument, according to which all future third party and Independent movements will fail because many of them have failed in the past.  Adler writes:
But the repeated failure of the centrist third-party movement has not discouraged its promoters.
That is rather precious coming from a liberal supporter of the Democratic party, no?  Rather than address Adler's lack of political self-awareness and his brand of historical fatalism, let's move on to his main argument, which states that a "third presidential party" is neither possible nor necessary.  From Adler:
Supporters of third-party candidates ignore or gloss over the inherent reasons the American political system has had two major parties for the last 150 years.
False.  In fact, supporters of third party and independent alternatives to the ruling parties are much more likely than the average duopolist dead-ender to be intimately familiar with the ways in which the Democrats and Republicans have systematically rigged our political and electoral system to facilitate the monopolization and consolidation of power in their own hands at all levels of government over the last 150 years.  The dead-enders of the duopoly parties, on the other hand, ignore or gloss over this history, and prefer to frame the two-party state as if it were a metaphysical condition of politics as such rather than a contingent historical formation.  Adler continues:
In a system of winner-take-all elections, it behooves factions to join forces to create a plurality. Unless we switch to proportional representation, which would require a constitutional amendment, we simply won’t have more than two major parties . . .
Here we see a prime example of the procedural argument (see this post for elaboration), followed by a prescription for infinite deferral popular among those who recognize the deep flaws in the reigning two-party system but whose political cowardice enjoins them to lend it their support.  Our liberal Democratic friend then moves on to a consideration of third party strategy:
Anytime a third party emerges, it will ally with one party to form a winning team. Eventually, it will fold into the other party to bolster both their chances of winning. Anyone with a basic understanding of math, game theory, or political science should be able to see this.
False.  Adler here reverses cause and effect, as anyone with a basic understanding of history and logic can plainly see.  Historically, successful third party organizations in the United States do not tend to "ally with one party" to "form a winning team," nor do they tend to "fold" themselves into the other party to "bolster their chances of winning".  On the contrary, successful third party organizations have historically been co-opted by the major parties, when large portions of their platforms have been stolen by the major parties and incorporated into their own political programs.  Typically, as this process progresses, the major parties have tended, at the very same time, to pass laws and regulations making it even more difficult for third party and Independent candidates to obtain ballot access, participate in forums and debates and so on.  See, for instance, the history of the relationship between the Democratic party and the Socialist party in the first half of the twentieth century.  Returning to the article under consideration, the author then glances across the great pond:
If you want an example of a winner-take-all system in which three parties have actually managed to stick around for a long time, just look at the United Kingdom, where the Liberal Democrats never win national elections but several times they or their predecessor parties have siphoned enough votes from Labour to give the Conservatives a plurality, empowering the country’s conservative minority. Is that what Friedman wants to see happen here?
If you want an example of a winner-take-all system in which three parties have managed to stick around for some time, you need not look abroad, since Vermont provides us with an obvious case in point.  Not only has Vermont elected the longest-sitting Independent in the US Senate, it is also home to one of the country's most successful third parties, the Vermont Progressive Party.  But it is easy to understand why a dead-ender of the Democratic party would rather make the comparison with the United Kingdom, since, in this case, it allows him to forward the hackneyed spoiler argument

Adler then moves on to his second point, which he makes by arguing against a cliche and in favor of the ruling partisan primary process.  Excerpt:
The major complaint—and the reason often cited for supporting third-party candidates—is that the Democratic and Republican parties are calcified machines where cigar-chomping pols cut backroom deals; they’re insider affairs that don’t leave room for the “center.” But at the presidential level, there’s a lot more democracy than in, say, many urban political machines. The party nominees are chosen through caucuses and primaries.
Conveniently, Adler does not note that caucuses and primaries are themselves controlled by the most rabid proponents of the duopoly parties, and that Independents and third party supporters are, in many if not most states, prohibited from participating in them.  Turnout in primary elections hovers around 30%, which means that the candidates of the major parties are typically chosen by 6-8% of registered voters.  It is simply absurd to counter here that Independents and third party supporters can participate in these elections if only they would register with the given party, since that completely misses the point.  Why would you vote in the primary election of a party you explicitly reject, except perhaps to sabotage it?

In his mendacity, Adler even goes so far as to play the race card: "It’s no coincidence that the third-party trumpet is always sounded by white men," he writes.  Tell that to Alan Keyes, Cornel West, Lenora Fulani, Omar Ali, and the leaders of the Tequila Party.  The fact that Adler appears not to have any knowledge of these individuals only further demonstrates his ignorance of the subject matter.

Finally, in his concluding argument, Adler tediously returns to the spoiler argument, but not before he takes a  parting shot at Republicans:
Third-party advocates wring their hands over both parties being beholden to interest groups. But Republicans are beholden to something much worse, because you cannot appease it: irrational, anti-factual ideologues. A centrist, technocratic third-party candidate will draw approximately zero of their votes, which means his votes will come out of the 53 percent who voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
Of course, this argument is a red herring.  In 2008, there were more Americans who chose not to vote for either the Republican or Democratic party's candidate than there were who voted for Obama.  If any third party or Independent organization can succeed in organizing those who are have been disillusioned, the disaffected and disenfranchised by the Democrats and Republicans, they will win in a landslide.  But maybe there is hope for bipartisanship between the major parties.  If Republicans are irrational, anti-factual ideologues, it appears liberal Democrats such as Adler may have something in common with them after all.

The Debt Ceiling "Crisis"

To those of us who are not ideological and political slaves to the Republican and Democratic parties, the so-called "debt ceiling crisis" appears rather different than it does to Democrats and Republicans.  From Sam Wilson at Think 3:
The debate over raising the national debt ceiling is a manufactured crisis, a war of choice that may do more to disillusion people about the sufficiency of the two-party system than any event in a long time . . .
Read the rest to see Sam's proposal for the ideal compromise, as always from the perspective of radical common sense.  At Divided We Stand, the Dividist argues in a similar vein that the entire "debate" and "crisis" is nothing more than Kabuki theater:
Kabuki Theater - a traditional form of Japanese drama characterized by highly stylized postures and exaggerated gestures accompanied by familiar songs and plots rooted in historical tragedy (or comedy). The audience knows the story and knows how it ends. The art is in the quality of the performance and not in the plot. In the United States, this art form is more easily recognizable as "The Debt Ceiling Crisis." . . .
Tirade Faction and I were discussing a very similar point a few days ago, which prompted me to make a pathetic attempt at summing up the situation in the form of a comic:

Reactionism: the Iron Law of Duopolist Punditry, Part I

It is an iron law of political punditry that, whenever discussion of third party and Independent alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans breaks through the mainstream media's exclusionary duopolist filter, we are sure to be inundated with innumerable articles and commentaries regurgitating the ideological dogmas that sustain and maintain support for the two-party state and ruling political class.  Most recently, the phenomenon is apparent in the reaction to support for Americans Elect among a handful of mainstream political commentators (in the present case, Thomas Friedman and John Avlon among others) who are not as slavishly devoted to the Republican-Democrat duopoly system of government as the majority of their colleagues.  For the present, let's consider one example from The Atlantic.  In the next post, we'll dissect another exemplar of the genre from The American Prospect.

