Memorial Day Weekend Message from the Modern Whig Party

From the Modern Whig Party:
The Modern Whig Party pauses this Memorial Day weekend to recognize the sacrifice of our nation's fallen, as well as the prime place in American society that our veterans and active/reserve service members hold.

The Modern Whig movement was revived by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Those veterans quickly built a growing national movement that was recognized as a viable and mainstream political phenomenon. Its moderate stance and common sense, rational approach quickly inspired a diverse array of Americans of all political stripes.

Since 2010 began, the party began building its infrastructure in order to scratch its way back into the mainstream conscience. However, countless members have clamored in recent months for the current wave of Modern Whig leaders to be more action oriented and "lead from the front." Not surprisingly, these demands came largely from veterans -- many of whom participated in the numerous 2008/2009 Whig gatherings that quietly took place overseas in places such as Iraq.

These concerns have been heard loud and clear. Various active duty, reserve component personnel, and veterans are joining with non-military individuals to once again grab the reins of this historic movement.

The country needs a non-fringe movement that values common sense, rationality as opposed to partisan bickering and ideology. The Modern Whig Party will continue to build and inspire.

Modeling Independence and the Failure of the Democratic-Republican Party Politics

In a discussion of Charlie Crist's independent candidacy for US Senate in Florida, I noted in a comment here the other day that, however one might interpret his declaration of independence, "whatever Crist does will likely become a media template for what independence is" if only because there is no single effective model for political independence. That template is already being constructed. Today, Independent Political Report highlights an editorial by Mary Ann Lindley at arguing that "a Crist victory could change politics." Some excerpts:
This election year could be just a bizarre as 2000, but in a different way, with Gov. Charlie Crist leading us into what may be a new way of electing leaders outside of the traditional and over-stuffed two-party system. The governor was brave enough to abandon the Republican Party, or acknowledge, I think fairly, that the party had already abandoned him. Its hard-right turn has also put off many moderate Republicans who crave a more centrist alternative, though not necessarily Crist. . . .

Sending an independent to the U.S. Senate would change the face of elections for years to come in Florida, and maybe nationwide. That increasing numbers of people are disenchanted with two-party politics — tired of their financial power and predictable, unbending ideologies — is reflected in voter registration numbers. According to the state elections office, the fastest-growing group of Florida voters isn't those registering as Democrats or Republicans but as "no party affiliated" people, such as Crist. . . .

the more dramatic and long-lasting change will occur if Crist shows that an independent candidate can win . . . it will free up a lot of people to run for office who are interested in serving, but just don't want to be a party to either party. Seeing more plausible independent candidates would be a big change.
At Pollster, Michael McDonald supplies the full voter registration statistics for all states that track party registration. As of March 2010, Florida logged 4,621,362 Democrats, 3, 974,019 Republicans, 2,121,636 independents (i.e. unaffiliated) and 354,529 minor party registrants: 46% Democrat, 36% Republican and 22% independent or third party. A recent poll by the St. Petersburg Times finds that Crist is currently pulling support from across the political spectrum:
Of the registered voters surveyed, 30 percent were for Crist, 27 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 15 percent for Democratic front-runner Kendrick Meek . . . The secret to Crist's success so far: his broader appeal across the political spectrum in the newly reconfigured three-man race. He is backed by 39 percent of independents, 38 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans. Rubio, a former House speaker from Miami, and Meek, a Miami congressman, are drawing most of their support from members of their own parties.
With the continuing decline in the number of duopolist dead-enders, that is, those who still cling to the thoroughly discredited model of Democratic-Republican Party politics, it will become increasingly difficult for any political hopeful to build an electoral majority primarily on the basis of support from members of his or her own party.

Free Thinking and the Logic of Loyalty in the Two-Party State

A satirical opinion piece for Oregon's Lake Oswego Review by local high school student Parker Angelus exposes the absurdity and superficiality of the reactionary ideology that sustains the ruling two-party state and duopoly system of government:
This rigid belief system, carefully crafted and handed down from generation to generation, is set in place by the order of the almighty overlord of your choice – the elephant or the donkey.

Let’s say you choose the donkey: It means that you must vote for whomever represents the likeness of donkey in the upcoming election – no exceptions. Disregard any conflicting viewpoints you may have with this well-groomed “candidate,” you chose to lead the life of a Democrat, sealing in this vote and all of your votes of the future, too. By becoming attached to a political party, you’ve taken a bold step into becoming a freely-thinking individual.

Here’s the deal: It’s of the utmost importance that you vote. Even if your decision is made with poor reasoning, adhere to the two-party system at all costs.

Let’s say you don’t like a Republican candidate (here’s where the proverbial lightbulb should be going off in your head – think vindictiveness). Since you highly disagree with the viewpoints of one party, it only makes sense to vote for the opposing one out of spite. After all, you only have two options, so voting for the party that you dislike the least seems like a sound compromise. It shows a complex thought process when one votes for someone by default.

The Hermeneutics of Independence in the Context of the Two-Party State: the Case of Crist

In a post at the Think 3 Institute on "moderate independence and the spirit of compromise," Sam Wilson takes issue with an op-ed by Douglas Schoen and in the process touches upon what might be a definitive tension within the theory and practice of independent politics today. The question at issue is deceptively simple: what is independence? Following Schoen, Sam takes the case of Charlie Crist in Florida as his example, and writes:
Schoen describes Crist jumping ship as his having "eschewed the partisanship he once championed." But how has Crist changed? If the Republican party in Florida has changed, then the GOP itself no longer embodies "the partisanship he once championed." If it has changed, and he hasn't, how has he become independent? By saying so, apparently. . . .

A readiness to negotiate and compromise is often an admirable trait, but praise for compromise begs the question: who's at the table negotiating? Praising the likes of Charlie Crist (or even less plausibly, Andrew Cuomo) as true independents misses the point that we need new people at the table.
We do need new people at the table, but this, in itself, is not enough. New representatives can be ushered in within the Democratic-Republican schema, via primary challenges, or upsets in which a seat changes hands from one party to the other, etc. Yet, this strategy is doomed to failure, as it only reproduces the problem that is the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government. In order to address this problem, and potentially break open the duopoly lock on elected office, the new people at the table cannot be representatives of the problem and complicit in its reproduction.

