The Fix Is In, or, Everything Would be a Lot Easier if We Lived in a Dictatorship

At The Washington Post's 'The Fix,' Chris Cillizza does his duty as a shill for the two-party political establishment in an analysis of new polling data showing that self-described independents now far outnumber the co-dependent dead-enders of the Democratic and Republican Parties:
The latest Post poll shows 42 percent of the sample describing themselves as independents, more than double the number who called themselves Republicans (20 percent) and even far ahead of the 33 percent who referred to themselves as Democrats. While three of the last four Post surveys have shown the independent number over 40 percent, as recently as last year independents comprised just 31 percent.
Cillizza remarks that third party and independent candidates for office are having a significant impact on the New Jersey gubernatorial election as well as the special election in NY's 23rd, but then notes: "it's important to remember that talk of a third party and the reality of it are too far different things." Indeed, let's keep this in mind as we ponder Cillizza's regurgitation of duopolist memes and establishmentarian mystifications. He begins:
First, while people like to describe themselves as independents, there are actually very few people who are entirely unaligned politically . . . That means that the vast majority of independents -- roughly eight in ten -- are not in fact the sort of people who would be building blocks for the creation of a third party.
The fact that independents are not an ideological monolith is little more than a triviality, one I've touched on here on more than a few occasions. Further, it is an equally trivial point that if independents voted for actual independents there would be fewer Democrats and Republicans in office. Yet, declaring one's independence from the two-party political charade is the first step toward real political autonomy. In this context, Cillizza's conclusion is a non-sequitur. Why would one assume that a highly heterogeneous segment of the electorate, united only negatively, by their collective disgust at the politics of the two-party state, would or could come together to form one single "third party"? The answer is simple: because you are incapable of conceiving a politics that is independent of the two-party charade, each faction of which is motivated by nothing more than collective disgust for the partisan adversary, and united negatively under the banner of the lesser evil. If independents vote for third party or independent candidates independently of one another, this would likely lead to something entirely different from "the creation of a third party," for instance, the empowerment of a plethora of third party and independent alternatives to the stooges of the political establishment offered up by the Democratic and Republican Parties. Cillizza continues:

Second, the institutional hurdles to the creation of a new party -- or even running a third party candidacy for president -- are massive. The most basic challenges are from a financial and organizational standpoint where each national party has spent decades honing their approaches and have deeply entrenched advantages that would take years for a new party to learn.

The institutional hurdles to third party and independent activism are massive indeed. However, Cillizza's incomprehensible focus on "the creation of a new party" is typical of the duopolist ideologue who apparently believes that third parties do not exist because they are ignored by the mainstream press. There is, of course, no need to "create a third party" because there are literally dozens of extant alternatives to the Republican and Democratic patronage machines, a significant number of which have already overcome many of the "institutional hurdles" to third party activism. Let's also not forget that these "institutional hurdles" to third party and independent activism and the "entrenched advantages" of the major parties are not simply aspects of a neutral political landscape, but rather the result of biased and discriminatory laws, rules and regulations written into law by representatives of the Democratic and Republican Parties themselves in order to ensure their continued duopoly on elected offices. However, there is no reason to think it would "take years" for any number of minor parties to achieve significant levels of success, all it would take is for voters to cease believing the propaganda spewed by the major parties and their mouthpieces in the mainstream political press, and stop supporting the Democratic-Republican political charade, which they can do in the very next election by voting for third party or independent candidates for office. Though it is true that it would likely take years for a new party to gain ballot access in all fifty states, there are numerous alternative parties that have been active for years, decades even, and have already overcome many of these hurdles. Again, just because the mainstream media ignores third parties, this does not mean they do not exist.

At the end of the piece, we are treated to the conclusion Cillizza had been aiming at all along, which is symptomatic of the authoritarian fetishization of the executive common among partisans of the duopoly parties and their enablers in the American media:

Yet, even if a third party candidate does emerge in 2012 or 2016 there is no guarantee that such a candidacy would lead to the creation of a legitimate third party (Perot's candidacies, for example, did not serve as the jumping-off point for another political party.)