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.

Democrats and Republicans Reach a New Low

A new survey from Rasmussen finds that just 6% of likely voters think the Congress is doing a good or excellent job, compared with 61% who say the Congress is doing a poor job representing the interests of the American people.  From Rasmussen:
Just six percent (6%) of Likely U.S. Voters now rate Congress' performance as good or excellent, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Last month, Congressional approval ratings fell to what was then a record low with eight percent (8%) who rated its performance good or excellent.

Sixty-one percent (61%) now think the national legislators are doing a poor job, a jump of nine points from a month ago.
The findings are consistent across the partisan spectrum:
With divided control of Congress, neither party's voters are very happy. Eight percent (8%) of GOP voters give Congress positive marks, compared to five percent (5%) of Democrats and six percent (6%) of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties. 
A separate poll from Rasmussen finds that a plurality of Americans recognize that the Democrat-Republican Congress is plagued by corruption.  From Rasmussen:
46% of Likely U.S. Voters now view most members of Congress as corrupt. That’s up seven points from June and the highest finding yet recorded.  Just 29% think most members are not corrupt, and another 25% are not sure . . . 
Similarly, a whopping 85% of voters think most members of Congress are more interested in helping their own careers than in helping other people. That’s a record high for surveys stretching back to early November 2006.  Only seven percent (7%) believe most of the legislators are more interested in helping others.
Given these numbers, an obvious question arises: if a wide majority of Americans recognize that the stooges of the Democratic and Republican parties are so plagued by corruption that they are effectively incapable of representing our interests, why would they continue to support Republicans and Democrats in any way, shape or form?  If you support the Democrats or Republicans, you are the problem.

The Quiet Americans Elect

There is one word that seems to pop up in virtually every discussion of the new political organization Americans Elect, which is seeking to obtain ballot access for an alternative to the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties in the 2012 presidential election.  That word is 'quiet'.  Nearly two months ago, I wrote at CAIVN:
In recent months, Americans Elect has quietly begun an ambitious campaign to gain ballot access in all 50 states ahead of next year’s presidential election.  The party has already submitted petitions in Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Alaska, and Florida, according to reports at Ballot Access News. [Emphasis added.]
Over the weekend a pair of new articles on the group appeared in the New York Times and The Daily Beast.  From Thomas Friedman:
Thanks to a quiet political start-up that is now ready to show its hand, a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an Internet convention, is going to emerge in 2012.  [Emphasis added.]
From John Avlon:
Imagine what our election system might look like if it were designed today . . . That’s the idealist vision driving a new group, Americans Elect, which has quietly collected enough signatures to secure a 2012 ballot line in eight states, including Arizona, Michigan, and Missouri. They will soon submit an unprecedented 1.6 million signatures in California. [Emphasis added.]
From Micah Sifry at Tech President:
Since last year, Americans Elect, a non-profit 501c4 organization led by investor and activist Peter Ackerman, has been quietly laying the foundation for a 2012 Internet-based political convention to pick a "centrist" ticket that will, if all goes to plan, get on all fifty state ballots and compete in a serious way with Barack Obama and whomever the GOP nominates next year.  [Emphasis added.]
This quietude has apparently been facilitated in no small part by columnists like Avlon and Friedman who have been closely following the group's progress for months, but have uttered few words in public about it, in respect for its media strategy, which Sifry confirms.  Sifry writes: "Until now, I've honored their request to abide by a press embargo and not write about Americans Elect until it was ready to go public."  Critics of the secretive organization, on the other hand, are less prone to play along with its media strategy.  From yesterday's column at CAIVN:
While commentators for mainstream, corporate news outlets such as Friedman and Avlon have been quietly following the development of this organization for months, with both coincidentally releasing their positive assessments of the group in recent days, others have been investigating it openly and with a critical eye.  Chief among them is Jim Cook of Irregular Times.

After analyzing an incomplete list of donors to Americans Elect that was recently published by its campaign contribution collector, Cook concludes that the group has already violated its pledge to avoid accepting any “special interest money.” One donor, Jim Holbrooke, for instance, is the CEO of a marketing firm and the chairman of the Promotion Marketing Association, which is dedicated to pursuing the interests of the promotion marketing industry, reports Cook.

In a separate analysis, Cook takes a close look at American Elect’s corporate bylaws, which are not made freely available by the organization, but have been published by states where it has already qualified for ballot access.  He finds that they do not provide for a grassroots political structure, but rather a four-tiered “political caste system” that runs from the board of directors, to officers and employees, and finally to members and delegates.  One provision in the bylaws indicates that “the Board of Directors may act in a manner that overrules any other provision of the bylaws,” writes Cook, essentially providing them with the power to effectively overrule any act by the organization’s actual delegates.
Read the rest.  For another critical view, and a more detailed look at the structure and organization of Americans Elect, be sure to read Sifry's article in its entirety.  He writes:
Unfortunately, I have severe doubts about the prospects of Americans Elect being that party. Why? First, because it isn't being transparent about its funding. Second, because control of the party isn't genuinely vested in its members. Third, because it's not being truthful with the public about its political agenda. Instead, I think Americans Elect could actually be a devilishly brilliant leveraged buyout of our broken electoral system that could have the perverse effect of reinforcing the same brain-dead politics we already have.

The Banality of Evil: An Analysis of Anders Breivik's Political Manifesto

Out of a morbid curiosity, and a justified skepticism regarding the mainstream media's coverage of the horrid bombing and shooting rampage that took place in Oslo on Friday, I decided to take a look at the 1500 page manifesto of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, which he had apparently published online shortly before launching the attacks, and which can already be found on Wikipedia.  I've not read the whole thing, but I have read the titles and introductory page(s) of all 200 some odd chapters, closely read through a few dozen individual chapters while skimming through many more, and conducted a number of searches for individual terms.  I'm somewhat hesitant to publish anything on the matter, as one of the main goals of Breivik's attack was to spread his message.  On the other hand, however, ignorance is neither bliss nor strength, and it behooves us to learn as much as we can about the enemies of human civilization.

It should go without saying, but since there are so many idiots on the internet, it must be stated outright that the present analysis of Brevik's manifesto and terrorist attack is in no way, shape or form, an endorsement of any aspect of it, but rather a modest contribution to the investigation of a previously unknown but extremely well developed terrorist ideology and, perhaps, a way to save others from the horrific tedium of parsing a madman's method.  Reading through the work is truly an object lesson in the banality of evil.     

After looking through the manifesto, I am tempted to argue that Breivik's act and ideology potentially represent something like a qualitative political transformation of modern fourth generation warfare, a dialectical response of the extreme right to radical left wing activism and Islamist terrorism.  At this point, however, any such claim in that regard is premature to say the least. 

