Illinois: Third Party and Independent Candidates for Governor 2010

At the Columbia Chronicle, a student newspaper of Columbia College Chicago, Patrick Smith reports on the spectrum of third party and independent candidates for governor in Illinois in 2010, including independent Michael White and Libertarian Lex Green:

According to White, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the Illinois National Guard for more than 20 years, voters are eager for a candidate who is not affiliated with the two major parties, Republicans and Democrats.

Libertarian candidate for governor of Illinois, Lex Green, said he has seen the same interest from voters. “I’m seeing a growing number of people who have become energized,” Green said. “It seems to be a very positive experience for me.”

White said he believes the “majority of Illinois voters consider themselves Independent.” He also said the voters he spoke to opened up to him when they found out he was not affiliated with either major party . . .

In addition to Green and White, there are two other third-party candidates. Randy Stufflebeam is the candidate for the Constitution Party, and Rich Whitney is running as the Green Party Candidate. The Green Party will be on the ballot as an official third party in 2010, because the party received 11 percent of the vote in 2006 . . . The last time Illinois had an official third party on the ballot was 1986.

Third Party and Independent Web Roundup

What's going on in the third party and independent web today?
In the news:
Ballot Access News points out a lengthy article in City Hall on the Working Families Party in New York State.
• At Independent Political Report, Kimberly Wilder relays a report from Ballot Access News stating that "minor party and independent candidates are involved in constitutional election law cases in at least 21 states."
The Thirds is following news on the campaign to draft Ralph Nader to run for Senate in Connecticut.

From the parties:
The American Centrist Party features a Blog Talk Radio interview with the group's National Chairman Andrew Evans on "shared sacrifice."
The American Conservative Party features a letter by Alan Reasin to his Congressional delegation and the president.
• In its Thanksgiving message, the Constitution Party states that "Americans can give thanks the US is not limited to two parties."
• The Green Party relays a press release from the CT chapter stating that "Connecticut Greens would welcome a Nader run for Senate."
• The Libertarian Party blog reports that the Maryland chapter has nominated their candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.
• The Modern Whig Party has announced that its first national conference will be taking place in December in Washington D.C.
• The Pirate Party provides a rundown of the Orphaned Works Act.
• The Socialist Party calls for opposition to an escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

In the blogs:
Attack the System relays its extensive weekly news digest.
• At Bonzai Mike Farmer reflects on the implications of increased dependence on government.
Bulls Eye Politics outlines "what we all can (and must) do," a letter to a local 9/12 organizer.
Green Party Watch reports on the party's petition drives in Hawaii and Arizona.
The Hankster reports that independents are gaining influence in Atlanta, Utah and NYC.
• At Humble Libertarian, W.E. Messamore has updated his list of the top 100 Libertarian blogs and websites.
The Jacksonian Party reflects on "decades of horror."
• At Mirror on America, Liberal Arts Dude compares Obama with Brazilian President Lula and argues that the latter is "what a left-wing presidency looks like."
• At On the Wilder Side, Kimberly Wilder draws attention to upcoming World March for Peace events.
• At Polizeros, Bob Morris makes the case for left-wing populism.
Ross Levin calls for a re-awakening of the anti-war movement and reports on upcoming anti-war protests.

The Third Party Tradition in American Politics: Against Duopolist Historical Revisionism

When partisans of the Democratic and Republican Parties seek to discourage others from engaging in third party and independent political activism, they return time and again to what I call the historical argument, which seeks to prove that third party and independent movements will necessarily fail in the future because they have never succeeded in the past. Historical fatalism of this sort is foreign to the foundational spirit of the United States and is symptomatic of the degeneracy and decline of popular political thought under the reigning duopoly system of government. Furthermore, and like so many of the propositions put forward by the propagandists of the Democratic-Republican two-party state, the argument does not even possess the virtue of being true. Over the next few days, I plan to provide excerpts from a number of scholarly articles detailing the third party tradition in the United States in order to counter the revisionist tendencies of duopolist ideologues, who seek to erase or otherwise obscure the third party and independent political tradition in the United States in the interests of short term political gain aimed at nothing more than maintaining the two-party political status quo. My starting point will be John D. Hicks's seminal article "The Third Party Tradition in American Politics," which appeared in the Mississippi Valley Historical Review in 1933.

Hicks's article provides a history of third party politics in the United States from around 1800 through 1930. Over the course of the paper, he discusses no less than fifteen minor parties and argues that such groups have had an impact on the course of US history that rivals those of the major parties. In his historical sketch, Hicks details the influence (among others) of: the Tertium Quids, the Anti-Masonic Party, the Liberty Party, the Free Soil Party, the Know Nothings, the Constitutional Union Party, the Liberal Republican Party, the Grangers, the Greenback Party, the People's Party (i.e. the Populist Party), the Socialist Party of America, and the Farmer Labor Party.

In his introductory paragraphs, Hicks writes:
Possibly a good many intelligent voters would be surprised to learn that the two party system was not ordained by the Constitution, and that a division into political parties was not even desired by some of those who first guided the nation's destinies . . . Far more depressing to the ordinary elector, however, would be the discovery that the United States has never possessed for any considerable period of time the two party system in its pure and undefiled form. It is a fact, easily demonstrated, that at least for the last hundred years one formidable third party has succeeded another with bewildering rapidity; and that, contrary to the customary view, these third parties have seriously affected the results of presidential elections, have frequently had a hand in the determination of important national policies, and have played perhaps quite as important a role as either of the major parties in making the nation what it is today. (Emphasis added, Hicks, pp. 3-4.)
In the final pages of the article, Hicks concludes:
To the superficial observer the history of American third party movements might appear to be only a long succession of jeremiads. It is true enough that the successes of these parties at the polls have been ephemeral and their hopes of endurance unfounded. But their chronic re-appearance is a factor in American history that cannot be overlooked. In three-fifths of the presidential elections held during the last hundred years the candidates of significant, and at least temporarily powerful, third parties have been before the voters. In possibly half a dozen instances the third party vote has snatched victory from one major party ticket to give it to the other. Innumerable state administrations have been in the hands of third party men, and in spite of the late Democratic landslide a Farmer-Labot governor still rules in Minnesota. To dismiss third parties lightly under these circumstances is to show a lamentable disregard for the facts. [Emphasis added.]

But it is not so much in the terms of victories won and candidates elected that the importance of third party movements should be assessed. What is of infinitely greater consequence is the final success of so many of the principles for which they have fought. It is almost a law of third party history that the triumph of the third party cause means the death of the party, and the reason why this is true is self-evident. Let a third party once demonstrate that votes are to be made by adopting a certain demand, then one or the other of the older parties can be trusted to absorb the new doctrine. Ultimately, if the demand has merit, it will probably be translated into law or practice by the major party that has taken it up. Not all third party ideas endure, and it is a good thing they do not; but the list of third party principles that have finally won out it formidable. The abolition of slavery, the restoration of "home rule" to the South, the regulation of the railroads by state and nation, the revision of the banking and currency systems to secure a more adequate and a more elastic supply of money and credit, the various attempts to curb the "trusts", the conservation of natural resources – these reforms, to mention only a few of the most obvious, made headway at first mainly through third party agitation . . . . The chronic supporter of third party tickets need not worry, therefore, when he is told, as he surely will be told, that he is "throwing his vote away." This backward glance through American history would seem to indicate that his kind of vote is after all probably the most powerful vote that has ever been cast. (Emphasis added, Hicks, pp. 26-27.)
In attempting to account for the continuous succession of third party movements in the United States, Hicks discounts economic arguments, and instead suggests a structural mechanism is at work:
There is more merit in the theory that American third parties have come about as natural by-products of our diverse sectional interests. Major parties must command support in every section, and must manage somehow to collect everywhere the maximum number of votes. That one man's meat is another man's poison has frequently been true as between the various sections of the United States . . . Let a whole section begin to feel that its interests are being permanently discriminated against by both old parties, and the time for a plain-spoken third party, organized mainly along sectional lines, is about ripe. (Hicks, p. 28.)

