Third Party Politics, the Viability Hurdle and the Promise of New Media

In his ongoing series of articles on California's third party and independent candidates for governor, Chris Hinyub most recently profiled American Independent Party hopeful Chelene Nightingale, writing:
Chelene Nightingale is a staunch advocate of the Constitution and limited government. She has been involved with organizing numerous rallies and political events for the past five years. As a private citizen lobbyist to both Sacramento and DC, she has demanded border security reform and no amnesty for illegal aliens.
Today, however, Hinyub synthesizes the concerns common to those third party and independent advocates with whom he's spoken, and organizes them under three broad headings: media access, campaign financing and endorsements. Hinyub writes:
I recently had the pleasure of asking several third party candidates in the race for California governor about the problems they have encountered while campaigning outside the two party system. Their concerns were essentially the same, converging under three categories . . .

Media Access In this day and age, the “viability” of a political candidate is predicated upon one factor – mainstream media coverage . . . Campaign Finance Independents must rely on small, diffuse donations from individuals to drive their campaigns. The two-headed leviathan is fed, on the other hand, by corporate donations, union contributions and indirect funding through political action groups . . . Endorsements Because of the complexities of political elections and the glut of information voters must process to make the most educated choice, many rely on endorsements to simplify their decision. Obtaining endorsements from high profile groups is difficult for third party candidates in large part because of the social stigma of propping up a candidate who lacks official viability . . .
These three obstacles, which Hinyub explicates in greater detail with quotes from the Green, Libertarian and IAP candidates for governor, are all mutually reinforcing: the effective mainstream media blackout of third party and independent candidates makes it more difficult to raise funding and obtain endorsements; without massive amounts of funding it is difficult to obtain media access and score endorsements; and without high profile endorsements, it is difficult to obtain media access and create a wider funding base. But perhaps new media hold the promise of revolutionizing the political process for the better. Some techno-utopians believe this is the case. Bob Samuels writes at the Huffington Post:
the future might hold out the possibility for truly free and open elections. Due to advances in new media, we now have the ability to hold a transformative type of political campaign that would be without political parties, political donations, and political commercials. This change is possible because we can circulate on the Web concrete policies, positions, and information without losing ourselves in a sea of fake news and superficial character assassinations.

The Coming Intersection of the Tea Party and Anarchist Movements

Tea party groups are planning another set of nationwide protests and rallies on April 15th, 2010, and this year they may well be confronted with counter-protests, if not also direct action, from the American anarchist movement. Over the weekend a call went out over a number of anarchist news wires calling on activists to "Crash the tea parties!" The release at Anarchist News, Infoshop News and Indymedia, identifies the tea party movement as a coalition of conservative groups and right-wing bogeymen intent on dismantling existing social welfare programs, and urges active opposition at the April 15th demonstrations. We read:
On April 15th thousands of right-wingers will attend rallies in cities and towns across the United States. The organizers of this nationwide day of protest call it a tea party. This tea party movement that emerged only a year ago is a coalition of conservatives, anti-semites, fascists, libertarians, racists, constitutionalists, militia men, gun freaks, homophobes, ron paul supporters, alex jones conspiracy types and american flag wavers. If the tea party movement continues to grow in size and strength there is a big chance they will dominate this country in the near future. If the tea party movement takes over this country they will really hurt poor people by getting rid of social programs like food stamps, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, student aid, free health care, etc. The tea party movement will say these programs must be gotten rid of because hard-working taxpayers cannot afford to pay for these things especially when the economy is in a depression. There are three options we have with the tea party movement:

1. Organize counter-protests against the tea party demonstrations, same time, same place. This is probably the best option. We need to get in the streets on April 15th and show the tea party movement that there are lots of people out there who oppose their agenda.

2. Get individual tea party protesters to leave the right-wing and move to the left politically.

3. Ignore the tea party movement. This is the worst option because without anyone opposing them they could easily gain power.
The piece also directs readers to a number of tea party websites "so you can spy on them." Among these are Tax Day Tea Party, Tea Party Patriots, and Re-Tea Party. Of course, if anarchists really wanted to confound if not also discredit the tea party movement, they might consider joining the tea party protests rather than organizing counter-actions.

It is worth noting here that anarchist groups have been closely watching the tea party movement virtually from its inception, and appear both attracted and repulsed by its overall message. From a report on the tax day tea party protests of 2009 at Portland Indymedia:
Much of what was said and the content of many of the signs would indeed get nods of approval from those on the Progressive side of the aisle. "Stop the Looting, Start Prosecuting;" "Tea Bag the Fed, Declare Oregon Sovereignty;" "Dems, Reps, Wake Up;" "When Injustice Becomes Law, Rebellion Becomes Duty;" "Banks Take Your Loses."

There is much common ground here, yet I did not feel the crowd to be in sympathy with the poor, the homeless, the undocumented immigrant. The rhetoric from the speakers emphasized the many problems which brought them all to the Square, yet few if any solutions were offered. There was a general and overwhelming mood of discontent, with constant reference to the fact that "we the people" could somehow solve the problems, if government would leave us alone.
Arguably, anarchists have already successfully infiltrated tea party events and rallies. From the Twin Cities Indymedia, November 2009:
Forty-five anti-immigration activists held a small rally outside the state capitol on Saturday. Counter-protest from members of Anti-Racist Action, Bash Back, the Minnesota Immigrants' Rights Action Coalition and others was frequent, vigorous and hilarious. ("America is not for Russians! America is not for Germans! Europeans go home!") . . . One activist, under the name "Robert Erickson," managed to get on the list of speakers and riled the crowd into a frenzy about the theft, murder and disease inflicted by illegal immigrants... from Europe, upon indigenous populations. In a "Yes Men" moment, the anti-immigrant crowd sat in silence, trying to figure out what just happened.
"Robert Erickson" continues to stage such actions, having successfully pulled off yet another one just this month in Washington D.C.

On the other hand, tea party activists have begun to delve into recent works calling for anarchist insurrection. Sales of The Coming Insurrection skyrocketed over the last six months, after the book was reviewed by Glenn Beck on his Fox News program. From Beck in July 2009:

As world economies go down the tank and unemployment continues to rise, disenfranchised people are set to explode. The dangerous leftist book that could spark this is "The Coming Insurrection." This is a call to arms for violent revolution, authored anonymously by a French group called the Invisible Committee who want to bring down capitalism.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on the resulting spike in sales:

In July, Mr. Beck introduced the book to his three million or so viewers, accompanied by video of burning cars and swarming protesters. “Here is the one thing everyone seems to be missing. The extreme left is actively calling for violence,” he told his audience. “It calls for violent revolution. An anonymous group from France, of all places, called the Invisible Committee, penned it. They want to bring down capitalism and the Western way of life.”

This month, Mr. Beck proclaimed it “the most evil book I’ve read in a long, long time.” The next day, “The Coming Insurrection,” whose authors call themselves the Invisible Committee, rose to No. 54 on Amazon’s best-seller list. In July, the book briefly reached No. 1. And even this weekend the book remained around No. 240.

I have remarked before on conservatives' appropriation of political strategies they themselves deride as "far left" and "radical socialist." Perhaps we will see the adoption of typical anarchist methods and tactics by tea party groups in the near future. Following the passage of Obamacare, the windows of Democratic offices were smashed in towns across the country. Perhaps a tea party black bloc is being organized at this very moment.

Update 4/1/10: Judging from Memeorandum, it seems a number of other bloggers have finally picked up on this story, apparently via Infowars. Left Coast Rebel is "kicking himself." Gateway Pundit indulges in typically absurd duopolist hysteria, with the headline: "Anarchists Plan War on April 15th Tea Parties." Red State is calling the potential anarchist counter-actions a "lefty freakout." Another Black Conservative urges readers "These animals are looking for trouble, don’t give it to them."