The first thing we must recognize regarding Breivik's manifesto, entitled 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence, is that much of it was not written by Breivik himself.  Indeed, the author does not call the work a manifesto, but rather a compendium.  It contains historical sketches of medieval Christianity and Islam in addition to literary-style portraits of famous Crusaders from the middle ages as well as  glosses on modern thinkers; it reprints manifestos of the Knights Templar from the middle ages; relays portions of academic articles on contemporary politics and the history of revolution; provides lengthy critiques of 20th century Marxist, feminist and post-structuralist theory; reprints news and media interviews and articles on everything from global Jihadism to demographic changes in Europe to everyday political opinion.  It also relays blog-stlye articles by radical right commentators on multiculturalism, Marxism, Jihadism, immigration and so on.  Many of these appear to be from Brevik's online associates and allies in the radical right blogosphere, but many of them seem to be by Brevik himself.  The work contains hundreds if not thousands of individual citations.  

In addition to these aspects of the work, there are also extensive diaries written while he was planning his attack, self-interviews, manifesto-style articles, and detailed operational plans.  One can find, for instance, a detailed theory of what Brevik calls the ongoing "European civil war," a plan of action for taking the initiative in that war, a manifesto for a modern Knights Templar organization, lengthy reflections on military strategy and tactics, and innumerable tips for would-be radical right wing  revolutionaries, including even lists of potential targets and projected budgets for various sorts of operations.

The work is broken up into three major sections.  The first provides the history of a perceived  civilizational struggle between western Christianity and Islam.  The second lays out perceived problems of the contemporary political situation, which might be placed under the broad rubric of a perceived struggle between multiculturalism and monoculturalism in Europe.  And the third provides a "solution" to these historical and contemporary problems in the form of three part plan for a European civil war.

If one takes the work at face value, it provides reasonable grounds for skepticism regarding the portrait of the killer that is slowly beginning to emerge in the international press.  Media articles have referred to Breivik, for instance, as a Christian fundamentalist, a farmer and an avid video gamer.  Breivik specifically mentions the importance of using video games as simulators for potential violent attacks – just as militaries do all over the world –, but he also suggests using a video game addiction as a cover for terrorist planning, as a way of explaining to friends and family why one is absent or not able to socialize for extended periods of time.  Breivik was not a farmer, but he did found a business called GeoFarm that functioned as a front for him to acquire fertilizer for his bombs.  This was not the only business front he appears to have founded.  It appears likely, for instance, that he also founded a mineral mining corporation as a cover to acquire explosive materials such as TNT.  One of the means by which he seems to have avoided detection was by founding these corporate fronts and acquiring materials sequentially rather than simultaneously.

I would also argue that it is probably wrong to label Breivik a Christian fundamentalist, at least as that term is normally understood.  The bible is mentioned only 43 times in the work, and many of these references appear in discussions of Islam and the Koran.  In a couple places he denies outright that he is a particularly "religious" person, while in others he states that he is "100% Christian."  This tension underscores the fact that Christianity is, for Breivik, more part of his cultural identity than anything else.  He plainly states that science should take precedence over biblical teachings in one of what appear to be several self-interviews.  "As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings," he states to the imaginary interviewer. 

To make some sense of Breivik's motivating ideology, it is probably more correct to employ the categories of traditionalism, nationalism and cultural conservatism.  To this end, however, it is likely even more important to understand who Breivik considers to be the enemy.  Analysts of Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda strategy often reference Bin Laden's identification of the "near enemy" and the "far enemy".  For Bin Laden, the near enemy were local governments and states such as Saudi Arabia, while the far enemy was the United States and western civilization.  A direct attack on one was at the same time an indirect attack on the other.  Something similar can be said in the present case.  For Breivik, Islam and global Jihadism are the far enemy while the proponents of multiculturalism, Marxism, socialism and political correctness in Europe and Norway are the near enemy.  He sees the two as in collusion against European civilization in general and individual European national identities in particular.  One might also add, in Breivik's case, a middle or median enemy between the other two, represented by the European Union, which he likens to the Soviet Union and dubs the EUSSR.  

In this context, Breivik's terrorist attack against government buildings with the Labor Party in power as well as a summer camp for the party's youth wing, can be understood as a direct attack against the present and future of the mainstream Norwegian left as well as an indirect attack against the policy of multiculturalism typically promulgated by such groups throughout Europe.  In the manifesto, Breivik rages against what he calls"Marxist/multiculturalist indoctrination campaigns".

Given the character of Breivik's attack, it is easy to understand why media sources were quick to suspect a group like Al Qaeda, which typically employs coordinated bombings and military assaults.  However, Al Qaeda and associated groups seem, more often than not, to engage in coordinated bombings (Madrid, London) or coordinated assaults (Mumbai).  When the two are used in conjunction, a bombing is often followed by ground assaults targeting rescuers at the first bombing (Iraq, Afghanistan), when rescuers are not simply targeted by another bombing.

Breivik's self-coordinated attack was somewhat different, however.  The initial bombing created chaos and drew security forces to the area.  But it was basically a military feint, providing him with cover to seek out his primary target, the Labor Party's youth camp, which he approached clad as a police officer supposedly securing the site in the aftermath of the bombing to draw a pool of victims into his immediate vicinity.  The island provided his victims with no means of escape, and its isolation – in addition to the initial bombing – ensured a delay in the police response.  The military precision of Breivik's self-coordinated attack is chilling.  His manifesto contains detailed studies of ancient Chinese military strategy and tactics, Islamic and Islamist military strategy and tactics, and European leftist terrorist organizations and strategy, applying lessons learned for the purposes of waging fourth generation urban guerrilla warfare. 

Above, I suggested that Breivik's attack potentially represents something like a qualitative political transformation of modern fourth generation warfare, a dialectical response of the extreme right to radical left wing activism and Islamist terrorism.  To understand why this might be the case, we must take a few steps back.  Breivik claims to be part of a Knights Templar group founded in 2002 with as many as ten other individuals from numerous European nations, who Breivik sees as modern crusaders against Islam and as the protectors of European and Christian cultural identity.  The manifesto – written over the course of the last nine years as he worked out the details of his terrorist atrocity – contains detailed plans for the structure of the organization, as well as lengthy explanations of its motivations and goals.  Given that the group was founded in early 2002, it makes sense to conclude that it was founded as a direct response to the rise of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda's global Jihadist movement following the 9/11 attacks.  In this way, the radical Islamist global "holy war" can be seen as a primary mediator for the foundation of Brevik's modern Knights Templar organization.  Indeed, toward the end of his manifesto, Brevik predicts: "By September 11th, 2083, the third wave of Juhad will have been repelled and the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist hegemony in Western Europe will be shattered and lying in ruin, exactly 400 years after we won the Battle of Vienna on September 11th 1683."

The fact that Breivik claims to be part of a modern Knights Templar organization devoted to a military crusade against Muslims and Marxists will likely be put forward as evidence that he is a Christian fundamentalist.  But this is probably not correct.  Rather, if one is to believe the manifesto, the motivation behind the formation of the group was not Christianism per se, but rather traditionalism.  Medieval military crusades led by groups such as the Knights Templar are framed in the manifesto as the traditional response of Christian Europe to threats against Christianity and European identity, and as such they are seen as the correct response to perceived contemporary threats against western Christianity and European identity.

