Poll: 72% May Consider Voting for an Independent or Third Party Candidate for President

From a new poll by Reason-Rupe:
The latest Reason-Rupe poll results reveal a potential opportunity for a third-party presidential candidate. Seventy two percent of Americans say they would or might consider voting for a third-party presidential candidate, while 48 percent of Americans say they would support a presidential candidate who was “conservative on economic issues and liberal on social issues.” Eighteen percent of Americans said they would strongly support such a candidate, and this is presuming the candidate ran under the banner of a third party. Finally, 37 percent of Americans said they would consider voting for a third-party Tea Party candidate if she or he entered the race against President Barack Obama and the Republican nominee in 2012. These are significant chunks of the population willing to consider and potentially vote for a non-conventional candidate.

Several factors are likely driving this support for non-conventional presidential candidates.
First, there is overwhelming evidence that the American electorate breaks down into more than just simple liberal or conservative blocs. ABC News analyst Matthew Dowd finds that 51 percent of Americans do not fit into conventional liberal or conservative buckets. Gallup finds that at least 44 percent of Americans do not fit this mold. The Reason-Rupe poll also finds that 44 percent do not fit this conventional division. These numbers suggest that traditional Democratic or Republican presidential candidates may not represent the political views of nearly half of all American voters . . .

Huntsman as Independent Candidate for President?

An op-ed from LZ Granderson at CNN bemoans the forced choice between the Democrats and Republicans, and argues that John Huntsman should run as an Independent candidate for president in 2012:
Primaries have an assortment of personalities to sort through early on, but at the end of the day, the general election often forces us into a this-or-that, the lesser-of-two-evils scenario. . . .

Huntsman's showing a bit more personality now, and he is unveiling a jobs package ahead of Obama and Mitt Romney. But the reality is, it doesn't matter. He effectively eliminated his chances of making conservatives swoon, and thus winning the GOP nomination, when he tweeted that he believes in evolution and global warming.

But in closing the GOP door, he opened the independent window. It would seem that if Huntsman is still serious about being the next president of the United States, then instead of trying to win over the social conservatives who never liked him anyway, he should reboot his campaign and run as an independent . . .

When voters are forced between what they believe is right for the country and their civil rights or the civil rights of others they're not really weighing legislative options, they're deciding which limb to cut off . . .

Like Perot I don't know if Huntsman is the best person for the job, but what I do know is compare his on-the-job performance with the rest of field, and you will see he is not out of his league.  He's just playing for the wrong team.
Some might question whether it is already too late for someone like Huntsman to pull an Independent campaign together for the 2012 election, securing ballot access across the country etc.  However, as we all know, Americans Elect is already working to gain ballot access in all 50 states.  So the question becomes: can someone like Huntsman win the Americans Elect direct primary?

Abolish the Department of Homeland Security

The National Security Police State is a threat to constitutional government.  From the Los Angeles Times:
A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, federal and state governments are spending about $75 billion a year on domestic security, setting up sophisticated radio networks, upgrading emergency medical response equipment, installing surveillance cameras and bombproof walls, and outfitting airport screeners to detect an ever-evolving list of mobile explosives.

But how effective has that 10-year spending spree been?

"The number of people worldwide who are killed by Muslim-type terrorists, Al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few hundred outside of war zones. It's basically the same number of people who die drowning in the bathtub each year," said John Mueller, an Ohio State University professor who has written extensively about the balance between threat and expenditures in fighting terrorism. . . .

Like the military-industrial complex that became a permanent and powerful part of the American landscape during the Cold War, the vast network of Homeland Security spyware, concrete barricades and high-tech identity screening is here to stay. The Department of Homeland Security, a collection of agencies ranging from border control to airport security sewn quickly together after Sept. 11, is the third-largest Cabinet department and — with almost no lawmaker willing to render the U.S. less prepared for a terrorist attack — one of those least to fall victim to budget cuts.

The expensive and time-consuming screening now routine for passengers at airport boarding gates has detected plenty of knives, loaded guns and other contraband, but it has never identified a terrorist who was about to board a plane. 

Run For Your Lives!

Goaded by the professional hysterics in the corporate media, New York City is in full crisis mode ahead of hurricane Irene.  But if there is any group of people who are less reliable than political prognosticators, it is weather forecasters. 

Polling a Three-Way Presidential Contest

Public Policy Polling has released the results of a survey gauging support for particular third party Independent candidates in next year's presidential election.   Excerpt:
we took a look at seven possible independent candidates against Obama and his strongest GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, and found that the chances of defection by GOP-inclined voters are stronger than are cracks in the Democrats’ armor. Despite their grumbling, Democrats remain pretty united behind Obama, and six of the seven possible independent candidates would hurt Romney more than the president. 
The seven potential Independent candidates mentioned in the survey were: Michael Bloomberg, Jon Huntsman, Ralph Nader, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.  Bloomberg (10%), Palin (21%), Paul (15%) and Trump (18%) broke through to double digits.  You have to be careful with PPP surveys though because their samples always skew toward the Democrats and Republicans.  While most polls these days find that 40% of their respondents identify themselves as Independents, only 21% of the respondents to this survey were Independents.

Poll: 57% of Voters Want a Third Major Party

From an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell.  Excerpt:
The United States is in the midst of what we would both call a prerevolutionary moment, and there is widespread support for fundamental change in the system. An increasing number of Americans are now searching beyond the two parties for bold and effective leadership. . . .

What's more, a poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by Douglas E. Schoen LLC in April found that a solid majority of Americans are now looking for alternatives to the two-party system. Overall, a majority (57%) of all respondents said there is a need for a third party.

More than half (51%) of voters favored having a third major political party. Nearly one-third (31%) said that having a third major party in our country is very important. Voters favored having a major third party run a candidate for president in 2012 58%-13%—with one in five saying they were absolutely certain or very likely to vote for a third-party candidate.

In line with these findings, 52% of all respondents in a May Gallup poll said there is a need for a third party, and for the first time in Gallup's history, a majority of Republicans embraced the idea. In a June Rasmussen poll, 30% of respondents said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate for president in 2012.

Action Alert: Pressure the Pollsters

From today's column at CAIVN:

Four contenders for the GOP's presidential nomination are polling competitively with President Obama among registered voters, according to a new Gallup poll.  How do potential Independent or third party presidential hopefuls match up against the candidates of the major parties?  We don't know, because the pollsters never ask.

The new survey, published on Monday, asked just over 1000 registered voters how they would cast their ballots if the 2012 presidential election were held today, matching up the President against four potential rivals from the Republican Party's primary field: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ran at the head of the pack, closely edging out the President 48% to 46%.  Texas Governor Rick Perry polled evenly with the President 47% to 47%.  President Obama had a narrow edge over Texas Rep. Ron Paul 47% to 45%, while outpolling Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann by a more comfortable margin 48% to 44%.  All four results were within the poll's margin of error of +/- 4%.

While Republican and Democratic respondents dutifully fell out along partisan lines, supporting their own by massive margins, Independent opinion more closely resembled the larger sample.  Interestingly, however, among Independents three of the four Republicans outpolled the president.  Once again, Mitt Romney led the pack.  Independents preferred the former Massachusetts governor to President Obama 47% to 44%.  Ron Paul was also more popular than the President among Independents.  The longtime Texas Congressman came out in front of Obama by three percentage points, 46% to 43%.  The margin between Obama and Perry was slightly tighter, though Independents still preferred the Texas governor to the incumbent, 46% to 44%.  The only Republican whom Independents did not prefer over the President was Michelle Bachmann, who garnered just 42% support to the president's 48%.

