Ideology Trumps Ideology

If and when it is called, the special election in New York's 23rd CD will likely be a three-way race between Democratic candidate Bill Owens, Republican Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. In my first post on the contest, as you might recall, I quoted Red State's Eric Erickson saying, "If Dede Scozzafava is the best the New York Republicans can come up with, let’s just hand the district over to the Democrats." In response, I noted that Hoffman entered the race specifically in opposition to Scozzafava's liberal positions on a host of issues before the Democrats had even named their candidate, and wrote that Erickson's attitude:
perfectly encapsulates the duopolist mentality fostered by the binary ideology of the two-party system. However, unlike the Red State Republican ideologue, conservatives in New York do not give up so easily.
It is therefore worth mentioning that Erickson has now come out in support of Hoffman. The post is worth quoting at length, if only for the novelty of reading a dogmatic duopolist make a strong case for a third party candidate:

I am on record repeatedly saying that disaffected conservatives should not agitate for a third party. It truly makes no sense. Ballot access laws in the fifty states make it extremely impractical to mount a third party challenge except in very rare cases. Historically, those cases are premised on individuals who, once off the national stage, see their third party collapse, see e.g. Teddy Roosevelt and Ross Perot.

There are, however, some situations where exceptions must be made in order to pressure the Republican Party of a particular state into doing what is right. The opportunities rarely arise because there are not a lot of viable third parties out there. One state where there is an exception to my “no third parties” rule is New York.

In that state, the local Republican Party did everything possible to screw the national Republican Party . . . Now the race in NY-23 pits two liberals against each other in the two major parties. Sadly, the person furthest to the left is the Republican, Dede Scozzafava . . .

Conservatives and Republicans should rally around Doug Hoffman as a viable alternative to Dede Scozzafava. Hoffman has more in common with the people in NY-23 and is closer to the Republican Party on issues across the board.

We don’t need a third party in this country. And it is too hard to set one up anyway. But there is a viable third party in New York that conservatives can use to remind the GOP what happens when the local Republican Party rejects the Republican platform. Above all else, we must make sure Scozzafava is defeated.

Having a Democrat in that seat would be better than Scozzafava because the media could not resist the story line that the GOP is moving left just when Americans are moving back to the right. Scozzafava would hurt NY-23 and she would hurt the GOP brand nationally. Doug Hoffman is the guy we should rally around.

Let's catalog his arguments for and against third party activism. Against third parties, he states: 1) they are not viable, 2) they are impractical, 3) historically, they have not been particularly successful, and 4) the US does not need a third party. Fortunately, it is not necessary in this case to refute each of these assertions point by point, since Erickson supplies the counter-arguments himself. In support of the Conservative Party candidate, he writes: 1) the candidate is viable, 2) he is reliably conservative, 3) his election would pressure the Republican Party to move in a more conservative direction, while punishing the local party branch for straying to the left, and 4) it would undermine predictable narratives in the mainstream media.

Arguably, each of these points could be said to hold in virtually every election featuring third party or independent candidates on the ballot. First, viability is a matter of perception. Paradoxically, third party and independent candidates are often not perceived as viable precisely because people who say they would vote for a viable third party or independent candidate do not support them. Just voicing support for, or consideration of, a third party or independent candidate changes their viability quotient, for lack of a better term. Hoffman, for instance, is now likely a more viable candidate simply because Erickson has come out in support of him. Next, third party and independent candidates are more reliable than representatives of the Republican and Democratic Parties because they are not beholden to a massive party apparatus and the wide array of lobbyists and special interest groups that fund it. Moreover, the inclusion of any third voice in a duopolized debate will necessarily provoke a reaction on the part of the major party candidates, pushing them in one direction or another. And this, finally, of itself, would force a change in the media's stock narrative plot-arc for any given election.

By far, Erickson's most sweeping claim is that: "We don’t need a third party in this country." Ironically, however, he proves the opposite. Defending himself against potential backlash from partisan Republicans, he thus asserts that his support for Hoffman's third party candidacy is the exception that proves the rule against third party activism. And sometimes ideology trumps ideology.

1 comment: said...

It cannot succeed in actual fact, that is exactly what I think.