Breivik advocates violence because he believes that there is no possible non-violent means of guarding traditional national identity and the values of what he calls cultural conservatism against multicultural Marxism and an influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe.  Non-violent means are precluded, he argues in one section of the work, because Marxists and Muslims will soon constitute democratic majorities in nations across Europe.  However, he does advocate non-violent means of resistance to sympathizers who are unwilling or unable to engage in violence.  It is here that we see the influence of the radical left as a mediating factor for the foundation of Breivik's ideology.

He argues, for instance, that unlike the right, the radical European left's forms of organization have provided it with an influence far beyond its numbers.  One single left wing activst, he writes, may be a member of dozens of groups and organizations, from anti-Fascist youth street gangs to anarchist groups, to media outlets, to professional organizations, mainstream advocacy groups and political parties.  The result, he argues, is a political multiplier effect.  In the compendium, he supplies plans for online networking, the organization of advocacy groups and political front organizations, suggestions on how to infiltrate and take over existing political organizations, how to distribute literature and so on, much of which is gleaned from the study of the post-'68 left in Europe.  His hope appeared to be that his terrorist attack would spur such efforts on the right all across Europe.

Taking this proposed non-violent wing in conjunction with the Knights Templar military vanguard, one might well conclude that Breivik's terrorist action and manifesto represents a dialectical, right wing response to global Islamist terrorism and the radical left wing movement in Europe.

There is an interesting paradox at the heart of Breivik's work.  He is a committed and avowed nationalist, but the scope of the work is not restricted by narrow nationalist concerns.  It is not addressed to Norwegians, but rather to all Europeans, and right wing "cultural conservatives" in particular.  As mentioned at the outset, it is entitled 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence.  The declaration is clearly aimed at a double threat perceived by Breivik.  On the one hand there is the threat posed to traditional European identity – which is equated with Europe's Christian heritage – by immigration from outside Europe, particularly on the part of Muslims from Islamic countries.  On the other hand, there is the threat posed to individual national identities within Europe by the European Union and the cultural Marxist/socialist elite of individual nations, whose primary aim, he argues, is the "deconstruction of European and national identity".    

Why 2083?  Breivik predicts that what what he calls the European civil war between cultural Marxists and cultural conservatives will last until 2083, when the cultural conservative movement will finally prove victorious and stage a series of coups throughout Europe, instituting a culturally conservative political program that includes the re-institution of patriarchy, the unification of the Christian church (Breivik holds that the Protestant and Catholic Churches are bastions of cultural Marxism), the protection of national boundaries and the banishment of Muslims.  

Breivik's first court appearance is scheduled for Monday.  But it may well be the case that he has already determined his courtroom and judicial strategy.  The compendium contains a number of chapters devoted to judicial strategy.  Chapter 3.7 is entitled "Court/trial statements for Justiciar Knight and other patriotic resistance fighters after an operation."  It begins: "These statements are meant to be used after a successful operation . . . A trial is an excellent opportunity and a well suited arean the Justiciar Knight can use to publicly renounce the authority of the EUSSR/USASSR hegemony and the specific cultural Marxist/multiculturalist regime."  It continues a little later on: "By the time you are done presenting your demands, the judges and trial audience will probably laugh their asses off and mock you for being ridiculous.  Nevertheless, it is important to ignore the ridicule and remain firm and focused." 

It would be easy to simply dismiss someone like Breivik as a madman.  We do so at our peril.

There is much more I could write on Breivik's manifesto and compendium, but this already is quite lengthy for a blog entry (even for me!), and I'm questioning whether to publish it at all.  But I've already come this far.  If anyone has specific questions about Breivik's ideology, I guess at this point I'm probably one of the few people who could hazard at least a semi-educated guess.  

Raising the Dumb Ceiling

A political cartoon from Political Graffiti:

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

There is a long-standing cliche in mainstream political commentary which likens the two-party state and duopoly system of government to a marriage.  In this fantasy scenario, more often than not, the Democrats are portrayed as the overprotective and hysterical mommy party, while the Republicans are portrayed as the angry and drunken daddy party.  A recent op-ed in Politico provides the cliche with a slight twist, arguing that the power struggle over the debt ceiling to a series of bitter divorce proceedings.  Excerpt from Politico:
With the clock ticking toward the Aug. 2 deadline on increasing the debt ceiling, Democrats and Republican are wrestling over what combination of tax increases, spending cuts and entitlement restructuring could help Americans shake off their economic troubles.

It is a classic power struggle. Like opposing spouses in a bitter divorce, both parties claim the exclusive ability of knowing the “right thing to do.” After all, they “care” more about those in their charge. Each one also wants to get the better of the other, even if it means maligning or making ugly accusations – and, in the end, getting nowhere . . .

After years of mistrust and estrangement in our two-party system, this stalemate mimics the behavior of two self-consumed and combative parents . . .
The fact that this sort of comparison and analogy is so common says less about the Democratic and Republican parties than it does about the infantilization of the American voter, who is portrayed as a helpless child, the plaything of political forces outside of its control and even beyond its comprehension.  But isn't the real situation the exact reverse?  The Democratic and Republican parties did not give birth to the American electorate.  The American electorate gave birth to the Democratic and Republican parties.  In other words, the Democratic and Republican parties are not like squabbling parents whose egos prevent them from putting the interests of their children ahead of their own.  Rather, the Democratic and Republican parties are more like squabbling children who have been spoiled because their overly permissive parents, the American electorate, have spared them the rod. 

Indeed, the electorate has become so fed up with the Democratic and Republican parties that it has allowed its other political children to die of exposure at the behest of the evil twins that tyrannize the national household.  As with a spoiled, quasi-sociopathic child, empty threats against the Democratic and Republican parties lead only to manipulative tantrums and escalating transgressions.  It is time to set some boundaries, and follow through on declared punishments. 

Independents and the Duopolized Dialogue

One of my long-standing criticisms of the political press and the so-called national dialogue is its monopolization by the professional partisan hacks of the Republican and Democratic parties.  See, for instance, any number of Politea posts on media malfeasance and the duopoly dialogue.  Indeed, I've even gone so far as to edit independent viewpoints into transcripts of some of the more absurd discussions between the strategists of the ruling parties.  Recently, however, it seems that Independents appear to be getting a little bit more face time on television news and opinion programming.  Nancy Hanks has been documenting the segments over at The Hankster, such as a recent discussion of budget negotiations on Fox News, as well as a handful of upcoming segments on a number of networks.  From The Hankster:
Independents continue to add their voice to the national debate on the debt ceiling and budget negotiations.

Tune in Saturday morning, July 23rd to CBS's "The Early Show " 7:00 - 9:00 am/ET, for a panel discussion moderated by John Avlon and Margaret Hoover featuring a group of NYC independents.