Unfortunately, the survey did not ask respondents if they would have preferred an Independent or third party candidate to any of the the representatives of the major parties, despite the fact that a majority of Americans consistently tell pollsters they would consider voting for an Independent or third party candidate for President.  Indeed, a Gallup poll from May found that 52% of all respondents and 68% of Independents said that the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job representing the American people that the country needs a third major party.

Perhaps one might object, in defense of the pollster, that there are no high profile Independent or third party presidential hopefuls who have definitively thrown their hats into the political ring.  But has that ever stopped a pollster before when it comes to gauging support for Democrats and Republicans?  Like many other polling organizations, Gallup routinely measures support for the President against a "generic" rival from the other major party.  As Gallup's report on the most recent survey states, the organization has already conducted six surveys this year asking respondents whether they would be more likely to vote for Barack Obama or "the Republican Party's candidate for president" in 2012.
If polling organizations were to find that there is signficant support for an Independent candidate for President, even a generic one, it could very well change the shape of the race, and lead individuals who are considering an Independent run to take the leap.  Isn't it time that polling organizations begin measuring support for alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans, especially given the historic levels of frustration and discontent with the major parties?

There are more Independents in the United States today than there are Democrats or Republicans.  Shouldn't the Independent option get a fair shake in the polls?  Back in April, Ryan Jaroncyk composed a template letter for Independents to send to Gallup urging them to "conduct more regular surveys regarding the option of a third party presidential candidate in 2012, as well as a third major party in national politics at large." Why not consider dropping them a message?

Stasiology and the Two-Party State

'Stasiology' is likely one of the least known terms in contemporary political science.  Indeed, the term does not appear anywhere on Wikipedia, and a Google web search returns less than 6,000 hits.  And no, it does not refer to the study of the old East German Ministry of State Security.  Stasiology is the study of political parties.  According to an article in the Journal of Politics from 1957, the term was coined in 1951 by the influential French sociologist Maurice Duverger in his early work Political Parties.  One of the few online dictionaries that contains the word, the Free Dictionary, defines 'analytical stasiology' as "an attempt, through the construction of conceptual frameworks, to develop a science of political parties."

The etymology of the term is worthy of consideration.  It is derived from the ancient Greek word for faction, 'στάσις' [i.e. stasis], which denoted "a standing still."  The Greek στάσις is also the origin of the English word 'stasis,' which is defined as a state of inactivity or of equilibrium in which opposing forces cancel one another out.  For the ancient Greeks, the term did not have a positive connotation.  In his History of the Peloponesian War, Thucydides identifies stasis as a severe internal disturbance in both individuals and states.  Wikipedia defines the term as it was used in the context of ancient Greek political history.
Stasis is a term in Greek political history. It refers to the constant feuds between aristocrats in archaic Greece, struggling about who is the best (aristos is Greek for "the best") both in terms of prestige and property. It led to various civil wars and the establishment of tyrannies in many cities of ancient Greece, most notably the Tyranny of Peisistratos in Athens.
In Of Myth, Life and War in Plato's Republic, Claudia Baracchi emphasizes the term's negative valence.  She writes in a footnote:
Notice that the Greek word for faction στάσις [i.e. stasis] suggests that sedition is a matter of taking a stand, of a position that comes to be rigidly, statically maintained.  Faction thus constitutes a block in the moving order of the πόλις [i.e. polis], an obstruction of the movement of gravitation around the πόλις [i.e. polis] . . . Socrates uses the word στάσις [i.e. stasis] also to indicate division, disorder, and conflict . . .
Given this etymology, it becomes easier to understand why the founding fathers, who were steeped in the classics, were so profoundly suspicious and skeptical of parties and faction.  At the same time, it may also shed light on the fact that the term appears not to be in wide usage despite the many studies of the history, structure and organization of political parties that have been published in the last sixty years: the term reflects poorly on the very notion of party, which does not jive especially well with the deep intellectual and ideological investment in the maintenance and reproduction of the two-party state common among American political scientists.

Despite the almost universal consensus that the party organization is an integral component of modern politics and government, it is surprising to learn that this sub-field of political science is not particularly well-developed.  Indeed, it did not even have a name until the middle of the 20th century!  Scholars have yet to even agree on a working definition of stasiology's primary object of study, the political party.  In Comparative Politics, published in 1982 by J.C. Johari, the author writes:
The progress that has been made in the study of political parties has been attained despite continued inability to resolve a number of key conceptual problems.  Most prominent among these are – how to define a party, how to classify or categorize parties and party systems, how to conceptualize the environment or context within which a party functions including the operation and impact of a party and the interaction between it and its environment.  The surprising development in this regard is that, despite all these difficulties, students are engaged in making an empirical study of party politics with the aim of refining the discipline of stasiology.
Over the last thirty years, the students of political science do not appear to have made much progress in resolving these key conceptual problems despite their empirical efforts.  Consider the following course description for a graduate seminar on American Political Parties which begins this week at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs.  Professor Audrey Haynes writes:
Because political parties have played a central role in American politics since shortly after the beginnings of the Republic, the study of political parties has long been a key sub-field of American politics.  The exact specification of what should be encompassed in this sub-field, though, is a subject of dispute because of alternative conceptions of what political parties are . . . [Emphasis added.]
Haynes proposes an ad hoc definition for the course itself:
While we will discuss the many conceptualizations of political party, for organizational and pedagogical purposes, in this course, we will consider the party a tripartite entity – a coalition of voters (party in the electorate), a coalition of political leaders (party in government), and an organization of activists (party organization) separated from its other parts.  And at times we will think of political party as the sum of all its parts.
Needless to say, the course places great emphasis on the American Political Science Association's "Report of the Committee on Political Parties," which has served to indoctrinate generations of political scientists into the ideology of the two-party state since the document was originally published in 1950.  The syllabus also contains an extensive bibliography if you are interested in checking out any of the scholarly literature in the field.  

Though researchers in the field of stasiology have yet to agree even on a definition of the object of their study, Thucydides provided us with a thick description of the most extreme effects of faction and stasis almost 2500 years ago.  A lengthy excerpt from the discourse on stasis in Book III of The History of the Pelopennesian War:

"Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.

"The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first. The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention.

"The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in their struggles for ascendancy engaged in the direst excesses; in their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party caprice of the moment their only standard, and invoking with equal readiness the condemnation of an unjust verdict or the authority of the strong arm to glut the animosities of the hour. Thus religion was in honour with neither party; but the use of fair phrases to arrive at guilty ends was in high reputation. Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two, either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them to escape.

"Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles. The ancient simplicity into which honour so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow. To put an end to this, there was neither promise to be depended upon, nor oath that could command respect; but all parties dwelling rather in their calculation upon the hopelessness of a permanent state of things, were more intent upon self-defence than capable of confidence. In this contest the blunter wits were most successful. Apprehensive of their own deficiencies and of the cleverness of their antagonists, they feared to be worsted in debate and to be surprised by the combinations of their more versatile opponents, and so at once boldly had recourse to action: while their adversaries, arrogantly thinking that they should know in time, and that it was unnecessary to secure by action what policy afforded, often fell victims to their want of precaution.

"Meanwhile Corcyra gave the first example of most of the crimes alluded to; of the reprisals exacted by the governed who had never experienced equitable treatment or indeed aught but insolence from their rulers — when their hour came; of the iniquitous resolves of those who desired to get rid of their accustomed poverty, and ardently coveted their neighbours’ goods; and lastly, of the savage and pitiless excesses into which men who had begun the struggle, not in a class but in a party spirit, were hurried by their ungovernable passions. In the confusion into which life was now thrown in the cities, human nature, always rebelling against the law and now its master, gladly showed itself ungoverned in passion, above respect for justice, and the enemy of all superiority; since revenge would not have been set above religion, and gain above justice, had it not been for the fatal power of envy. Indeed men too often take upon themselves in the prosecution of their revenge to set the example of doing away with those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity, instead of allowing them to subsist against the day of danger when their aid may be required."

