To Be a Democrat or a Republican is to Be a Tool of the Democratic-Republican Party's Corporatist Agenda

Though the idea of a progressive-libertarian alliance is openly mocked in some quarters, and greeted with extreme skepticism in others, in recent weeks and months there have been a number of successful activist coalitions with this precise contour. At FireDogLake, Jane Hamsher provides a rundown of actions that have brought together liberal-progressives and conservative-libertarians. She writes:
  • Democrat Alan Grayson worked successfully this year with Republican Ron Paul to pass legislation to audit the Federal Reserve, with 317 cosponsors as diverse as Dennis Kucinich and Michelle Bachmann.
  • On December 3, the liberal Campaign for America’s Future wrote a letter to the Senate opposing the reconfirmation of Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke until such an audit has been conducted. The letter was signed by James Galbraith, Robert Weisman, Chris Bowers and myself on the left, and Grover Norquist, Phillis Schlafly, and Larry Greenley on the right. Financial blogger Tyler Durden and young organizer Tiffiniy Cheng joined them.
  • Also on December 3, conservative Jim Bunning joined liberal Bernie Sanders in placing a hold on the Bernanke nomination until the Fed had been audited.
  • On December 15, CAF again sent a letter to the Senate Banking Committee, asking them to delay the vote on the Bernanke confirmation until Audit the Fed received a stand alone vote in the Senate. It was signed by Matt KIbbe of Freedomworks, John Tate of the Campaign for Liberty, and Grover Norquist on the right, and David Swanson of AfterDowiningStreet, Dean Baker and Robert Borosage on the left.
  • On December 21, a letter was written opposing the mandate in the health care bill. It was signed by Bob Fertik of, Howie Klein of DownWithTyranny, Brad Friedman of Velvet Revolution, Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America on the left and Grover Norquist, Jim Martin of 60 Plus Association, Duane Parde of the National Taxpayers Union on the right.
  • On December 23, Grover Norquist and I sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for an investigation into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s conflicts of interest before the White House could lift the cap on the commitment to them from $400 billion to $800 billion with no Inspector General in place.

Hamsher concludes:
The individuals on both sides of the political spectrum who signed these letters agree on very little, but they do share both a tremendous concern for the corporatist control of government that politicians in both parties seem hell-bent on achieving.
The corporatist agenda of the ruling parties cannot be defeated within the confines of the two-party political order because the ruling parties are the representative organs for the corporatist interests of the so-called 'political class'. To maintain that the Democratic Party is the party of the people, as so many Democrats do, is as absurd as the assertion, common among Republicans, that the GOP stands for the nation's founding principles. The first principle of the Democratic-Republican Party is the principal of political patronage; their primary concern for the people is to ensure that we line up on one side or the other of the duopoly divide to reproduce the ruling order come election day. The motivations of the dwindling number of duopolist dead-enders, the rank and file of the Democratic and Republican Parties, are almost wholly reactionary in character, with each aiming first and foremost at depriving the other of political representation and agency. Arguably, this is a condition of possibility for the implementation of the corporatists' agenda. To be a Democrat or a Republican is to be a tool of that agenda. To support Democrats or Republicans is to support everyone's continued subjugation to that agenda.

You Have a Choice: there is another option besides the two evils.

In an article at the Washington Examiner, Byron York argues that "Republicans deserve blame for Democratic excesses":
the GOP created the conditions that set in motion the electoral swings of 2006 and 2008, leading to the overwhelming majorities that allow Democrats to pass legislation the public doesn't want.
He states that today neither Democrats nor Republicans are finding favor with the public:
a whopping 35 percent have positive feelings toward the Democratic Party. And yet the public seems to like Republicans even less. Just 28 percent have positive feelings toward the GOP . . . that could lead to a dilemma for voters next November. Many will be fully ready to vote Democrats out of office but will not be fully ready to vote Republicans in. Faced with an either/or choice, they will weigh whether they want to get rid of Democrats more than they want to stay away from Republicans.
What York fails to note is that, confronted with a choice between Republicans and Democrats, voters face this dilemma in virtually every election cycle. There is no possible resolution to this conundrum within the confines of the duopolist order. Yesterday, I argued that those who dismiss third party and independent activism and support the Democratic or Republican Party on the basis of the assertion that one is less evil than the other do nothing more than hide their political cowardice behind a veil of political calculus. York's piece provides a perfect example of the corresponding intellectual cowardice. At Smart Girl Nation, Susan Anne Hiller responds to York, writing: "Yes, Byron, the GOP deserves blame, but you need to go further." Ironically, Hiller does nothing but spread the blame to the "mainstream media," and thus fails to take his point any further. The first comment responding to York's article draws the obvious conclusion that these two duopolist hacks are either unwilling or incapable to countenance. Libertarian Mama writes:
There is another option besides the two evils - it's called third party voting: Libertarian, Green, Independent, whatever. I sincerely hope more people are waking up to the corruption on both sides and will finally make a better choice.
Update: Speaking of the twin evils represented by the Republican and Democratic Parties, at An Ordinary Person, LAD argues that "settling for the lesser of two evils is the greater evil," concluding, in part, that the individual voter must:
cease thinking of him or herself as a captive of either major party who cannot deviate from either one or else disaster will strike. That puts the power — too much power — voluntarily in the hands of the major parties and their insiders and away from voters and ordinary citizens.
In the piece, LAD takes on three points of ideological resistance to independent political strategy commonly promulgated by proponents of the reigning two-party state.

On Courage: Political Calculus as Political Cowardice among Apologists of the Two-Party State

At Democratic Underground, Time for Change provides a short history of progressive third parties in the United States, from the rise of the Republicans in the mid-nineteenth century to that of the Green Party in the late 1990's, and argues for the necessity of progressive third party activism to counter the corporatist agenda of the ruling Democratic-Republican two-party state. Balancing the concerns of Democratic lesser-evilists with those of principled progressives, he concludes:
The corporate takeover of today's Democratic Party is far from complete, and as a whole, the Democratic Party is still much better and much more progressive than the Republican Party. It is right to be cautious about voting for 3rd party candidates when we risk giving control of our country to the Republican Party by doing so, as happened in the 2000 presidential election.

But it is also right to be very concerned about the current direction of the Democratic Party. And by the same token it is right to consider how support for progressive 3rd party candidates could be used to push the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. That is what the Progressive Party of the early 20th Century did, and consequently we saw a great many progressive ideals passed into law . . .

Our country is hungry, starving for a new type of political party, a party that is free of corporate control. The history of third parties in our country shows that they can accomplish a great deal . . . It could happen again, any time.
Indeed, it could. And for those who support the dictatorship of the ruling Democratic-Republican Party and the duopoly system of government, this possibility represents something approaching an existential threat. Among Democrats and Republicans, the dismissal of third party and independent political activism as the definition of political irrelevance or counter-productivity thinly veils the underlying fear that motivates their political activity. Examples abound. Considering the future of the tea party movement at Right Wing News, Donald Douglas comes right out and says it:
I'm especially worried that the tea parties coalesce into a formal third-party movement to challenge the Democrats and Republicans in the two-party system.
On the other side of the duopoly divide, Jane Hamsher's criticism of the Democratic Party's corporatist agenda has made her a target of ire among progressive establishmentarians. Responding to her critics, she writes:
the editor of the Nation is granting its legitimacy to a post which attempts to stifle criticism of the president and dismisses it as “Naderite,” equating the “progressive agenda” with “what’s politically advantageous for the President.”
Hamsher's apparent surprise at this reveals one of the many self-deceptions that form the psycho-ideological basis of the two-party state. Partisans of the Democratic and Republican Parties cannot be anything other than apologists of the ruling order and the political status-quo. That they convince themselves otherwise does not change this simple fact. Their concern with ensuring that everything changes just enough so that everything remains the same is symptomatic of an unwillingness or inability to relate to the existing political order in a critical register: their political calculus is predicated upon nothing more than political cowardice.