Glenn Beck and the Destruction of the Two-Party System: Gabbo, Gabbo, Gabbo!

Reflecting on coverage of Glenn Beck's recent book launch in Florida, Chuck Cummins of the Chuckwagon Journal wonders if the talk show host "is starting a third party." Chuck writes:
according to the [Orlando] Sentinel, Beck hopes "to transform his personal celebrity into political action and has begun to assemble a movement to 'change America's course.'" While in Florida recently promoting his new book, "Arguing with Idiots," Beck said "America, we cannot wait for a leader anymore. The people must lead, and the leader will follow." . . .

Conscientious voters across the nation should be encouraging Beck's success. Republicans made a big deal of Obama's lack of leadership experience and disparaged his community organization background. But, they had to notice that that very background led to one of the most skillfully crafted and organized campaigns in recent history. Beck seems to have taken notice, at least, and wants to organize Conservatives in a similar manner. Regardless, any attempt by any person to get Americans off their duffs and actively participating in the process of nominating, electing and monitoring our government officials has to be a good thing.
Unquestionably, Beck has shown an increasing hostility toward the two-party system. Following an interview with David Horowitz, he recently sketched out what it means to "effectively organize your community":

It's demanding sanity with spending. It's demanding that we fight to win every war we get into. It's asking and demanding that we hold people accountable, that people who break the law or don't pay their taxes go to jail, not the cabinet.

It's demanding that we call terrorists by their names, terrorists. And if we demand that people stop calling tea partygoers terrorists, angry mobs, but rather what they are, concerned citizens that have had enough, if that's what destroys the two-party system, so be it. They should be destroyed. [Emphasis added.]

In response, the dead-enders of the Republican Party have reluctantly come to the defense of the GOP. Some conservatives have even gone so far as to defend the very existence of parties as such in the face of Beck's antics. At Commentary Magazine, Peter Wehner writes:

For Beck to put forth the argument he does, in the manner he does, is evidence, I think, of a kind of animus toward political parties . . . Contrast Beck’s attitude toward political parties with those of a founder of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke . . . Burke understood that parties were not always right . . . genuine conservatives understand the important role parties play in organizing people of similar beliefs to do the practical, and often the slow and imperfect, work of advancing an agenda that can eventually be translated into governing . . . It’s also worth pointing out that many of our greatest figures in American political history were men who proudly associated themselves with political parties.

Though it may well be the case that Beck is serious when he states that we have to start "thinking like the Chinese" – he has, for instance, called for summary executions of captured enemy combatants – his most recent publicity stunt, in which he announced but did not unveil "The Plan," resembles nothing so much as it does the marketing strategy of Gabbo, the ventriloquist's dummy whose popular program forces Krusty the Clown off the air in an early episode of The Simpsons. The first five minutes of the episode are well worth (re)viewing. The parallels are striking.

WSJ Op-Ed Page Discovers Independents in New England

Either folks at the Wall Street Journal and the Cook Political Report have been reading Poli-Tea or the burgeoning independent insurgency in the northeast can no longer be ignored by the mainstream press and professional political analysts. In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report writes that "independents are gaining traction in New England":

Third-party candidates rarely win elections. So what does it say about the deep blue states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island that they now have credible independents running for governor next year? While politics is often messy and even contradictory, third-party candidates tend to run strong when one party becomes so dominant that it becomes comfortable pushing unpopular policies. That seems to be happening now in the Democratic stronghold of New England.

In Massachusetts, state Treasurer Tim Cahill resigned from the Democratic Party recently to make a bid for the state's top job as an independent . . . In Rhode Island, former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee is looking for a political comeback as an independent . . .

In Massachusetts, 50.2% of voters are registered as unaffiliated with either party (up from 42.2% in 1990). In Rhode Island, 50.1% are unaffiliated. Those numbers tell us that a majority of voters are somewhat disaffected with both parties. Messrs. Cahill and Chafee are hoping to stitch together a coalition of these voters.

This is not implausible in New England. Maine elected James B. Longley in 1974 and Angus King in 1994 as independent governors. In 1990, Connecticut elected Lowell Weicker governor as an independent, while Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman currently represent Vermont and Connecticut, respectively, as independent U.S. senators.

Of course, none of this is news to regular readers here at Poli-Tea. I've been following these developments since at least last spring (see, for instance, Independent in a One-Party State) and noted the regional trend over the summer in guest posts on the independence of independents for The Hankster and the Rotterdam Windmill. What is news here is the fact that cognizance of this independent movement is beginning to penetrate the consciousness of the national media.

Primary Follies: "Top Two" in California

In The Los Angeles Times, Jean Merl reports on the state of the debate surrounding California's proposed "Top Two Primaries Act" that would create a form of open primary system in which the primary voters' "top two" choices would advance to the general election. The measure was crafted by the state's new Lieutenant Governor, Abel Maldonado, and is opposed by Californians for Electoral Reform. Merl reports:
In June, Californians will decide whether to bring back a version of the open primary for regular state and congressional elections . . . The Top Two Primaries Act would require that all candidates compete in a single primary open to all registered voters -- similar to the way special elections are run. The top two vote-getters would advance to a runoff . . .

Former Democratic state legislator Steve Peace has led efforts to fashion a new open-primary proposal since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an earlier voter-approved version unconstitutional. Surveys by the Field Poll and the Public Policy Institute of California this year found voter support for the June measure, but the major political parties are vigorously opposed. [Emphasis added.]

They say that omitting party affiliation would deprive voters of important information about candidates. In addition, California Democratic Party Chairman John L. Burton said, candidates would have to raise more money to reach a larger pool of voters, opening the door wider to special interests, a major source of campaign contributions.

"It also freezes out third-party candidates, who will never make the runoff," Burton said. "They ought to have a shot." [Republican strategist] Hoffenblum calls the third-party argument "a ruse" by the two major parties, whose leaders "like the system the way it is."

"These third parties are not really relevant to the process anyway," Hoffenblum said. If they "want to become viable, they need to come in first or second" in an open primary.

The Fantasy of the Ideological Other's Agency in the Mentality of the Duopolist Dead-Ender

One of the great ironies of the duopoly system of government is that partisans of the Democratic and Republican Parties have become some of the staunchest, if inadvertent, detractors of the two-party state, and this is not only because what passes for political discourse among them could be Exhibit A in the case of the People of the United States versus the two-party state. The synthesis of the partisan Democratic and Republican treatment of two-party politics results in nothing less than an indictment of the Democratic-Republican Party.

Consider the conservative and progressive duopolist critiques of the Republican and Democratic Parties. The conservative Republican complains that the Democratic Party has been hijacked by radical leftists and that the Republican Party has been taken over by RINOs. The progressive Democrat growls that the Republican Party is beholden to right wing radicals and that the Democratic Party has been captured by corporate interests. (And, of course, for the conservative Republican, progressive Democrats are the radical left, while for the progressive Democrat the conservative Republican is the radical right, and so we see, yet again, how two-party politics runs the gamut from A to B.) In other words, the conservative Republican claims that the Democratic Party is the agent of the progressive movement, but the progressive Democrat maintains that the Democratic Party stands opposed to progressive interests and concerns, while the same time, the progressive Democrat claims that the Republican Party has become the agent of the conservative movement, but conservative Republicans assert that the Republican Party serves interests that are not in line with conservative values.