The Third (Straw) Man and the Art of Controversy

When the apologists of the two-party state and duopoly system of government confront advocates of third party and independent politics, one of their most common strategies is to set up a third party straw man.  The straw man fallacy is one of the most common rhetorical sleights of hand employed in our political discourse.  Instead of confronting an argument head on, and directly refuting it point by point, the speaker misrepresents the position he is arguing against, and then refutes the misrepresentation without ever addressing the actual point(s) of contention.  In his Eristical Dialectics, widely known as The Art of Controversy, Arthur Schopenhauer likens this stratagem to a diversion:
This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your opponent makes a proposition, and by false inference and distortion of his ideas you force from it other propositions which it does not contain and he does not in the least mean; nay, which are absurd or dangerous. It then looks as if his proposition gave rise to others which are inconsistent either with themselves or with some acknowledged truth, and so it appears to be indirectly refuted. This is the diversion, and it is another application of the fallacy non causae ut causae.
We find this strategy at work in an opinion piece for North Carolina's Times-News Online by Stephen Black.  Typically, a rhetorical sleight of hand is cleverly hidden within an argument or discourse.  Surprisingly, however, Black's argumentative strategy is effectively announced in the very title of the article: "Third-party miracle workers? Yeah, right."  Try as I might, I have yet to find a single article on the internet in which a third party or independent advocate asserts that third party or independent politicians are capable of performing supernatural acts, though this position is imputed to them on a fairly regular basis by the apologists of the Democratic and Republican parties.  Black writes:
We need a third political party, the columnists and talking heads shriek.  Yes, friends, it is the cry of the desperate once again. Let us have a third party made up of members of the same human race that has bollixed things up so hopelessly in the past.  Oh, but these third-party members will be different. Somehow. They won't be tempted by booze, sex, money and power like those Democrats and Republicans.

These third-party boys and girls will be decent and idealistic, unlike the Democrats and Republicans. The third party will be made up of members with no thought of being re-elected or rewarded like the Democrats and Republicans. Their only goal is to steer America into a problem-free future. No recession. No racial issues. No war. Only peace and prosperity.  In other words, third-party members won't be human with the same nature as Democrats and Republicans.  Let us visit Mars. Perhaps we can find some creatures on that planet who resemble third-party members . . .
Politicians, believe it or not, are ordinary human beings. Third-party politicians would have to be, if not Martians, then angels. They would have to be if they are to be different from the regular two-party politicians.
So, the argument here is that supporters of alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans believe that third party and independent politicians would be superhuman representatives capable of resolving the problems of war and peace, racism and discrimination, wealth and poverty, and so on, by mouthing the proper incantations and waving the magical political wand.  Of course, this argument is completely absurd, which is why it is a straw man.  Ironically, however, it may well be that there is an element of projection at work here as well.  Is this not precisely how Democrats and Republicans portray their own favored candidates?  Is this not the foundational belief for the Republican Church of Ronald Reagan, the Democratic mythology of Camelot, and the Cults of George Bush and Barack Obama? 

The difference between a third party or independent representative on the one hand, and a Democrat or Republican on the other, is not ontological.  It is political!  And that is the point.  An Independent politician will not be able to magically resolve the wars abroad.  But he or she would likely forward a position that is excluded from our discourse by the Democratic-Republican party duopoly.  An Independent politician will not be able to magically solve the nation's economic problems.  But he or she would be able to address them from a position that is not hobbled by the ideological orthodoxies of the major parties.  And so on.  The election of third party and independent candidates to the US Congress, state legislatures and local councils would not automatically result in the passage of landmark legislation.  But it would change the balance and relations of power in those institutions, while providing a voice for those who are unrepresented by the Democratic and Republican parties. 

Aside from his specious arguments against third party and independent political advocacy, the commentator above provides only one argument in favor of supporting the two-party system.  Actually, 'argument' is probably too charitable a term, since the claim is another fallacy, namely, the appeal to tradition.  Another excerpt, now from the conclusion:
We the people must understand that the two-party system made up of saints and sinners and every which way in-between is a system that has worked in the past. . . . We the people, however, must learn to instruct our leaders to compromise, not draw lines in the sand. . . . Compromise makes sure that everybody gets something. That is healthy government. . . . We the people who are deeply concerned about our nation can change our government for the better. We must, however, utilize the two-party system and the politicians we already have. We do not need to usher in a new system or another party. To believe this will change the direction our government is heading is merely sticking our heads in the sand.
The appeal to tradition – i.e. we must stick with the two-party system for all time because it worked at some point in the past and is the system we are stuck with in the present – is a fallacy because it rests on the denial of circumstantial, situational, historical, political and social change.  A bipolar, two-party state is literally incapable of representing the myriad interests that make up a diverse, multi-polar society like the United States today.  Arguably, the majority of Americans go without representation in government, whether adequate or inadequate.  To believe that doubling down on the Republican and Democratic parties will change the direction our country is headed is to stick one's head in the sand.

The Two-Party System is Like a Supermarket in Communist East Germany . . .

Via Rise of the Center, the Daily Show correspondents explain the two-party system:

Are You Independent In Name Only?

If you call yourself an Independent, yet continue to vote for Democrats and Republicans, in what sense are you an Independent?  From a letter to the editor of the DesMoines Register:
If there’s blame to be placed for the polarization of American politics, it lies squarely with the independent voters. Like it or not, we have a two-party system, and independents either have to deal with that fact or get involved and try to change it.
If you want more moderate, effective representation, pick a party and engage yourself in the process. Otherwise, the fringe elements of each party will continue to select the candidates you vote for.
If the “moderate middle” truly makes up 70 percent of the electorate, imagine the power that segment of the population has in choosing our candidates or working toward loosening the corporate, two-party grip on our democracy.
Yet independents continue to remain on the sidelines until the general election and then complain about having to choose between “the lesser of two evils” when entering the voting booth — if they vote at all.
— Steve Berry, Des Moines

On the Radar

In the wake of the debt ceiling debacle, the S&P downgrade and continuing volatility in the markets, there seems to have been a sharp uptick in criticism of the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  Here's a small sampling from the Politea News Share in recent days:
The Globalist: "For the longest time, it was all those other nations, particularly those of the "old world," that were in desperate need of modernization, whereas the ways and means of the United States were ingeniously modern. That long-held presumption is what's changing today. Case in point: the two-party system." 
• The Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Inquirer: "The Democratic-Republican duopoly now appears bent on alienating as many voters as possible . . .  We've long been comforted by Winston Churchill's assertion that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried." But these days, much to our detriment, the duopoly seems to be woefully short of democratic values."
Op Ed News: "As our elected Republican and Democratic elected officials in Congress become more and more dysfunctional, coupled with a President who appears either bought and paid for or incapable of making any sound decisions, many people among the citizenry are thinking about enlisting a Third Party candidate in hopes of putting the brakes on the downward spiral of our nation."
Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan: "Perhaps during the 2012 election cycle, America should commemorate the 100th anniversary of the strongest third-party presidential bid in history by rooting for a viable alternative to the two-party monopoly to make a run at the White House.  Impossible, you say? Well, you’re probably right. But if ever an electorate was primed for a third option on their presidential ballots, next year might be it."
• A letter to the Las Vegas Sun: "The only things bigger than our national debt are the egos of the politicians and pundits — and the stock market only reflects the actions of people trying to make a buck without actually working to earn it. Hence the ups and downs. I think our two political parties should be abolished. Everyone running for office should be an independent so he or she can vote for the good of the country, not their parties. If Ron Paul would change to an independent instead of a Republican, I would vote for him in a heartbeat."