The funny thing, of course, is that there are probably very few planned anarchist counter-protests anywhere at this point, otherwise word of them would have gotten out long ago.

Democratic-Republican Political Violence and the Coming Intersection of the Tea Party and Anarchist Movements

With the raids on the Hutaree militia group in the mid-west coming on the heels of the spike in politically motivated vandalism following the passage of Obamacare, Sam Wilson at the Think 3 Institute observes that the result will be the confirmation of pre-existing political prejudices among both Democrats and Republicans:
This news isn't likely to be a game changer for anyone. It will confirm Democrats and progressives in their fear of the militia movement. It will confirm the militias' fears of an impending, more sweeping government crackdown. It will confirm Christian extremists' fear of imminent state persecution. It will confirm Republicans' fear that the Obama administration intends to inflate the militia threat in order to discredit all dissent from the right. I'm not saying that the facts about the Hutaree will confirm all these things objectively, but simply that conspiracy-minded people will take the news as evidence justifying their suspicions about militias, the Christian right, or the government.
One of the most predictable responses to the attacks on Democratic offices across the country was provided by the Powerline blog, which argued that these acts pale in comparison with those of protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul:
I attended the convention and remember the terrorist acts that were carried out by anti-Republican protesters very well. They threw bricks through the windows of buses, sending elderly convention delegates to the hospital. They dropped bags of sand off highway overpasses onto vehicles below. Fortunately, no one was killed . . .

For some reason, political violence was not a concern less than two years ago. Yet today, we can hardly imagine what would happen if a group of tea partiers were to drop sandbags off a highway overpass, trying to kill motorists below. Liberal reporters' heads would explode.
Actually, a group of individuals that came to be known as the RNC 8 were in fact charged with "conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism" under Minnesota's version of the Patriot Act. However, the most naked display of political violence in St. Paul was that perpetrated by militarized police units against protesters who had assembled freely to petition their government for a redress of grievances. In the end, almost 800 people were arrested over the course of the convention, including dozens of journalists who were caught up in the sweeps. But only fifteen individuals eventually faced criminal charges. Moreover, this display of state-sponsored violence itself paled in comparison with that surrounding the Republican National Convention of 2004 in New York City, in which almost 2000 people were arrested but under 200 were charged with any crime or infraction. I don't recall the major media or leading Democratic-Republican politicians denouncing excessive use of force on the part of the national security police state in either of these instances or any similar one. Indeed, they are rather much more likely to cheer it on.

Perhaps the simplest explanation for the difference in the reaction to the violence of these protesters, if such is in fact the case, was the obvious over-reaction on the part of police, not to mention that the real "news" was being made inside the convention halls rather than outside them. One must also remember that these acts were committed by self-described anarchists, who often fixate on Democratic targets in addition to Republican ones; and the acts of anarchist groups are furthermore often downplayed if not also mischaracterized as the isolated work of misguided youths, whereas organized militia groups, in comparison, are seen as real threats to the state's monopoly on violence.

Nonetheless, the acts of vandalism and highly publicized threats of political violence following the passage of Obamacare have undoubtedly raised the profile of the tea party and militia movements among American anarchist groups. Despite their differences, all these groups may have more in common than any of them would like to admit, beginning with their respective anti-government stances. Are we more likely to see confrontation or cross-pollination between the tea party and anarchist movements? As with so many things, the answer is probably a little bit of both, as I'll attempt to show in my next post on "the coming intersection."

Independent Movement Gaining Traction Across the Northeast

Two recent articles out of Maine and Washington D.C. highlight the independent gubernatorial campaigns of Eliot Cutler in Maine, Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island and Tim Cahill in Massachusetts. At the Portland Press Herald, Matt Wickenheiser writes:
Disaffected with his longtime political party, the candidate decided to run for governor as an independent. It's a story line that applies this year to Maine. Or Massachusetts. Or Rhode Island. Three former party stalwarts are running for the top executive position in those states as unenrolled candidates . . .

All three could find real traction during this election cycle, marked by a high level of unhappiness with the status quo, suggested Mark Brewer, a University of Maine political scientist. "Any time you have voters that are angry, that really increases chances for an independent to be successful," he said. "Even though one party's in the minority, they still get some blame." The three candidates have each hired Tad Devine as a media consultant . . . Devine said that while the country seems polarized over some big issues, Americans seem to be moving in increasing numbers to the middle of the political spectrum . . .

Devine said the three candidates are motivated to run as independents for different reasons. Chafee "couldn't stand it in the Republican Party anymore," said Devine. Cahill felt that state government was spending money in a way that would hurt the middle class, he said. And Cutler wants to make a difference in his state but is "frustrated by the way politics work there."

Down in Washington D.C., Stuart Rothenberg considers the independent trend in a piece for CQPolitics. He writes:

Both the Republican and Democratic brands are damaged. Voters think the country is headed off on the wrong track and still clamor for change. Every primary and general election hopeful who can (and some who reasonably can’t) is running against Washington, D.C., and against professional politicians . . .

There are really three types of Independent hopefuls: contenders, spoilers and pretenders.

Independent candidates for governor in at least three states, all of them in New England, are running serious races, and the number of credible non-major-party candidates could grow if Minnesota’s Independence Party nominates someone with serious credentials or personal resources.

As I wrote in August 2009 on this very topic, it is long past time that the people of the United States dispel the myth of the "myth of the independent voter." The only wasted vote is a vote for a Democrat or a Republican.

Obamacare as Political Rorschach Test: End of History or End of the World?

We have reached a point in the development of the ideology that characterizes the Democratic-Republican two-party state, in which virtually every event – from the most trivial to the most significant – produces a bifurcated response that demonstrates the abject absurdity and intellectual bankruptcy of the politics to which we are subjected by Democratic-Republican Party government. The passage of Obamacare, for instance, was triumphantly lauded as the "end of history" by liberal Democrats and hysterically denounced as the "end of the world" by conservative Republicans. Let's begin with the liberal Democrat's declaration of the "end of history." On March 22nd, Kevin Drum wrote at Mother Jones:
There's plenty of work left to be done, but when it comes to the big ticket items we've gotten about 80% of what we set out to get over the past century. The one major item missing has been national healthcare. And now, finally, we're on the road to getting it . . . So over the next couple of decades we'll finish the job on healthcare, make continuing progress on gay rights, hopefully address climate change in an incremental way, improve our immigration laws, and so forth. But big ticket items? There probably aren't any.
In a similar vein, Matthew Yglesias declared final victory at Think Progress:
For the past 65-70 years—and especially for the past 30 years since the end of the civil rights argument—American politics has been dominated by controversy over the size and scope of the welfare state. Today, that argument is largely over with liberals having largely won . . . The crux of the matter is that progressive efforts to expand the size of the welfare state are basically done. There are big items still on the progressive agenda. But they don’t really involve substantial new expenditures.
The conservative Republican response to the passage of Obamacare was equally absurd: the event signals the beginning of totalitarianism and the coming of Armageddon. Politico reported Senator Orrin Hatch's articulation of the former talking point:
The health care law’s individual mandate is “what you call totalitarianism,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Wednesday night . . . “They want to force people to do whatever they want them to do. That’s what you call totalitarianism. It is not really good government." . . . “And frankly, it would be the first time that your liberties would be taken away from you where you would be forced to do something you don't want to do.”