Against Accomodation: On the Pragmatists' Faustian Bargain with the Ruling Parties and the Reproduction of the Two-Party State

Independent progressives continue to agitate for active opposition to the reigning Democratic majority in the Congress. At Docudharma, Rusty1776 argues against self-described progressive pragmatists and calls for a boycott of the major parties in the midterm elections of 2010:

Democrats told us they couldn't Impeach because "we don't have the votes". They told us they couldn't pass single payer because "we don't have the votes." They told us they couldn't give us a strong public option because "we don't have the votes." They told us they couldn't even give us a watered down public option because "we don't have the votes." When progressives boycott the Midterms, Democrats will discover the true meaning of "we don't have the votes." . . .

"Pragmatic" progressives will freak out, we'll be lectured about "reality" by people who think that gutter they're crawling in is the Yellow Brick Road to Incremental Change. They've been crawling in that gutter of "political reality" ever since their anti-Impeachment days. They weren't worth listening to then and they never will be. We've supported Democrats over and over again, election after election, but nothing ever changes. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is insanity. It's insane to keep reelecting corrupt politicians who keep betraying us.

Whether Democrat or Republican, the strategy of the so-called 'pragmatists' is nothing but reactionary accommodation of the ruling parties and the reigning political status quo: opposition to the greater evil requires support for the lesser evil. In other words, the pragmatist's Faustian bargain with the duopolist order ensures the reproduction of a system which is admittedly evil. In a post on "The Anti-Corporatist Movement" at Booman Tribune, BooMan writes:

What I am arguing is that progressives need to adopt a strategy that is realistic, practical, and effective to deal with the situation we face. First, we need to recognize that the Republicans are still the biggest problem facing the country.

Reading this, I was reminded of a comment here a few days ago, by Eric Dondero of Libertarian Republican, who objected to a call for a libertarian-progressive people's alliance against the two-party state on the grounds that, given the differences between Democrats and Republicans, there is no basis for such an alliance, writing: "From a libertarian standpoint, Democrats are 98% Fascist, Republicans are 80% Pro-Freedom." Ironically, partisans of the Democratic and Republican Parties are never so much the same as when they argue that they are different. The partisan of the Democratic or Republican Party can only ever be half-right when offering an analysis of any given political problem because the greatest political problem facing the people of the United States is the crisis of representative government represented by the Democratic-Republican two-party state.

The Liberty Movement, the Two-Party State and the Commission on Presidential Debates

American Idolatry considers the future of the "liberty movement" inspired by the presidential campaign of Ron Paul in 2008, and argues that beyond vetting potential movement favorites for president in 2012 (with specific mention of Gary Johnson) a top priority of the movement should be "challenging the two-party system":
Another top priority for the liberty movement is to start challenging the two-party system. This may be the easiest to accomplish. The majority of Americans don't belong to a party, and it's becoming very popular for pundits to come out as independents as well (see Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck). I would prefer to see more Independent candidates, but if it takes an actual third party then so be it. There's a push to make the Tea Party movement a formal political party. Good idea, but as I may have mentioned here before (and certainly have in conversation), the Tea Partiers seem to love Sarah Palin, and that would be one step forward and two steps back. She's just a neo-con who likes to talk about being a maverick. Regardless, our goal should be a massive reform of the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Commission claims to be non-partisan. They aren't. They're bi-partisan. Created by the DNC and the RNC in 1987, they have a vested interest in making sure that no third party or independent candidates are included in the debates (Ross Perot not withstanding). This should be the biggest movement in America. Regardless of ideology or issues stances, Americans know that they are not represented by the two major parties. Our goal for 2012 is to have made major headway in raising awareness of this issue, and by 2016 to have full representation of viable third party and independent candidates at the presidential debates.
The rigging of the presidential debate process by the Commission on Presidential Debates is listed on Project Censored's Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010, which provides a short history of the CPD (via Jaundicedaye):

The Obama and McCain campaigns jointly negotiated a detailed secret contract dictating the terms of the 2008 debates. This included who got to participate, what topics were to be raised, and the structure of the debate formats.

Since 1987, a private corporation created by and for the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has sponsored the US Presidential debates and implemented debate contracts. In order to shield the major party candidates from criticism, CPD has refused to release debate contract information to the public.

In 1986, the Republican and Democratic National Committees ratified an agreement “to take over the presidential debates” from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. Fifteen months later, then-Republican Party chair Frank Fahrenkopf and then-Democratic Party chair Paul Kirk incorporated the Commission on Presidential Debates. Fahrenkopf and Kirk still co-chair the Commission on Presidential Debates, and every four years it implements and conceals contracts jointly drafted by the Republican and Democratic nominees.

Before the CPD’s formation, the League of Women Voters served as a genuinely nonpartisan presidential debate sponsor from 1976 until 1984, ensuring the inclusion of popular independent candidates and prohibiting major party campaigns from manipulating debate formats.

For more information on the movement to reform the presidential debate process, check out Open Debates.

On Voter Turnout and Independent Politics: the Only Wasted Vote is a Vote for a Democrat or a Republican

At Political Perspectives, Stephen Lahanas announces his intention to run for US Senate in Ohio as an Independent, writing:
This nation has a problem. That problem is focused on our political process - that problem transcends partisan politics and affects all aspects of our daily lives. The problem we're facing is the loss of credibility in a system that seems to most of us as if it has been bought and sold to the highest bidder . . . The problems in our country today are not due to one party or the other per se (despite what most pundits like to exclaim), but rather are due to the two-party system itself as it exists in its current form . . . I want to act as an Honest Broker for Ohio and work towards bringing structural reforms to our political system. I want to ensure that Conflicts of Interest and Revolving Doors no longer drive policy at the national level. I want to restore credibility to the United States Congress.

Running as an Independent is an uphill battle - in Ohio, it requires 5,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Passing that hurdle will not be easy as I am not independently wealthy, I'm merely an Independent . . . I'm glad that both the Republican and Democratic party are equally vested in the future of Ohio and I believe that both parties are supporting excellent candidates for this open seat. In any other time, I'd be happy to support one or the other of these folks. But I'm not so much running against them as I am running against what our system has become and despite their excellent qualifications, there is little they can do to reform a system from the inside out.
In other independent candidate news, Rich Hand is running for governor of Colorado. He asks, "why would anyone continue to vote for the major party candidates?":
So why would anyone continue to vote for either party’s candidates? That is the million dollar question but I have a couple of ideas. First, the media ignores every other candidate in almost every race. They often opine about the need for better candidates but they ignore any attempt by good citizens to get involved in the electoral process. They are complete hypocrites and are in total collusion with both parties.

Second, the myth that only the major party candidates have a “real” chance of getting elected is an outright lie. If people had a better opportunity to see other candidates this myth would quickly fall apart.

Third, is the notion that if you elect a non-party candidate to office the two parties will keep them from getting anything done. Again, I believe that is a complete myth. A truly effective leader would go right past the legislature dominated by the two parties and make their case with the people. The truly patriotic individuals would come around and join the bandwagon of true constitutional reform.

And my final point here is one that I believe with my heart and soul; the parties have corrupted good individuals to believe politics is an industry, and we should promote career politicians. Nothing could be more corrosive to our country than a political class that by design will always be the enemy of freedom and our constitution.
One might object to Hand's framing of this issue, when he asks why people continue to vote for Democrats and Republicans. The reality, of course, is that not many people do vote for Republicans and Democrats. The corrosive effect of the Democratic-Republican two-party state is clearly apparent in consistently low voter turnout: even in presidential election years, over 40% of registered voters choose not to vote rather than vote for Republicans or Democrats; in mid-term election years, turnout drops to roughly 35-40%, with a large majority of voters apparently convinced that their vote makes no difference within the duopoly system of government. These are the people that third party and independent candidates like Hand and Lahanas must reach out to and activate against the stooges of the two-party state. The only wasted vote is a vote for a Democrat or a Republican.