Apparently, in Cillizza's mind, a political party only exists to the extent that it participates in the glorification of the office of the President of the United States. His silent assumption all along, as is obvious from his conclusion, is that the aim and end of all political activity is to control the executive branch of the federal government, which is exalted above all others. I see little difference between this attitude and practical monarchism. As former President George W. Bush put it: everything would be a heck of a lot easier if we lived in a dictatorship.


Samuel Wilson said...

I'm not sure Cillizza entirely deserves your wrath. I read that last quote to mean that Perot's candidacies did not lead to a Reform Party contesting state or congressional elections, though we can note that others inherited the ballot lines Perot earned for state Reform parties with the best known consequences in Minnesota. It is true, however, that too many people hold the Presidency as the bar any party must pass to become "legitimate."

d.eris said...

Indeed, rereading it, I wondered if I was not unfair, it is a bit more "wrathful" than the usual post. Yet, his final statement that a third party candidate for president in 2012 or 2016 would not necessarily lead to the creation of a "legitimate third party" implies that there is currently no "legitimate third party" in the United States. The premise of the piece, that the rise of independents might lead to the "creation of a third party," presupposes that there are no alternatives to the duopoly parties, which is patently false. By his own admission, his piece is speculation about "speculation about the possibility of the emergence of a third party (and third party candidate) in the runup to the 2012 presidential race." But instead of considering actual third parties, he pretends that none exist, and instead fantasizes about the reinvention of the political wheel, and then concludes that it is unlikely. The piece simply did not rise to the level of being worth a charitable reading.

redante said...

Cilizza's article really rubbed me the wrong way. His entire angle was to poke a stick at independents when he could have very easily taken the stance of being critical of the two major parties by asking: what makes both major parties stink so much that people are rejecting them in record numbers? Anyway, I blogged about this in detail over at my blog. In any case, this mentality of it is independents who deserve to be kicked when all they are doing is registering their disgust at the failures of the two major parties just really irks me.

Fairlington Blade said...

On what basis can anyone claim that the major parties are being rejected by record numbers? This probably makes me a duopoly fetishist (kinda kinky terminology that), but the '92 election was the only one in which an independent truly impacted the presidential race. There is only one truly independent senator (unless you count Lieberman's party of ME).

For all practical purposes, the first past the post rule for elections makes it exceedingly hard for a third party (as opposed to independent candidates). Look at the Liberal Democrats in the U.K. By any measure, the most successful party when there is not proportional representation. Locked out of government for 12 years under Labor and probably due for another spell of the same under the Tories.

Then again, a blogger railing against a paid columnist is nothing new.


d.eris said...

Fairlington, thanks for the comment. You ask: "On what basis can anyone claim that the major parties are being rejected by record numbers?"

In this particular instance, on the basis of the poll under consideration, which found that a majority of Americans continue to reject identifying themselves with the Democratic or Republican Parties.

I don't think the reference to Perot makes you a duopoly fetishist, though it might reveal a susceptibility to the cult of the executive. ;-)

As for first-past-the-post voting, Duverger's Law does indeed establish a relation between SMDP and two-party systems, but in the United States it cannot be denied that the two party state has devolved into a one party state in tons of polities across the country at local, state and federal levels. If SMDP tends to create a two-party system, and in a given locale, district, state or region, one of the two parties is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent, it is reasonable to hypothesize that a third power would fill the vacuum left by the deterioration of the two party state to a one party state. This is happening, for instance, in Vermont, where the Republicans are quickly becoming marginalized by the Democrats and the Progressives. I wouldn't be surprised to see similar dynamics in conservative states, where the Democrats are pushed aside by a Republican/Libertarian, or Republican/Conservative divide. For more detailed arguments, see these posts on Diverger's Law