Democratic Party Dead-Enders Against Independent Progressivism

Apparently, there is some controversy circulating among dead-enders of the Democratic party in the liberal blogosphere over the fact that an Obama campaign director from New Mexico has taken a couple more shots at what the Obama administration has previously termed the "Professional Left."  An excerpt from Huffington Post:
The Obama campaign's point person in New Mexico recently sent an email to supporters defending the president's position on the debt deal and bashing the Nobel Prize winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and the "Firebagger Lefty blogosphere."
'Firebagger' is, of course, a derogatory combination of 'Fire Dog Lake,' the progressive website, and 'tea bagger.'  Jane Hamsher, founder of FDL, responds to the statement made by the director of Obama for America NM, and suspects it is part of a strategy to attract independent voters:
But if this is a brilliant political strategy on the part of OFA, someone is going to have to explain it to me.  I know the goal is to attract the much-prized Independent for 2012.  But who do they think is keeping Obama’s poll numbers afloat?
If Democrat dead-enders such as Hamsher believe the Democratic party prioritizes Independents over dedicated progressive partisans, the appropriate strategic response by progressives should be self-evident.  They should declare their independence from the Democratic party.  Coincidentally, the email from the Obama campaign director in New Mexico was sent just days after the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party passed a resolution calling for a primary challenge against Obama next year, which happened to be the topic of yesterday's column at CAIVN:

The fate of the California Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus remains uncertain following its passage of a resolution calling for a primary challenge to President Obama late last month. . . .

On July 30th, as the White House and Congressional leaders were engaged in last minute negotiations that ended the first round of the debt ceiling debacle, the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party was meeting in Anaheim.  At that meeting, roughly 75 members of the California Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus passed a resolution stating that they would begin exploring the possibility of backing a primary challenge against President Obama for the nomination of the Democratic party in the 2012 presidential election.

The negotiations in Washington DC were clearly on their minds. The resolution criticizes President Obama for "negotiating away Democratic principles to extremist Republicans." At the top of their list of grievances stands the "unilateral closed-door budget offer to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, thus endangering The New Deal and War on Poverty safety nets."  Additionally, the CDP Progressive Caucus resolution decries the Obama administration's "unauthorized wars," its extension of the Bush tax cuts and Patriot Act, its refusal to include a public option in the health care reform act, and the privatization of public education and housing, among other things.

Needless to say, not all members of the CDP's Executive Board agreed with the resolution.  "This was kind of seen to some people as pretty seditious, to others, they completely agreed with it," said Karen Bernal, a delegate in the California Democratic Party and Chair of the Progressive Caucus, in a telephone interview with David Swanson earlier this week.  The response from the leadership of the California Democratic Party was swift.  The Progressive Caucus was singled out and refused recertification at the meeting, even as other caucuses received the routine certifications.  Thus, technically, the California Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus no longer exists, though its status will be reconsidered at an Executive Board meeting this November.

John Burton, the California Democratic Party chair, was clearly not pleased by the measure.  Asked by the San Francisco Chronicle's Politics Blog whether a primary challenge would help the President's chances of reelection, he stated, "F---- no, what is that going to do?"  Burton did not hold back in the interview:  "A lot of people are frustrated about the war. People talk about cutting Social Security and they're not talking about paying for the war. People are frustrated about a ton of stuff," he told Joe Garofoli.  "It's how they feel. There's discontent," he continued. "There's a frustration in the country. Look at the f------ polls. So f---, that's news to somebody?"

For her part, Karen Bernal of the Progressive Caucus does not appear to disagree with Burton's assessment, though her language is less colorful.  As she told David Swanson: "We are simply a reflection of the unhappiness that everyone knows about, we just brought that heat inside . . . it was definitely a strategic decison on our part that this heat out to exist inside the party as well, and that was one of the reasons why," they determined to pass the resolution.

Among those who have been the most vocal in calling for a primary challenge against President Obama from the left is former presidential candidate Ralph Nader.  In an interview with the Daily Caller earlier this month, Nader stated that he has no plans to run for president again, whether as an Independent or a Democratic primary challenger.  However, he predicted that a primary challenge against the president was a veritable certainy in the wake of the debt ceiling debacle.

“What [Obama] did this week is just going to energize that effort . . . I would guess that the chances of there being a challenge to Obama in the primary are almost 100 percent.”

The CDP Progressive Caucus's resolution may well provide a major boost to the effort.  Reporting on the resolution at Democracy for New Mexico, one progressive activist writes:  "Similar questions are being asked right here by members of the Democratic Pary of New Mexico, and I imagine similar concerns are being discussed among Democrats all across the country. I'm not the only one who thinks the horrible handing of the debt ceiling "negotiations" was the straw that broke the camel's back."

One person who is often mentioned as a possible challenger to Obama is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  His name tops the list of potential candidates at Stop Hoping, a website devoted to organizing a primary or Independent challenge against the President.  There are likely a great many progressive Democrats who wonder why their party's representatives do not measure up to a dedicated democratic socialist such as Sanders.  The answer is probably quite simple.  Sanders is not a Democrat.  He's an Independent.

Lesser Evilism and the Psychopathology of Political Life

Lesser evilism is a primary component of the bipolar mentality that sustains the failed Republican-Democrat two-party state.  And like the duopoly itself, the lesser-evilist is two-faced.  On the one hand, partisans of the Republican and Democratic parties paint the choice in favor of the lesser evil as pragmatic and realistic.  "Like it or not, we have a two-party system," they are fond of saying.  In a rare moment of honesty, they will admit that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent the interests of the American people, they might even state outright that the reigning two-party system is inimical to democracy and republicanism itself, but then in the very next breath they will go on to argue that one side of the duopoly divide is not as dangerous as the other, not as intolerable as the other, not as objectionable as the other.

Despite recognizing the failure of the two-party state, the subject is incapable of liberating him- or herself from the behaviors that reproduce it.  This mentality is akin to a form of political obsessional neurosis insofar as it reveals a "poor ability to adapt to one's environment, an inability to change one's life patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying [political] personality."

On the other hand, we can distinguish this form of lesser evilism from its primary counterpart, which begins not from a more or less pragmatic and realistic appraisal of the two-party state, but rather from an hysterical and psychotic obsession with the party that represents the greater evil for the subject.  A key characteristic of this mentality is the condensation of personal and political anxieties, which are then  projected onto a single figure who comes to represent an existential threat for the subject.  The removal of this threat becomes the primary goal of all political activity, with the result that the subject perceives any alternative as incomparably preferable, thus leading to the embrace of the lesser evil.  We might liken this brand of lesser evilism to a form of obsessional psychosis.  Bush Derangement Syndrome and Obama Derangement Syndrome are common examples of the disorder.  At Salon, Glenn Greenwald provides us with a concise description of the phenomenon:
Every four years, The Other Side is turned into the evil spawn of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.  Each and every election cycle, each party claims that -- unlike in the past, when Responsible Moderates ruled and the "crazies" and radicals were relegated to the fringes (the Democrats were once the Party of Truman!; Ronald Reagan was a compromising moderate!) -- the other party has now been taken over by the extremists, making it More Dangerous Than Ever Before.  That the Other Side is now ruled by Supreme Evil-Doers means that anything other than full-scale fealty to their defeat is viewed as heresy.  Defeat of the Real Enemy is the only acceptable goal.  Election-time partisan loyalty becomes the ultimate Litmus Test of whether you're on the side of Good: it's the supreme With-Us-or-With-the-Terrorists test, and few are willing to endure the punishments for failing it.  It's an enforcement mechanism for Party loyalty that -- by design -- breeds slavish partisan fealty.
None of this has anything to do with reality.  For as long as I can remember, Republicans -- every election cycle -- have insisted that the Democratic Party has "now become more radical than ever," while Democrats insist that the GOP has now -- for the first time ever! -- been taken over by the extremists.
Together, the neurotic and psychotic lesser evilist form a binary totality not dissimilar from the relation between the masochist and the sadist, and constitute a threat to representative, democratic, republican government.  If you or anyone you know shows signs of neurotic or psychotic lesser evilism, it is most likely an indication of a deeper political imbalance.  Contact an independent political psychologist for consultation immediately. 