Thus, conservative and progressive duopolists each perceive the other as the central agency within their preferred party, but each side perceives itself as a marginalized constituency which is exploited or otherwise taken advantage of by that party's establishment. Arguably, this fantasy of the other's agency binds duopolist dead-enders to the Democratic-Republican Party and blinds them to the obvious truth of the proposition that the two-party system simply does not and cannot effectively represent the interests of the people of the United States whatever their ideology may be.

In the disconnect between the average voter's perception of the Congress as a whole and of their own representative in particular, we may see one practical result of this ideological formation. At The Whig, Septimus brings together a number of recent polls and draws the decisive conclusion:
60 to 69% of American disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

58% of Americans disapprove of the job Republicans in Congress are doing.

55% of Americans disapprove of the job Democrats in Congress are doing.

It is time to realize that your member of Congress is part of the problem.
I am tempted to take this point one step further: until you realize that your member of Congress is part of the problem, you are part of the problem.

The Socialist Alternative to the Democratic Party

Over the past months, much of the national discussion on the potential for third party and independent politics has been focused squarely on the right, emphasizing the tea party movement's relation to the GOP establishment, libertarian disillusionment with two-party statism, independent discontent with the duopoly's alternative to the Democratic Party etc. Yet, while Republican operatives continue to pretend that the Democratic Party is pursuing a radical left-wing agenda, actual leftists as well as mainstream liberals and progressives are growing ever more frustrated with the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress's agenda of maintaining the global warfare and corporate welfare state. As Sam Wilson points out, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. In the Socialist Worker, one disillusioned Democrat, Donna Tara Lee, explains why it has become imperative for the left to take on the Democrats from the left:
I would like to say that I have been a lifelong Democrat since I was first eligible to vote in 1969 . . . These were the politics I was brought up with and learned at the dinner table . . . as I got older, I have been an unabashed liberal. I have been active in all the following causes dating back to the 1960's: civil rights, antiwar, feminism, pro-choice, the farmworkers movement ( I boycotted grapes for years), no nukes, free speech, justice for the Palestinians, anti-imperialist, anti-apartheid, and, lastly, the LGBTQ movement . . .

So why am I now thinking of leaving the party after our biggest electoral success since 1964? I have become so disenchanted that the changes we were promised instead seem to be more of the same old politics as usual. The lobbyists are still in control . . .

Personally, I don't support the health care bills out there. I favor a single-payer, cradle-to-grave health care plan, like they have in all other industrial countries. I believe the Obama administration has basically caved in on real health care reform to achieve a non-achievable bipartisan law . . . huge sums of bailout money were given to the big corporations that got themselves and us in this mess by their greed. But there have been no regulatory reforms passed to make sure the banks can no longer fleece us. So it's back to business as usual on Wall Street . . . The repressive and unconstitutional USA PATRIOT Act remains in effect, and lawbreakers of the previous administration go unpunished. Hate crimes against LGBTQ people are on the rise . . . There is no real climate reform. Unemployment continues to rise, and our major parties are more partisan toward each other than ever. In foreign affairs, the wars go on, taking more of our treasury, and the death toll among our soldiers grows higher. We still support regimes that persecute women for being women, and that are repressive and corrupt . . .

Except for some cosmetic changes--you could call it a new brand of make-up--what has changed? Nothing is my brutally frank answer. These failures have led me to rethink my political philosophy . . . I will be leaving the Democratic Party soon and registering as a socialist. I do this with a heavy heart, but I am convinced that the only way now to a peaceful and economically just society is through socialism.

Independent Political Report

I was recently invited to become a contributor at Independent Political Report and happily accepted. As you're probably already aware, IPR is geared toward straightforward news items relating directly to third party and independent politics. So if you've got a good news tip, or come across something which isn't getting as much attention as it should, or want to get out the word on the activities of a group or campaign you're involved with etc., send me an email or leave a comment at the Poli-Tea News Tips and General Comments page.

The Pirate Party, Copyright and Virtual Freedom

The Pirate Party blog links an op-ed from the Financial Times by Christian Engstrom, the deputy chairman of the Swedish Pirate Party, who was elected to the European Parliament earlier this year. Engstrom argues that "copyright laws threaten out online freedom" and provides an overview of the aims and ends of the Pirate Party:
Copyright was meant to encourage culture, not restrict it. This is reason enough for reform. But the current regime has even more damaging effects. In order to uphold copyright laws, governments are beginning to restrict our right to communicate with each other in private . . . technology could be used to create a Big Brother society beyond our nightmares, where governments and corporations monitor every detail of our lives. In the former East Germany, the government needed tens of thousands of employees to keep track of the citizens using typewriters, pencils and index cards. Today a computer can do the same thing a million times faster, at the push of a button. There are many politicians who want to push that button.

The same technology could instead be used to create a society that embraces spontaneity, collaboration and diversity. Where the citizens are no longer passive consumers being fed information and culture through one-way media, but are instead active participants collaborating on a journey into the future . . .

The public increasingly recognises the need for reform. That was why Piratpartiet – the Pirate party – won 7.1 per cent of the popular vote in Sweden in the European Union elections. This gave us a seat in the European parliament for the first time.

Our manifesto is to reform copyright laws and gradually abolish the patent system. We oppose mass surveillance and censorship on the net, as in the rest of society. We want to make the EU more democratic and transparent. This is our entire platform. We intend to devote all our time and energy to protecting the fundamental civil liberties on the net and elsewhere.

The Leader Principle and the Messianic Impulse in Democratic-Republican Politics

The authoritarian tendencies of the Democratic-Republican Party, the duopoly system of government and the two-party state are perhaps nowhere more clear than in the cult of the executive that views all political antagonism and struggle through the prism of presidential politics. The fantasy of the "great leader" capable of resolving irreducible conflicts by means of charisma and force of will is as at home in the Republican church of Ronald Reagan as it is in the Democratic myth of Camelot. The nostalgia for a golden age that never existed is the flip-side of the utopian desire for that which will never come. And these people call themselves pragmatists!

This messianic impulse also conditions the conception of the potential for third party and independent politics among those who have yet to fully liberate themselves from the ideology that sustains the two-party state. At The Whig, Septimus excerpts an article by Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and cable news talking head, in Real Clear Politics entitled, "Economy is Weak, Voters are Angry – Time for a Third Party?" Yet, when Kondracke says "third party" what he means is "a candidate for president who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican." He writes:
with Republicans and Democrats fighting all the time and improving nothing, there's an opening for a third-party challenge as strong as Ross Perot's in 1992 . . . The likeliest figure to seize upon this opening is populist demagogue (and self-styled "Mr. Independent") Lou Dobbs, formerly of CNN, so let's hope a better alternative appears - or the direction of the country improves.
The very way in which Kondracke substantiates his argument reveals his capitulation to the authority of the executive. The bulk of the piece relays the social-political analysis of his "favorite economic guru, David Smick":
Smick agrees that the moment is ripe for a third-party candidate - "a problem-solving, no-nonsense leader who can come to Washington to clean out the swamp created by both political parties." . . . He's not talking about Lou Dobbs here. Or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). And unfortunately, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and Gen. David Petraeus don't seem to be running. But there is an opening. Help wanted.
Given that Glenn Beck has just announced his "100 year plan," Kondracke might also have added this talk show host to his list as well. Nonetheless, the false premise underlying this speculative line of argument is perfectly clear, namely, that this is within the power of the President of the United States. The United States does not need more leaders it needs fewer followers. The only people who can "clean out the swamp" in Washington DC are the people of the United States, who would need only to cease voting for the stooges of the Democratic and Republican Parties election after election to achieve such a remarkable result.