It is thus not enough to simply call oneself an independent. If you maintain your identification and affiliation with the Republican or Democratic Party, while supporting the ruling parties and the reproduction of the two-party state, but call yourself an independent – as Scott Brown did, for instance, in his campaign for US Senate –, you are not an independent. You are delusional or a fraud. However, there is a performative linguistic dimension to political independence; independence must be declared; but such declarations are little more than empty slogans if they are not supported by actions. Crist, for example, not only calls himself an independent, he actually left the party, changed his affiliation, lost his donor base in the GOP (while keeping their money!), and is now struggling to define himself independently of the Republican and Democratic candidates in the race. Just today he reversed his position on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Coincidentally, in a comment to a post here yesterday, Shawn of Ranger's Arrows would seem to concur with Sam's position regarding Crist above:
While I agree that Crist is not the 'de-facto Democrat,' I disagree that Crist augers well for true third-party politics. . . . Crist is an Establishment Republican who's been tossed out by the groundswell of the populace. If anything, supporting Crist as a third party alternative is, to my mind, antithetical to our long-term goals, since he's not a committed independent/third party candidate. He's a committed Establishmentarian, who's trying to pull a Bloomberg to be in office.
Even granting these points, it is nonetheless still worth considering to what extent a change in an establishmentarian candidate's political identification, from Republican or Democrat to Independent, can transform that individual's candidacy and even that individual him- or herself. What begins as nothing more than an ancillary appearance can become an essential existential anchor. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Mother Knight, you are what you pretend to be. A new poll commissioned by the Libertarian candidate in the Florida Senate race finds 40% of respondents now in support of Crist, giving him a significant lead over Rubio, his nearest rival.

Given the totalitarian character of the Democratic-Republican two-party state and the strength of the ideology that sustains the ruling duopoly system of government, it is not likely that any movement toward real political freedom and independence in the United States will be born whole, as it were, like Athena from the head of Zeus. We must be wary of Democratic and Republican charlatans who don the mantle of political independence only to ensure the reproduction of the political status-quo, but we should also be cognizant that not all independents worthy of the name will be free of any past association with the ruling political establishment.

Duopolist Bias and the Creeping One-Party State: the Example of the US Senate Race in the Sunshine State

The inability of the establishmentarian political observer to conceive the very possibility of a politics that is not constrained by the logic of duopoly ideology is revealed in a recent article on the Florida race for US Senate by Eric Kleefield at Talking Points Memo. With polls placing Democrat Kendrick Meek far behind independent Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio, Kleefield inexplicably construes the independent as the "defacto Democrat." He writes:
In the two months since Gov. Charlie Crist began building up to and ultimately did switch from Republican to independent, he appears to have overtaken Rep. Kendrick Meek as the de-facto Democratic candidate in the race against Republican Marco Rubio, according to the polls.
In reality, of course, Crist is not a "defacto Democrat" but rather a Republican-turned-Independent, whose political maneuvering has basically displaced what would have been a Republican primary contest, which Crist most certainly would have lost to Rubio, to the general election, which Crist may well win. In this way, the actual Democrat in the race has been almost wholly eclipsed by his Independent and Republican rivals, trailing both by double digits. From a recent Miami Herald poll:
Of the registered voters surveyed, 30 percent were for Crist, 27 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 15 percent for Democratic front-runner Kendrick Meek.

NY: Independence Party to endorse Cuomo? In what sense is this "independent"?

In New York, the Troy Record reports that the executive committee of the Independence Party has endorsed Attornoey General Andrew Cuomo for governor:
The executive committee of the Independence Party endorsed Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Tuesday in the Collar City. “This campaign is all about changing Albany,” said Cuomo outside the Hilton Garden Inn on Hoosick Street, where he was joined by Independence Party chair Frank MacKay and other executive committee members. “We need to try a different way … the different way for me is to build support among the people of New York.”

Cuomo, 52, announced his campaign Saturday. He’s now headed to the Democratic State Convention, which kicks off today where he will receive that party’s endorsement. “The executive committee is overwhelmingly supporting, unanimously supporting, Attorney Andrew General Cuomo for the next governor of New York,” said Mackay. “We think he is the independent voice that will take New York out of this current crisis. His reform agenda is outstanding.” [Emphasis added.]
Of course, Cuomo is not an independent, he's a career politician, whose candidacy represents the worst of American dynasticism and provides yet another piece of evidence documenting the slow development of an hereditary ruling aristocracy in the United States. From Wikipedia:
Cuomo was born in Queens, New York, the elder son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and the older brother of ABC News journalist Chris Cuomo. Andrew and his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy, have three daughters. The couple announced their separation in 2003 and have subsequently divorced . . . He was a top aide to his father during his father's 1982 campaign for Governor. He then joined the Governor's staff as one of his father's top policy advisors, a position he filled on and off during his father's 12-year governorship . . . Cuomo was appointed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as Assistant Secretary in 1993, as a member of President Bill Clinton's administration. . . . In 2002, Cuomo ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the Governor of New York.
At the Think 3 Institute, Sam Wilson questions the independence of the Independence Party in endorsing the likes of Cuomo for governor:
While genuinely independent personalities like the billionaire Tom Golisano have headed the Independence ticket in the past, this year the party leadership will endorse Andrew Cuomo, the current attorney general and presumptive Democratic nominee for governor. The Independence chairman in particular is practically servile in his adulation of Cuomo, declaring himself ready to hold the man's coat during the race.

If truth-in-advertising laws applied to party labels, the Independence Party's expected endorsement of Cuomo, which would have to be ratified at a party convention, would oblige it to change its name. What they'd call themselves I don't know. I have no idea because I have no idea of what they stand for apart from perpetuating their place on the ballot. If that's what it takes to hold a place on the ballot in New York, that's just another argument for radical reform of the ballot itself, not just the rules for access to it.