Group Launches Campaign for Top Two Primary in Arizona

A new organization in Arizona called the Open Government Committee is launching a ballot initiative to implement a top two style primary system in the state.  From today's column at AZIVN:
Earlier this month, the Arizona Open Government Committee officially launched its campaign to bring a top-two style open primary system to the Grand Canyon State by ballot initiative in next year’s elections . . .

The new system would be implemented for all partisan elections except those for President and Vice President of the United States.   The proposed amendment would guarantee that all qualified voters have an “unrestricted right” to vote for the candidate of their choice.  Under the current system, Republicans cannot vote for Democratic primary candidates and vice versa.

“No longer will primary elections exist in which Democrats are limited to just choosing among Democratic candidates and Republican voters cast ballots just for Republican candidates, while Independent voters are largely left out altogether,” stated former Republican State Senator Carolyn Allen.

Yet, Independents are not completely left out of the present system.  Though, while they may opt to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary, they cannot cast a primary vote for a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another.

Proponents also argue that the new system will open the political process.  “Currently, partisan candidates seeking the nominations of their party often simply address the issues of a narrow group of voters who vote in the primary election,” said Paul Johnson, a former Democratic mayor of Pheonix who has since registered as an Independent, and is spearheading the movement.  Under the new system, “candidates will be forced to address issues of importance to all of us – Independents, Democrats and Republicans alike,” he stated.

Johnson and Allen are among those spearheading the effort, as reported here at AZIVN last month.

Opponents of top-two style open primary systems object to the fact that it limits voter choice to just two candidates in the general election.  “In practice, it would eliminate minor party and independent candidates from the November ballot,” wrote ballot access expert Richard Winger in an op-ed for the Sacrameto Bee arguing against California’s top-two initiative.  Winger points out that this was indeed the case in Washington after the state instituted its own brand of top two in 2008.  “Washington, for the first time since it became a state in 1889, had no minor party or independent candidates in November for any statewide state race or for any congressional race,” he stated.

“I call them Choke Point primaries, because that is precisely what they are – they create a choke point so general election voters have less choices,” writes Solomon Kleinsmith at Stop Top Two, an organization founded in opposition to the California initiative.  The group notes that there are numerous reform alternatives to the top-two open primary system that would incentivize political participation and lead to more representative government in the United States.  It suggests, for example, proportional representation, instant runoff voting, approval voting, and multi-member legislative districts.  The Open Government Committee is set to begin collecting signatures to get its initiative on next year’s ballot later this month.  They must collect nearly 260,000 valid signatures by July 5th 2012.
The organization may find a fair amount of support among Arizona Independents, who now outnumber Democrats in the state and are steadily gaining on Republicans.  From last month at AZIVN:
The group sees a golden opportunity for reform in the growing number of voters in the state who refuse to affiliate with either of the major parties.  In 1990, Democrats and Republicans accounted for 89% of registered voters in Arizona.  Ten years, later 18% of Arizonans were registered with no party affiliation or with a third party.  By April of this year, 33% of the state’s 3.2 million registered voters opted not to affiliate with either major party, surpassing the registration numbers of the Democrats, who now account for just 31.3% of Arizona’s voters.  Based on this trend, many observers predict it is only a matter of time before Independents and third party supporters overtake the Republicans as well.  See the Secretary of State’s website for registration numbers going back all the way to 1924, when there were fewer than 100,000 registered voters in the whole state!
Though many advocates of third party and independent alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans are staunch opponents of top two, the proposed amendment in Arizona not only does away with the state's semi-closed partisan primary election system, it also requires uniform primary ballot access rules for all candidates seeking to get onto the primary ballot, whether they are registered with a party or with no party at all.  This would be a big improvement over Arizona's current system, which overtly discriminates against third party and independent candidates. 

Marginalized, Moderates Consider Third Party Option

From a letter to the editor of LJ World:
The real problem is those extremists in both parties that drive our debate. In an environment where the majority of our national legislature is assured election by political association, the extremes in the two parties dominate.
While the majority of the electorate self-identifies as moderate, they seem to have little influence with the party leadership loyal to those extremes. The old not-so-sneaky trick of splitting the national leadership in the search for compromise no longer works. On the contrary, compromise may be fatal to the political survival of an elected official.
Perhaps the only way we can address hard problems like our debt crisis in the political environment prevailing today is to establish one or more centrist parties to which the moderates can gravitate. The abrupt and erratic progress when the electorate infrequently grants political control to one of the existent parties may just be too disruptive to justify the continuation of our two-party system. We might learn from our many democratic allies that a multiparty system better serves the public interest.
The piece has sparked an interesting discussion in the comments section as well.

Will Independents Walk the Walk in 2012?

From Wednesday's column at CAIVN:

Public disgust with Democrat-Republican party government is at an all-time high in the wake of the debt ceiling debacle. As more Americans identify themselves as Independents, will they walk the walk when it comes time to cast their ballots next year?

Americans have long held a low opinion of Congress.  “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself,” wrote Mark Twain once upon a time.  If recent polling is any indication, it appears that more and more Americans are coming to see the truth of Twain’s quip.  A new survey from CNN finds that 70% of respondents do not believe most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected, and, more astoundingly, only 41% believe their own representative is worthy of re-election . . .

Discontent is most high among Independent voters.  75% of Independents told the pollster that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, compared with 74% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats who said the same. Independents held similarly negative views of their own Congressional representatives.  57% of Independents said their representative in the US House does not deserve re-election.  50% of Republicans and just 36% of Democrats said the same.

A separate poll by Rasmussen bolsters the numbers reported by CNN.  The Rasmussen survey found that only 17% of likely voters believe the federal government has the consent of the governed, an all-time low.  Just 8% of respondents said they believe the average member of Congress listens to constituents over party leaders, while 84% stated that our Congressional representatives listen more to their party leaders than the voters they are elected to represent.

This raises an obvious question.  If a large majority of Americans believe Democrats and Republicans put their party before the people, and indeed, before the country itself, why do so many Americans continue voting for or otherwise supporting Republicans and Democrats?  In response, one might answer rather simply that they don’t.  In the 2008 presidential election, which saw the highest levels of voter turnout in over forty years, fewer than 57% of eligible voters cast a ballot.  There were more Americans who opted not to vote than there were who voted for Obama.  In the highly charged midterm elections of 2010, fewer than 38% of eligible voters bothered to show up at the polls.

What is an Independent voter to do?  If you do not or cannot support the Democrats or Republicans, which appears to be the case for an increasing number of Americans, but there are only Democrats and Republicans on the ballot, when there is a choice at all, why even bother voting?

Consider the situation in Virginia, which holds its state elections in odd-numbered years.  There are 100 members in the State House and 40 in the State Senate.  This year, 62 seats in the House and 15 seats in the Senate are going uncontested, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.  There is literally no choice in these elections.  They have been reduced to nothing more than a formality.  Fortunately for some, there are a handful of third party and Independent candidates for the State House (seven) and Senate (four), but that likely does not provide much comfort to the majority of Virginians who will have no choice at all when it comes to choosing their representative for the State House.