Also, next Wednesday, July 27th at 8:15 am/ET, catch Jackie Salit on "Fox and Friends."

Jackie's most recent oped, "How Obama can be a Non-Partisan President " was published in the Huffington Post and is slated to appear this weekend in the Des Moines Register.

Finally, in case you missed it, check out this segment from "Fox and Friends " featuring independent voters John Opdycke from New York, Greg Moohn in the DC bureau and Linda Ricke in Tallahassee, Florida.

CA: Democrat Turned Tea Party Activists Seeks to Challenge Top Two Ban on Write-In Candidates

An intervener in a lawsuit pending against the implementation of California's top two primary system may expand the scope of the challenge.  Currently, the suit challenges the so-called "party preference ban," which prohibits individuals not affiliated with any party from identifying themselves as Independents on the ballot, and prohibits members of parties not officially recognized by the state from stating their party preference on the ballot, forcing them instead to list themselves as having "no party preference."  The intervener in the suit seeks to challenge the ban on write-in candidates in the general election, and the ban against counting any write-in votes cast in any general election.  Excerpt from CAIVN:
A Democrat-turned-Tea Party activist is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit against California’s top-two style open primary in opposition to the disenfranchisement of write-in voters.  It is highly unlikely that many voters knew there was a third candidate seeking their support in the special election for the open congressional seat in CD 36 held earlier this month.  Indeed, the very existence of a possible third candidate in the race would seem to have been impossible, as this was the first special general election for the US House held under California’s top-two open primary.

There were only two candidates named on the ballot, Democrat Janice Hahn and Republican Craig Huey, but Los Angeles resident Julius Galacki sought the office as a write-in candidate in protest of the new primary system . . . Before launching his last minute write-in bid for the US House seat, Galacki unenrolled from the Democratic Party and changed his registration to the Tea Party in order to challenge SB6’s ban on write-in candidates and its prohibition against counting write-in votes cast in general elections.

“The Top Two Primary illegally disenfranchises voters and disqualifies candidates from running for office.  Simply put, the Top Two Primary must be put on hold until the Legislature has fixed its troubling flaws,” said Gautam Dutta, Mr. Galacki’s attorney, in a press release.

Galacki’s claim hinges on a tension between two sections of California’s election code that arose following the implementation of SB6 and the top two system.  Section 15340 guarantees the right to cast a vote for any write-in candidate in any election.  It states: “Each voter is entitled to write the name of any candidate for any public office, including that of President and Vice President of the United States, on the ballot of any election.”  However, section 8606, added to the code by SB6, prohibits the counting of such votes in a general election.  It reads:  “A person whose name has been written on the ballot as a write-in candidate at the general election for a voter-nominated office shall not be counted.” 
Having voted for himself as a write-in candidate in the special general election, Galacki seeks to challenge top-two both as a registered voter who was prohibited from running for the office as a write-in candidate and as a voter who cast a write-in ballot that was not counted . . .

Poll: Majority Recognize Political Bankruptcy of Democratic and Republican Parties

Outright majorities of the American people recognize the simple fact that Democrats and Republicans do not pursue policy objectives for the good of the country, but rather do nothing more than seek political advantage to the detriment of the country.  According to a new survey from The Hill:
The latest opinion poll conducted for The Hill indicated that a majority of voters believe both parties are motivated more by their search for partisan advantage than a desire to enact good policy.
Asked whether President Obama’s party was fighting more for a political boost or for what it truly believes is wise policy, 51 percent of voters selected the former option and 36 percent the latter, a negative margin of 15 points. 

In the case of the GOP, the difference was 19 points, with just 36 percent saying the party was motivated by genuine policy concerns and 55 percent saying their animating force was the pursuit of political advantage.
A similar pattern was seen regarding culpability for Washington’s toxic political atmosphere. Forty-four percent of voters said Republicans were more to blame for hostile partisan rhetoric in the nation’s capital, while 41 percent said the responsibility lay mainly with Obama and the Democrats. 

Independents, the Media and the Duopoly Dialogue

From today's column at CAIVN:
As we approach the 2012 elections, there are sure to be innumerable discussions in the political press about how the Democratic and Republican parties should reach out to and address the concerns of Independent voters, who constitute a large and growing segment of the electorate.  But what if Independents aren’t listening? . . .

Compared with Republicans and Democrats, [California's] Independents and third party supporters are the least likely to keep tabs on our elected officials.  Just 30% of self-identified “nonpartisans” and political “others” said they follow what’s going on in government and public offices most of the time, while 37% said they follow such news some of the time, and 32% reported that they hardly ever keep up with public affairs.

Republicans were most likely to be politically engaged, with 50% saying they follow public affairs most of the time and 29% stating that they do so sometimes.  Among Democrats, 41% stated that they follow political developments most of the time, while 34% said they do so some of the time. 
It is not difficult to comprehend why individuals who do not affiliate with either of the major parties would be less politically engaged than self-described Democrats and Republicans.  The refusal to identify with any party whatsoever is, in itself, a rejection of the politics that dominate our government and public affairs.

On the other hand, despite the lip service that is paid to Independents by the representatives of the major parties and several of their mouthpieces in the mainstream media, Independent viewpoints are systematically excluded from our nation’s political dialogue.

On cable news, Independents are rarely even included in discussions of political Independents!  Instead, the viewer is much more likely to be presented with what passes for a debate between Democratic and Republican party strategists. Much the same can be said of the political press in general . . .

There is a very simple reason why Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats favor MSNBC.  Those outlets represent and articulate their viewpoints and concerns.  But where are Independents to turn if they are flipping through the channels looking for someone who effectively speaks for them, who gives voice to their thoughts and ideas?  

MN: People Lose Jobs Because Democrats and Republicans Can't Do Theirs

The weeks-long government shutdown in Minnesota came to an end in the middle of last week, after Democrats and Republicans came to an "abrupt" budget agreement.  From the Sun Times:
The abrupt agreement on a budget deal to end Minnesota’s government shutdown, in which Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton dropped his call for new taxes and Republicans agreed to spend more than they wanted, has some people wondering why it had to happen at all. . . . “My thought is, what are we paying these people for if they can’t do their job?” asked Crystal Morales, an Iraq war veteran who was forced to move her wedding ceremony because a military chapel in a state park was closed down. “It should never come to a shutdown, never. People should never lose their jobs because politicians can’t do theirs.”
The shutdown has undoubtedly led many Minnesotans to recognize the absolute political bankruptcy of Democrat-Republican party government.   From a letter to the editor of the Duluth News Tribune:
Minnesota’s state shutdown has provided more proof that our two-party system does not work. I cannot believe people think they are voting for change when they simply are giving power back to the same party that failed the time before last. I think both parties failed the great state of Minnesota. Let’s be real. This shutdown was wanted by both parties. I am saddened people still defend these two parties. I am further saddened when people think it’s a democracy under a two-party rule. . . .  We wonder why things are not going well. We lay blame on one or the other party while ignoring the truth that the two-party system is broken! I believe government for the people by the people died when the two parties agreed to not let any other party in government.
David R. Stevens