Poli-Tea on Youtube: Declare your Independence

I have just uploaded my first Poli-Tea video to Youtube: "Declare your Independence." Last month, the California Independent Voter Network put out a call for video declarations of independence, which got me thinking, and, well, you can see the first results for yourself below. The video is a minute long and represents some fairly simple experimentation with slides and sound samples, but it's pretty surprising what you can do with a laptop and a little bit of time.

As always, comments, suggestions and criticism are welcome below. Feel free to embed or otherwise disseminate the video at will, if you please, and consider putting one together yourself.

Environmental Catastrophe and Democratic-Republican Party Government: the Global Warfare and Coporate Welfare State vs. the People of Earth

The environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico perfectly demonstrates the abject failure of Democratic-Republican party government to represent and defend the interests of the people of the United States, and, indeed, the people of earth, over and against the interests of well-connected multinational corporations. This, of course, is not surprising, as the apparent moral, political and intellectual bankruptcy of the response to this catastrophe by the nation's ruling criminal-political class is, sadly, just one more piece of evidence documenting the moral, political and intellectual degeneracy of the Democratic-Republican global warfare and corporate welfare state. The rot begins at the very top. Naturally, the president is the single greatest recipient of campaign contributions from British Petroleum. Reuters reports:
BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company's political action committees - $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals.
Sarah Palin recently attempted to score political points against Obama by suggesting his financial dependency on the oil giant has compromised his ability to confront the crisis, which is not an unreasonable suspicion. As the Wall Street Journal documents, however, Republicans are in no position to criticize Democrats on this matter:
Former Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin stirred up more controversy over the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico Sunday when she suggested that the administration’s response was linked to “the oil companies who have so supported President Obama in his campaign.” . . .

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Republicans receive far more campaign money from the oil and gas industry than do Democrats. So far in 2010, the oil and gas industries have contributed $12.8 million to all candidates, with 71% of that money going to Republicans. During the 2008 election cycle, 77% of the industry’s $35.6 million in contributions went to Republicans, and in the 2008 presidential contest, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain received more than twice as much money from the oil and gas industries as Obama: McCain collected $2.4 million; Obama, $898,000. This is a decades-long trend, the center says.

The criminal collusion of big government and big business was unwittingly documented by a CBS News crew on site at the Gulf coast early last week. As reported by Raw Story:

As BP withholds information on impact of massive oil spill, Coast Guard says that 'embedded' media have been allowed to cover response effort. As oil from the massive BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico approached the US coastline, a CBS News crew was threatened by the US Coast Guard with arrest if they attempted to film a beach in South Pass, Louisiana.

"When we tried to reach the beach ... a boat of BP contractors with two Coast Guard officers on board told us to turn around under threat of arrest," CBS's Kelly Cobiella reported on Tuesday. "This is BP's rules, it's not ours," an officer can be seen calling from the other boat in the CBS video . . . Since this initial brief report, the CBS video clip has been widely re-posted, but there has apparently been no followup from either CBS or BP.

The true nature of the global warfare and corporate welfare state is perfectly revealed by this small incident, in which a news crew is threatened by military officials acting under orders of a multi-national corporation: "This is BP's rules, it's not ours." Unsurprisingly, CBS has apparently opted not to follow-up on this story. Even columnists in the New York Times have become cognizant of the crisis that is corporatist government. Bob Herbert writes:

This is the bitter reality of the American present, a period in which big business has cemented an unholy alliance with big government against the interests of ordinary Americans, who, of course, are the great majority of Americans. The great majority of Americans no longer matter.

It is long past time that we bring back the corporate death penalty.

The Independence of Independents and the Reactionary Corporatism of Democrats and Republicans

At The Hankster, Nancy continues her series of guest posts from independents explaining "why I became an independent." Today, Bryan Puertas, an activist and organizer with the New York City Independence Party writes:
Greetings. My name is Bryan Puertas. I’m an activist and organizer with the New York City Independence Party. I read and enjoyed the piece by Randy Miller on why he became an independent, and thought I would take a shot at doing something similar. It’s important that independents tell their own stories. Certainly there are already plenty of stories being told about us. You may have heard some of them. Undecideds. Spoilers. Soft Democrats. Soft Republicans. Flip floppers. None of them get it right. Yet if we don’t speak up and tell our own stories, we hear theirs so often that we may even start to believe them. I respectfully submit some new labels. The New Majority. The Deciding Voters. The Nonpartisans. The Youth Vote. Stories are how we share our values and culture, how we have a group conversation as a community. I talk to you every day on the phones, and there are more of you out there than you know. I challenge all of you reading this to not let other people tell you what your independence means, to share your own story here. I’ll go first.
Read the whole thing. Coincidentally, the conclusion to Bryan's piece is strikingly similar to the position of Todd Curl at The Todd Blog, who writes:
To say there is no more left and no more right might be a bit of an over simplification of a complex dynamic of political economy, but nonetheless is an accurate one given the utter and total takeover of government by moneyed, corporate interests. This modern corporatism has created a democratic system that serves only to divide and conquer. Rather than taking constructive and historically realistic views of the state of the two party system, the two camps, Liberal and Conservative (Democrat & Republican), are engaged in a constant reactionary state, disregarding material reality in order to claim the rightness of their actions . . .
Indeed, the assertion that Democrats are liberal or progressive is as absurd as the assertion that Republicans are conservative or libertarian. The imaginary ideological opposition between the Democratic and Republican Parties serves to mask the political reality that Democratic-Republican Party government is primarily reactionary and corporatist in character.

CA: Green and Libertarian Parties Release Ads Against Proposition 14

The Libertarian Party and Green Party have released ads against California's Proposition 14, the "top two" primary act. Via Independent Political Report, from the Libertarians:

And from the Greens:

On the Radar in the Third Party and Independent Blogosphere

Yesterday, I profiled Uncovered Politics, but over the last few weeks I have come across a number of other sites and blogs that might interest Poli-Tea readers, a couple of which I have already mentioned in passing:
Moderate Third Party makes the case for a moderate third party and calls for "common sense solutions" such as those espoused by the Modern Whigs.