If Independents desire adequate representation in government, as opposed to the automatic reproduction of the two-party political status quo, they are going to have to demand it by supporting alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats.  2012 is right around the corner.

The Lesser Evil is the Greater Evil

More liberals and progressives appear to be waking up to the fact that they are not represented by the Democratic party.  In the Huffington Post, Bob Samuels, the president of the University Council for the American Federation of Teachers, makes the case for a third party challenge to Obama from the left.  Excerpt:
Many progressives and liberals have been coming to the same conclusion: someone has to challenge President Obama from the left. One of the main reasons for this move is that people are starting to realize that Obama has pushed through an agenda that only a conservative can love. While Republicans have tried for thirty years to destroy the welfare state and to push more wealth to the richest Americans, only Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have been able to achieve these goals. . . .

If it is true that Democrats are the most effective representatives of the conservative agenda, then it is clear that we need to promote a candidate who is not tied to either party. . . .

The main criticisms of this push for an independent campaign is the fear that a challenge on the left will undermine Obama and help elect a crazy on the right. Yet, this desire to go with the lesser of two evils means that we are still only hoping for an evil, and as argued above, it is only the lesser evil that can enact the policies of the greater evil.

A Conscientious Objection to Political "Science"

Judging from their comments and commentaries in the mainstream media, it would not be much of an exaggeration to say that political scientists are among the most reliable and reactionary supporters of the Republican-Democrat party establishment and ruling political class in the United States today.  Except, perhaps, for those deluded pundits who naively believe that political science is both non-political and "scientific."  Consider a recent op-ed in the LA Times by Seth Masket and Hans Noel, two political "scientists" from the University of Denver and Georgetown University, respectively.  Entitled "Don't Look to a Third Party Candidate," Masket and Noel argue against the very idea that a third party or independent candidate could win the presidency, and furthermore assert that even if one did, he or she would be stymied by a partisan Congress.

Their argument against advocacy for a third party presidential candidate boils down to one simple point: it's too hard.  It may be difficult for some to believe, but the position of these political "scientists" is literally that no one should support alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans in any presidential election because it's too difficult.  One need not wonder how specimens such as these might have counseled the leaders of the American revolution.  They begin thusly:
Why wouldn't the solution to our nation's problems be a moderate president, without ties to the usual suspects, who is free to simply do what is right?  The problem is, it's not going to happen. What's more, we really don't want it to.  It's not going to happen because the major party candidates have three huge advantages. They are already organized. They have built-in supporters. And our electoral institutions favor the largest two parties.
First of all, there is no substantive difference between "being organized" and "having built-in supporters." So their three huge advantages can be reduced to just two right off the bat.  Secondly, the fact that our electoral institutions favor the Democrats and Republicans is neither a coincidence nor a simple stroke of fate or luck.  The Democrats and Republicans have rigged our institutions to consolidate and maintain their grip on power.  The fact that our electoral institutions favor them is therefore conditional upon the fact that they are organized, thereby eroding the distinction between the two remaining advantages distinguished in the screed.   They continue:
To win the presidency, you have to campaign across the country. You have to build a campaign in state after state — from scratch. You have to assemble lists of donors and databases of voters to contact, and you have to develop a base of volunteers who can carry out the vital tasks of organizing and campaigning precinct by precinct.
This is meant as an argument against a third party or independent presidential campaign, but it should be noted that the same holds for any Democratic or Republican presidential campaign as well.  Taking this point to its logical conclusion, we'd have to conclude that no one should ever run for president because it's difficult, even with the huge advantages conferred by a supportive party apparatus.  And yet people do run for president, even though it is difficult. Indeed, people do things that are difficult all the time, despite the fact that they are difficult.  If everyone allowed the possibility of failure to deter them from doing anything, nothing would ever get done.  Failure is always an option.  But success is always a possibility.  They continue: 
Keep in mind that about 40% of the country votes Republican and about 40% votes Democratic in a presidential election no matter who the candidates are. Even if you could win over some of the less committed voters in the middle, it would be very hard to pull away those committed partisans. At best, an independent candidate could win 20% to 30% of the vote. 
The assertion here is demonstrably false.  Over 40% of the country doesn't even vote in presidential elections.  Less than 30% of the country votes Republican and less than 30% of the country votes Democrat.  Democrats and Republicans rarely obtain support from a majority of eligible voters even when you tally their votes together.  In most elections it's considerably less than that.  The political scientists then go on to reference Duverger's "law," to make the institutional or procedural argument against third party presidential candidates, and their abject cynicism shines through.  Excerpt:
Duverger's Law, named after Maurice Duverger, the French scholar who most explicitly articulated it, boils down to the idea that voters are strategic. In a winner-take-all election, they know there's virtually no chance of the third-most-popular candidate winning. Better to help determine which of the top two candidates wins. So they vote for the least objectionable of the candidates with a real shot at winning.
So the ideal candidate for these two political scientists is not the best candidate, or the most representative candidate, but rather the major party candidate who is not as objectionable as the other major party candidate.  This is nothing more than the old lesser evil argument dressed up in academic jargon.

Masket and Noel then argue that even if a third party candidate were elected president, it would be difficult for him to accomplish anything in his program because he would have no allies in a Congress dominated by professional partisans of the Democratic and Republican parties.  Here they essentially return to their initial argument that if something is difficult it is not worth doing.  Finally, they conclude by asserting the metaphysical claim that the two-party state is a "natural" phenomenon, and urging readers to work within the two-party state.  Excerpt:
All of this seems unfair. Why should these two parties have such an advantage? That's the wrong way to look at it. The Democrats and the Republicans are not our overlords. They are us. They are the natural creations of politically concerned citizens who want to make a difference . . . If you're not content with the way this country is being governed, one of the best ways to change it is to get involved with one of the existing parties and work to nominate and elect candidates at all levels of government who will fight for the things you care about. . . . Pining for an independent, third-party dictator is not only a waste of your time, but if you somehow got what you wanted, you'd quickly find it wasn't what you wanted at all.  [Emphases added.]
Of course, there is nothing "natural" about the dictatorship of the two-party state.  It is a wholly artificial construct created and maintained by self-interested lawmakers whose loyalty lies, first and foremost, with the Democratic and Republican parties themselves.  The assertion that the ruling two-party state is a "natural" or "organic" phenomenon is nothing more than obscurantist, metaphysical nonsense.

For some reason, these "scientists" furthermore fail to observe one of the most self-evident political phenomena in the United States today: the Democratic and Republican parties no longer represent the people of the United States and the people of the United States increasingly no longer support the Democratic and Republican parties.  If you wanted to end abortion, would you get a job performing abortions?  If you wanted to end the death penalty, would you sign up to be the state's executioner?  If you want alternatives to the dictatorship of the Democrat-Republican two-party state, why would you join the Democratic or Republican party?

Third Party Independent: Building Independent Media

As some of you are already aware, last month I launched a newspaper in New York City devoted entirely to third party and independent political news and views: Third Party Independent.  The paper was conceived as a print companion to Third Party and Independent Daily, and is intended to raise awareness of alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans, while providing another media platform for third party and independent advocates to have our voices heard above the duopolist din.  The first issue hit the streets the week of Independence Day, with eleven articles by nine authors from across the third party and independent blogosphere.  I would like, once again, to thank all the contributors to the first issue! The second issue is already in the works and should be available in the next week or so.