Toward a Libertarian-Progressive Alliance: On the Necessity of a Populist Front against the Two-Party State

One of the more fascinating aspects of both conservative and progressive politics is the stunning naivety and self-deception of so many activists who continue to believe that the Republican and Democratic Parties are willing and able to represent the interests of anything other than the political ruling class and their corporate benefactors. Libertarians who believe the Republican Party stands for freedom labor under the same delusion as progressives who tell themselves that the Democratic Party stands for justice. Rednex Rants writes:
3rd parties usually only succeed to "split the vote" . . . a vote for a third party is, in effect, a vote for the Democratic party . . . Therefore, I have chosen to throw my support behind the Republican party in an effort to reform the party from within . . . rather than seeking an outside 3rd party to represent me, I chose to force the existing party to stop the compromising that led them astray, and represent my beliefs thru activism and outspoken appeal.
At In These Times, G. William Domhoff makes the progressive case for accomdationism with respect to the Democratic Party:
many progressive activists opt for third parties. The problem goes beyond the issue of leftist candidates becoming “spoilers.” Worse, it creates divisions among all those who are left of center and enables the election of conservatives, who are most insensitive to the needs of low-income people, people of color, women, environmentalists and religious minorities.

Further, progressives often fail to realize their power to influence the existing parties by challenging their platforms during the primaries . . . The two major parties are now government-controlled pathways into elected government office. Anyone can register to be a member, and anyone can run in the primaries . . . Progressives need to take advantage of the power this situation offers, rather than reject the two-party system.

Both of these positions suffer from the same fatal flaw: they are predicated on the assumption that the Democratic-Republican Party is not explicitly and overtly hostile to libertarian and progressive interests and values. Libertarians and progressives have more in common with one another than either of them does with the Republican or Democratic Party. At The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Erik Kain certainly puts forth an ordinary argument when he writes:

I can see where Jane Hamsher’s tea-party/populist left united front thing could seem appealing as a movement against something (the no-good politicians in Congress and their corporate special-interest shenanigans).

But I can’t see how it could be a movement for anything. Progressives want more government, and tea-partiers want less. On a very fundamental level they can’t make those two goal work together. They will only ever be together in what they are against, and even then it’s more of a vague, boogey-man sort of villain.
Unquestionably, the conservative and progressive grassroots share a common antagonist, the Democratic-Republican two-party state and the duopoly system of government. Beyond that, however, whether some want more and others less government is arguably of less importance than the fact that both want more representative government. Given her stance toward the tea party movement from the very beginning, Jane Hamsher certainly has little credibility calling for a united populist front against the ruling parties. But that does not mean the idea itself is not credible. Back in October, Liberal Arts Dude did some brainstorming on the possibility of a populist left-right alliance:

There are a lot of things where Left and progressive activists and sympathizers share common ground with Tea Party activists. For example, if you implement a large-scale survey on “big picture”questions to both populations, I bet you will find a lot of overlap between the Left and Right. Examples of such questions might be:

  • Do ordinary people have a strong voice and power in American democracy? Should they?
  • Do the two major parties actually represent the interests of ordinary people? Should they?
  • Is the country is being led effectively by our elected leaders from either of the major parties?
  • Should a wider spectrum of perspectives, viewpoints and solutions be represented in public discourse and institutions than just Republican or Democrat?
  • Do the mainstream political parties care more for their own internal interests rather than the interests of the country as a whole?
  • Will you be willing to join a third political party or vote for a third party or independent candidate in an election?
  • Will you be willing to participate in political activities and actions that are designed to address the issues above?
In the present political context, one thing is certain: as long as conservatives and liberals, libertarians and progressives, moderates and centrists continue to vote for and otherwise support the Democratic-Republican two-party state and the duopoly system of government we will all be stuck with the reigning Democratic-Republican two-party state and the duopoly system of government. Happy Festivus!

Vote Third Party and Independent – on Principle

Nicholas Ruiz, an independent progressive candidate for congress in Florida, writes at the Florida Progressive Coalition Blog:
Few would argue that the two party system is a benefit to us, while we argue that monopolies are rotten for the maintenance of integrity and fairness in every other enterprise.

The two parties, taken together, constitute a systemic Republi-crat malaise, wherein each party – notwithstanding the frequently cute quarrels and media mudfests – essentially rubberstamps each other’s policies by default. Difference in such a system is reduced to catchy, emotional sound bites, which serve to polarize viewers, spectators and ultimately, voters, while simulating difference – enacting a facade of political diversity.

In the end, the winners in such a set-up – that amounts to a perpetual, media-sparring match for cap feathers among the self-appointed wealthy and commercial society elected, or ‘electable,’ contestants – are the corporations, who infuse enough capital to the Republi-crat majority to decide the outcomes of political policy questions. So the corporations (and aristocratic interests) get what they want, at the expense of the rank and file public, year after year, ad infinitum.

Criticism of the Republi-crat system as it stands is muted as comedy, or essentially muzzled, by an equal process of elimination of all third party perspectives compliments of monopolized corporate media.

In 2010, voters should vote their conscience, by seeking out other political party options as a matter of principle. Expect different policies, when voting for different candidates, from different political parties. If you wish for more of the same policies that are running America into the ground – then vote, once again, for another Republi-crat.

The Two-Party System: Bleeding at Both Ends (and from the Middle)

Opposition to the Democratic-Republican two-party state unites Americans across the political and ideological spectrum. On the left, Political Junkie writes:
Liberals, we need to move on -- the Democrats are no longer capable of governing so we must regroup and focus our efforts and resources elsewhere to channel our collective power and vision for the 21st century. I'm talking about taking the control out of the hands of the elitists in D.C. who have twisted the constitution in knots and putting it back in the grip of the people who build and sustain this countries back-bone, goddamn it!! That's why I'm putting my full support into the Green Party -- a party that refuses corporate money . . . It's time to shake up the system and show the robber barons and Boss Tweeds of our government that we're coming and their days of control and corruption are numbered.
PJ follows up in another post on "Republicrats and Demoblicans":
I just can't fight anymore for a party that doesn't fight for me. I know the Green Party doesn't have the best chances within our current system. However, I'm just tired of supporting a party, which takes my vote and then turns around and does the opposite of what they said to get my vote . . . The Greens aren't as powerful but they do stick to their convictions unlike the corporatists in D.C. I'd rather spend my life working to affect institutional change in fighting for a multi-party system than continue to suck it up and pretend I'm not being abused and taken advantage of by the Democrats.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Donald Borsch writes at Common Sense Citizen:
I had posted an earlier blog regarding my out loud thinking about if a Third Political Party had viability, or should I heed the words of Rush Limbaugh and throw my energies into the GOP. Tonight, Monday 7 Dec 2009, I came to my decision. I shall endorse, support, and throw myself into The Constitution Party.
You might remember Donald from a comment he left here a few days back. In a follow-up post on the decision, he argues against the assertion that third party and independent conservative activism guarantees Democratic victory, exlaining:
I disagree with Rush Limbaugh in that I do not believe it is a bad thing for there to be a Third Party to enter the political arena. I do not believe it will guarantee a victory for the liberals . . . since there are more Conservatives than liberals, let's look at what could happen if a TP were to rise. The GOP would lose members. Big deal. I believe in a Free Market and I also believe in what I call "Free Market Politics", meaning that if Party C happens to put out a better ideological product than say, the GOP, I will go with Party C, period. Nothing personal against the GOP. This is all about what I believe is best for America, not what is best for the GOP . . . You will have, of course, many who will decry the rise of a TP and say that anyone who walks in a TP is hurting the Conservative Movement. How so? I mean, if I, as a Conservative, cast my lot in with a party that is not a household name or has extreme brand-familiarity, how can this be construed as me hurting the Conservative Movement? Perhaps it's time for those who are embroiled in "business as usual" and have resigned themselves to either being Democrat or Republican to wake-up and smell the coffee.
Given their respective positions, I imagine that Donald and PJ would strenuously disagree on any number of policy prescriptions, yet they converge in opposition to a common antagonist. Taken together, they demonstrate that the two-party system is incapable of adequately representing the interests of liberals and conservatives, progressives and libertarians. The reasons for this are entirely clear: the two-party state is incapable of representing the interests of the people of the United States because it represents interests that are opposed to those of the people of the United States.