Free Citizen has been online since 2004, but I first came across the blog after its author, Steve Rankin, left a comment on a recent post here at Poli-Tea. Southern Crown follows ballot access issues and leans libertarian, espousing "individual liberty, free markets and limited government."

Centrist Zealot offers a centrist take on the issues of the day, with a humorous slant, as the name implies.

Ranger's Arrows, affiliated with the American Conservative Party, is the place to go for independent conservative critique of duopolist politics and ideology.

The Non-Partisan, out of Utah, offers "independent thoughts for a partisan world" based on the insight "that our current political system is broken. American politics has become more about party and partisanship than about cooperation, responsibility, and patriotism."

Primitive Data advocates digital freedom and is affiliated with the Green Party.

Turbulent Black Tea follows the issues of the day without regard to partisan or ideological affiliation: "Where right meets left - east meets west - yin and yang collide. Daily news and opinion feeds provided from ALL political and social points of view. Consider this the free-for-all every political enthusiast wishes they could have in a public arena."

Darryl Northrop's Essential Green Party Politics is devoted to third party messaging, strategy and outreach. Darryl aims to "organize Green Party groups and assist Green Party candidates, while ending the two party system in America by ushering in an era of citizen-powered multi-party majoritarian democarcy. It can be done, because it must be done."
If you've recently come across a political site that is not devoted to regurgitating Democratic or Republican talking points and engages in independent or third party critique of the two-party state from the left, right or center, or if you maintain such a site yourself, feel free to leave a link or two in the comments.

Uncovered Politics Features a History of Party Switching in the US Senate

Darcy G. Richardson and Austin Cassidy have teamed up to launch a new website this month: Uncovered Politics. Darcy Richardson is an author and historian who has written a six part history of the American third party and independent political tradition. Austin Cassidy is a political-media activist, among other things, co-founder of Independent Political Report and Third Party Watch. Understandably, then, the new site is devoted to covering "longshots, insurgents and underdogs." From the "about" page:
Uncovered Politics was launched in May of 2010 as a website dedicated to covering the stories the major media often misses. Our primary focus is on insurgents, underdogs and longshots. We cover Republicans, Democrats and those working outside the major parties.
Uncovered Politics thus promises to provide a unique perspective on our contemporary politics. And if its current featured article is any guide, UP will certainly deliver. In the piece, Darcy examines Arlen Specter's recent primary loss in the context of historical "party switchers," finding that the Republican-turned-Democrat is among the few who have lost their seats. Whereas comparable corporate and mainstream media analyses have compared Specter with the likes of Joe Lieberman and perhaps Jim Jeffords, Darcy's informed and informative piece glosses the careers of nine other US Senate party switchers over the course of the twentieth century. Some short excerpts from a lengthy piece:
One of the most famous examples of success — from someone without a party, no less — was that of Nebraska’s George W. Norris, a three-term Republican lawmaker who bolted to become an independent in 1936 . . .

In 1940, Minnesota Farmer-Laborite Henrik Shipstead, a distinguished-looking Glenwood dentist whose early domestic political views foreshadowed FDR’s New Deal, successfully switched to the Republican Party . . .

The Progressive Party’s Robert M. La Follette, Jr., of Wisconsin, son of the late “Fighting Bob,” rejoined the Republican Party when his state’s dejected Progressives, meeting in Portage in March 1946, voted to officially align with the GOP . . .

Six years later, Oregon’s Wayne Morse unceremoniously shed his Republican attire and became the first independent to serve in the Senate since Nebraska’s Norris . . .

J. Strom Thurmond’s situation was very different from that of Pennsylvania’s Specter. Having bolted from the national Democratic Party in 1948 to run for president on a States’ Rights ticket and spectacularly winning a seat in the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate six years later . . .

The same thing was true of Virginia’s Harry F. Byrd, Jr. Fearing that the Democratic primary electorate might reject him, Byrd dropped out of the Democratic Party in 1970 and was easily re-elected as an independent later that autumn, becoming only the second senator in history to win as an independent . . .
Read the whole thing. Such pieces are the perfect antidote to the revisionist political history preferred by the ideologues of the two-party state and duopoly system of government, and their mouthpieces in the corporate media. The development of a site like Uncovered Politics was perhaps as inevitable as it is necessary. I'll certainly be checking in regularly.

Political Demonology: Proposal for Two-Party State is "Satanic" Says Nigerian Third Party Leader (Update: Proposal Fails in Legislature)

Out of Nigeria, Next News reports on statements made by Chekwas Okorie, leader of a progressive alliance of third party groups in the African country, in response to a proposal that would force the re-implementation of a two-party state:

A faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has condemned plans by the House of Representatives to peg the number of political parties in the country to two, saying it is not only satanic but might threaten the nation’s democracy. [Emphasis added.]

Chairman of the faction, Chekwas Okorie, in a memorandum to the House, said since no country in the world is practising a two-party system by decree or contrived constitutional provision, the lawmakers would lend themselves to mischief makers if they endorse the system.

Mr. Okorie noted that what sounded like a joke when the Former State Governors Forum approached the two chambers of the National Assembly two weeks ago on the reintroduction of the two-party system, is gaining ground allegedly because it is being funded by some people.

“What we thought was a huge joke is unfortunately beginning to assume the proportion of a potent threat to national stability and a recipe for anarchy. We are alarmed that the plot to railroad Nigerians into two-party compartments is a well-oiled and heavily-funded scheme,” he said . . .

He said that Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees Nigerians the freedom of association, adding that the multi-party system is in consonance with the International Convention of Freedom of Association, which Nigeria has been a signatory to since independence.

A TMC News analysis provides some historical background:
Many condemned it as a restrictive system designed by the military to limit freedom of association among the people but barely 17 years after its abolition the two-party system of democracy is rearing its head again in the ongoing electoral reform. The system was introduced by the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida-led military junta during the botched third republic.