However, for those who have not yet fully liberated themselves from the straitjacket of duopoly ideology, the latter appears possible only on the basis of a mass movement subsumed under the leader principle. The paradox here is readily apparent: the devolution of power is conceived as contingent upon its gross consolidation. This bias reveals one of the more insidious aspects of the Democrat-Republican two-party state. The point of the separation of powers, constitutive of the United States, is to diffuse power. Insofar as the Republican and Democratic Parties represent, and aim for, nothing more than the accumulation and concentration of power, the two-party system is antithetical to constitutional government.

Wanted: Anyone But These People II

Ballot Access News reports on the results from a poll in Michigan which found that an absolute majority of voters would consider voting for an independent gubernatorial candidate in 2010:
54% of Michigan voters consider it “likely” or “very likely” that they would consider supporting an independent gubernatorial candidate in 2010. Only 12% said it is “unlikely” that they would consider that idea . . . Also, when voters are asked which major party they intend to support in 2010 legislative races, 25% say Democratic, and 24% say Republican, with the remainder saying they don’t know or “someone else”.
Unfortunately, in Michigan there are no declared independent or third party candidates for governor next year, at least as far as I am aware, and there is but one such candidate for Congress. Scott Aughney is running for office in Michigan's 7th CD as an "independent conservative."

Wanted: Anyone but these people.

The Wisconsin State Journal bemoans the lack of competition in the state's Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries and even goes so far as to call for third party challengers for the governor's seat:
It's as if the Democratic and Republican primaries for governor have already wrapped up 10 months before voters get their say.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is the lone Democrat of note seeking his party's nomination next September. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination . . . the bigwigs in the Democratic and Republican parties seem bent on crowning their respective kings long before most voters even focus on the race . . .

Both Barrett and Walker are strong candidates with extensive experience, support and contrasting ideas. But voters deserve more choice, ideas and debate. That's what statewide primaries are supposed to provide. Instead, neither major party may have a competitive primary for the second gubernatorial election in a row . . .

Voters should encourage more candidates to jump or stay in the race. Let the candidates know you have an open mind and won't be swayed by slick TV ads. Former Libertarian candidate for governor Ed Thompson also showed in 2002 that third-party voices can enrich the debate even if the political system is stacked against them.

Thompson is the mayor of Tomah, Wisconsin. In 2002, he garnered 11% of the vote in his bid for governor on the Libertarian ticket.

Third Party and Independent Web Roundup

In the news:
Ballot Access News relays an article from Illinois "about a Democratic Party-connected challenge to the Green Party’s candidate for U.S. House in the 14th district." The Green Party candidate is Dan Kairis, whose petition signatures are being challenged by Democrat (?) Jean Cattron. Get this quote from Cattron justifying the petition challenge: "He's just one of those perennial candidates . . . I just feel like everybody should play by the same rules." In American politics there are few things more pathetic than Democrats and Republicans whining "it's not fair" that they should face competition from independent and third party candidates.
• At Independent Political Report, Ross Levin collects a number of items pertaining to the story, also out of Illinois, regarding "a (possibly former) Young Democrat named Sean Burke [who] is running in the Green Party primary for Cook County Board President in Illinois. There has been some concern that he is some kind of saboteur from the Democratic Party." The Green Party in Illinois's paranoia may be justified given neo-Nazi attempts to claim the group's banner in state elections.

From the parties:
• The American Conservative Party critiques what I'll call "Messianic Republicanism": "The American Conservative Party was founded by a group of people who grew disillusioned with the Republican party . . . we finally decided that not only was there no Messiah of the Right, but there should not be such an icon."
• The Communist Party USA urges: "keep up the momentum for strong health care reform now."
• In a commentary for the Constitution Party, Darrel Castle also broaches the topic of health care reform, writing: "I would argue then that rather than opposing healthcare reform of any kind, our approach should be to offer a different healthcare solution . . . The only thing that will bring costs down is a system of true free market competition."
• The Green Party highlights an effort by Georgia Greens challenging the state's congressional delegation to "shut down" the military training camp known as the School of the Americas.
• The Libertarian Party blog reports that, following the party's call for candidates last week, 167 people responded within two days.
Empire State News reports on the development of the Modern Whig Party in New York.
• The US Pirate Party is currently in the process of identifying "possible municipal level policies for the party."

In the blogs:
• At A Green State of Mind, Darin Robbins "deconstructs the first amendment."
• At Bonzai, Mike Farmer argues that Libertarians need to "reclaim the right."
Buelahman observes that corporatists "blame government for the failure of corporate America . . . And both parties are complicit."
Fundman is back at Contra-Duopoly, and finds "some truth behind the rhetoric."
• Delaware Libertarian relays seven reasons to leave Afghanistan now.
Green Party Watch reports on the Georgia Green party's plans "to address the issue of the high rate of incarceration among African-Americans."
• At Least of All Evils, Dale Sheldon show how "a majority of a majority is a minority" under plurality voting.
Northern Virginia Whig provides his take on healthcare.
• At Mirror On America, Liberal Arts Dude compares conservative with progressive political infrastructure.
• The Prog Blog reflects on "consumerism, expectations and government."
• At The Whig, Septimus relays an article by the executive editor of Roll Call, calling for third party solutions to the problems created by two-party politics.
Sam Wilson reflects on "the conservative victim mentality" at The Think 3 Institute.

On the Independence of Independents and the Primary Process

This weekend, reportedly, the North Carolina Republican Executive Committee will vote on a resolution to decide whether or not to close the party's primaries to independent voters. From the Greensboro News & Record, via The Hankster:
Elected Republican leaders, state party officials and activists are debating a proposal that would close the party’s primaries to all but registered members of the GOP. Currently, unaffiliated voters may choose whether to vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries or to vote in neither. The Republican executive committee is expected to consider a change to the party’s policy Saturday. Proponents of the change say open primaries have diluted the Republican brand, yielding candidates who do not always cleave to the party’s conservative ideals.

At Public Policy Polling, Tom Jensen disagrees:

When you actually look at the numbers [in NC] the premise that allowing unaffiliateds to vote in Republican primaries gives moderates undue power is false. The independents who participate in GOP primaries are almost as conservative as registered Republican voters.

Of the state's roughly 6 million voters, says WXII12, "2,764,855 voters are registered as Democrat, 1,931,452 are Republican and 1,379,385 are unaffiliated." The Hankster writes, from the link above:

The parties will continue to open or close their primaries depending on what they stand to gain or lose in the next election based on media polls. That's why we need national policy that supports a primary voting system that allows independents the right to participate.

Nancy broached this topic on our first Blog Talk Radio discussion, and there are good arguments to be made on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, it is reasonable for parties to stipulate that only registered members may vote in their primaries, as a matter of simple free association. On the other hand, given the duopoly system of government, one can easily imagine a situation where the majority of voters are disenfranchised by such a state of affairs. Of course, nothing is stopping independent voters from casting a ballot in the closed primary of their choice except their unwillingness to declare an affiliation with one of the two major parties, but then, however, they would no longer be independents. In the other case, that of the open (or semi-closed) primary system, wherein independents are allowed to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary and then go on to vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in the general election, one is justified in asking in what way such voters could reasonably be termed "independent" since, at least in terms of their voting behavior, they are effectively indistinguishable from Republicans or Democrats. Thus, both closed and semi-closed primary systems function to undermine the independence of independents, and maintain a co-dependent relationship between voters and the duopoly parties. The clearest assertion of political independence remains the support of candidates who are independent of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Returning to the situation in North Carolina, the Winston-Salem Journal writes that, "North Carolina voters must wonder whether the people who run their major political parties have any sense." Actually, there are probably quite a few who wonder for whom this is still a question. The editorial concludes:

If the [Republican] executive committee excludes independents from GOP primaries, the party may get candidates more purely conservative -- at least according to the definition of "conservative" the committee uses. But at the same time, the GOP will be telling independents that they aren't welcome. Moderates are invited to vote with the GOP only in general elections but certainly not welcome to run for office as a Republican or take part in party affairs. That may not make any sense, but there is good news for Republicans. Their competition isn't any smarter.