Third Party Talk Radio: Breaking through the Duopolized Discourse

One of the enduring myths of the revisionist history that frames the duopolized discourse of our politics today is that the American third party and independent political tradition is little more than a footnote to the grand narrative of the Democratic-Republican two-party state. Yet, just because a tradition is ignored, this does not mean it does not exist. Darcy G. Richardson is an author, historian and veteran third party and independent political activist, who is in the process of writing a comprehensive seven volume history of the American third party and independent political tradition. Earlier this week, he was interviewed on the Jacksonville Observer radio show resulting in a discussion of everything from the history and development of the so-called "two-party system" to the most powerful third party groups and personalities from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, not to mention third party politics today. The interview is about half an hour long (if you fast forward through the commercials) and makes for great talk radio.

On the Communist-Socialist Divide over Health Care Reform and the Convergence of Tea Party and Socialist Thought

When conservative Republicans denounce the Democrats' health insurance industry bailout measure as a communist-socialist policy victory, and liberal Democrats proudly tout the fact that the law was built upon principles, and includes numerous provisions, long supported by Republicans, who is willing to draw the obvious conclusion that the Republican Party is just one more communist-socialist front group? It is worth emphasizing in this context that, like their Democratic-Republican counterparts, actual Communists and Socialists are in fact divided over the issue of health care reform. As I've noted before, the leadership of the Communist Party have been vocal supporters of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional majority. It is therefore no surprise that the editors of People's World, the party's mouthpiece, have come out strongly in favor of the new legislation. In an editorial entitled "Health Care Victory," they write:
We join with those who hail this legislation both as a measure that will save lives now and begin curbing the insurance industry, and as a giant first step to further reforms that will provide quality, affordable health care for every person in the United States.
The Socialist Party, on the other hand, strongly opposed the leading House and Senate Democratic proposals:
Unfortunately, the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, The Affordable Healthcare for America Act (HR 3962), and the proposals being considered by the Senate will not provide the relief Americans so desperately need . . . The primary problem with HR 3962 and the Senate proposals is that all of the changes they propose are made within a for-profit system . . . The Socialist Party USA therefore encourages its members and supporters to continue their work in the single-payer movement and to pressure elected representatives to vote “No” on the Senate proposal and, eventually, on the merged bill.
On his New York Daily News blog, Michael McAuliff noted the apparent irony of the Tea Party and Socialist Party's shared opposition to Obamacare:

Looks like the Tea Party, GOP and Socialists have something in common — they all oppose the health reform bill. “It is a corporate restructuring of the health insurance industry created to protect the profit margins of private insurance companies,” says the [Socialist Party] press release, which is after the jump. Maybe there is hope for common ground after all.

Tea Party activists, who are becoming a force in U.S. politics, want the federal government out of their lives except when it comes to creating jobs . . . 70 percent of those who sympathize with the Tea Party . . . want a federal government that fosters job creation. They also look to the government to rein in Wall Street, with almost half saying the government should do something about executive bonuses . . . The activists say they believe the government is on a path to socialism, although they don’t see all federal programs in that light.
In one of the more interesting contradictions from the reported results, 65% stated that Social Security was "definitely or sort-of" socialism, while only 36% stated that the expansion of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security amounted to socialism. Perhaps the greatest miscalculation of those who argued for opposition to the Democrats' health insurance reform plan on the basis of the claim that it amounted to socialism, was in assuming a common and consistent understanding of what exactly socialism is .

The Lesser Evil is the Enemy of the Greater Good: Support for an Independent Alternative to the Evil that is Democratic-Republican Party Government

In a piece offering "some thoughts on "lesser of two evils" voting" at Docudharma, cassiodurus considers the "rationality" of lesser evilism and strategic voting:
"Lesser of two evils" voting offers a rational model: you vote for the lesser of two evils to avoid the greater catastrophe . . . The problem with "lesser of two evils" voting is that it cedes the high ground . . . All the "lesser of two evils" really has to do is to be less evil -- actually doing good does not have to be a prerequisite for obtaining (or maintaining) political office. If you vote "lesser of two evils," then, your politicians are beholden to you for nothing.

Paradoxically, however, the author contrasts lesser evilism with "voting your own interests":

Optimistic voters would contrast "lesser of two evils" voting with the idea of "voting your own interests." Their theory is as follows: you vote for whomever is the best candidate, regardless of her or his chances to win. The only way you're going to get what you want from government is if you continue to demand it in election after election regardless of the consequences. This is often a strategy adopted by third-party candidates.

The paradox should be readily apparent: the "rationality" of lesser evilism is irrational insofar as it specifically precludes "voting your own interests." Cassiodorus fails to note the doubly negative character of lesser-evil voting: the vote in favor of the perceived lesser evil is, first and foremost, a vote against the perceived greater evil. It is for this reason that the politics of Democratic-Republican Party government are almost wholly reactionary in both theory and practice. This may well also go some way toward accounting for chronically low voter turnout in the United States: the moral and ethical obscenity of perpetuating a system which only offers the individual a choice between two evils likely figures in the rationale of many non-voters. Unfortunately, this is difficult to quantify, as media and polling organizations generally tend to obscure the crisis of democracy represented by the majority's consistent refusal to actively support the reproduction of Democratic-Republican Party government. Though it specifically tracks opinion relative to the 2012 presidential election, a new poll by the Clarus Research Group, however, finds that a large majority of Americans are willing to consider independent alternatives to the stooges of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Via TPID:

Twenty-five percent of the nation's electorate said they would "definitely" consider voting for "an independent candidate with moderate views on most issues" in the 2012 presidential race, and an additional 42 percent said they would "probably" consider doing so. Twenty-eight percent said they would "definitely" or "probably" not consider voting for an independent candidate.

"This poll shows that a serious independent candidate would have a shot at 25 percent of the vote, maybe more," said Faucheux. "This is 6 points higher than the 19 percent independent Ross Perot received in 1992. Of course, it ultimately depends upon the qualifications and appeal of the actual, flesh-and-blood candidate and whether he or she has the resources to mount a full-fledged nationwide campaign."

New Site: Third Party and Independent Daily Headlines

Since the launch of Third Party and Independent Daily on January 1st and the creation of its individual news pages sections over the last few months, I have continued to experiment a bit with the resulting functionality, and am pleased to announce the creation of Third Party and Independent Daily Headlines! The site brings together feeds from TP&ID's news pages with those from Poli-Tea as well as other sites in the third party and independent blogosphere, providing what might be the most comprehensive overview of today's third party and independent political news on the web. Give it a look and let me know what you think if you're so inclined. Also, if you are interested in becoming a contributor to TPID, send me an email.

Hostage Negotiations: on the Illusion of Futility and the Enforcement of Duopoly Ideology

Whatever his or her partisan preference may be, it is a conceit of the duopolist ideologue that the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government is a "natural" phenomenon, indeed, that it is a veritable force of nature, that it cannot be confronted politically, that it cannot be defeated and dismantled. On this a-historical view, it is asserted that American politics has always been and will always be held hostage to the factional interests of the ruling Democratic-Republican political class, that we are doomed to suffer the bipolar disorder characteristic of Democratic-Republican Party government for all eternity.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The two-party state and duopoly system of government is (re)produced and maintained, first and foremost, by a set of ideological fabrications and mystifications which aim to create the illusion that all resistance to the dictatorship of the Democratic-Republican Party is futile. The rules of our duopolized discourse are not laws of nature, they are artifices actively enforced by the ideological prison guards of the two-party state. Consider but one example. A Red State diarist, Redbirdfan, recently published a post entitled "Time for a third party." Redbird writes:

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and believe me I understand the multitude of problems for a third party in our two party system, but how can it be any worse? Yes, the Republicans might win in November perhaps even take both houses, though the Senate will likely take until 2012. But what does that get us? Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, McCain? I mean these guys were horrible when they were in power and they have been totally bulldozed by the far left since the election-they couldn’t even stop a deeply unpopular entitlement bill like Obamacare. Can you truthfully say any of these people are small government conservatives?