Those seeking elective positions were restricted to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), two parties established and funded by the then military government.

Many criticized the system for the limited choice of parties and ideologies, especially as it was the military that drafted the manifestos and set up all structures for the parties. All that was required of individuals seeking to participate in the political system was to register as members of one of the two parties. The NRC and SDP existed like agencies under the military junta which appointed party officials and determined those that qualify to seek political office.
The system was however less cumbersome and provided vibrant political landscape that led to keenly contested elections. . . .

But after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, believed to have been won by late Chief Moshood Abiola of the SDP, the agitation for a more open party system resurfaced. The military government of the late General Sani Abacha opened up the political landscape by dumping the two-party system for multi-party democracy. By the time democratic rule was restored in 1999 the number of parties participating in the democratic process continued to swell by the day.

Of all the political parties in the country, only six have at least a state governor, while the National Assembly have members from only four political parties. Over 50 existing political parties have no representation at any level
Update: This proposal has reportedly failed in the Nigerian House of Representatives, by a wide margin. From Punch:

Another rowdy session took place at the House of Representatives on Thursday as a proposal to re-introduce the two party system in Nigeria failed on the floor of the legislature.

172 lawmakers voted in support of multi-party system, 48 voted for two-party system, while one legislator abstained according to results announced by the Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole.

A Crisis of Democracy? Voter Turnout in the Pennsylvania and Kentucky Primary Elections

Is the non-vote a vote of no confidence in the two-party state and duopoly system of government? We are told that yesterday's two most closely watched US Senate primary elections represent a significant defeat for the Democratic-Republican political establishment: Democrat Joe Sestak defeated career politician Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania (54% to 46%), while Republican Rand Paul routed Trey Grayson in Kentucky (59% to 35%). (Via Memeorandum.) Yet, these results are not nearly as impressive as they may seem when one considers them in the context of overall voter turnout numbers, which hovered around 30% in both states. US News and World Report provided the following statistics in the case of Kentucky:
Kentucky Secretary of State spokesman Les Fugate said early turnout appeared to be low, but was expected to be around 30 percent statewide. In 2008, with a presidential primary on the ballot, turnout came in at between 25 and 30 percent. In 2007, with a gubernatorial primary on the ballot, turnout was about 21 percent.
Pennsylvania's Commissioner of Elections sounds almost as if he'd be surprised if a third of all voters cast ballots in the election. From a local CBS News affiliate:
a disproportionately low number of voters will actually cast their ballots on Primary Day 2010 according to Pennsylvania's Commissioner of Elections Chet Harhut. "I think, generally speaking, it will be lower than a Presidential (race)," Harhut said. "I think if we can reach the 30% turnout, it'll be a good day." In 2006, the last time Pennsylvania held an off-year, primary election statewide turnout was 18%.
Let's consider the actual numbers in the Democratic and Republican Senate primary races in Pennsylvania and Kentucky respectively. According to the elections returns page at the PA Department of State, in the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak received 564,169 votes (54%) to Arlen Specter's 481,351 (46%). Thus, 1,045, 520 Democrats voted in the US Senate primary. As I noted yesterday, PA's primaries are closed, so only Democrats could vote in this race, and there are 4,310,317 registered Democrats in Pennsylvania (out of 8,443,188 registered voters). Just over 24% of registered Democrats cast ballots in the PA Democratic primary. And, in the end, 13% of registered Democrats voted for Sestak, providing him with a "major upset." Considered as a percentage of total registered voters, these numbers are even more telling: just over 12% of all registered voters cast ballots in this race and Joe Sestak received the support of just 7% of all registered voters!

Now let's turn to Kentucky. According to the state's most recent voter registration statistics reports, the Bluegrass State has 2, 851, 996 registered voters. Of them, 1,618,011 are Democrats, 1,044872 are Republicans and 189,113 are registered "other." The State Board of Elections puts voters turnout in yesterday's primary election at 32.65%, with 931,145 voters casting a ballot. 351,912 voters participated in the US Senate Republican primary: Rand Paul received 206, 812 votes, or just under 59%, soundly defeating Trey Grayson, who received 124,710 votes, or 35.5%. Considered as a percentage of registered Republicans, these numbers look quite different. Just 20% of registered Republicans cast a ballot for Paul, while Grayson garnered the support of only 12% of the same. Interestingly, as a percentage of total registered voters, Paul's support in Kentucky is roughly equivalent to that of Sestak: only 7% of registered voters cast a ballot in favor of Rand Paul in Kentucky!

And this brings us back to my original question: is the non-vote a vote of no confidence in the two-party state and duopoly system of government? Less than a third of all voters participated in the Kentucky and Pennsylvania primary elections. Democratic and Republican US Senate candidates are capable of scoring "major upsets" with the support of just 7% of registered voters. Of course, the apologists of the ruling parties explain such facts away by alternately, and contradictorily, asserting the existence of voter apathy or voter contentment. But is this not a crisis of democracy?

PA: Disenfranchised Independents Call for Open Primaries, Democratic-Republican Politics Cause Physical Illness

Along with Kentucky and Arkansas, Pennsylvania will be holding closely-watched primary elections today. As the Hankster reports, unlike in Kentucky and Arkansas, Pennsylvania's Democratic and Republican primaries are only open to registered party voters. Nancy puts it this way: "only registered Dems or Repubs can vote in that party's primary. If you're an independent, you're flat outa luck." According to Pennsylvania's most recent voter registration statistics, that means 1,013,885 out of 8,443,188 voters, or 12%, are "flat outa luck" today. For the sake of comparison, in addition to these 1,013,885 "other" voters (including third party and independent voters), there are 4,310317 registered Democrats and 3,118,986 Republicans.

Independent Pennsylvanians will be holding actions and events today intended to draw attention to the commonwealth's closed primary system and gain support for reforms that would open its primary elections to independent and unaffiliated voters. From Independent Pennsylvanians:

Independent Pennsylvanians (IP) will be conducting an educational awareness and petitioning campaign about the primaries on May 18th. Our goal is to educate voters at center city Philadelphia polling sites about Pennsylvania’s closed primary system. Pennsylvania is one of a minority of states that still shuts out the fastest growing voting block – independents.