Kucinich Questions the Legitimacy of the Two-Party System

Democrat-Republican party government represents a grave threat to the people and Constitution of the United States.  If you support Democrats or Republicans, you are the problem.  Dennis Kucinich reflects on the debt negotiations between the White House and Congress:
There is a massive transfer of wealth from the American people to the hands of a few and it's going on right now as Americans' eyes are misdirected to the political theater of these histrionic debt negotiations, threats to shut down the government, willingness to make the most vulnerable Americans pay dearly for debts they did not create.  These are symptoms of a government which has lost its way. And they are a challenge to the legitimacy of the two-party system. 
Of course, the two-party system lost any legitimacy it might once have had some time ago.  The fact that individuals such as Kucinich, who recognize this simple fact at least to some extent, continue to affiliate and identify with the major parties is a direct challenge to their legitimacy as critics of the two-party state and advocates for the American people. The quote above is transcribed from the video below:

If You Support the Democrats or Republicans, You Are the Problem

FireDogLake is known as one of the more independent Democrat-leaning progressive community blogs on the web, but nonetheless it remains in many respects hopelessly hung up on maintaining the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  Contributor Jim Moss vents his frustration with the Democratic party and the false appearance of political independence within the progressive movement.  Excerpt:
On the surface, FDL appears to be a fiercely independent progressive outlet – ready to challenge Republicans and Democrats alike – to challenge the status quo system as a whole. Obama is regularly criticized on these pages for his plethora of betrayals. One finds here some of the most intelligent and passionate articulations of progressivism that run the gamut of social and political issues . . . What concerns me has to do with the continued support, implicitly and explicitly, for the two-party system that is slowly grinding our economy and our culture into oblivion. . . .

How many times, on these pages, have the failings of the Democrats been recounted – only to be shouted down by cries of “the Republicans are worse”?  How many times have we progressives had to swallow the bitter pills of compromise, delay, and defeat – even when the Democrats held the White House and historic majorities in Congress in their hands? . . .

What I realized, over time, is that FDL – despite all the good it does – is a part of the very system that it so often speaks against. In implicit and explicit ways, it condones the Democratic Party structure that has proven to be so ineffective to progressive aims. FDL, on the whole, is not willing to tear down the system, because in many ways, it and many of the people who write for it benefit from the system. When the chips are down, most of the people here will run back to the Democrats and will not support a true reform movement. FDL, on the whole, is not interested in discarding the old two-party system and building something new and better.
Ironically, however, the remainder of the post explains Moss's return to the site after a long hiatus sparked by disillusionment with Democrats and the two-party mindset of establishmentarian liberals.  Just as a dog returns to its vomit, Americans across the political spectrum keep returning to the Democratic and Republican parties.  How many more "last straws" could there possibly be?  Folks like Moss should seriously consider joining the third party and independent movement to build a viable opposition to the two-party dictatorship rather than continue to be a part of the problem.

The Academic-Partisan Complex: Systemic Bias in Favor of the Two-Party State Taints Political "Science"

From this week's column at CAIVN:
Among American political scientists and partisans of the Democratic and Republican parties, it is widely held that the so-called “Independent voter” is nothing more than a myth.  This might come as news to the millions of Independent voters in the United States.  Are you an Independent-in-name-only?

Given the growing number of self-described Independents nationwide, the corresponding increase in their political clout, and the well-developed media narratives that seek to pigeon hole them between the Democratic and Republican parties, it is only to be expected that they should encounter increasing resistance – and even outright attacks – from the partisans of the political status quo.  One of the most common critiques of Independents states that the Independent voter is nothing more than a myth.  Most recently, Alan Abramowitz has sought to “set the record straight” by “correcting myths about Independent voters” in an article for the Center for Politics blog.

     “The large majority of independents are independents in name only. Research by political scientists on the American electorate has consistently found that the large majority of self-identified independents are “closet partisans” who think and vote much like other partisans,” writes Abramowitz.

The political science research to which Abramowitz alludes is based to a great extent on a book from 1992: The Myth of the Independent Voter by Bruce E. Keith et. al.  The influence of the work is apparent, for instance, in an academic paper published earlier this year in The California Journal of Politics and Policy by Edward L. Lascher, Jr. and John L. Korey.  In the paper, entitled “The Myth of the Independent Voter, California Style,” the authors analyze a series of field polls of the California electorate dating back to the early 1980’s and argue that the basic propositions put forward in Keith’s book “generally hold up well.”

Confronting “the sharp rise in the proportion of voters declining to state a party preference and the supposed increasing importance of political independents,” Lascher and Korey advise skepticism on the basis of the fact that 1) the majority of self-described independents “lean toward” one or the other major party and tend to vote in a manner consistent with that leaning, and 2) that the proportion of Independents who do not lean toward either major party has not increased significantly in recent years, even with the increase in Independent identification, and these so-called “pure” Independents tend to be less politically engaged than partisan “leaners.”  But how trustworthy are such findings? 
Skewed polls, a rigged election system and the systemic bias in favor of the two-party state and ruling political class among American political scientists are just a few of the reasons for skepticism.

Five Simple Steps to Political Independence

1. Admit we have a political problem. Cease supporting the Democrat-Republican partisan charade.
2. Un-enroll from the Republican or Democratic party, search out sensible alternatives. 
3. Identify yourself as an Independent, network with others who have similarly declared their independence from the two-party charade.
4. Register to vote as an Independent.
5. Cease voting for Democrats and Republicans, cast your vote for sensible alternatives.

New Group Seeks to Implement Top Two Open Primary in Arizona

The California Independent Voter Network recently expanded into Arizona, a state where registered Independents now outnumber Democrats and are quickly gaining on Republicans.  A multipartisan group of former elected officials there have formed a new group that wants to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2012 that would implement nonpartisan, top-two style primaries like that passed by voters in California last year.  From AZIVN:
The Open Government Committee, as the newly-formed organization is called, began to take shape earlier this year.  In an op-ed for The Arizona Republic in April, Paul Johnson argued that partisan politics is wrecking our country . . . He concluded the article with a call for nonpartisan primaries and invited like-minded individuals to join him in an effort to reform the primary process, writing:
“If you want to change the current system disproportionately dominated by the special interests of the two parties, we need help.  We will need a monumental effort to collect signatures, legal volunteers to defend against the parties who will not release power easily, and to help get our message out to voters.”

Since then, Johnson has been joined in his effort by a number of former lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties.  Among them are former Republican party congressional candidate Paulina Morris, former GOP lawmakers Carolyn Allen and Bill Konopnicki, and former Democratic legislator Ted Downing . . .

Supporters of the top-two primary system favored by the Open Government Committee argue that it will encourage voter participation among Independents, provide for more competitive elections, and potentially lead to the election of more moderate candidates for public office . . .