In other words they failed as leaders, they failed in opposition, why in the world would we want to put them back into power? So that they can spend like they did under Bush? We need a party that understands and believes in the founding principles of this great country. We don’t need a party who goes along to get along. We need a party with leaders who are not afraid to say “NO.” Not leaders who seemed more interested in slowing down statism, rather than halting it in its tracks.

It is time to stop thinking about who is the “less worse” and come up with an alternative that is actually good.

I quote the post in its entirety as it is highly likely that it will soon be plunged down the memory hole and scrubbed from the site. The comments section of the post was closed down by its fourth respondent, Moe Lane, who writes:
I really wish that people would read the site rules. Republican and conservative, Sparky. Republican and conservative. Closing comments now.
As I wrote earlier this month, the first rule of the dictatorship of the Democratic-Republican Party is: do not talk about the dictatorship of the Democratic-Republican Party. While it is perfectly reasonable for a site like Red State to censor its content in this way, this small episode reveals quite clearly that the ideology of the two-party state and duopoly system of government is not a "natural" or "organic" outgrowth of the American spirit, but is rather enforced from the top down by the partisans of the reigning Democratic-Republican order and ruling political class.

On Third Party Strategy and Duopoly Ideology: the Case of the Maine Greens

When partisans of the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government seek to dissuade others from engaging in third party and independent political activism, one of their most common arguments alleges that such efforts will necessarily fail because it is highly unlikely that a third party or independent candidate will succeed in winning the presidency. However, this reveals less about the particulars and possibilities of third party and independent political strategy than it does about the authoritarian cult of the executive fostered by duopolist ideologues who view all politics through the lens of presidential politics. And, like so many of the cliches that pass for thought among partisans of the Democratic and Republican Parties, this one too is entirely backwards.

Unless such a candidate were to come into office as part of a larger third party or independent electoral sweep in the Congress and at the state level, a newly elected third party or independent president would be hobbled and isolated by the ruling Democratic-Republican political class. For this reason, at the very least, it makes more sense for third party and independent political strategists to craft a plan of action that proceeds from the bottom up rather than from the top down.

At the state level, Green Party activists have been struggling with this question in recent months, debating the comparative advantages and disadvantages of a top-down vs. a bottom-up electoral strategy (see, for instance, these Poli-Tea posts from January on building the opposition and February on ballot access law and third party strategy). In Maine, the Green Independent Party has, by necessity, opted for a strategy that focuses on legislative rather than executive contests. Last week, the party's candidate for governor, Lynne Williams suspended her campaign. Via Ballot Access News:
Green Independent Lynne Williams announced today that she's suspending her campaign after falling short of the 2,000 signatures need to qualify for the primary ballot. In a statement, the former head of the Maine Green Independent Party says she'll be focusing instead on getting Green Party candidates elected to state, county and local offices.
See also Derek Viger's take on this development at the Augusta Insider. Though it is unfortunate to be more or less forced to suspend a campaign because of the strictures that maintain the ruling Democratic-Republican ballot access regime, the party can and will now focus its efforts on legislative races which it arguably has a greater chance of winning. From Dave Schwab at Green Party Watch:
On Monday, March 15th, the Green Independent Party of Maine turned in signatures to qualify 18 legislative candidates throughout the state, the second highest total in 12 years of holding official ballot status.

“We made legislative recruitment a top priority this year. With sweeping changes in electoral reform that came out of Augusta last year, we no longer need the governor’s race to keep party status. We turned our resources toward legislative seats, where we have better opportunity for success,” said Anna Trevorrow, Chair of the state Green Independent Party.

The party has nearly doubled its number of qualified candidates from 2008, and has expanded its geographic outreach. The Greens have qualified 15 candidates for State House and 3 for State Senate . . .

“This year we will be focusing on seats we can win with a goal of getting a few Greens elected to the Legislature as well as the local level where there are several Greens currently holding office,” said [Candidate Coordinator Ben] Chipman.

Update: This is not to say that such a strategy is ideal everywhere and at all times, of course. The Green Party is fielding promising candidates for governor in at least five states: Ohio, Nevada, California, Massachusetts and Illinois. Via IPR.

The Health of Warfare and the War over Healthcare: the Democratic-Republican Global Warfare and Corporate Welfare State

It is appropriate that the Congress voted on the health care insurance industry bailout plan on the very same weekend that we marked the seventh "anniversary" of the invasion of Iraq. It is a stark reminder that the Democratic and Republican Parties, indeed, Democratic-Republican Party government as such, aims at nothing more than the maintenance and expansion of the global warfare and corporate welfare state. As both anti-war and anti-Obamacare protesters descended on Washington D.C. to denounce the pet project of the ruling Democratic regime as well as that of its Republican predecessor, all should recall that no one is more deluded than the individual who believes that support for Republicans or Democrats will lead to anything other than the reproduction of the problem that is Democratic-Republican Party government. Today, political freedom and independence begins with freedom and independence from the Democratic and Republican Parties, from the dictatorship of the two-party state and the duopoly system of government. If you are not part of the independent opposition, you are a conspirator in co-dependency.
[Post bumped to top from weekend.]

Independent Voters and the Crisis of Democracy that is Democratic-Republican Party Government

For Pennsylvania's The Morning Call, Christopher Borick reports on the results of a poll surveying attitudes of the state's independent voters:
According to the commonwealth's secretary of state, there are about half a million residents of the Keystone State who have registered to vote as independents. Because state election laws prohibit independents from voting in party primaries, the percentage of independents in the state is low in comparison with many other states . . .

The president's diminished standing among Pennsylvania independents has not translated to support for the work being done by Republicans in Congress . . . Simply put, the commonwealth's independent voters do like much of what they see happening in the nation's capital . . .

With all the dissatisfaction and conflicted views regarding the two major parties, it is understandable that a solid majority of the state's independent voters maintain the view that a third party is needed to represent the American people. But even as these voters seek something different, there is a hesitancy to throw their support to third party or independent candidates for fear that their votes would lead to their ''least favorite'' candidates winning elections.
In other words, Pennsylvania's independent voters are held hostage by the Democratic-Republican two-party system and the ideology that sustains it. But this particular poll raising an interesting possibility: with the widespread recognition that that the Democratic and Republican Parties represent a set of twin evils, are we not approaching a situation in which the logic of strategic voting simply breaks down? Strategic voters do not cast an affirmative vote for their favorite candidate, but rather choose the 'lesser of two evils' from the duopoly parties in a defensive vote against the major party candidate they dislike more. This is also known as 'favorite betrayal' – a phenomenon that could be neutralized simply by the implementation of approval or range voting.

Consider a simple example of such betrayal. There are four candidates in a given race: a Republican, a Democrat, a Green and a Libertarian. An individual whose views are best represented by the Green Party candidate in a given election will instead vote for the Democrat in a strategic maneuver against the Republican. Similarly, an individual whose views are best represented by the Libertarian Party candidate will instead vote for the Republican in a strategic maneuver against the Democrat. However, when such voters realize that voting Democrat or Republican is not an adequate defense against Democratic-Republican Party government, they often simply do not vote rather than vote for the candidate who best represents their views and interests. The reproduction of the two-party state and duopoly system of government hinges upon a crisis of democracy.