IP is an organization of Independents across the state whose mission is to serve as a force for progressive, non-partisan reform. We are the PA affiliate of Independent, which works to connect and empower the 40% of Americans who identify themselves as independents.

IP will be at City Hall 9:00 am then proceed to area polling sites to gather petition signatures in support of HB 1672 – A bill introduced by State Rep. Eugene Depasquale (D-York) to open our primaries to non-affiliated voters. This important legislation will level the playing field for the over one million independent voters in our state by allowing them to participate, along with major party registrants, in the crucial first round of voting.

Even though tax-payer dollars pay for primaries in PA, non-affiliated, tax-paying voters are locked out of the electoral process. To sign the petition to support open primaries on this site (SIGN THE OPEN PRIMARIES PETITION).
Lancaster Online recently reported on how the rise in independent voters in Lancaster County mirrors national trends:
Matt Henderson will be sitting this one out. Tuesday's primary election will see Republicans and Democrats head to the polls to nominate candidates in key state and national races. But as a member of the Lancaster Green Party — and it's co-chair — Henderson, like a growing number of registered voters in Lancaster County, can't vote.

"I voted for Nader in 2008 and just formally switched my registration to Green last year," said Henderson, who before that, as a student at Millersville University, was a registered Republican who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 . . . "We need to get away from this mentality that just because Republicans screw up, Democrats deserve to be elected by default, or vice versa." A growing number of voters both here and across the country may be concluding just that . . .

Last month USA Today reported that over the past two years, the number of independent voters grew faster than Democrats and Republicans in at least 14 of the 28 states and the District of Columbia that register voters by party . . .

for many independents, ideology is less important than an increasingly disturbing reality. "When one considers that elected members of both parties spend half their time in office asking, cajoling and pleading for campaign donations, it is easy to be an independent," wrote John Devlin of Conestoga, a registered independent, in an e-mail.

"Both parties consist of members ... who are nothing more than wholly owned subsidiaries of defense, health, oil, coal, pharma and the banksters, [so] why would one consider anything other than an independent?" he asked . . .

"the Republicans and Democrats make me physically ill." [Emphasis added.]
He's not the only one.

The Primary Process, Political Polarization and Third Party Strategy

When seeking to dissuade others from engaging in third party and independent political activism, liberal and conservative advocates of the two-party state and duopoly system of government often argue that it is better to wage primary challenges against sitting incumbents than it is to stand in principled opposition to the ruling political class by supporting third party and independent candidates for office. This is likely one of the primary mechanisms of what is commonly called 'political polarization.' At the Whig, Septimus argues that this process results in the alienation of moderate voters:
One of the arguments against the need of a new political party is the assertion that party primaries make a new moderate party unnecessary. As the argument goes, since political parties have primaries, the voters get a say in who a party nominates, thereby removing the need for a new, moderate political party.

Such an argument fails in reality. Political party primaries tend to favor the extremes of each party, as the voters in the primaries are self-selected and do not represent the needs or desires of those in the middle. Party primaries are dominated by activists with an agenda, who prefer purity to the advancement of the common good . . . As a result, party primaries tend to push the candidates to the extremes.
Ironically, liberal and conservative efforts to ensure the reproduction of the two-party state and duopoly system of government in this way arguably create optimal conditions for third party and independent candidates to break open the Democratic-Republican lock on elected office. At Pollster, Michael McDonald finds that the more ideologically cohesive the major parties are, the more likely one is to see gains by third party and independent candidates. Via Ballot Access News:
In the figure below, I plot from 1870-2006 the effective number of parties elected to the US House (black line) along with a measure of the ideological cohesiveness of the two major party's caucuses (blue and red lines) . . .

Minor parties have greater electoral success when the major parties are more ideologically cohesive . . . Since 1982, the congressional parties have again become more ideologically cohesive . . . As American parties become more ideologically rigid, more space is provided to minor party candidates to flourish. If so, then we may be on the verge of at least some electoral success for minor political parties.
Follow the link for the accompanying graph and detailed analysis.

Playing Offense from the Center: John Avlon Talks Independent Politics With the Economist

In an interview with the Economist, CNN contributor and author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America," John Avlon discusses independent politics and "playing offense from the center." Some excerpts from Avlon's responses:
only 15% of Americans define themselves as conservative Republicans and 11% call themselves liberal Democrats, according to a Pew survey released last year. That means that there is a massive untapped market in America for something other than bitter and predictable partisanship. Part of the reason I started the “Wingnuts of the Week” segment on CNN was to find a way to play offence from the centre . . . .

There are more independents than Democrats or Republicans, and their numbers have reached over 40% of the electorate—an historic high. This is a direct reaction to the polarisation of the two parties . . . the two parties should consider themselves put on notice by the American people. They can’t indefinitely ignore the fact that a plurality of Americans are proactively rejecting them . . .

Younger generations have grown up with a multiplicity of choice on every front, which can be tailored to suit their individual beliefs. Politics is the last place where we are supposed to be satisfied with a choice between Brand A and Brand B.

Humble Libertarianism and the Necessity of Breaking with the Politics of the Two-Party State

W.E. Messamore has been growing The Humble Libertarian by leaps and bounds. What was once a simple blog with a single author, now includes, among other things, multiple regular contributors and columnists, an integrated Twitter "Soap Box" in the sidebar with live updates, a message forum with categories on everything from politics and activism to arts and entertainment, a consulting and design service geared toward bloggers who might be interested in tweaking their own site, as well as an online E-book meant as an introduction to libertarian thought and politics, entitled Learn About Liberty. This relatively short work sketches basic Libertarian Ideas, including the non-aggression principle and the proper role of government, the History of those ideas with examples from antiquity and modernity, and closes with a section arguing for Libertarian Solutions to contemporary social and political problems, including poverty, corporate fascism, imperialism and the nanny state.