Update: It should also be noted that the two-party system is not only "bleeding from both ends," as it were, but also from the middle. Centrists and self-described moderates on both sides of the duopoly divide also welcome the prospect of third party and independent opposition to the two-party state, from the middle. Ed Gurowitz writes:
I'd love to see the moderates, centrists, and yes even liberals in the GOP form a new party that will stand for the values that the majority of Americans stand for – tolerance, responsibility, accountable government to name a few. I'd also like to see the Democrats suggest (after all, liberals don't command) that the likes of Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln form a party that will stand for whatever it is they stand for. Maybe then we will have political parties that are FOR something rather than merely AGAINST.
Meanwhile, Ortho Cuban state
There are many of us who are moderates, but, as the article explains, are forced to choose between alternatives that are phrased only in the catch phrases of the radical ends or each party . . . there is even outright lying going on in both parties. Each party uses only the most radical members of the party in order to make their point. And, sadly, all too often the most radical members of each party are the ones who write the platform that many in the party have no intention of supporting once elected. I am one of those who is about ready for a third party alternative if neither party can find a way to moderate its tone and to build a true coalition.

The Primary Delusion: Reactionary Accomodationism on the Left and Right

At The Brad Blog, Ernest Canning writes: "Progressives of America – Unite!" Canning's piece is motivated by concerns over the potential "splintering of the left" in the face of the Obama administration and Democratic congressional majority's clear representation of corporate interests over those of the people of the United States. Canning delineates a progressive political spectrum stretching from third party activists to Democratic lesser-evilists, writing:
On one end of the Progressive spectrum we find individuals like Ralph Nader who see little or no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties. Both Parties represent the interests of Empire, the military-industrial complex, Wall Street and corporate America, though one is more ideologically driven than the other. In their view, both Parties compete for the same corporate campaign funds, with a greater percentage of those funds currently flowing to Democrats because, in Barack Obama's enchanting eloquence, corporate America has found an individual who could best take from the poor and give to the rich while convincing us all that he intends otherwise.

Their electoral politics response is to avoid the "lesser-evil" trap and turn to Third Parties. In terms of electoral success, Third Party politics in the U.S. have historically amounted to an exercise in futility.

At the other end of the spectrum, one finds Progressives who are wringing their hands; cringing at the thought that the "rhetoric" will hurt Progressive chances in the next election. They fear a return to the insanity of the eight years that proceeded the 2008 election. Theirs is an exercise in denial that evades the core question as to whether it can be assumed that a particular candidate represents anything other than corporate America simply because they place a (D) at the end of their name.
Canning argues that neither of these tendencies offers "a viable solution to the Progressive electoral dilemma." Instead he proposes a so-called "inside/outside" model, which would seek to combat insufficiently progressive Democrats via primary challenges:
there is an alternative. It requires recognition by otherwise astute Progressives, like Ralph Nader, that the Democratic Party is not a monolith. There exists, today, a relatively new (5 year old) organization, whose policy positions mirror those to be found in, for example, the Green Party. That organization is the Progressive Democrats of America. It is an organization which has sought to take on corporate Democrats, like Jane Harmon (D-CA), by challenging them in Democratic primaries --- an organization which, recognizing that knowledge is power, seeks to mobilize and inform the grass roots.

It is a good strategy, but one that must be expanded. What is required is a solidified Left. By taking on corporate Democrats in the primaries, rather than as Third Party candidates, individuals like Ralph Nader could eliminate the "lesser-evil" trap that drives so many to vote for a Democrat, any Democrat, for fear of the next Richard B. Cheney on the horizon.
Canning thus suffers from what I have previously called "the primary delusion." He implicitly criticizes the independent determination that there is "little or no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties," but ironically his solution to the progressive "electoral dilemma" is exactly the same as Rush Limbaugh's solution to the conservative "electoral dilemma": work within the two-party system, change it from the inside via primary challenges. Is it still necessary to point out the fatal flaw in this strategy? Any political strategy predicated upon working within the confines of the Democratic and/or Republican Parties is incapable of addressing the single greatest political problem facing the people of the United States, progressive and conservative alike: the two-party state and the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government. Waging a primary challenge is neither conservative nor progressive, it is reactionary accomodationism. In conceding to a primary challenge over independent opposition, you concede everything, from the outset, defeated by the one party before you even confront the other. Progressives of America should indeed unite . . . with leftists, libertarians, conservatives and moderates: to defeat the duopoly!

On the Myth of the 'Myth of the Independent Voter'

At An Ordinary Person, Liberal Arts Dude takes issue with a post at The Monkey Cage on the "myth of the independent voter." LAD writes:
The Monkey Cage, a blog authored by professors of political science in major universities such as Georgetown University, New York University, George Washington University and Columbia University, recently had an interesting post called, “Three Myths About Political Independents.” It is supplemented by another article called “The Active Fantasy Lives of Libertarians.”

Together, both articles make the point of dispelling “myths” about independents:
1) Independents are the largest partisan group.
2) Independents are actually independent.
3) Change in the opinions of independents is always consequential.

To prove their point, the authors of the blog dig up survey data that reveal the majority of independents lean towards either of the major political parties and that the number of non-partisan, “pure” independents is actually quite small. Hence, the majority of independents, therefore, aren’t really independent . . . .

I have never seen so much data gathered and brain power used to make the point that independents do not matter. The professors who write the Monkey Cage blog are professional political scientists and I have a lot of respect for them as such. But this is a case where I think they completely miss the mark on the phenomenon of why so many people are declaring themselves political independents. All because they focus solely on voting behavior on presidential elections as their sole measure of political behavior that matters . . . They are missing a much larger and more important society-wide dynamic—many people are finding the two-party model of American democracy to be ineffective in representing their interests and are making a deliberate, political act of rejecting them within the structural and narrow constraints of the political system. Those who are not doing that are dropping out of participation in the system altogether. [Emphasis added.]
The "myth of the independent voter" is a myth of American political scientism, which states that because self-described independents "lean" toward the positions of the Democrats or Republicans they are not independent but rather weak partisans of the duopoly parties. However, the fact that independents take sides when given a choice between Republicans and Democrats does not imply that they are not independent, but rather that they are not ideologically neutral. As LAD puts it:
Most independents declare independence because of distrust and/or disgust with both major political parties . . . My voting behavior leans Democratic because the American system of politics is so lopsidedly dominated by the two major parties that I really have no choice—especially in presidential elections. As a Progressive, there is absolutely no way you can convince me to vote Republican. Which leaves me to either vote Democratic or third party. I have voted third party before and will do so again.
If anything, the "myth" that research into the behavior of independents dispels is that which paints them as a monolith of non-partisan centrists, a presumption which is all too common among duopolist pollsters and mainstream media commentators. However, when it is argued that the number of independents is inflated because independent "leaners" are in fact "weak partisans" of the Democratic and Republican Parties, what results is an artificial inflation of support for the Democratic and Republican Parties. It is not surprising that this outcome is forwarded by American political scientists. The American Political Science Association has been among the most vocal supporters of the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government, beginning in 1950 with the organization's development of the so-called "responsible party" model of duopolist political practice. To paraphrase Mark Voss-Hubbard's critique of the duopolist bias evident among American political historians: a research agenda that promises to organize the analysis of political practice around long-range systemic patterns that define a regime is bound to deflect attention away from practices that demonstrate popular antipathy toward that regime. For previous posts on this topic, see: On the Independence of Independents and Dispel the Myth of the 'Myth of the Independent Voter'.

On Antagonism: if Republicans support the Communists and the Communists support the Democrats, where does that leave the rest of us?