A group called "Progressive Democrats of North Carolina" is very upset by the scandals surrounding former Gov. Mike Easley and his fund-raising. (Most voters share this concern.) So, these Democrats want their party to push for good government reforms, especially involving large contributions to the state parties. This is a totally reasonable request, but the Democrats' executive director essentially told these voters to mind their own business. After telling The Insider newsletter that the party already supports some of the suggested reforms, he added, "While we welcome and respect the opinions and constructive input of this organization, it is important to note that they are not affiliated with the North Carolina Democratic Party." "Not affiliated?" Of course they are. They are registered to vote as Democrats.
Update: Ballot Access News reports that "the North Carolina Republican Party decided to continue letting independent voters vote in its primaries."

Each Tree Shall Be Known By Its Fruit: By the Time the Machines are Ready, It will Already be Too Late.

Given the contemporary political climate, an apparent uptick in popular references and allusions to Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" on both sides of the duopoly divide was likely inevitable. One of the constitutive mechanisms of the paranoid style is, of course, psychological projection and so we should not be surprised to find that projection is a constitutive element of US politics under the conditions of the two-party state. The ubiquity of projection in Democratic-Republican politics may go some way toward accounting for the universality of hypocrisy among the partisans of the Democratic and Republican Parties. We can be almost certain that when a Democrat accuses a Republican of corruption, dishonesty or hypocrisy, and vice versa, the charge will hold just as much for the one who levels it as it does for the one against whom it is leveled. It is no coincidence that the greater part of Democratic-Republican politics amounts to little more than the revelation of such inconsistencies and has thus deteriorated from ad rem argumentation to ad hominem, if not ad personam, attack.

Nonetheless, when arguing with supporters of the two-party state, advocates of third party and independent politics can, in many if not most cases, safely assume that any charge against third party and independent activism holds just as well for the politics of the duopoly system of government. For instance, duopolists are fond of claiming that third parties are little more than personality cults, which is highly ironic coming from supporters of the Republican church of Ronald Reagan and the Democratic idolization of Barack Obama. But perhaps a more concrete example is in order. Since "Palin posts" are now obligatory, let's consider the former governor's recent interview with Rush Limbaugh.
LIMBAUGH: What are your thoughts now on the viability of a third party if the Republican Party can't be brought around?

PALIN: You know, to be brutally honest, I think that it's a bit naive when you talk about the pragmatism that has to be applied in America's political system. And we are a two-party system. Ideally, sure, a third party or an independent party would be able to soar and thrive and put candidates forth and have them elected, but I don't think America is ready for that. I think that it is... Granted it's quite conventional and traditional, but in a good way that we have our two parties, and I think that that's what will remain. [Emphasis added.]
So, according to Palin, third party and independent activism is naive and idealistic given the two-party system, and so pragmatism is required, pragmatism being defined as deference to the parties that control the state. For the moment, let's recall the maxim which states that pragmatism sounds good in theory but doesn't work in practice. Limbaugh continues:
LIMBUAGH: But these magical, whatever it is, 20% of people that are not identified or do not self-identify themselves with either party, what's the way to get them?

PALIN: I think just naturally independents are going to gravitate towards that Republican agenda and Republican platform because the planks in our platform are the strongest to build a healthy America. We're all about cutting taxes and shrinking government and respecting the inherent rights of the individual and strengthening families and respecting life and equality. You have to shake your head and say, "Who wouldn't embrace that? Who wouldn't want to come on over?"
Palin would do well to observe with the evangelist: "Each tree is recognized by its own fruit." With the appropriate substitutions, the very same argument could have been put forward by any given Democratic demagogue. The only people who are so naive as to be convinced by such arguments today are Republicans and Democrats, the dead-enders of the duopoly parties, whose utopian idealism serves nothing more than the ruling establishment and political status quo, when it dictates that a third party or independent candidate for office could never win an election but that the Democratic and Republican Parties will be reformed over the course of the next election cycle. Those who are attracted to the Democratic or Republican Party on the basis of their stated platforms and agendas are like the ill-fated cartoon creatures who never fail to take the bait and always live to regret it.

It is not "America" or the people of the United States who are "not ready" for an independent politics, for a politics independent of the Democratic and Republican graft and patronage machines, rather it is the graft and patronage machines of the Democratic-Republican Party and their enablers in the mainstream media and political establishment that are "not ready" for an independent politics. And they will remain "not ready" until they can be assured that any "new" politics will ensure the smooth functioning of the machines that (re)produce the political status quo. By the time the machines are ready, it will already be too late.

Toward a Green-Libertarian Alliance

At Independent Political Report and Libertarian Intelligence, Brian Holtz seeks common ground between Libertarians and Greens:
I'm happy for us Libertarians to work with Greens on issues where we agree. I'm happy for Greens to be better civil libertarians, I'm happy for Libertarians to more green, and I'm happy for both to promote electoral reform, ballot access, and decentralizing government . . .

I'm skeptical that local GP+LP fusion candidacies can accomplish much in the absence of narrow short-term local policy goals, but I'd be happy to find out I'm wrong. GP+LP fusion won't send the right electoral signal unless there is a clear national-level statement of our common ground.

There are two good possible starting points for such a statement: 1) the Free Earth Manifesto, and 2) this redacted version of the Democratic Freedom Caucus platform. I would love for an intellectually-adventurous Green Party insider to take her red (or green) pen to either document and see how little she could cross out before finding the remainder supportable. I'm confident that the remainder would still be a bold and powerful statement for human liberty and ecological wisdom.
On this topic, see also Roderick T. Long's Libertarian reading of the Green Party's "Ten Key Values" in which he attempts to demonstrate the commensurability of Green and Libertarian politics. It seems like a fair amount of the impetus toward a Green-Libertarian strategic alliance is coming from the Libertarians. Anyone familiar with Green overtures toward Libertarians?

The Way of the Whigs

At The Whig, Septimus expands upon "four key Whiggish principles" in distinguishing the Modern Whigs from Democrats and Republicans and the duopolist order of the Democratic-Republican Party:
In Modern Whig positions, we can identify four key Whiggish principles — a Modern Whig Agenda around which our future policies are to be formed. These principles are:
  1. favoring the legislature over the executive
  2. favoring the interests of small business over concentrated wealth
  3. favoring toleration of non-conformists
  4. promoting ordered liberty against the arbitrary powers of the State.
In short, the Modern Whig is the champion of the individual and of the underdog.
He concludes:
Too often, people in positions of power in government regard liberties as something to be granted, rather than something the government takes away. America has sometimes been far from perfect in this regard. But other systems in other nations have very often been awful.

Now we can clearly see that the common approach of the Democrats and the Republicans share a philosophy that is the Whig's age-old adversary -- the use of government to benefit a select few at the expense of the people. It aims to ensure and improve the welfare of established stakeholders. It is automatically the friend of big business and regulation, because these make its bargaining processes possible. It uses the power of government to restrict entry of new competition, either in ideas, business, and politics.

In contrast, Modern Whigs, favor an open, responsive legislature, free markets, tolerance and liberty. Modern Whigs are the champion of the individual and of the underdog.