Surprisingly, however, the Humble Libertarian does not appear to be a staunch advocate of the Libertarian Party or its candidates for elected office, of which there are literally hundreds this year. Such advocacy is not included among the solutions offered in Learn About Liberty, for instance, though it is obviously the case that the policies and politics promulgated by the ruling two-party state and duopoly system of government must be counted among the primary causes of the problems enumerated in the work's closing chapter. This is not to say, however, that third party alternatives are categorically ruled out by humble libertarianism, but the idea literally remains questionable. In a post from last fall, for instance, Wes delineated a number of problems inherent in the duopoly system of government, asking: "Time for a third party?" An excerpt:
That truth is that both parties suck. It's that simple. If neither party ought to have control of our government for longer than eight years, because any longer than that will be enough time for them to do some serious damage, then it is clear that both parties are awful and shouldn't have control of our government for any length of time. We have two broken parties that propose and enact the wrong answers and the wrong solutions, and we're stuck playing them against each other so that neither one will be in office long enough to completely wreck everything. But in the meantime, we are suffering attrition- the slow wearing-down of our freedoms. Picture death by a thousand slow cuts. This is not a strategy to win over the long term. It's a strategy to suck less in the short term. It's not a plan that will solve America's problems. It's a plan to fail.
The real question thus appears to be not whether it is "time for a third party," but rather: why would anyone continue to support a system of political organization and representation in which the ruling parties admittedly constitute a veritable threat to freedom and liberty? Only 15% of the American public believe the two-party system works "fairly well." Consider the results from the most recent WSJ/NBC public opinion survey:

According to the poll, more than 80% see problems with America's two-party system -- with 31% believing it's seriously broken and that America needs a third party, and with another 52% saying that it has real problems but that it can still work with some improvements. Only 15% of Americans believe the two-party system works fairly well.

Arguably, third party politics is, for many Americans, a politics of infinite deferral: "this is the last time I will vote Republican/Democrat," we tell ourselves, "this is their last chance." At Bonzai, a libertarian blog, Mike Farmer recently wrote:
If the Republicans regain power and don't work diligently to undo the damage done by Democrats an the previous Republican administration, it'll be necessary to create a permanent and viable third party, if only to act as a power broker between the two main parties.
How many last chances are we willing to afford the morally, politically and intellectually bankrupt Democratic-Republican political class? More pressingly, how much longer can we afford to suffer their misrule?

Anarchist Publisher to Glenn Beck: "We're like you, except we support real freedom, and that's why you're afraid of us"

Back in March, I wrote on the coming intersection of the anarchist and tea party movements, highlighting Glenn Beck's popularization of the anarchist book "The Coming Insurrection" as well as the potential for anarchist actions revolving around the April 15th tax day tea party protests. Beck has apparently continued to present anarchist materials to his viewers and listeners, alerting them to another tract published by the AK Press, namely, "We Are an Image From the Future." The AK Press Collective has now written an open letter to Glenn Beck, suggesting that they and he have more in common than he would like to admit. Some excerpts from a lengthy text:

Hi Glenn . . . We’re thrilled that you featured our book We Are an Image of the Future: The Greek Revolts of 2008 on your May 3rd show. We were, however, a little confused by your description of the book, and the way that it fit into the overall argument you made . . .

So we asked ourselves: What could account for this guy waving around a book written and published by anarchists, while never quoting a single word from it, and then going on to associate the book with political groups—like the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Workers World Party—that no one in the book, or associated with the book, would endorse? How could he miss something so obvious?

Then it dawned on us: you’re afraid of anarchists. You’re not afraid of the fake media portrayal of anarchists as bomb-throwing maniacs: that’s your bread and butter. You’re afraid of real anarchists, the actual ideas they espouse, the real work they do . . .

Like you, we believe that people’s lives would be much better off without government intervention. Centralized power suppresses individual and community initiative and keeps people from achieving their full potential. Like you, we don’t think the solution to our current economic crisis lies in socialized industry or new layers of well-paid government bureaucrats. And, like you and many of your tea party pals, we agree that bankers and fat-cat corporate elites aren’t exactly concerned with our best interests. As you put it, it’s time to take down the folks who “line their pockets with wealth gained from enslaving a whole group of people.” And, although you seemed a bit confused on this point, that means putting “people before profits,” which is pretty much the central concern of the protesters in Greece right now. And we mean all people, regardless of income, race, gender, sexuality, or immigration status.

You’re right: we’re revolutionaries. But aren’t you? . . . As anarchists, we’re dedicated to the idea of abolishing the state and capitalism altogether . . . We understand that you’re confused–these are confusing times. But, deep down, you and the tea partiers know that you can’t trust any politician, or banker, or corporate hack, or union bureaucrat…or anyone who makes their living sucking power and profit from ordinary people . . . Admit that your passionate and convoluted rants are a nervous dance around your inability to support real freedom (anarchism) over unbridled power (Communism and capitalism). And then use your massive wealth and power for the forces of good.

No word yet on whether Beck has responded to this letter.

Moderate Thinking and the Modern Whig Party

At Moderate Thinking, Nils Bergeson thinks through the differences between three terms that are often bandied about in both the corporate and independent media as if they were simply synonymous – namely 'independent,' 'centrist' and 'moderate' –, and makes a persuasive case for their rigorous distinction. Some short excerpts:
Independent. I start with this term because it is the easiest. When one identifies themselves as an “Independent,” they are referring to their party affiliation, or in this case, lack thereof . . .

Now let's look at the Centrists. This term refers to one's political viewpoints or ideology. It refers to where they stand on the issues. Describing one as “being in the center” is the equivalent of describing another as being to the left or to the right . . .