While the rise of the tea party movement demonstrates the rift between the conservative grassroots and the Republican Party, the health care debate has revealed the fault lines within the Democrats' center-left coalition, pitting liberal and progressive activists against the party establishment, as commentators on both the left and the right have noted. Reading these developments together, it is clear that the primary antagonism structuring our political landscape is not between conservatives and liberals, or between the Democratic and Republican Parties, but rather between the people of the United States – conservatives, libertarians, liberals and progressives – and the Democratic-Republican political establishment. Indeed, rank and file opposition to party leadership extends beyond the Democratic and Republican Parties. Consider, for instance, the denunciations of the Communist Party's leadership at Marxism-Leninism Today, which takes issue with the party's official stance toward the foreign and domestic policy of the Obama administration.

When conservatives denounce the agenda of the Obama administration and the Democratic-majority Congress as "communist," liberals and progressives likely roll their eyes, before they turn red. Unsurprisingly, however, in the debate surrounding this charge the position of the Communist Party is rarely taken into consideration. The party's leadership have been consistent, vocal supporters of the Obama administration's agenda, urging continued support for health care reform and, apparently, refusing to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The similarities between reports from the Communist Party leadership and Democratic activists are difficult to overlook. Last month, in a report to the party's National Committee, Chairman Sam Webb wrote:
Slightly over a year ago, the American people elected a young African American to the presidency and increased the Democratic majority in the Congress. President Obama’s victory represented a repudiation of right-wing ideology, politics and economics and a setback for neoliberalism in both its conservative and liberal skins . . . Perhaps it is obvious, but if McCain and Palin had been elected, a public option would not be in the center of the conversation — in fact, health care reform wouldn’t even be on the agenda. The Employee Free Choice Act would be off labor’s wish list. The stimulus package would be far smaller and unemployment much higher. There would not be a Puerto Rican woman on the Supreme Court. Our government would be actively supporting the coup regime in Honduras, and relations with Cuba would be frozen or worse. Legislation extending hate crimes to include anti-gay violence would still be on the ‘to do’ list. And not a word would have been mentioned about the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Compare this with a defense of Obama against critics from the left written by Blue Texan at FDL:

Does Hedges really believe the country would look no different today if the Supreme Court hadn’t appointed Bush in 2000? Because I think he’s wrong. Similarly, does anyone think John McCain would have overturned the Bush policy on stem cells, acknowledged the seriousness of climate change, spent a huge amount of political capital trying to reform health care, reversed Bush’s policies on labor, on the environment, or endangered species? Does anyone think John McCain would’ve nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court or signed the stimulus bill?

While many on the right would likely see this convergence between the positions of the Communist and Democratic Parties as proof of the Democrats' "communist" agenda, many Marxist-Leninists view it as "reformist opportunism" and symptomatic of the Communist Party's deterioration and decline. Ironically, however, while denouncing Democrats as socialists and communists, leading Republican Party ideologues are openly calling on conservatives to emulate "far left," "socialist" electoral and political strategies.

Thus, the Communist Party supports the Democratic Party's agenda and Republicans support the Communist Party's strategy, but Marxist-Leninists decry the Communist Party's strategy, conservatives and libertarians stand in open opposition to the Democratic-Republican establishment, and progressives and liberals denounce the Democratic Party's leadership.

MA Special Election: Debate on the Debates Resolved

IPR relays a report stating that independent candidate for US Senate Joe Kennedy will be included in all debates leading up to the special election in late January:
BOSTON – The two major party candidates for U.S. Senate will share the stage with the independent hopeful in a series of debates, including one in Springfield early next month.

Attorney General Martha M. Coakley, 56, the Democrat, insisted that independent candidate Joseph L. Kennedy, of Dedham, be included in debates along with state Sen. Scott P. Brown, 50, of Wrentham, the Republican.

On the Necessity of Intellectual Independence from the Ideology of the Two-Party State

The intellectual bankruptcy of duopoly ideology is nowhere more clear than in the inability of Democratic and Republican Party ideologues to conceive a reasonable and original argument against third party and independent activism. This does not mean, however, that one need be unreasonable or unoriginal when refuting such attacks. Whether Republican or Democrat, partisans of the two-party state most commonly avail themselves of two sets of arguments against third party and independent politics, which we might subsume under the headings strategic and structural. It is by means of these cliches that Democrats and Republicans create the ideological conditions necessary for the reproduction of the Democratic-Republican two-party state. Political independence requires their refutation.

The strategic argument holds that because third party and independent candidates for office cannot win, they can only act as spoilers, thus ensuring the victory of the greater of two evils between the duopoly parties. The strategic standpoint thus argues for nothing more than the lesser of two evils between the duopoly parties on the basis of the spoiler argument. The spoiler argument, in turn, rests on the structural thesis.

Democrats and Republicans are fond of claiming that third party and independent candidates for office do not have a history of success in the United States and that this is the result of the structure of the US electoral system, since plurality voting tends to result in a two-party system (i.e. Duverger's Law). The historical argument is simply false (see, for instance, my series of posts on the third party tradition in American politics). Duverger's Law states that plurality voting favors the development of a two-party system in a given polity, it does not suggest that plurality voting favors the development of a Democratic-Republican two-party system in a given plurality. In numerous states and locales across the country, the Democratic-Republican two-party system has devolved into a one-party state, in which one or the other duopoly parties has an effective lock on elected office (ex. Massachusetts, Utah). Duverger's Law would suggest that in such contexts we could reasonably expect to see the rise of a third force to compensate for the deterioration and degeneration of the reigning duopoly order. In a liberal locale, an appropriate two-party form might offer a choice between the Democrats and the Greens or Socialists. In a conservative polity, on the other hand, we should like to expect a contest between representatives of the Republican and the Libertarian or Constitution Party.

As Republican partisans of the two-party state continue their assault on independent and third party conservative activism, the formulaic nature of their assertions underscores the intellectual bankruptcy of duopoly ideology and reveals an unwillingness or inability to confront the greatest political problem facing the people of the United States, namely, the monopolization and centralization of political power by the Democratic and Republican Parties. Let's consider a few examples. A Constitutional Right and The Republic'er forward the strategic argument against independent and third party activism. Mark Metzger writes at A Constitutional Right:
While a Tea Party is certainly more mainstream than most of the aforementioned [third parties], it would most likely split the Republican vote and cause the very people that need to be voted out (the liberal Democrats) to win and continue their assault on our liberty.
Andy Cochran agrees at The Republic'er:
Yet to break away from the Republican Party would be a disaster for the political conservative philosophy that is held by those who call themselves Tea Party members. If the Republican party is split, and the conservative base leaves, it will guarantee a Liberal governance in America for decades. The Conservative voice will be muted and the votes of Republicans and Tea Party loyalists will be worthless.
Both advocate instead "reforming" or "conservatizing" the GOP. The same argument is put forward by Morton C. Blackwell in a post at Red State:

Events of the past year should persuade every serious conservative that the Republican Party is the only practical party vehicle for us. For a year now, we have seen how much damage the left would do to America if they get their way.
Strategic arguments of this sort are often based on a false analogy with presidential politics, and frequently reference the candidacies of Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. In this way, all votes in all contests at all levels of government are made dependent upon the totalitarian political calculus of the major parties, which are interested in nothing more than expanding and concentrating their political power. In this situation, the only "wasted vote" is a vote for a Republican or a Democrat because such votes do nothing more than ensure the reproduction of the reigning political status-quo. If it is possible to organize a "reform" of the GOP or the Democratic Party in the interests of defeating either of them, then it is possible to organize an independent or third party effort to defeat both of them.