So It Goes in Rotterdam: Internal Exclusion

At The Rotterdam Windmill, Michael O'Connor provides a post-election analysis on his independent run for town council in Rotterdam, NY:
The election is over. I lost. The alternative choice we had hoped to provide by creating the independent No New Tax Party ballot line was not fully embraced by the electorate, although we pulled some significant numbers in spite of prognostications otherwise. In the end, it simply wasn’t enough.

The ramifications of our involvement though have caused many to speculate that “we split the vote” and were responsible for the paradigm shift of power in the town. A Republican supermajority was transformed into a Democrat supermajority overnight. It was a Democrat sweep of epic proportion.

So what does that mean? First, it means some people (ousted Republican incumbents and their leadership) are really, really p*ssed. They attribute the loss solely to the existence of the No New Tax Party. They assume that we split the vote and ALL our votes, or at least the majority of them, would’ve gone to the Republican candidate. Maybe, but I don’t agree. The argument is fair enough but I think it’s too simplistic. Here’s why: it doesn’t account for the fact that we appealed to independent voters, some that may not have even voted otherwise and also that we commanded many Democrat votes as well. It also doesn’t account for the impact of an ill-advised Republican attempt to create a new town-wide tax district prior to the election. In other words, it’s plausible that the Republicans lost because of their own missteps. [Emphasis added.] There is an element of party arrogance that hasn’t been acknowledged. People definitely wanted and voted for “change.” We tried to provide it in the form of the No New Tax Party but instead the voter opted for the “change” offered by the Democrats. In my opinion, the Republicans would’ve lost the election either way, albeit by a narrower margin perhaps.

Let’s take a closer look at my race in particular. Remember, I won the primary in September to secure the Republican ballot line and thus, essentially returned the dynamic in my race to the traditional dynamic of two-party politics. I was competing in a separate, special election rolled into the general election. My opponent was a Democrat, who also had the Conservative endorsement. I’ve been the recipient of some Republican leadership wrath because they lost control of the town when their candidates fell to the Democrats. They blame me. I don’t believe the blame is warranted but I understand how I make a convenient scapegoat. If the Republican leadership really was interested in keeping seats, they would’ve supported me after I rightfully won the Republican primary. They didn’t. Moreover, a prominent Republican state assemblyman appeared on my Democratic opponent’s campaign mailer days before the general election. [Emphasis added.] I lost by 572 votes and actually commanded more total votes than either of the two big dog Republican candidates running for the 4 year terms in the other race. Not too shabby in my book.
Read the whole thing. Given that Michael established an independent ballot line for the No New Tax Party, and secured the Republican nomination in that party's primary, the response to his effort by the local Republican Party establishment is doubly instructive. By framing the No New Tax Party as a third party "spoiler," GOP leaders can avoid taking any responsibility for their party's loss. On the other hand, even though he was endorsed by a majority of Republican voters, Michael was still effectively marginalized as an outsider by the GOP establishment, which may well have cost him the election. This is another example of what I have previously called 'internal exclusion':
the duopoly parties systematically exclude third party interests from everyday political discourse and activity, while framing this disenfranchisement as a triumph of democracy and non-partisan law-making . . . However, it should also be noted that such exclusionary policies and practices are not confined to eliminating external threats to the order of the duopoly. Two-party discipline also necessitates what we may call internal exclusions, which maintain the 'integrity' (and I use this term loosely) of the established structure of power . . . The two party system maintains and reproduces itself by means of external exclusions possible only on the basis of the bipartisan front, as well as internal exclusions which consolidate the power of party elites via the discipline of the good old boys and girls clubs.

Restructuring and Realignment among the Whigs

In other Whig news, Septimus reports on a break between the Florida Whig Party and the Modern Whig Party:

First, a little background. The "Florida Whig Party" pre-dated the Modern Whig Party by over a year. After the formation of the Modern Whigs, they decided to ally themselves with the Modern Whigs on a national level . . .

Although both groups are frustrated and unhappy with the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, the two groups had two different base philosophies, and different remedies to issues. The Modern Whigs wanted to reduce partisanship, and adopt reasonable, centrist, and moderate solutions. The "Florida Whigs" were sympathetic with the rhetoric and solutions presented by the far right. After joining, they attempted to moderate some of their rhetoric, but the tension was always there. Recent statements and positions taken by the "Florida Whigs" were criticized by the rest of the Modern Whig membership . . .

So, it is important to note that future statements, actions, and candidates of the "Florida Whigs" are not related to, and have nothing to do with the larger, moderate, national, Modern Whig Party, of which I remain a proud supporter.

It appears that the Florida Whigs were likely caught between their association with the moderate positions of the Modern Whig Party and the conservative orientation of the Tea Party Patriots. For its part, the Florida Whig Party states on its website:

The Florida Whig Party discontinued its voluntary association with the Modern Whig (Party) Club in November of 2009 pending a response to a formal request to the past Chair for an independent financal audit, identification of the Club treasurer, a certification as to the true membership of the Club, a copy of the minutes, resolutions, and votes for all meetings since inception by the Board of Directors, and a complete roster of all independent and appointed state and local Whig leaders, clubs, and organizations. Each member of the FWP Board of Directors has a professional, healthly, ongoing, and open line of communications with the new Chairperson, Elaine Stephens, since the abrupt resignation of the former Chair and will revisit the affiliation issue after Chairperson Stephens is able to obtain full control over the organization.

Septimus alluded to this simmering tension the other day when he warned against the dangers of "ideological and political cul de sacs":

Too often, one can get lulled into a political cul de sac, or an ideological dead end. A mental location where trite answers are taken as profound wisdom, where platitudes substitute for analysis, and blind following takes the place of active engagement. The media contributes to this, as one can now choose between news sources that reinforce what you already believe, and never challenge preconceived biases. In effect, one ends up in a political cul de sac, out of touch with the rest of the community and likely to not know much about the folks who live on the other side of the fences of their blocked-off ideas . . .

However, one of the things that attracted me to the Modern Whigs was their emphasis on not being caught in these ideological dead ends:

Since we have the benefit of essentially starting from scratch, we plan on doing things completely different than that of the established third parties, as well as the kooky fringe groups.

We plan on making our own path and will avoid the temptation of "preaching to the choir" and "believing our own propaganda.” The point is that our membership base of moderate, independent-minded voters -- to include relatively large amounts of service members/veterans -- affords us a credible and compelling mainstream base to work from that most other groups lack.

It will be difficult for a start up political party to turn its back on those trapped in the cul de sac, but the Modern Whig Party was founded to be part of the political mainstream . . . The solution is therefore obvious. Those who insist on "their way or the highway" must be allowed on their way, while the Modern Whigs take the highway to moderation, centrism, grass-roots development, practical ideas, and long-term growth.

New Jersey Whig: Independent Advocacy against Voter Co-Dependency

Gene Baldassari was a Modern Whig Party candidate for the New Jersey State Assembly in the 2009 elections. Baldassari "polled 1.22% of the vote, according to unofficial returns," as we read at Ballot Access News. In his analysis of the election's results, the Whig emphasizes the power of incumbency and the necessity of changing the mentality, if not the very political consciousness, of the American electorate:

In the recent NJ Assembly election, every incumbent was re-elected. There were about 95 challengers, each with different degrees of political experience, different tactics, and different levels of political expertise. There was not one winner among those who challenged an incumbent.

During the 2009 NJ election season, citizens complained about overpriced schools, the highest property taxes in the nation, and a bad business climate for jobs. But they re-elected the legislature that caused these problems. [Emphasis added.]

Then there were the citizens who spoke about the need to break the addiction on high taxation and irresponsible spending caused by the monopoly parties. But, out of fifteen independent Assembly candidates, all, except one candidate, received about one percent of the vote. There was one candidate who received three percent of the vote. That was hardly a resounding cry to break the stronghold . . .