A Declaration of Independence from the Democratic-Republican Two-Party State and Duopoly System of Government

At Docudharma, Rusty1776 has composed a declaration of independence from the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government, which " has been used to Establish, Maintain, and Expand corporate Tyranny." Rusty writes:

When in the course of outrage after outrage, it becomes necessary for American citizens to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with the Democratic and Republican Parties, and to attain empowerment as We the People, our common respect for the Constitution and the rule of law compels us to declare the causes which impel us to this separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that both major parties are complicit in war crimes, in massive Wall Street fraud, in crimes of banking and finance so malicious and extensive as to beggar description. The repressive corporate agenda of both major parties has been exposed, it is self-evident that they no longer believe that all men are created equal, they serve only the corporate masters of America, they have granted them unalienable Rights, that among these are the right to plunder the Treasury, the right to control the media, the right to subvert the banking system, to corrupt the electoral system, to ravage our economy and reap the illicit profits of shock doctrine capitalism.

Tradition dictates that a political systems long established should not be rejected for light and transient causes; but when a long train of two-party system abuses and betrayals, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce an entire nation under corporate Despotism, it is the right of We the People, it is the duty of We the People, to condemn that system, and to establish a new system for our future security.

Today, political freedom and independence begins with freedom and independence from Democratic-Republican Party government and the dictatorship of the two-party state.

Toward a Popular Opposition to the Two-Party State: Green, Libertarian, Tea Party and Independent Activsts Unite for Electoral Reform

At the Broward Palm Beach New Times blog, Gail Shepherd reports on a local event planned for this coming Saturday on "electoral disenfranchisement," that will bring together Green Party, Libertarian Party, Tea Party and independent activists:
[Green Party activist] Jayne King has banded together with some strange bedfellows: She says that the Electoral Reform event she's helping to organize for this Saturday has support from a whole spectrum of political activists.

Sure, members of the Green Party and the ACLU will show up -- you expected that, right? But so, King says, will Tea Party activists, Libertarians, Independents, and even a few Republicans. The common thread is that all agree that major reforms are due in our highly compromised elections system.

People are disenfranchised. Third- and fourth-party candidates are discouraged from running. The public is apathetic about voting. Lobbyists exert undue influence. And our state Legislature is stocked with millionaires who don't represent the will of the common people . . .

The event is the "kickoff," King says, for a series designed to get the public reinterested in its old civics lessons . . . In the future, the group will focus on at least ten areas of electoral reform.
Consider it a sign of the times.

Public Policy Polling: "the time is ripe for a third party"

In a comment on the Poli-Tea Action Alert? regarding Rasmussen Reports, I just suggested that we might also consider pressuring Public Policy Polling to explicitly include third party and independent candidates in their public opinion surveys heading into the 2010 election season. Though it is focused on the 2012 presidential election, the top post on the PPP blog at the present moment is entitled: "A Third Party?" Tom Jensen writes:
Sifting through our last national poll really makes me think the time is ripe for a third party to have some success. Consider these findings:

-Independents are extremely fed up with both parties, giving Congressional Democrats a 61% disapproval rating and Congressional Republicans a 63% one.

-Beyond their general disapproval independents think both parties are too extreme ideologically. 50% think Congressional Republicans are too conservative and 49% think Congressional Democrats are too liberal compared to only 29% and 31% respectively who think those entities are 'about right.'

-The ideological unhappiness is not exclusive to independents. 20% of Democrats think that their party is too liberal and 20% of Republicans think that their party is too conservative.

Combine the Democrats and Republicans who think their party's too extreme with the independents who don't like anyone and you have a pretty significant swath of the electorate.
Jensen often asks readers for suggestions, comments and feedback for future polls. This is a perfect opportunity to make the case for the inclusion of third party and independent candidates in their surveys: follow the link and urge Tom to follow up on his insight.

The Progressive Opposition to the Democratic Party's Health Insurance Industry Bailout Plan

Last August, in a post relaying a progressive declaration of independence from the Democratic Party, I noted that progressives were drawing a line in the sand on health care reform. For many, that line now appears to have been crossed. Consider two recent posts at FireDogLake. Steelydan3 argues that progressives should support efforts to run third party challengers against corporatist Democrats, especially those [challengers who are] backed by organized labor, as the SEIU recently threatened to do in New York. Steelydan3 writes:
I totally and wholeheartedly support labor if it decides to make third party runs at the congressional level. The easiest and quickest way for third parties to make a splash is running at the congressional level. Labor should have its own party, period. Especially now.
Steely then goes on to debunk four popular misconceptions that bind liberals and progressives to the Democratic Party, despite the fact that the Democratic Party is actively opposed to their values, interests and agenda:
Misconception one: Third party runs are always losers . . . Misconception two: People just love the two party system . . . Misconception three: A third party has to win every single seat in every single race to be effective . . . Misconception 4: Progressives can only win within the Democratic Party.
In a similar vein, fflambeau argues that it is time to "make the Democrats pay for their sell-out to corporate interests." Some excerpts from an 11-point argument:
1) acceptance of reality is the first step in making any true change. The reality is that the Democratic Party is little more than another wing of the corporate party . . . 2) the Democratic party should not be supported in any form. No money for them, their candidates and their causes . . . 4) support existing third parties (like the Greens) in preference to the Democrats . . . 6) concentrate our actions on the state and local levels. Building alternative parties-structures begins there . . . 8) Blue Dogs and their ilk should face primary challenges from progressives. If the progressives lose those challenges, they should then run (as 3rd party candidates) against the Blue Dogs.

A Poli-Tea Action Alert? Shining a Light on the Media Blackout

In my recent post on duopolist bias and third party media strategy, I suggested pressuring polling organizations to explicitly include third party and independent candidates in their public opinion surveys for specific elections. As a follow-up to this, I have drafted a short letter, which I just emailed to Rasmussen, urging them to do precisely that. The reason why I chose to begin with Rasmussen should be clear from the letter itself. Obviously, one email does not carry very much weight, which is why I am also asking you to join me in this effort. Please feel free to copy and paste or even re-work the following, and send it on to Rasmussen Reports at, or even call them at 732-776-9777.
Rasmussen Reports,
I am writing to urge you to include third party and independent candidates for office in your regular surveys of public opinion for the 2010 elections. In a number of recent polls, you have included a third party "Tea Party" for consideration on the "generic ballot", revealing significant support within the US electorate for this third party or independent option. Currently, however, the "Tea Party" is registered as an actual third party in only two states; yet there are ballot qualified third party and independent candidates for office at all levels of government in almost all 50 states. With few exceptions (ex. Chafee in RI and Cahill in MA), Rasmussen typically gauges support for these candidates by asking respondents if they support Republican X, Democrat Y or "some other candidate," as for instance in your recent survey covering the gubernatorial race in Illinois. This, however, fails to assess support for any specific alternative to the major party candidates. One wonders what level of support Democrats and Republicans would garner in a given race if you asked respondents to choose between Independent X, Libertarian Y, Green Z or "some other candidate." Rasmussen Reports often quotes Scott Rasmussen himself saying that Americans are "united in the belief that our political system is broken, that politicians are corrupt, and that neither major political party has the answers." I agree with this assessment and therefore urge you to begin actively gauging support for specific, ballot qualified, third party and independent candidates for office in your polling nationwide.
Obviously, suggestions and criticism are welcome in comments.

Distrust Busting: How to Break the Ruling Democratic-Republican Congressional Duopoly

In a lengthy post at Political Crank, Jim Freeman argues that a "viable third party option" is long overdue in American politics, but that third party and independent activists should focus on the Congress rather than the presidency. The piece even speculates on a possible platform and budget. Some excerpts:
No matter how you break it down, or whose numbers you care to adhere to, a growing number of Americans are leaving their Republican or Democrat tags to declare themselves independent. Most figures hover at approximately 40%.