The main reason why I have not yet mentioned the paper very much online, if at all, is because the website is still under construction.  However, aside from some minor cosmetic tweaks that are still necessary, all the basic functionality is there, and the layout is pretty much set.  The site is set up to be an open community blogging platform for third party and independent activists.  Anyone can sign up and start publishing.  So far as I'm aware, though there are numerous such sites for Democrats, Republicans, progressives and conservatives – the most well known being Daily Kos and Red State – there is no such site on the web for third party and independent activists across the political spectrum.

Though the website, at this point, is still a work in progress, I would like to extend an invitation to readers to head over to Third Party Independent, look around a bit, check out the first issue of the newspaper, and, if you're so inclined, sign up for a free account and publish a couple test posts to the site.  Any and all feedback, comments and suggestions are more than welcome!  Indeed, it will be crucial to build the site into a vibrant community dedicated to escaping the dead end and breaking the deadlock that is Republican-Democrat party politics.   

Are You Independent or Are You Codependent?

From yesterday's column at CAIVN:
With the big stock market drop and credit rating downgrade that immediately followed the debt ceiling debacle, public discontent with elected representatives in Washington is, once again, at an all-time high.  In a New York Times/CBS News poll taken last week, a full 82% of respondents stated that they disapprove of the way the Congress is handling its job, “the most since The Times first began asking the question in 1977,” reported the Gray Lady.

It is surely no coincidence that record high numbers of Americans also refuse to associate themselves with the Democrats or Republicans.  A full 39% identified themselves to the pollster as Independents, compared with just 32% who said they are Democrats and 24% who admitted to being Republicans.  Since 1992, there was only one other poll in this series which found such high levels of Independent identification, and that was in late July 2009.

Writing in The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein argues that “astronomical levels of discontent with President Obama, Congress, and the Washington system itself” among Independent voters is building into a “towering wave of alienation” that promises yet another volatile political backlash in the voting booth next year.

“With each party hemorrhaging public support amid political polarization and economic stagnation, the implications for 2012 are complex and unpredictable,” he writes.

Brownstein sees three possibilities in his crystal ball: the rise of an Independent third party movement, an anti-incumbent backlash against the sitting representatives of both major parties, and continued de-alignment of the voting public from the major parties rather than realignment with either of them.
On the other hand, many supporters of the Democratic and Republican parties are more comfortable explaining away the public’s deep discontent and growing dissatisfaction with the two-party state, choosing to ignore it rather than address or confront it.

In Commentary Magazine, Seth Mandel advises Republicans that in 2012 they should not reach out to Independents.  “There is no “reaching out” to Democrats and independents (or Republicans for that matter), at least in the classic sense; there is only offering solutions. This is mainly because independents don’t really exist,” he writes, echoing the assertions of observers who are ideologically and institutionally invested in the maintenance of the two-party state.

At The New Republic, on the other side of the duopoly divide, Ruy Teixeira makes the very same point, on the basis of the very same article, but from a Democratic perspective.  He argues that President Obama should not reach out to Independents because Independents effectively do not exist.

“To understand how very unlikely it is that Obama’s long sought-after deal is going to magically turn around his numbers, we must visit one of the most robust but amazingly underappreciated findings in American political science: independents are not independent,” writes Teixeira.

Here we see a rare point of overt agreement between the partisans of the Democratic and Republican parties:  Independents should be ignored in favor of courting and consolidating the dwindling number of Democratic and Republican party adherents across the country.

This situation makes one thing crystal clear.  So long as Independents continue voting for, or otherwise supporting, Democrats and Republicans, it is a virtual certainty that they will continue to lack adequate representation in government. So long as Independents allow themselves to be held politically hostage by the ideologues of the two-party state and the entrenched interests that maintain both the Democratic and Republican parties, they are not Independent; instead, they are codependent.

Consent of the Governed

Some noteworthy numbers out of Rasmussen:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 17% of Likely U.S. Voters think the federal government today has the consent of the governed.  Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe the government does not have that consent. . . . .

The number of voters who feel the government has the consent of the governed - a foundational principle, contained in the Declaration of Independence - is down from 23% in early May and has fallen to its lowest level measured yet.

Perhaps it's no surprise voters feel this way since only eight percent (8%) believe the average member of Congress listens to his or her constituents more than to their party leaders. That, too, is the lowest level measured to date.  Eighty-four percent (84%) think the average congressman listens to party leaders more than the voters they represent.

Voter approval of the job Congress is doing has fallen to a new low - for the second month in a row. Only six percent (6%) now rate Congress' performance as good or excellent.

From Hostage Taking to Hijacking

When word first began leaking out during the debt ceiling negotiations that the proposed agreement would create a so-called "super Congress" to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit, there was reason for both concern and skepticism.  The very idea that the Congress would agree to abrogate its representative duties and responsibilities, and empower a glorified committee to do the dirty work of  party elites, is unsettling to say the least.  On the other hand, the creation of joint committees, commissions and so on, is standard practice in the legislature, which may of course determine the rules of its own proceedings.  Perhaps the term "super Congress" was just a poor locution, or sloppy journalistic shorthand, or a poorly chosen but pithy sound bite favored by some group of lawmakers.  And, indeed, the proposed body is now commonly being referred to as a "super committee" or simply as a "joint committee."  Yet, is there any reason to give the representatives of the ruling political class any benefit of the doubt?  Ron Paul argues that the "super committee" is patently unconstitutional.  From CNBC:
The "super Congress" committee of 12 that will decide on budget cuts by Thanksgiving as part of the debt ceiling agreement is unconstitutional, Rep. Ron Paul told CNBC Thursday. "I don’t think there’s any doubt about it," said the Texas Republican, who is running for president.

"I would challenge it in the courts," he added. "I would say it is not a constitutional function. There’s no authority to have a 'superCongress' who takes over what the House [of Representatives] is supposed to do" in handling the nation's purse strings.

Democratic and GOP leaders of the House and Senate are expected to each name three lawmakers to form the new 12-member committee in the next couple of weeks. The committee will have until Thanksgiving to come up with a way to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade.
Paul added that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it say a committee can make budgetary decisions "and then pop something back into the House and Senate and say, 'You have an up or down vote, you can’t take it to a subcommittee or full committee, you can’t negotiate it.' You don’t know what’s going on there."
The form and makeup of the committee succinctly demonstrate the way in which the two-party system has effectively undermined constitutional government in the United States.  It will have twelve members, six from each party, with party leaders in each chamber appointing three members from their own caucus.  Of course, the parties are not equally represented in either chamber of the legislature, and the constitution does not establish the two chambers of the legislature on an equal footing.  Pretending that a strictly bipartisan, bicameral "super committee" is representative of the American people or even the legislature itself is an exercise in self-delusion, a crass utilitarian fiction.

By the end of the debt ceiling debate, it had become commonplace to describe negotiating tactics on both sides of the duopoly divide as "hostage taking."  None of those hostages – namely, the American people – have been released.  Indeed, the terrorist operation now appears to be moving into its second phase.  The "super Congress" is a hijacking of the Congress by the ruling elites in the Democratic and Republican parties.  And they didn't even need box cutters.  At World Net Daily, Alan Keyes argues that the debt ceiling deal and "super committee" approved by  the Democratic and Republican parties demonstrate, once more, that it is time to move beyond the two-party charade.  Excerpt:
The partisan farce wasn't just much ado about almost nothing. In fact, if allowed to stand, the only concrete outcome of the otherwise pantomime process deserves to be call "historic," but in the desperately bad sense that it may have produced the first audible death rattle of representative government in the United States. I'm referring, of course, to the so-called "super committee" devised as cover for the implementation of Mitch McConnell's scheme to wrest the initiative in fiscal matters from the representatives of the people in the House. 