The voting majority behaves as if it is unpatriotic or sinful to vote for anyone who is not a member of a monopoly party. These monopoly parties are collectively guaranteed almost all of the votes, to the exclusion of candidates who are not running with these party labels.

Consequently, the voting majority has given the monopoly parties the ability to alter voter perception in order to sway votes between these monopoly parties. They promote voting for the better of two evils so that everyone believes that evil is their only option. Because they can limit their campaigning to shifting votes rather than earning them, very few of them would win if they had to compete for votes the same way as non-members of the monopoly (third parties) . . .

This voter mindset must be broken before we can kill the political beast that destroyed our country. That is why voter education is more important than ever. [Emphasis added.]

Low Voter Turnout: Crisis of Democracy, Condition for the Reproduction of the Two-Party State

Arguably, one of the most important strategic questions for independent and third party activists is how to motivate non-voters in future elections. Voter turn-out was quite low, for instance, in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, where 39% and roughly 45% (according to my calculations) of registered voters cast a ballot, respectively. Thus, though Bob McDonnell received 60% of the vote in Virginia, he only garnered the explicit support of 24% of registered Virginia voters. Similarly, in New Jersey, Chris Christie received 49% of the vote, but only garnered the explicit support of less than a quarter of New Jersey's registered voters. Partisans of the Democratic-Republican Party and supporters of the two-party state frequently maintain that low voter turn-out is a sign either of voter apathy or satisfaction. Yet, it might also express a rejection of the two-party political order as such.

Consider the following speculative scenario, which is somewhat fantastic. A majority of voters desire the election of third party and independent alternatives to the representatives of the political status-quo, as is consistently indicated in public opinion polls. However, they and many others are convinced that third party and independent alternatives are not viable candidates for office and do not stand a chance of winning because the two-party system is based on the election of Democrats and Republicans. On election day, a majority of serial non-voters appear at the polls, and cast blank ballots. "Blank" wins in a landslide.

Now consider this slightly different scenario, which is all too real. A majority of voters desire the election of third party and independent alternatives to the representatives of the political status-quo, as is consistently indicated in public opinion polls. However, they and many others are convinced that third party and independent alternatives are not viable candidates for office and do not stand a chance of winning because the two-party system is based on the election of Democrats and Republicans. On election day, a majority of voters do not cast ballots, and a Republican or Democrat is elected to office with the support of less than a quarter of registered voters.

It may well be the case that depressed voter turnout is simultaneously a crisis of representative government and a condition for the reproduction of the two-party state.

Working Familes Party: Vermont Chapter

The Working Families Party is probably most well known for its presence in New York, where it has established itself as a relatively powerful force in the politics of NYC, while upstate its relative weakness leaves it vulnerable to manipulation by operatives of the major parties. The party also has chapters in Connecticut, South Carolina and Orgeon. And now the Burlington Free Press reports that a new chapter is forming in Vermont:
A small group of Vermonters will take the first steps this week to establish a new political party -- the Working Families Party."Working Families is in a bunch of states now, and we think it is a good thing for Vermont," said Dan Brush of Woodbury . . .

"We are only going to deal with economic fairness issues," Brush said. "We don't want to get involved in a lot of other issues that just distract."

Brush said he didn't expect the party to run candidates, at least not many in the next election. Rather the party would look over candidates from Vermont's other parties for those who support positions important to the Working Families Party and offer endorsements and support.

Vermont is one of 10 states that allows candidates to run with more than one party affiliation noted on the ballot and those are the states that the Working Families Party have targeted. The party was founded in New York in 1998 and then spread to Connecticut . . .

Bob Master, co-chairman of the Working Families Party in New York and political director of Communications Workers of America District One, will visit Vermont next week to help build some enthusiasm for the new party. "We are pretty excited there are some folks in Vermont who have seen what we have done," Master said.

He argues that organizing a party that endorses major party candidates gives the working families voting block leverage inside the two-party system. He also said a political party has more staying power than coalitions built around particular issues. "What we have found is that by forming a party, we have been able to create stronger coalitions."

Bipartisan Immunity: Everyone is doing it.

A small story in the New York Times perfectly demonstrates how the Democratic-Republican Party does not advocate for the interests of the people of the United States but rather provides a voice for the lobbyists of global corporations:
In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care . . . Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies . . . the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans . . . Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points — 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists. [Emphasis added.]
The Times report, by Robert Pear, goes on to emphasize just how "unusual" this is:
It is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists. [Emphasis added.]
Ironically, however, Pear's sources among Washington's lobbying class do not corroborate his take on the matter:
Asked about the Congressional statements, a lobbyist close to Genentech said: “This happens all the time. There was nothing nefarious about it.”
In its brazen honesty, the radical cynicism of the lobbyist's response demonstrates the moral and political bankruptcy of the duopoly system of government under the leadership of the Democratic-Republican Party. Liberal Democratic partisans of the two-party state perceive this as a problem of "norms". Steve Benen writes: "That's hardly a reassuring statement about the norms of the institution." Matthew Yglesias concurs: "one of our problems in the United States is that the norms currently prevailing on Capitol Hill are not very admirable, and the culture is largely one of shamelessness and irresponsibility." These are highly abstract formulations, generalizing to the institution as such, and thus conveniently avoid drawing a more precise conclusion: the institutional norms on Capitol Hill are nothing more than a reflection of the Democratic-Republican culture of shamelessness and irresponsibility. But what is the actual norm at work here? Perhaps we can adapt Sam Wilson's concept of "partisan immunity". Sam writes:
the mere existence of two major parties who monopolize the government between them is proof enough for a dedicated partisan that any move by one party that might reflect badly on the other is automatically partisan . . . the unspoken concept of partisan immunity . . . allows each party to get away with numerous abuses of power or law on the assumption that the other party is less interested in upholding the law than in abusing power to destroy its opponent.
The lobbyist's response above is indicative of what we might call "bipartisan immunity," by which the duopoly parties collude to institutionalize abuses of law, power, and even transgressions of the most elementary codes of honor. The degeneracy and immaturity of the Democratic-Republican Congress is never more clear than when they plead: but everyone is doing it.

The Primary Illusion: the Democratic and Republican Parties are capable of representing the interests of the people of the United States

The specter of an organized independent movement among voters in the United States is likely a cause of great concern among Democratic and Republican strategists and other assorted partisans of the two-party state. Reflecting on the results from the NYC mayoral election, in which Michael Bloomberg was elected as an independent, Nancy Hanks writes at The Hankster:
At a time when the votes of both major parties Dems and Repubs went down, the 15 year old grassroots Independence Party doubled its vote . . . Partisan politics isn't the future of our country, but the search for an independent alternative might be.
I disagree here only with Nancy's use of the subjunctive in her conclusion. There is no future in the politics of the Democratic-Republican Party: there is only the present news cycle and the momentum of historical inertia. The two-party system is a nineteenth century electoral anachronism in the United States of the twenty-first century. Confronted with the rise of political independents, the duopoly parties are clearly in disarray, scrambling to retain some semblance of relevance for the many people who have already left them behind. It is no wonder duopolists are rethinking the primary process (psychoanalytic pun intended). In South Dakota, the Democratic Party is opening its primaries to independent voters. The Daily Republic editorializes:
The South Dakota Democratic Party’s governing members have decided to open their 2010 primary elections to participation by voters who are registered as independents. Should the South Dakota Republican Party do the same? We respect the right of a political party to govern its own affairs. But we think the Republicans would be wise to open their primary elections to independent voters, too. Without question, independents have been the fastest growing category of the three major groups of voters in South Dakota. [Emphasis added.] . . .