Poll: Non-existent Third Party More Popular than Republicans and Democrats, Independents Outnumber Republicans, Democrats

The NBC/WSJ opinion poll released yesterday asked respondents to rate the favorability of the "Tea Party movement" alongside that of prominent political figures, major parties etc. Both the MSNBC and WSJ blogs were quick to point out, respectively, that "the conservative, libertarian-leaning Tea Party movement is more popular than either the Democratic or the Republican parties" and that "the Tea Party movement currently boasts higher favorability ratings than either the Democratic or Republican Parties." Eager to dismiss the findings, at the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen writes, quoting Media Matters:
About half the country has no idea what the "Tea Party movement" is. Only 7% said they know a great deal about the effort . . . comparing a "party" most of the country doesn't recognize with Democrats and Republicans doesn't make a lot of sense. For that matter, Eric Boehlert questioned the utility of polling a "party" that doesn't, you know, exist (it has no candidates, no platform, no organizational structure, no ballot line, etc.):

I'm not surprised because the Tea Party is a faceless movement that has doesn't actually stand for anything specific, so people can pretend it's whatever they want it to be. It's an utterly pointless polling exercise because people have an ingrained idea of who the Democrats are and what they stand for politically. Same with Republicans. But the non-existent Tea Party, for now, can be whatever voters want it to be.

Earlier this month, Richard Winger of Ballot Access News leveled the same criticism against a Rasmussen poll inquiring as to support for a generic "Tea Party candidate":
There is no such political party. One wishes Rasmussen Polls had done a poll that asks voters to choose among parties that actually exist. The results are: Democratic 36%, Tea Party 23%, Republican 18%, other or undecided 22%.
Despite the fact that it does not exist, the "Tea Party" has apparently become more popular over the last three weeks, outpacing first the Republicans and now the Democrats. Boehlert's analysis perhaps unwittingly underscores the significance of this contradiction: people have an "ingrained idea" of who and what the Democrats and Republicans are, while the Tea Party "can be whatever voters want it to be." Stated differently, people know exactly who and what the Democratic and Republican Parties are, they also know who and what they stand for, who and what they represent. And they likely reject Democrats and Republicans on the basis of this knowledge. Support for a non-existent "Tea Party" among a large plurality of the population is a negative indication of the fact that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are "what voters want."

The poll also found that self-described independents (including so-called "leaners") outnumber both Republicans and Democrats (including so-called "leaners"): 1) strict Independents, independents who lean Democrat, and those who lean Republican accounted for 42% of the response; 2) very strong Democrats, not very strong Democrats and Independents who lean Democrat accounted for 40%; and 3) very strong Republicans, not very strong Republicans and Independents who lean Republican totaled 34%.

Update: One more anti-incumbent tidbit from this poll: 38% of respondents stated that their congressional representative "deserves to be reelected", while 49% would prefer to "give a new person a chance."

MA Special Election: the Debate on the Debates II

Following the Boston Globe's explicit statement of support for duopolized Democratic-Republican debates leading up to the special election for US Senate in Massachusetts, the Boston Herald appears to be coming out in support of an inclusive debate format with a set of three articles released today. The Herald's, Hillary Chabot interviews independent US Senate candidate Joe Kennedy about the state of his campaign and his inclusion in upcoming debates:

Front-runner Democrat Martha Coakley, vying for a Senate seat against Republican Scott Brown, is pushing to open debates to a longshot third-party newcomer who says he has “no idea what my chances are” in the race to succeed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“I haven’t hired any pollsters,” said Joseph L. Kennedy, an unenrolled candidate who has never run for public office and has only four part-time campaign staffers and $20,000 in his war chest.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m running to win, but a lot of it is not about Joe Kennedy running and winning. A lot of it is about you have three people who have three different ideas - who do you want to represent you?” . . .

But this champion of small government says he’s counting on media exposure he gains in the debates and on the campaign trail to vault him past his better-known and better financed major party opponents.
The Herald's Jessica Heslam, on the other hand, interviews Grace Ross, independent Green Rainbow candidate for governor in 2006, who "took part in all four of the race’s major debates as the media embraced diversity in the race." Heslam writes:
the Boston Globe ran an editorial yesterday saying voters deserve one-on-one debates between Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley and Republican state Sen. Scott Brown.

Ross disagrees. “If you’ve done enough work to manage to get your name on the ballot, which is not a small task in a statewide election, the voters have a right for information,” she said . . .

Ross said yesterday that the media has forgotten its role. “They want to make themselves into political players where they get to say - instead of the voters - who is worthy of being heard and who isn’t,” she said.

Finally, in an opinion piece for the Herald, Wayne Woodlief calls on sponsors to "open debates to all":

Martha Coakley is right on the principle and smart on the politics in urging three-way debates, not head-to-head combat against Republican Scott Brown, in the Jan. 19 special Senate election for Ted Kennedy’s seat.

The AG strikes a blow for full representation by insisting that libertarian Joseph L. Kennedy of Dedham, running as an independent, also be on the stage. He earned a right to debate by getting 13,998 validated signatures - well over the 10,000 required - with winter dawning, to boot . . .

Voters need to hear from this Joe, too. Sure, he’s a long shot. But so is Brown. And Kennedy would offer some variety. He told me, “There’s no difference between the two parties. With Bush we saw wasteful spending, huge debt and costly invasion of other countries. And Obama has just continued all that. He inherited a mess but he’s dealt with it with new trillion dollar bailouts and war-mongering, too.”

Thanks to Kennedy Seat for its morning roundup.

NC Constitution Party Chairman: Two-Party System is a Sham

In North Carolina's Statesville Record and Landmark, Jim McNally reports on a meeting of the Constitution Party of North Carolina:

The CPNC leaders who spoke at the Golden Corral . . . [pointed out] the folly in supporting either of the two major political parties that have had a stranglehold on the electorate for the past century and a half.

"We're pretty upset at the way the government is going," said Mike Moorefield of Statesville. "And we think it's time to change."

And CPNC State Chairman Al Pisano did say things as they now are will continue unless like-minded people ban together and stop "picking the lesser of two evils" when they mark their ballots in the voting booths.

"This so-called two-party system is a sham," Pisano said, and he went on to point out that the United States' Founding Fathers and the writers of the nation's most esteemed documents would be appalled by what has become of their handiwork.

"We've gotten away from the meanings behind the Declaration of Independence and the true meaning of the Constitution," Pisano said. "And that's how we got into the mess we're in." . . .

Based on the speeches given Tuesday, the written material distributed at the meeting and other information found on the CPNC Web site, the party could be classified as being staunchly conservative . . .

"The only wasted vote," [Pisano] said, "is the one you cast for someone you don't truly believe in."

Skin Deep: On the Difference Between the Democratic and Republican Parties

Perhaps one of the most common critiques of the two-party system, articulated by principled conservatives and progressives alike, is that there's no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties. Though it contains a kernel of truth, this proposition is too broad and too easily countered by partisans of the Democratic and Republican Parties to be of much value for any thoroughgoing critique of the two-party state and the duopoly charade. More often than not, the duopolist ideologue does nothing more than cite a list of issues on which Republicans and Democrats disagree and considers the point refuted, as if there were only two possible positions that could be taken up on any given matter of contention. This rhetorical tactic is effective only to the extent that it avoids confrontation with the kernel of truth at the heart of the criticism, which is that the Democratic and Republican Parties function as an ideological and political unit. Brian Moore, a reader of Hernando Today out of Tampa Bay, writes in response to a recent article arguing against third party activism (which I referenced earlier this month in a post on the necessity of political independence from the duopolist order):

The only threat to [the] Republican Party, and to the Democratic Party for that matter, is the ineffectual and destructive policies they advocate and legislate. Furthermore, they are also responsible for the dollars they allocate in such a wasteful fashion, which have caused our economic crisis, high unemployment, a broken health care system and the downward spiral of poverty that continues unabated now amongst the middle class, as well as the lower economic classes, unabated in America.

We go to war every other year, which is always supported by the bipartisan U.S. Congress as well. And the two major political parties have no one else to blame for the 9/11 attack. It was due to the failures of our intelligence agencies, but most importantly to the lack of oversight by the Congress. One could take it another step further to say that the economic and foreign policies, as set by the two-party congress, have caused anti-Americanism, hatred and revenge amongst many populations of the world, which led to 9/11and ongoing terrorism worldwide.