Two-party dominance isn’t working anymore, if it ever really did. The swing from Republican to Democratic control in Washington merely serves to further polarize hard-line subservience to one ‘base’ or another, leaving the un-served 40% adrift and frustrated . . .

The problem lies not with presidents. The problem is (and remains) endemic within the Congress. The unrepresented 40% do not need—and likely would not rally behind—a third-party presidential candidate. They want representation . . .

A viable third-party must not be anchored by a presidential candidate. The time may come, some decades down the road, when that possibility may arise, but that time is not (nor should it be) now. Yet the disenfranchised 40% is no wild-eyed sliver group. Attribute the remaining 60% however you like, they cannot govern without listening to (and satisfying) the third party, essentially extending representation to the unrepresented . . .

The political scene in Washington would be dramatically changed for the better. No longer would 60 (either Democrat or Republican) Senators be required to keep the wheels of governance rolling. The iron grip of majority and minority whips in congress would be loosened, if not entirely broken. Hard-core bases on either side of the aisle would be equally diminished, as the dominance and purpose of ‘all or nothing’ political stalemate became untenable.

Making the Lesser Evil the Enemy of the Greater Good: Mystical Realism and Other Common Mystifications of Duopoly Ideology

At Manly's Republic, Manly provides a thorough summary of our ongoing debate in his response to my last post on the folly of two-party statism. Unfortunately, however, aside from a false analogy, Manly does not supply anything other than common duopolist mystifications – with which we are already familiar and which I have refuted in the past – to make his case in support of the Democratic-Republican two-party state. In response to my proposition that duopolist historical revisionism results in political determinism, he holds that the United States has always effectively had a two-party system and displaces the opposition between the Democratic and Republican Parties onto the philosophical-political opposition between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists – thus providing one more piece of evidence in favor of my position. Manly writes:
There is no “revisionism” here, there is only history and D. Eris need only avail himself of the Federalist papers and Anti-Federalist Papers for the foundation of my argument. The fact remains that two major schools of thought emerged regarding the form and substance of a federal government long before the constitutional convention assembled and these are best summed up by comparing and contrasting the Jeffersonians with the Hamiltonians . . . The fact remains that the factions which contended with each other during the administrations of both Washington and Adams eventually emerged as political parties . . . The fact remains that Americans are used to two major political parties because these represent the two differing approaches to the size and scope of the federal government. [Emphasis added.]
This, of course, is also a clear instantiation of what I call the "brute fact argument". From a post on the common mystifications of duopoly ideology, last September:
When pressed to defend their opposition to third party and independent activism, partisans of the Republican and Democratic Parties . . . will often simply assert the brute fact of the two-party system . . . they state that because we have a two-party system, we have to work within the two-party system.
Manly transposes the brute fact of the opposition between the Democratic and Republican Parties onto the early debate between the federalists and the anti-federalists on the "form and substance" of federal government. But this comparison does not hold; it is a false analogy. Take the Massachusetts Compromise, for instance: the federalists demanded a strong federal constitution and the anti-federalists demanded a bill of rights explicitly limiting the power of the government created by that constitution. On even a cursory glance, it quickly becomes clear that the Democratic and Republican Parties cannot be equated with either side in the Federalist/Anti-Federalist dispute because Democrats and Republicans are not concerned with the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The fact remains that the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government is conditional upon contemptuous disregard for the Constitution and the active erasure of the protections codified in the Bill of Rights. If anything, the Democratic and Republican Parties today could be more appropriately compared with the Whigs and Tories in the 18th century Parliament of Great Britain: increasingly distant, increasingly irrelevant, increasingly bankrupt, increasingly arrogant.

Manly admits that he is attracted to the Conservative Party and the Constitution Party, but rejects them on the basis of the assessment that "neither has a chance in hell of gaining national traction." The fact remains, however, that having "national traction" is not a necessary condition for elected office at the local, city, county, district or state level, which is to say, for almost all elections. Why would one view all politics through the prism of national, presidential politics? It is likely no coincidence that Manly subscribes to Hobbes' deterministic view of human nature and history, as he stated in his initial post. The Hobbesean view of human nature and history led Hobbes himself to advocate authoritarian monarchism, of course. How different is that really from the cult of the executive fostered by Democratic-Republican Party government? Manly justifies support for the two-party system, as we shall see, on the basis of what I've previously alluded to as duopolist mystical realism. He writes:
unlike D. Eris, I know and understand both history and human nature. In any constitutional representative republic, partisan politics will always emerge insofar as two schools of thought will always exist regarding the degree to which the government of that republic governs. One school will argue for a stronger and larger central government while the other will argue for a weaker and smaller central government. It has been that way in our own nation since before the Constitution was ratified and, much like human nature, is a state of political nature that will never change.
Yes, the Democratic-Republican two-party system is eternal! The position refutes itself: on this view, political history is seen as a-historical. He continues:
The difference between us is that I’m a realist who is willing to work with the tools and materials at hand in an effort to get as close to that goal as I can. I accept whatever good I find whenever I find it and refuse to make that good the enemy of the perfect. As it happens, the best shot we have at making an effort to return to the type of government that more closely resembles what the Founders envisioned lies with the Republican Party - more specifically, a reformed and Reaganized Republican Party.
The partisan of the Republican Party (or the Democrat, as the case may be) is a realist! Regular readers of Poli-Tea might recall that I have confronted duopolist mystical realism before, with Hume. From a post last December:
it is a mystical dogma of duopolist ideology that the two-party system is a quasi-eternal condition of politics as such. Among partisans of the reigning duopoly form, this mystical dogma goes by the name of realism. Its primary function is to transform discontent with the dictatorship of the Democratic-Republican Party into support for one of its factions via the illusion of opposition to the other.
Ironically, Manly calls me a dreamer. He wites:
D. Eris, on the other hand, is a dreamer. He makes the good the enemy of the perfect because he refuses to settle for anything less than a trouble-free glide path back to the year 1789. In spite of the ideological chasm that now separates the Democrat and Republican parties he insists on conflating them. He offers no concrete strategies or detailed plans for achieving his constitutional desideratum - only criticism of those involved in the fight and a desperate wish for a return to the “good old days.”
Obviously, I disagree. I rarely engage in nostalgic longing for a non-existent past. This is a duopolist pastime, as exemplified by self-described FDR Democrats and Reagan Republicans, among others. And, clearly, Manly has never read the strategy pages here at Poli-Tea. Continuing in reverse order: the "ideological chasm" separating the Democratic and Republican Parties is a reflection of the ideological division of labor between the Democratic and Republican Parties in the reproduction of Democratic-Republican Party government and the relations of power that sustain the ruling political class: the Democratic Party dupes liberals while the Republican Party dupes conservatives. In this way, all those who vote Democrat or Republican make the lesser evil the enemy of the greater good. Given the conscious pursuit of evil required by the politics of the two-party state, the fact remains, we may well have to conclude that the Democratic-Republican two-party system is demonic.

Duopolist Bias and Third Party Media Strategy: Press Blackout? Light Some Candles and Turn on a Flashlight

In the corporate media and mainstream political press, advocates of third party and independent politics are like Schroedinger's cat: they exist and they do not exist at the very same time. At Green Party Watch, Dave Schwab invites readers to join an ongoing discussion of third party media strategy:
Recent stories about media outlets and environmental organizations turning a blind eye to Green candidates Rich Whitney and Laura Wells inspired a piece at entitled “How can we overcome the press blackout of Green candidates?” The piece has inspired a lively discussion with a lot of interesting ideas flying around, so come join the conversation on a topic close to our hearts here at Green Party Watch.
In the Green Change article, Schwab sketches a two-pronged strategy to counter the media's duopolist bias:
The internet is constantly giving us inexpensive, increasingly effective ways of getting our message out without having to go through the traditional gatekeepers. Blogs, videos on youtube and vimeo, live streaming services, social media like twitter and facebook, and other technologies give Greens the opportunity to take their message directly to supporters, but for now, these opportunities have been severely underutilized. Plus, even a well-developed “Green media” would be more useful for engaging supporters than for reaching out to the general public.