If these first-time voters aren’t naturally gravitating toward being Republicans or Democrats, or some other third party, we need to question not whether but why Republicans or Democrats aren’t representing the values of the emerging independent class of voters. [Emphasis added.] . . .

As of Oct. 1, registration stood at 82,348 independents; 235,206 Republicans; and 198,775 Democrats. Looking back just three years, registration for Election Day 2006 registration was 74,608 independents; 240,101 Republicans; and 190,905 Democrats. While Republicans and Democrats have gained, too, independents are the new third force in South Dakota politics, and getting them involved in selecting the party’s nominees for the general election ballot is smart politics in the long run for our state.
The question of why the Democratic and Republican Parties do not adequately represent increasingly large segments of the population is easy to answer: they simply can't. Unlike the political class, the US electorate is not bipolar in character, it is multi-polar. Arguably, it is structurally impossible for the two-party system to represent the diversity and the wide array of interests to be found among the people of the United States. Changing the primary process will not change this underlying reality. But the ruse may well succeed in extending the life of the two-party state for a little bit longer, at least through the next news cycle.

Third Party and Independent Web Roundup

In the news:
Ballot Access News reports on the New York Independence Party's showing in last week's mayoral election in NYC.
Independent Political Report carries a press release from the Green Party opposing the Democrats' bailout of the insurance industry in the guise of health care reform.
The Thirds relays word that Tim Cahill, independent gubernatorial candidate in MA, has rejected an offer to suspend his campaign and join Republican Charles Baker as the latter's running mate.
• At The Hankster, Nancy Hanks reflects on the significance of the New York Independence Party's efforts in the NYC mayoral election last week: "At a time when the votes of both major parties Dems and Repubs went down, the 15 year old grassroots Independence Party doubled its vote."

From the parties:
• The American Centrist Party features the independent campaign of Will Ritter for Maryland House of Delegates' District 32 on their front page.
• The American Conservative Party wants you to tell your Senators to vote no on health care reform.
• The Communist Party announces the launch of the new website for their media outlet People's World.
• For the Constitution Party, Mary Starrett reflects on the significance and import of Doug Hoffman's campaign in NY'23rd.
• The Green Party highlights Green candidates' gains in city council races nationwide.
• The Libertarian Party blog explains how to run for office.
• To account for its "surge in membership," the Modern Whig Party states that it is attracting moderate Republicans who have abandoned the GOP.
• The Pirate Party reflects on the meaning of "government transparency": "It means more than just "knowing what our government is doing.""
• The Socialist Party puts out a call for action against the School of the Americas on Nov. 20th.

In the blogs:
Attack the System provides a lengthy news digest.
Bonzai argues that duopolist government is the condition of its own failure.
• At Contra Duopoly, Fundman reflects on the outcome of the "Fox News war."
• At Delaware Libertarian, Steve Newton specifies the organizations he belongs to that promote genocide or homophobia.
• At An Ordinary Person, Liberal Arts Dude considers the options for an engaged citizenry 2.0.
Green Party Watch relays a story from Scoop Daily considering how the growth of independents could bolster the Green Party.
The Jacksonian Party considers "the foundations of law."
Least of All Evils relays "a press release of sorts" from the Center for Range Voting on the elections of 2009.
• In a guest post at The Maine View, Harris Parnell, the state director of the League of Young Voters, reflects on the defeat of marriage equality legislation in Maine's elections last week.
• At Daily Kos, rossl supports the National Initiative for Democracy.
• At The Rotterdam Windmill, Michael O'Connor has begun a series of posts offering a post-election analysis of his experience running for town council.
• At The Whig, Septimus reflects on the parasitical character of the political class.
• At The Think Three Institute, Sam Wilson reminds us that "moderation is not independence and independence is not moderation."

Anti-Incumbency and Independent Ascendancy

A new survey from the Pew Research Center highlights "widespread anti-incumbent sentiment" among likely voters and the electorate at large:
Only about a third (34%) of registered voters say they think most members of Congress should be re-elected next year, which is on par with ratings during the 1994 and 2006 elections. Meanwhile, just 52% of voters say they want to see their own member re-elected, approaching levels in early October 2006 (50%) and 1994 (49%). [Emphasis added.]

In November 1994, 68% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans favored the re-election of their own member of Congress, which is comparable to the current figures (64% of Democrats, 50% of Republicans). But today, just 42% of independents want to see their own representative re-elected, compared with 52% of independents on the eve of the 1994 midterm elections.

Partisan feelings about incumbents were the reverse in 2006, when the GOP held majorities in the House and Senate. In November 2006, 69% of Republicans, 52% of Democrats and 45% of independents wanted to see their own member of Congress re-elected.

One of the enduring paradoxes of US politics under the conditions of the two-party state is the disparity between individuals' attitudes toward the Congress as a whole, on the one hand, and their own representatives, on the other. This disconnect can go some way toward explaining the power of incumbency even in times of widespread anti-incumbent sentiment. Meanwhile, support for third party alternatives to the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government is holding steady. A majority of Americans support the idea of a major third party:
Just over half (52%) of Americans say the U.S. should have a third major political party in addition to the Democrats and Republicans, while four-in-ten (40%) disagree. This is little changed from last year, when 56% favored a third party and 38% opposed the idea.

Support for a third party continues to be widespread among independents. As was the case last year, 70% of independents say we should have a third major political party. Just 44% of both Republicans and Democrats agree. There is also a consistent difference between younger and older Americans. In the current poll, 63% of Americans under age 30 support the idea of a third political party, compared with just 37% of those ages 65 and older.

Given such numbers, one might wonder why support for actual independent and third party alternatives to the stooges of the Democratic-Republican Party remains relatively low. This disparity, at least at the national level, is at least partly explained by the ideological diversity of political independents. At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver recently provided a helpful typology of independent voters, writing:

the category of ‘independents’ includes:
1) People who are mainline Democrats or Republicans for all intents and purposes, but who reject the formality of being labeled as such;
2) People who have a mix of conservative and liberal views that don’t fit neatly onto the one-dimensional political spectrum, such as libertarians;
3) People to the extreme left or the extreme right of the political spectrum, who consider the Democratic and Republican parties to be equally contemptible;
4) People who are extremely disengaged from politics and who may not have fully-formed political views;
5) True-blue moderates;
6) Members of organized third parties.

For local and state level polities, however, the ranks of independents are likely somewhat more homogeneous. Consider two recent polls tracking support for gubernatorial candidates in the Northeast. In Massachusetts, support for independent candidate Tim Cahill puts him in a statistical tie with the incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick's likely Republican rivals. From Rasmussen, via The Thirds:

Patrick now captures 34% of the vote against either possible Republican challenger, Christy Mihos or Charlie Baker, when newly announced independent candidate Tim Cahill is added to the mix. Mihos earns 23% of the vote in a three-way race. Baker picks up 24% in a contest with Patrick and Cahill. In both scenarios, Cahill, the state treasurer who was elected as a Democrat but quit the party this summer, gets 23% of the vote and 19% are undecided.

In a recent poll from Rhode Island, independent gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee is leading both likely Democratic rivals and the probably Republican candidate. The Thirds sums up the findings:

The poll has independent former Senator Lincoln Chafee leading in races versus Republican Rory Smith, and Democrats General Treasurer Frank Caprio and Attorney General Patrick Lynch. The poll shows the former Republican Chafee getting 36 or 37 percent of the vote depending up on the match-up. In a race versus and Attorney General Lynch and Smith Chafee leads 37-24-15. The match-up is much closer with the Democrat being General Treasurer Caprio, but Chafee is still in the lead 36-34-8. In the poll undecideds are still in the 20’s.

These are two races to keep an eye on.