Opponents of the top-two system argue that though it may expand choice in the primary election, it reduces choice in the general election to just two candidates – who could very well be from the same party –, while potentially pushing third party and Independent candidates out of the political system altogether.  Ballot access expert Richard Winger states that, in practice, the blanket primary and top-two style system do not in fact result in the election of more moderate candidates in states where they have previously been implemented such as Louisiana and Washington.  “When someone tells you that we need a top-two open primary to get more moderate politicians in office, ask them for evidence,” wrote Winger in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Daily News.

The Morrison Institute report, which favors a nonpartisan primary, admits the lack of evidence in two footnotes . . .
Read the rest.  Of course, the top two style primary is not the only way to bring about the results its supporters desire.  Richard Winger listed five potential alternatives at Ballot Access News in September 2009, when the system was being debated in California:
1. California could return to cross-filing, which was used between 1914 and 1958. This is the California term for fusion. The California legislature between 1914 and 1958 was known for being very non-ideological, with a substantial number of legislators having been nominated by both major parties.
2. California could try non-partisan elections for the state legislature. The voters considered this idea in 1915 but defeated it.
3. California could try a classic open primary, in which the practice of voters joining political parties on the voter registration form is abolished. Then, on primary day, each party has its own primary ballot, but all voters are free to choose any party’s primary ballot.
4. California could try a system in which any candidate is free to either run in the “top-two” primary, or instead skip the primary and qualify directly for the November ballot. The California blanket primary, used in 1998 and 2000, had this characteristic to a certain degree; independent candidates stayed out of the primary and petitioned directly to the November ballot. In this proposed new system (which has never been tried in any state), candidates could choose to run in the primary, and the top two vote-getters would be on the November ballot. Candidates who ran in the primary and didn’t place in the top two would not be able to appear on November ballot. However, candidates who skipped the primary could qualify for the November ballot. The incentive a candidate to run in the primary would be that the candidate expects to qualify among the top-two and wishes to campaign in the primary season.
5. California could use Instant-Runoff Voting and abolish the primary completely.
Or, alternatively to the last alternative, a state could implement range voting or score voting.

Fred Newman 1935-2011

Influential activist and author Fred Newman is dead at 76.  From the New York Times:
Fred Newman’s influential role in New York life and politics defied easy description.  He founded a Marxist-Leninist party, fostered a sexually charged brand of psychotherapy, wrote controversial plays about race and managed the presidential campaign of Lenora Fulani, who was both the first woman and the first black candidate to get on the ballot in all 50 states. He helped the Rev. Al Sharpton get on his feet as a public figure and gave Michael R. Bloomberg the support of his Independence Party in three mayoral elections, arguably providing Mr. Bloomberg’s margin of victory in 2001 and 2009 . . .

In the early 1990s, Mr. Newman began a campaign to encourage more independent voices in politics, almost regardless of ideology. These included Mr. Perot, Ralph Nader and even the conservative stalwart Patrick J. Buchanan. Mr. Newman supported a succession of reform parties, ultimately capturing control of the New York City branch of the Independence Party.

As late as 2005, Mr. Newman wrote that he remained a Marxist, albeit what he called a postmodern one. His final cause was to end the two-party system, which he believed stifled real choice . . . 

Cross-Over Voting and the Primary Process

When the professional partisans of the major parties argue in favor of closed primaries, their main malicious boogeyman is the so-called cross-over voter.  If you are not registered with their party, they maintain, you should not be allowed to cast a ballot in a publicly funded primary election because your intention might be to somehow sabotage the party's nomination process with your single vote by casting your ballot for a weak candidate.  Freedom of association, they state, implies the right to exclude non-party members from the nominating process to protect the party against malicious cross-over voters.  Fair enough.  But why should the rest of us have to foot the bill to administrate the nominating process of some private affair such as a Republican or Democratic party primary?  If the primary is a publicly funded election, shouldn't that election be open to the public?  A lengthy and highly informative article at Ogden on Politics takes a close look at the primary process in general and the phenomenon of cross-over voting in Indiana in particular, to make the case that a voter should be allowed to vote in any primary she or he wishes.  Excerpt:
There only is one issue, if it can be called that, on which both "major" parties agree: make matters as difficult as possible for another party to obtain equal status, especially access to placement on the ballots. The individual parties are not named in Indiana statutes that regulate primaries. The parties do not have to be named. There have been other parties, always - as long as I can remember, and from what I have read - called "third" parties. Occasionally a candidate for (what usually is not a major) office from such a party will draw a respectable number of votes. Rarely, a third-party candidate will win. The reality is that the two major parties hold the lock and all sets of keys to the system . . .
The two "major" political parties have used (or some would say "abused") the mechanisms of government to preserve their forms and dominance, and advance their interests, by statute. . . . The two parties control the basic structure of the election process . . . These statutes were enacted by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. The majorities in both houses and the governor were Democrats and Republicans. It is reasonable to infer the legislation in which they take the keenest interest and upon which their political lives depend - that encompassing election laws - was drawn in such a way as to give their parties control . . .  A voter otherwise eligible should be able to vote in the primary election of either party for several reasons.
The whole article is well worth a read.  The piece contains a number of fascinating tidbits.  For instance, in Indiana, any poll worker or voter may challenge any other voter's right to cast a ballot in a party primary.  Excerpt:  
I.C. 3-10-1-6 allows a person to vote in a primary election for a specific party - Voter only can vote in one party's primary or the other - if the person is listed in the poll books for that precinct. There is a record of the party for which the person voted in the previous primary. But Voted can ask for a ballot in the other party's primary. It has been my experience that the poll workers ask a person "What ballot do you want?" I never have been asked a variation of "You have voted Democrat in the past. Is that the ballot you want?" I.C. 3-10-1-9 allows for Voter to be challenged at the primary. "A voter in a precinct may challenge a voter or person who offers to vote at a primary election. The challenged person may not vote unless the person (1) is registered; (2) makes: (A) an oral or written affirmation under IC 3-10-12; or (B) an affidavit ... (3) at the last general election voted for a majority of the regular nominees of the political parties for whose candidates the challenged person proposes to vote in the primary election and intends to vote for the regular nominees of the political party at the next general election; or (B) if the challenged voter did not vote at the last general election, intends to vote at the next general election for a majority of the regular nominees of the political party holding the primary election."
Are there such laws on the books in any other states?

The Anon Party: It Was Only a Matter of Time

The controversy surrounding the hacktivist group Anonymous, as well as its various spin-offs and subgroups, reveals the truth of the old adage that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A report on Information and National Security prepared for NATO's Parliamentary Assembly in June specifically noted the cyber threat posed by the decentralized international collective.   Without the support of countless individuals around the world, the group arguably could never have achieved such prominence. 

The list of entities that have been targeted by Anonymous and affiliated groups seems to grow by the day. Among the most prominent targets have been corporations and their lobbying groups (the Motion Picture and Recording Industry Associations of America, Amazon, PayPal, Master Card, Visa, Sony, the US Chamber of Commerce), government websites (Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Chile, the United States), security firms (HB Gary, Infragard), law enforcement networks and police organizations (Arizona), and even individual cities such as Orlando.