In effect, this super committee will function as a budget politburo, meant to assure that for the foreseeable future a little clique of elite faction fellow travelers usurp in fiscal matters the legislative role of the body that most nearly represents the people. 

I believe that this mechanism inaugurates a process that is meant to place Congress on the road to extinction. It will cease in any real sense to be a legislative body. It will become an administrative appendage, providing window dressing for a politburo style of government increasingly emancipated from any control, involvement or effective influence by the people . . .
We must kick our addiction to the twin-party sham; prove that we have the discipline, clarity and courage to go cold turkey. And do it in a fashion so grand and unmistakable that we will finally convince ourselves. To achieve this goal, people acting in the true Tea Party spirit will have to focus with laser-like intensity on one political goal between now and Election Day in 2012 – to throw the twin parties overboard
Even those delusional individuals who, for some reason that is virtually beyond rational conception, continue to support the Democrat-Republican two-party charade have begun to question the sanity of maintaining the two-party state.  From Ezra Klein:
Those in Congress who want action — and they are of both parties — manufacture crises in order to force it. It’s not that things don’t get done so much as that they get done in the most dangerous, insane and reckless way. And if that fails and they don’t get done, they trigger awful, unimaginable crises.  At some point, isn’t it time to admit that this system is broken?
Of course, the only people who refuse to admit that "this system is broken" are the dead-enders of the Democratic and Republican parties themselves, and it seems like there are fewer and fewer of them every day.  Nonetheless, it is easy to fathom why party elites would continue to deny this obvious reality: it is in their interests.  

Update: By the way, obviously, Ron Paul and Alan Keyes are coming from libertarian-leaning Republican and Independent conservative positions, respectively.  But progressive-leaning Democrats and independents have been equally critical of the debt ceiling agreement and, at least initially, of the "super Congress".  Anyone been following what the latter folks have been saying about the "super committee" since the agreement was signed into law? 

The Criminalization of Internet Browsing

"Won't somebody please think of the children?!"  This is the rallying cry of hysterics and political zealots everywhere.  In the House of Representatives, it is now being spouted by supporters of a new bill that would require internet service providers to retain a database of our names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, dynamic IP addresses and browsing histories, in order, supposedly, to protect children from internet pornographers.  In other words, the goal is to create a massive police state surveillance network and spying database on every single American who uses the internet, and has nothing to do with "the children".  From ZDNet:
Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives’ judiciary committee passed a bill that makes the online activity of every American available to police and attorneys upon request under the guise of protecting children from pornography . . .

The Republican-majority sponsored bill is called the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011.  It has nothing to do with pornography, and was opposed by over 30 civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations, as well as one brave indie ISP that is urging its customers to do everything they can to protest the invasion of privacy.

“Protecting Children” forces ISPs to retain customer names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and dynamic IP addresses.  It’s like having your wallet plus the web sites you visit tracked and handed over on request. These logs are now going to be retained for the scope of one and a half years.  (I have to wonder if ISPs can sell this data, too.)  This has nothing to do with porn . . . 

CNET’s Declan McCullagh reminds us that “the mandatory logs would be accessible to police investigating any crime and perhaps attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases as well.” CNET reported that mandatory data retention was being fast-tracked in January, 2011.

The fact that civil litigants could subpoena your internet activity and the contents of your wallet has nothing to do with the labeled and stated purpose of this bill.
Such subpoenas would not require approval by any court.  Rather we must simply trust the credibility and integrity of the Democrat-Republican police state itself.  From the National Journal:
The bill also gives the U.S. Marshals Service the authority to use administrative subpoenas to track down unregistered sex offenders.  A court does not need to approve administrative subpoenas, and this provision garnered heated opposition from members who said that it gives the marshals too much power. An amendment by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., that would have stripped that provision from the bill, failed.
The bill, which has both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition from both major parties, provides us with a sickening example of the political tactics favored by police state and surveillance society advocates such as Lamar Smith (R) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D), who co-sponsored the measure.  Do you oppose the violation of privacy rights, the further evisceration of the Fourth Amendment, the consolidation of the police state and the expansion of the surveillance society?  Well, then you must support child pornography.  However, as is demonstrated by ongoing investigations of websites devoted to child pornography, proposals like that supported by Smith and Wasserman-Schultz are completely unnecessary to "protect children from internet pornographers."  From Ars Technica:
They used proxy servers and encryption. They used anonymous screen names like "Beast," "Bones," "Jailbird," and "Johnny_5_is_@live" to post and share their child sex abuse films. Admins carefully segregated participants according to how much they were trusted.

But none of that stopped the Department of Justice from identifying and indicting 72 people accused of celebrating the sexual abuse of children age 12 years and younger through a members-only Web forum called "Dreamboard."

"Using sophisticated methods to evade detection by law enforcement, Dreamboard members allegedly used the power and anonymity of the Internet to motivate each other to commit their horrific acts of sexual abuse of minors and trading in child pornography," announced Attorney General Eric Holder in a speech today. "No matter how savvy online predators think they are, we will find them, dismantle their networks, and bring them to justice."
To sign a petition against the bill, head over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It is Time to Break the Two-Party Duopoly

From a letter to the editor of Alabama News from Richard Rutledge, the Vice Chairman of the Constitution Party of Alabama:
Many of our Founders warned against allowing a two-party system to control our political system, but we refused to listen. Now, we have created a dual-headed monster and a ruling-class elite that are virtually unchallengeable by common men. This is the exact opposite scenario our Founders sought to create. . . .
The political gridlock in Washington, with the bitter, purely partisan battle over the budget and raising the debt ceiling, clearly shows breaking the monopoly the two-party system holds over our political system is essential to our survival as a republic. We must find a way to elect statesmen who will represent the interests of citizens who elect them, not the current crop of career politicians who answer only to party will and special interests.
Said Frederick Douglass: "Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle! Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will."

AZ: Tucson Greens Prepare for Historic Primary

Green party candidates are running in a number of noteworthy contests this year.  Among them is the Tucson mayoral election.  From last week's column at AZIVN:
In June, Democratic party activists successfully purged all Republican party and Independent hopefuls from the ballot in this year’s mayoral election in Tucson, ensuring a two-party race between the Democrats and Greens, as reported here at AZIVN late last month.  Following the Green Party’s first ever primary election for Tucson mayor in August, Democrat Jonathan Rothschild will square off against either Mary DeCamp or David Croteau in the election for the city’s highest office this coming November.  The city’s current mayor, Republican Robert Walkup, is not seeking re-election. 
Last Friday, the two Greens sat down for the first in a series of candidate interviews with Christopher Conover and Andrea Kelly from Arizona Public Media.  The cordial discussion began with a consideration of what this primary means for the Green party.  Mary DeCamp, a teacher and lifelong activist originally from Nebraska, stressed its historic character. 
“This is historical. This is the first city-wide [primary] election that the Green party has run,” said DeCamp. “We have only been in Pima County for 20 years. So we’re as young as some of our youngest voters . . . to offer a new way of approaching politics is very exciting,” she continued.  DeCamp stressed that she and her primary opponent David Croteau are good friends.  “We’re bringing the message to the public that politics can be civil, respectful, engaging and fun,” she concluded. 
David Croteau, a self-employed craftsman and also a longtime activist, stressed that voters are clearly looking for real alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans.  “I believe that the two-party system is broken,” he said.  “The largest voting increase seems to be in Independents, and that suggests to me that the two major parties aren’t giving choices that people are willing to stick with,” he continued.
Read the rest.  Independent voters now outnumber Democrats in Arizona.  The Green party's primary in the Tucson mayoral election has the potential to significantly raise the party's profile throughout the state.  If Greens and progressives nationally are looking for a local campaign to bolster in an off-year election, this one should be on the top of their list.