So aside from creating our own media, the second part of our strategy for breaking the press blackout (“greenout”?) should be organized pressure campaigns to get Greens included in press outlets, organizational voter guides (like the California League of Conservation Voters site), debates, and other media that can bring the Green message to a general public audience – which is ultimately what we need to succeed.

The conversation that follows in the comments there is worth perusing, and the topic should be of interest to anyone concerned with third party and independent media strategy. From the outset, a stickler might object to the presupposition that there is in fact a media "blackout" of the Green Party and Green Party candidates for office. The Green Party News Page at Third Party and Independent Daily, for instance, aggregates dozens of news and blog items every twenty-four hours. The press do not not report on the Green Party. But if there is no blackout per se, the lighting is nonetheless dim: there is clearly an institutional media bias against third party and independent candidates for office. At IPR, Ross Levin points out that this bias extends to polling organizations as well:

Even though Green Party candidate for governor Rich Whitney got over 10 percent of the vote in the 2006 gubernatorial race, for some reason Rasmussen has left him – and other third party candidates – out of a recently released poll. Still, without any third party candidate mentioned by name, the “other” category was chosen by six percent of voters.

Any campaign to pressure news and media organizations to cease excluding third party and independent political voices from our political discourse should also target polling organizations. Arguably, success on this score could prove doubly effective: the inclusion of third party and independent candidates in public opinion polls would likely lead to wider coverage of those campaigns in the political press.

Commenters at Green Change also point out that third party and independent campaigns are not without blame if they are marginalized by the press. In many instances, they do not have a media strategy adequate to their informational environment. Commenters suggested an invigoration and expansion of independent Green media networks, as well as greater outreach to and pressure on wider and more influential outlets, but they also noted that without significant output from the campaigns themselves, these networks cannot be put to good use. Thus, it was suggested that campaigns produce more press releases and short web videos, engage in social networking, hold press conferences or rallies etc. One might also consider the possibility of reaching out to other third party and independent groups and campaigns.

If, for instance, the Green and Libertarian candidates in a given race hold a press conference together, it would seem to be an inherently more newsworthy event than if each of them held press conferences on the very same subject independently of one another over a period of days. And there are automatically at least two possible political dynamics built into such a scenario, depending on whether the candidates agree or disagree on the issue at hand, i.e. the subject matter dealt with at the press conference, thus providing media with the opportunity to reproduce one of their two favorite narrative lines: "strange bedfellows" or the standard "he said/she said" style report.

Further suggestions for third party and independent media strategy?

Independent Libertarian's Campaign for Congress Gaining Attention and Momentum in Pennsylvania

Jake Towne's independent libertarian campaign for congress in Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district first caught my attention last August, when he first presented his concept of the "open office". Since then, Towne has maintained a fairly aggressive campaign and has begun to break through the mainstream media's duopolist filter. The Morning Call profiles Towne's campaign and candidacy in an article that emphasizes the ways in which his positions confound the simplistic oppositions beloved by duopolist ideologues. Some excerpts:
Towne has held ''Towne hall'' meet and greets and began circulating nominating petitions last week in a series of public appearances at local pizza and sandwich shops, hoping to gather the 3,629 signatures a third-party or independent candidate needs to place his name on the ballot in the race for Lehigh Valley's 15th Congressional District.

''I'm out-gunned and everything, but a lot of times, people like an underdog,'' Towne said. If he succeeds, he'll face Democratic Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan and three-term Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, or his primary challenger Mat Benol, a tea party activist from Palmer Township, in the general election. . . .

Towne's down-to-earth approach and fiscally conservative politics have made a fan of 43-year-old Center Valley real estate broker Bob Dandi, a conservative who backed Mike Huckabee in the last Republican presidential primary but has grown disillusioned with the party as a whole. ''At this point in time, I can't see voting for any candidate of any political party that has been in power for the last 17 years because they are the ones who got us into this mess,'' Dandy said.

While voters seem hungry for an alternative to the status quo, third-party candidates face serious obstacles obtaining funding and convincing voters they're contenders, said Muhlenberg College political scientist Chris Borick. 'It's pretty clear there's interest in candidates who represent something fresh,'' Borick said. ''What remains to be seen is if that translates into support for candidates outside the normal party structures.''

MA: Our Duopolized Discourse and the Independence of Independents

Sal Peralta, the Secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon, writes in to the Massachusetts Patriot Ledger to take issue with an editorial from earlier in the month, in which the paper mocked the very idea of an "independent" political party. "Where's the independence in an independents party?" they asked. The editorial perfectly demonstrates the intellectual obtuseness of duopoly ideology:
it’s a mystery why Marshfield businessman and former state representative candidate John Valianti wants to gather Massachusetts “independents” into an official state political party . . . There are three official political parties in the state – Republican, Democrat and Libertarian. If voters want a concrete political affiliation, they can join one of those parties or use one of the 18 political “designations” recognized by the secretary of state’s office . . . We have no scientific evidence or actual polling data, but we suspect most of the people who register to vote as unenrolled consider themselves “independent” – and don’t want to officially join an “Independent Party.” [Emphasis added.]
Perhaps it simply hasn't occurred to the Patriot Ledger that people might un-enroll from the Democratic and Republican Parties, not because they are opposed to the very idea of party affiliation, but because they are opposed to the idea of affiliation with the Democratic and Republican Parties. Peralta writes in response:
The Patriot Ledger editorialized against the formation of an Independent Party in Massachusetts and predicted few “independents” would gravitate toward such a party. The Patriot Ledger’s response was similar to that of some Oregon newspapers when we formed the Independent Party of Oregon.

As secretary of that organization, I would like to share a few thoughts with your readers. There is something happening in America that the mainstream political establishment and the mainstream press have not gotten a handle on: namely, that about half of all Americans do not believe the two-party system is working.

A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal showed 46 percent of voters favor formation of a third “independent political party.” Other polls have put the number at over 50 percent. Americans are tired of polarization, demonization and the unwillingness of partisan politicians to work collaboratively to solve the major issues of the day, and they are demanding a change. Where such change is being offered, people are gravitating toward it.

For the sake of the people of Massachusetts, I hope the Massachusetts Independent Party emerges as a force for the kind of moderate, pragmatic reform that our country so desperately needs.

On the Antiquation of Democratic-Republican Party Politics: Corporations for Congress

In a commentary for the San Francisco Chronicle, Abe Silvers and Ian Mitroff consider the assumptions and presumptions underlying Democratic-Republican Party politics and conclude that, "The need to move beyond these two worldviews has never been greater." They write:
Because assumptions are the basic elements of worldviews, it behooves us to examine them and to see how they shape important issues. Furthermore, because each party takes its assumptions for granted, they are rarely examined systematically, let alone side by side . . .

we are not restricted to these two worldviews. This is in fact one of the major reasons independents have become a powerful force. They are not willing to subscribe fully to either view. (We exclude Tea Partiers because their worldview is even more extreme than that of Republicans and hence admits of no compromise.) The need to move beyond these two worldviews has never been greater. For this reason, we believe that a national conversation (not merely summits) to formulate new perspectives is a priority of the highest order. In the best of all worlds, it could lead both parties to adopt new policy positions. If it doesn't, the case for a new third party, or parties, will be strengthened immeasurably.