Whereas Anonymous seems to engage mostly in distributed denial of service attacks and website defacement – digital analogues to physical sit-ins and graffiti vandalism –, its subgroups such as LulzSec and Gnosis have hacked their way into the databases of numerous entities, dumping massive amounts of supposedly secure information onto the internet for all to see.  

Needless to say, there are likely countless individuals across the globe who support Anonymous's aims and goals – the freedom of communication and information being chief among them –, but are hesitant or simply unwilling to engage in patently illegal acts of digital sabotage and electronic guerrilla warfare.  Given the unrepresentative character of representative government in the United States, it was likely only a matter of time before the first Anonymous Party was founded.  A new group calling itself The Anon Party is looking to provide a legitimate outlet to advance those goals in civil society and gain support for them among the general public.  Excerpt from the group's first communication:
There are people from all political parties that support Internet freedom and civil rights. Although these people support our goals, they were averse to the tactics we used to advance them. Today, we are founding an Anonymous-affiliated political party. Our representatives will advocate for the internet and civil rights overlooked by other political parties of the world. We will do so legally, for the benefit of all people.

We will not hack websites. We will not use DDOS attacks. Although these methods were effective in turning the media’s attention to civil rights violations when our numbers were small, and we had limited options, we now have the numbers to make a difference legally. We can now attain the support of the general public. 
This political organization will begin a legitimate movement. Anonymous is now open to a wider variety of people, not just hackers and tech-savvy people on the Internet. All those who support Internet freedoms and individual rights will join our ranks.
Yesterday, individuals from the group held an open chat session and I decided to stop by and ask them a few questions about the project.  In the chat, testudo.smith reiterated the message of the group's first communication: "People know about Anonymous, and support their goals but they are afraid to get involved because of its semi-illegal nature. Thats why this group exists."  Smith appears to be exactly the kind of person the group is trying to reach.  Asked if he has been active in Anonymous in the past, he replied: "I myself have never been that active in the past. I have never been involved in the DDoS attacks, or hackings, as I am an optimist who believes that it is possible to make changes within the system."  For now, The Anon Party has two separate but interrelated goals: 
Smith: In the short term we want to become recognized within the Anonymous community. We want to become something that they support. Because of the way that Anonymous works, it is important that we get the support of the group, as there are no leaders. . . . And in the medium term we want to become a force that those outside of anonymous seek to join, and recognize as a threat. We want politicians to take note . . . 
According to Smith, "The Anon Party" is not actually a party but rather a "political advocacy group".  "Think of us as a group that supports the goals of Anonymous but uses legal avenues to achieve those goals," s/he said.  They might already have a home in the US Pirate Party.

LA: Jindal Vetoes Bill for Allowing Independent Candidates on Ballot

Stories on the wave of newly-declared independent candidates in China's ongoing local elections continue to ripple through the western media.  Reading a recent article on the elections in the Toronto Sun, I couldn't help but chuckle.  Excerpt:
By his own admission, charismatic 43-year-old Chinese businessman Cao Tian has always been a dreamer.  Some of his friends, however, say the colourful Cao is actually insane.  But there’s no disputing this: Cao Tian is nobody’s fool. A self-made millionaire, he rose from poverty to become a major developer in this gritty industrial city of eight million in central China.

Now he wants to run for mayor — as an independent candidate.  In any Western country, running as an independent candidate wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.  But this is China — and the all-powerful, ruling Communist Party says independents aren’t allowed.  [Emphasis added.]
The reporter from The Star's Asia Bureau clearly isn't very familiar with the repressive character of party government in the United States.  Running for office as an Independent candidate in the United States can not only raise eyebrows, in Louisiana it has spurred Republican Governor Bobby Jindal to pick up the veto pen.  Jindal has vetoed an omnibus election bill because it contained a measure that would allow candidates who are not affiliated with any party to be listed as "Independent" on the ballot.  The Bayou Buzz reprints Jindal's veto letter in its entirety, via Ballot Access News:
Re: House Bill No. 533 by Representative Gallot

Dear Mr. Speer:

House Bill No. 533 by Representative Gallot makes various changes to the election code. While I am not concerned with these updates to the election code, this bill was amended to also change the designation of candidates on election ballots who are not members of any recognized party. This amendment is problematic.

House Bill No. 533 provides that a candidate who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat and who does not belong to any other unrecognized party shall be listed as “Independent” on an election ballot rather than “No Party” as is current law. La. R.S. 18:441(B)(4) states, in pertinent part, “no political party shall be recognized in this state which declares its name solely to be "Independent" or "the Independent Party".” Therefore, this provision in House Bill No. 533 is in conflict with current law.

For this reason, I have vetoed House Bill No. 533 and hereby return it to the House.

Bobby Jindal
At Ballot Access News, Richard Winger is surprised by Jindal's abject ignorance of election law.  Excerpt:
The veto message displays surprising ignorance. Governor Jindal says there is another already-existing section of the election law that bans any party from calling itself the Independent Party. This is true. However, the Governor doesn’t seem to understand that the U.S. Constitution requires all states to provide ballot access procedures for independent candidates, separately and distinct from members of political parties.
See Storer v Brown, 415 US 724, at page 745-746. The Court said, “Must the independent candidate necessarily choose the political party route if he wants to appear on the ballot in the general election? We think not.” The fact that the state doesn’t want any political party to call itself “Independent Party” has nothing to do with ballot labels for independent candidates. Furthermore, the label “independent” is so generic and so essential that the State Supreme Courts of Massachusetts and Minnesota have each ruled that the state may not ban that label for independent candidates.

Even more surprisingly, Louisiana has always permitted independent presidential candidate to use a ballot label of “independent.” For example, in November 2008, Ralph Nader appeared on the Louisiana ballot with the label “independent.” Governor Jindal obviously doesn’t know this.
Louisiana is not the only state which is actively blocking Independent candidates from appearing on American ballots.  In California, for instance, the Secretary of State has expressly forbidden any candidate from describing him- or herself as an Independent on the ballot.  In this regard, the similarities between the US two-party state and China's one-party state are too obvious to be overlooked. Consider this report from The Washington Times:
The [Independent] movement has been so strong that the state-run Xinhua News Agency declared at the beginning of June that “independent candidates” are not recognized by Chinese law. It added that all candidates must clear a series of procedures to run for office. . . .

The Chinese Constitution guarantees all citizens 18 or older the right to vote and run in the county- and township-level elections.  In practice, however, the process is tightly controlled by the Communist Party. Most of the time, only party-approved candidates get onto the ballots.  “The biggest obstacle is the procedure,” said Mr. Yao. “If you don’t have confirmation, it’s easy for the government to … just bump off the ones they don’t like [from the ballots].”
In China, as in the United States, Independent candidates must face down outright opposition from the ruling party, overcome absurd procedural hurdles, and then they can still be purged from the ballot by party activists.  The condescension and derision that is clearly apparent in US media reports on the Chinese government's opposition to Independent candidates is matched only by their cowardly acquiescence to the suppression of Independent candidates by party government here in the United States.