The next civil rights issue of the 21st century will be to enable better and easier ballot access for third parties, so that more Americans will have a choice in the political party and ideology they wish to choose and support, and to represent their interest and calls for real change . . .

the two parties are corrupted, dependent on corporate and special interest monies and should be held accountable for the state of affairs our nation is now finding itself in. Our only way out is through change, significant, bold change, not a slight tinkering or soft reform that . . . the Republicans and Mr. Obama of the Democrats purport to offer as solutions.

MA: The Democratic-Republican Duopolist Media Complex

The editorial page of the Boston Globe takes sides in the ongoing debate over whether all three ballot-qualified candidates for US Senate in Massachusetts should be included in the contest's debates, writing "The debate voters deserve: Coakley vs. Brown." Coakley and Brown are, of course, the Democratic and Republican candidates for the office, respectively, thus demonstrating yet again the mainstream media's explicit bias in favor of Democratic-Republican Party rule and their complicity in reproducing the duopoly system of government. We read:
Massachusetts voters are entitled to one-on-one debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates for US Senate. Democratic nominee Martha Coakley’s campaign insists that, as a matter of principle, she will only take part in debates that include all the candidates on next month’s ballot. That would include not just state Senator Scott Brown, the Republican nominee, but also a little-known independent candidate named Joseph L. Kennedy.
At Ballot Access News, Richard Winger notes:
The Boston Globe says the independent, Joseph L. Kennedy, is “little-known”. Obviously, if he were included in all the debates, that problem would be overcome.
Indeed, beyond that, however, one would think that in a well developed federal constitutional republic, there would be an institution devoted to informing voters and the wider public about candidates for local, state and federal offices, and provide them with the means of making an informed choice when they enter the voting booth. In effect, this institution would mediate the public's relation to government, reporting on events of immediate or potential importance to its future development, even going so far as to interview candidates for elected office. That independent libertarian candidate Joe Kennedy is "little-known" is not an argument against his candidacy but rather an indictment of mainstream media outlets like the Boston Globe which are dedicated to reproducing the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government rather than informing voters on the array of choices they will find on their ballots.

A Jacksonian Strategy to Break the Democratic-Republican Duopoly System of Government

The Jacksonian Party builds on an analysis from last spring, Third Party Outlines, which persuasively argued for a third party or independent strategy that attracts voters away from the major parties while reaching out to non-voters. Other Roads begins from an analysis of recent polls showing significant support for a third party alternative to the Democratic-Republican charade and argues that even a minimal activation of non-voters in favor of such an alternative would radically alter the strategic calculus of the duopoly order. Some key points:
'Independents' tend to break out along party lines as there are only two parties, and that when a third party is introduced 'Independents' will then break in a tripartite fashion. What comes out of this is that when non-voters or 'Independents' move to a new standard, they have the effect of changing the 'Independent' voting ratio . . .

With a third choice and Independents falling out proportionately, an era of 'bi-partisanship' ends: a third party that kept to a small government platform and did NOT compromise, while a minority, would demonstrate that the other two parties were either in collusion (i.e. 'bi-partisanship' against the third party) or unwilling to compromise THEIR power structure so as to reduce government (via the number of agencies, regulations, personnel, legal coverage, etc.). A small, hard-line party that is able to garner 20% of the vote becomes a palpable threat to the 'two party system' . . .

By increasing the pool of voters and having them committed to a third party or alternative voting arrangement, what had once been 'safe' seats become, at an instant, plurality seats only . . . that very change is a POSITIVE feedback to the third party members in that THEY did this, they entered into the fray and changed the cozy arrangement that had been set up between the two parties for 'safe' districts. While 46% is still a 'win' it is not a 'safe' win and indicates weakness in the two larger pluralities that can be exploited by a lean and hungry third party . . .

And if a third party can bring IN any of the current disaffected, their power is magnified by doing so. The existing two parties have had four decades to stem that tide and have not succeeded. Getting the current voting disaffected is not enough: any third party must reach out to the self-disenfranchised and give them a positive reason TO vote. Republicans and Democrats have failed miserably at that, and any third party that can get any success will crack the two party system wide open.
Read the whole thing.

MA Special Election: the Debate on the Debates

In the race leading up to the special election for US Senate in Massachusetts, the structure of the contest's upcoming debates has become a point of contention between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown. The Boston Globe reports:
Coakley, the state’s attorney general, said she is reluctant to participate in any debates that do not include a little-known independent candidate, Joseph L. Kennedy. Most of the invitations Brown accepted are for debates that do not include Kennedy; six are scheduled during a nine-day period, and most are sponsored by media outlets.
Joe Kennedy is an independent libertarian and gathered the necessary petition signatures to qualify for ballot access last month. For his part, Kennedy is eager to confront Coakley and Brown in any and all debates. As noted by The Senator at Kennedy Seat, who is following this race very closely, the Brown campaign has now effectively "shifted the onus to the various debate sponsors." But the Boston Globe article above quotes Coakley saying:
“It shouldn’t be two people in some debates, three in other debates,’’ she added. “I think everybody should be included, and I think we’re going to hold pretty firm on that.’’
The Democrat's apparent call for inclusiveness is undercut by the fact that there will be more than three candidates on Massachusetts ballots in January [see correction in comments -d.]. Both Politics1 and The Green Papers list eight other independent candidates running for the seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy, among them Jean Anne Kennedy-Windsor and Stewart Lustgarten. Thus, one is justified in questioning the Coakley campaign's motives here. Nonetheless, Joe Kennedy has found an unlikely ally in the Democratic candidate. The question remains as to how debate sponsors will react to these developments. As it is in their best interests to do so, the people of Massachusetts should demand the inclusion of voices independent of the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government.

The Way of the Modern Whigs

This past weekend, the Modern Whig Party held its first National Council Meeting in Washington D.C., bringing together members and volunteers from across the country. At Northern Virginia Whig, Rob Withers supplied a summary of the proceedings. At The Whig, Septimus writes:
First, at the meeting, we had a presentation and discussion on why third parties fail. There is no shying away from the mountain of problems that a third party faces. We are under no delusions. We also had a presentation from our first candidate on how his effort was received . . .

Second, we had a presentation on how to develop the Modern Whig Party both internally and externally: how we are different, and how we can do things a better way. Going forward, we will have a method of developing party leaders and candidates from within the party. Also, party members will be able to develop the issues and priorities of the party . . . The Modern Whig approach, going forward, is to give our members a real say in party affairs and the development of party issues. Future party leaders will not be picked from above, but will be those who have participated and helped to develop the party. This bottom-up, grass-roots approach will be central to the future of the Modern Whig Party.

Third, we refined and expanded the tenets of the party. They will reflect not only our core beliefs, and how we will develop, but what kind of political party we will be: moderate, reasonable, transparent, grass-roots and member-oriented, and decentralized.
Interestingly, in a separate post, Septimus also makes a point of emphasizing what they did not do at the council meeting:
Sometimes what you don't do is as important as what you did do. One of the things we avoided was a prolonged discussion about our detailed positions on the issues . . . The idea of gathering to impose our opinions on the rest of the membership seemed presumptuous. Instead, we spent our time discussing more important and immediate tasks: our core values, our organization, engaging the membership, improving communication, how to identify and develop leadership, and our goals for the medium and long term.