The Third Party Tea Party and the Democratic-Republican Conspiracy of Dunces, Part III

The tension between those who demand subservience to the dictates of the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government and those who call for freedom and independence from the Democratic-Republican Party and political class is perhaps most evident today in the struggle over the future direction of the tea party movement. Earlier this week, I considered the conspiracy theories being spun by duopolist partisans of the Republican Party in Nevada regarding the state's third party Tea Party and its candidate for US Senate, Jon Ashjian. The phenomenon is not confined to the Silver State. Similar allegations have been leveled against Florida's third party Tea Party, headed by Fred O'Neal. In late February, Nevada News and Views summarized the controversy:
Trouble is simmering in the Tea Party movement over a struggle with identity theft. In Connecticut, Florida and Nevada, the Tea Party has been registered as a third political party for the 2010 election. All three parties are already involved in either recruiting candidates or preparing their campaigns for statewide races in November.

The problem? In Florida and Nevada, the newly formed third parties appear to have little or no connection to the actual Tea Party movement. Longtime Tea Party leaders say they were as shocked as anyone to learn of the third parties, especially when they found out that the people in charge had no previous involvement in Tea Party activities . . . “We believe the identity of the Florida Tea Party has been hijacked by cynical foes,” said Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the South Florida Tea Party.

Florida's The Ledger profiles O'Neal, the founder of the Florida Tea Party, and the efforts of his fledgling group:

O'Neal said, it's . . . disdain for both major parties and for incumbents in general that has him confident that the Tea Party can make a serious breakthrough this fall, and not end up like the Reform Party and other third party movements that never got off the ground. “I think the Tea Party has an appeal to independent voters,” he said. “Maybe they are independent because they do not like the Democrat or Republican parties.”

From his new office, O'Neal has gotten a lot of feedback from people interested in joining the movement – and even running for local office. “What we're doing is letting people run as a Tea Party candidate,” O'Neal said. “On our Web site, we have a place you can click and fill out a questionnaire, and we have had contact from over 50 people.”

The piece also reports on the paranoid response of partisan Republican ideologues to the third party cause:

O'Neal's efforts have also hit some bumps along the way – including lawsuits challenging the Tea Party itself . . . One of the plaintiffs is Tim McClellan of Pompano Beach, and a member of the Broward Republican Executive Committee. He said O'Neal and the other supporters of the Tea Party of Florida are using this movement to hurt the Florida GOP, and he noted that O'Neal used to be a registered Democrat . . .

O'Neal said these lawsuits and challenges are a silly distraction, and may be solely motivated by supporters of the Florida Republican Party, fearful that the Tea Party could steal votes from their candidates with its fiscally conservative, limited government platform. “We don't have a problem with Tea Party factions, except for some folks in Miami who are trying to make our life miserable,” O'Neal said.

In the analysis of duopoly ideology and practice, it is a general rule of thumb that when Republicans and Democrats accuse an ideological other of some insidious action, one can safely assume that the accuser is in fact guilty of that which he or she accuses the other. Thus, when Everett Wilkinson asserts that the "Florida Tea Party has been hijacked by cynical foes," as above, is it not entirely clear that partisan Republican duopolist operatives are the cynical ideological foes leading the hijacking?

The fact that one only sees homemade signage at tea party demonstrations has long been a point of pride for tea party activists and supporters, positively contrasting themselves with participants in demonstrations organized by liberal and left of center groups, which often have mass produced posters and placards. Only the hijackers themselves could take pride in the fact that the Republican National Committee is now paying for and printing signs for tea party groups. From the Daily Caller:

The Republican National Committee is paying for signs and political buttons used by Tea Party groups — despite widespread disagreement among the conservative, grassroots activists on whether the movement should work to elect candidates within the Republican party or steer clear from it. The items, paid for by the RNC, were on full display at a Friday press conference of Tea Party activists in Washington . . .

Michael Patrick Leahy, an organizer of the Take the Town Halls to Washington project that is bringing Tea Party activists to the capital to lobby Democrats on President Obama’s health-care bill, admitted that the RNC “did provide the signage,” but said he didn’t know the details of the arrangement with Republicans and couldn’t explain how the signs got there. “They just showed up,” he said.

Yes, "they just showed up."

The New American Independent Party and the Uphill Struggle for Ballot Access

In New Hampshire, the Foster's Daily Democrat reports on the efforts of Steven Borne, a third party activist with the New American Independent Party:
Borne, a Rye resident, has spearheaded an effort to bring a third-party choice to voters on New Hampshire's ballots in 2010. He has aligned himself with a "center-left" leaning national organization known as the New American Independent Party.

The party says it seeks to take the most practical ideas from both the Democratic and Republican parties and offers a slate of candidates free of the constraints of big money and who are engaged to better the country. It was founded in 2004 and is trying to establish support in all 50 states . . .

Borne has embarked on an effort to get the New American Independent Party on the ballot in New Hampshire in 2010, but acknowledges it will be a huge challenge. He and his small group of supporters need to gather 21,315 signatures from voters who cast ballots in 2008, with all of those needing to be sent to town supervisors of the checklist for official validation.
In addition to their issues and candidates pages, the NAIP website also has a page devoted to detailing the petitioning requirements for parties and candidates to gain ballot access in all 50 states.

CIVN Profiles Green Party Candidate for Governor of California

At the California Independent Voter Network, Chris Hinyub continues his series of articles profiling the Golden State's third party and independent candidates for governor. In the first, he covered Libertarian hopeful Dale Ogden. This week, he considers the candidacy of Laura Wells, who is running under the Green Party banner:

Laura Wells is no stranger to the demands of leadership. During her tenure in numerous county and state-level leadership positions, and her 2002 and 2006 State Controller campaign bids, she personally experienced the state's bipartisan machinations. From these experiences, she has composed a list of priorities to get California out of debt and protect taxpayer-funded services.

Candidate Wells earned a Masters of Education at Antioch University. Her academic credentials have given her a set of professional skills in finance, business analysis, computer programming, and managing complex financial systems. She has called California her home for over 30 years and believes firmly in the integral role small businesses play in driving California's economy.

Grounds for Independence: Coffee Party Goes National

I have not written on the Coffee Party because, frankly, I had not really looked into the group at all. However, Liberal Arts Dude of An Ordinary Person – who is a fellow contributor to Third Party and Independent Daily and whom you might run into in the comments section here at Poli-Tea – was intrigued by the organization and filed a post on it in late February entitled: "The Coffee Party: the Anti-Tea Party." Since then, LAD has become more formally involved with the group and now maintains a blog on the Coffee Party site, entitled Indy Coffee Party Dude. In his first post there, "A Coffee Party Independent," he makes the case that independents should become involved with the movement:

I am a political independent. That means I am neither Republican or Democrat. I've voted for and supported third party and independent candidates before and I will do so again. I am a proud Coffee Party member and feel it is important for independents to participate in this movement for several reasons:

1) This is an opportunity for independents to get in on the ground floor of a social movement that is exploding with creativity, energy, popularity and is gaining hundreds of new members every day . . .

2) The common lament among independents is being marginalized. This is true as candidates . . . And this is true as voters . . . The Coffee Party has the potential to allow independents to play a major role and have their voices be heard in the political process . . .

3) I say "the potential" in the last sentence because unless independents actually are out there participating in the public discourse and in the political process, they will remain marginalized . . .

This last point is especially important because it essentially holds across the board. So long as independents, third party advocates and critics of the Democratic-Republican two-party state remain disengaged from the political process, they will continue to be marginalized by that process. If you are interested in finding out more about the Coffee Party, the organization is holding meet-up style events across the country tomorrow, which is their "National Kick-Off Day." This could also be a good outreach and organizing opportunity for third party and independent activists.