What developed then, was a decision to put into place a method that will allow the membership itself to decide the party's position on the issues. Over the next few months, this will be put into place. It involves developing our own unique membership communications and comments system. In this way, our commitment to grass-roots development will be incorporated into our very structure, and will shape the way we communicate and grow our membership. If we say we are different than other political parties, then we should be. [Emphasis added.]
Reporters were present for some portion of the proceedings. Slate intern Andrew Dubbins writes: "America says it wants a third party. Why not the Modern Whigs?" Unfortunately, however, aside from snide comments and insinuations, there is little in the article that one could not learn from any number of Whig blogs plus Wikipedia's entry on Whigs. In an article from Michigan's Eastern Echo earlier this month, Chris Hoitash argued that the Modern Whigs are "moderates' new ally":
With more people registered as Independents, and with the extremes of each major party drowning out the more moderate members, the Modern Whigs could be the new voice for those people, especially considering the civil war between the moderate and extremely conservative Republicans . . .

if, like me, you’re tired of the Republican civil war, the Democratic fragmentation resulting in nothing getting done, and the extremists of both parties drowning out those in the middle, or if you are a moderate Republican and believe the war is lost or will be lost for your side, then the Modern Whigs might be for you. Progress can come from small beginnings, but only if those who believe the need for the progress take action.
The Modern Whig presence on the web is growing at a steady pace. Perhaps you might be interested in the Modern Whig Party of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Texas, Tennessee, or Virginia.

The Demoralization of the American Voter and the Activation of the Non-Vote: Opportunity in Crisis

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent reports on a poll that demonstrates the demoralizing effect of the Democratic congressional majority on Democratic voters:
A new national poll finds that fully one third of Democratic voters say that they’re “less likely” to vote in 2010 if Congress doesn’t pass a public option, underscoring the possibility that dropping the provision seriously risks dampening the Dem base’s enthusiasm . . . these numbers are a reminder of just how dispirited the Dem base is by the party’s inability to leverage their comfortable majority in support of an agenda built on core liberal priorities.
The demoralization and disappointment of liberals and progressives in the face of the Obama administration and ruling Democratic majority is a function of the false belief among those very same liberals and progressives that the Democratic Party supports "an agenda built on core liberal principles." This self-delusion is no less absurd than the conservative and libertarian conviction that the Republican Party supports an agenda built on core conservative principles. If liberals and progressives desire to see support for a liberal-progressive agenda in government, the appropriate response is not to cease voting, but rather to cease voting for Democrats, and instead support third party and independent liberal and progressive challengers to Democratic candidates for office. Similarly, if conservatives and libertarians desire to see support for a conservative-libertarian agenda in government, they must cease supporting Republicans, who have done more to undermine the public trust in conservative-libertarian principles than any Democrat.

Perhaps some might respond that third party and independent candidates for office stand no chance of winning any election, and hence reason that it is better not to vote than vote Republican or Democrat. Arguably, the majority of American voters reason this way. The American voter's history of apathy in the face of the false choice between Republicans and Democrats is demonstrated by consistently low voter turnout in US elections. But the crisis of representative government represented by consistently low voter turnout is a potential opportunity from the perspective of independent and third party strategy. In a post on the election of Annise Parker as mayor of Houston, Romulus writes at The Whig:
Houston voters chose Annise Parker to replace the outgoing Bill White as the next mayor of the fourth-largest U.S. city by population. Parker won 53.6 percent of ballots according to Harris County election data, with a 16.5% voter turnout. Sixteen point five percent? That's criminal! That's disgusting. It means that 8.84% of Houston's registered voters chose the winner. Talk about voter apathy. [Emphasis added.]
In an election with such low voter turnout, which is not rare in the United States, a third party or independent candidate for office who managed to garner the support of just one in ten registered voters would have easily defeated both Parker and her duopolist rival. The question remains, how can an independent or third party campaign activate non-voters?

FL: Third Party Tea Party

In early November, I noted that Florida tea party activists had officially "declared their independence" from the farce that is Democratic-Republican politics, by registering their group as an official minor party. The group's website is now up and running. Its front page features a declaration of independence from the Democratic and Republican parties. Via Freedom's Wings:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for citizens to dissolve the political bands which have heretofore connected them with the two, major, existing political parties and to assume among the powers of the earth, a new political party, with the separate and equal station which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles it, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, political parties are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of their members, That whenever any political party becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of those members to separate themselves from it, and to institute a new party, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that affiliations with existing political parties long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by separating from such political parties to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations by both major, political parties, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce the American public under the absolute Despotism of the Federal government in Washington, D.C., it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off their allegiances to such parties, and to form a new political party.

Such has been the patient sufferance of the American people; and such is now the necessity which constrains the undersigned citizens of the United States of America to alter their allegiances to their former political parties. The history of the present Republican and Democratic Parties is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny by the Federal government over the American people. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Accommodation with the Republican and Democratic Parties is the Death of Independent Politics

As the tea party movement began gaining steam in early 2008, both Democratic and Republican partisans of the two-party state sought to tie the movement into the two-party political order as quickly as possible. Democrats aimed to discredit tea party groups by arguing that they were nothing but fronts for the Republican Party while, ironically, Republicans sought to reanimate the GOP by allying themselves with a newly awakened conservative grassroots. The parallels with the anti-war movement during the Bush administration are striking: Republicans aimed to discredit anti-war groups as Democratic Party fronts and Democrats worked to capitalize on the efforts of independent progressive activists. While the anti-war movement was effectively co-opted and then defeated by the Democratic Party, the tea party movement still retains some amount of independence from the order of the duopoly, and thus may not suffer the same fate at the hands of the Republicans as their progressive counterparts did at the hands of the Democrats.

However, Republican partisans of the reigning two-party political status quo continue their assault on independent conservative activism while simultaneously revealing the intellectual bankruptcy of duopoly ideology. At Axis of Right, Sal is incapable of marshaling anything other than the old spoiler argument in his "case against third party politics":
the truth is that a Tea Party as a third-party entity would be a disaster for both Conservatives and the Republicans, and would guarantee that the liberal socialist overlords that currently occupy the seats of power in Washington continue their reign for years to come.
Sal is, of course, not alone in wishing to see the grassroots independent conservative movement defeated in the interests of short term Republican electoral gains. At American Power, Donald Douglas reflects on the divisions within the tea party movement and writes:
my concern is that the tea party movement will essentially become a populist third party movement; and given the historical record of third parties in our structural two-party system, it's possible that the white-hot populism that's driving much of the opposition to the Democrats will go the way of other short-lived third party phenomena, for example, the United We Stand organization of Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign . . . My hope is that the tea partiers can come to some accomodation with the most conservative leaders of the Republican Party, especially Sarah Palin. Our movement needs to work within the structural constraints of the single-member, winner-take-all system.
Consider this in the context of Douglas's statements on what he called "the grassroots tea party revolt" earlier this year. In April, he wrote:
Over and over again, on blogs and message boards, I see folks saying "we are not political." Many folks confess that this is the first time they've gotten involved politically. And that has to be the most frightening thing about this for the secular collectivists on the left.
Ironically, Douglas now shares this concern with the reviled "secular collectivists on the left." This is not surprising. More than anything else, supporters of the Democratic-Republican two-party state and the reigning political status quo fear independent and third party grassroots political activism precisely because of the threat it represents to the Democratic-Republican two-party state and the reigning political status quo. Thus, independent activists must constantly defend themselves against infiltration and co-optation by the ruling parties. At the California Independent Voter Network, Chad Peace takes the infiltrators to task (link via Humble Libertarian):
Propelled by the moving mouths on TV and the talking heads of such ironically named organizations such as the “American Family Association” (one must agree that for an admitted adulterer with three ex-wives heading the AFA is ironic, right?), the movement lost its focus. No longer were tea partiers upset with the bipartisan corruption in Washington D.C., they are mad at the socialists communists Hitler-like Democrats. No longer did Constitutionalism mean respecting the rule of law, it meant Obama is not really our president. A movement founded on the principles of independent analysis, it has become a yelling fest for punch-drunk cynics armed with incoherent talking points.

Slowly, I’ve lost some of my unrealistic idealism. As I pull back the blinders, I try to look at the tea party from the eyes of an outsider, the average American. What I see is a bunch of people reciting partisan political sermons, coddling fears, and perpetuating a superficial battle between “left” and “right”; drowning the well intentioned idealists that remain.

The lesson is clear: Republican and Democratic ideologues will stop at nothing to kill any political movement that might upset the duopoly system of government. Accommodation with the Republican or Democratic Parties is the death of political independence.