What exactly, then, is a Moderate? How is a Moderate different than a Centrist? When one invokes the use of the word “Moderate,” they are referring to a methodology, or in other words, the methods one uses when they approach politics and/or policy making. Being a Moderate refers to HOW an individual deals with politics.
Read the whole thing, the nuances are indeed the heart of the matter here. Perusing the post, I couldn't help but be reminded of the political and discursive strategy being crafted by the Modern Whig Party, which explicitly stresses "methodology over ideology." And the Modern Whigs, of course, emphasize the virtues of moderation in politics. Back in March, Liberal Arts Dude interviewed Drew Scholtens, Chairman of the Georgia Modern Whig Party and member of the Modern Whigs National Executive Committee. Scholtens stressed "methodology over ideology":
The Modern Whig Party is a methodology party. What that means is rather than control a base using ideology, we build structures, tools, and rules around methodologies that add value to both the common member and the candidate. However it is up to the individuals to interact with the methodology systems. As a result we care little for someone’s ideological beliefs, we focus on problems and solutions, cause and effect, without preconceived notions of right and wrong . . .

We are a methodology party so we provide tools, structures, and rules around methodologies that help individuals develop, but are not controlled mindlessly by ideology. Two Whigs might totally disagree with one another but the rules dictate how they have to interact with each other. Thus they have to be able to communicate, even if they can’t agree. There is a lot of complexity I can’t go into, but that’s the gist.
Is the moderate-methodology connection in these two instances a coincidence? an example of moderate minds thinking alike? or is there some background material with which I am not familiar that draws the connection?

The Three Person Race and the Law of Unintended Consequences: the Establishmentarian Smear Campaign Against Political Independents cont'd

The other day, I noted that the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association had launched coordinated smear campaigns against independent gubernatorial candidates in Rhode Island (Lincoln Chafee) and Massachusetts (Tim Cahill), respectively. There has been significant fallout from the RGA's efforts in the Bay State. Via Memeorandum, National Journal's Hotline on Call reports that the RNC is not especially pleased with the RGA's strategy, led by its chair Haley Barbour:
Committee members have drafted a letter they plan to send to Barbour expressing their anger over the RGA's support for businessman Charlie Baker (R), the former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO running against Gov. Deval Patrick (D). The conservatives see Baker as a liberal who doesn't represent the GOP establishment . . .

the RGA has run radio and TV ads blasting Treas. Tim Cahill (I), a former Dem who is running as a third-party candidate. Cahill is running to the right of both Baker and Patrick, and RNC members say spending money to defeat him is the wrong use of the party's money.

Earlier this week, the RGA released the latest round of ads accusing Cahill of misspending taxpayer money while in charge of the state lottery. The ads aim to undercut Cahill's support as GOPers worry his success will hurt their chances to knock off Patrick.

As the Washington Examiner notes, however, the attack ads have had their intended result – support for the independent Cahill has dropped almost ten points over the last month, from 23% to 14%, according to Rasmussen Reports. Yet the ads also seem to have had the unintended result of bolstering support for Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick, who received a ten point jump in the same poll! Assuming, of course, that the RGA did not intend to boost Patrick by its smear campaign against Cahill. Before the RGA's campaign began, Republican nominee Charlie Baker was trailing the Democrat Patrick by seven points: Patrick (35%), Baker (27%), Cahill (23%). Now, however, Patrick leads Baker by almost fifteen points: Patrick (45%), Baker (31%), Cahill (14%).

These results are less interesting for their predictive power heading into the thick of the campaign season, than they are for their demonstration of how significantly a viable third party alternative to the stooges of the Democratic and Republican Parties changes the dynamics and political calculus inherent in our duopolized politics. It also demonstrates how fragile support is even for third party and independent candidates who are perceived as viable alternatives to the puppets of the corporatist two-party state.

Poll: Majority of Americans Deserve Neither Liberty nor Security

Benjamin Franklin famously stated that "they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." A little-noted finding of the new WSJ/NBC poll reveals that a majority of Americans remain willing to trade their liberty for the promise of security. The poll asked (.pdf, p. 23):
How willing are you to give up personal freedoms and civil liberties to prevent another terrorist attack?

Very willing – 18%
Somewhat willing – 34%
Somewhat unwilling – 21%
Very unwilling – 23%
Not sure – 4%
Arguably, then, according to Franklin's maxim, 52% of Americans deserve neither liberty nor safety. Unfortunately, if such attitudes persist, we will all be deprived of both.

On Learning from One's Students: the American Academic as Reactionary Apologist of the Two-Party State and Duopoly System of Government

Reading through some of the reaction to the UK's general election on this side of the Atlantic, I was struck by a difference between the responses of American college students, on the one hand, and American college professors, on the other. Obviously, the excerpts that follow are by no means comprehensive nor necessarily representative. However, they nonetheless prove instructive: these professors profess nothing but reactionary support for the existing relations of power and the ruling political class; they could learn a thing to two from their students.

Opinion pieces in two student newspapers emphasize the need to expand choice in US elections while stressing the importance of facilitating the creation of a more representative government. Both call for experimentation with proportional representation. From the Daily 49er at California State University Long Beach, a piece entitled, "British Elections Highlight Plurality System Flaws":

A central platform of last week’s British elections was the need for electoral reform. In other words, the U.K. recognizes the flaws of a winner-take-all or plurality system . . . A plurality voting system encourages the formation of two dominant political parties. In this country the Democrat and Republican parties are the beneficiaries of this system . . .

Compare this to a proportional representation system. This type of system encourages a multitude of political views and discourages the domination of two parties. This is achieved by awarding political parties legislative seats based on the percentage of votes their candidates receive.

An opinion piece in The Dartmouth from Dartmouth College, entitled "Open the Field," sounds similar tones:

In the United States, we use single-member plurality districts to elect members of Congress. This system has a number of consequences that are positively toxic for our country. The most pressing of these problems is that these electoral rules nearly always create a two-party system . . .

utter lack of responsiveness by Democrats and Republicans creates massive frustration for millions of Americans and contributes to the voter apathy that is pervasive in our political system. . . . A proportional representation system with a reasonable threshold for inclusion (to avoid repeating the mistakes of Israel’s Knesset, where any party can get seats with under 2 percent of the vote regardless of legitimacy) would fix most of these problems, and make our system more democratic, accountable and responsible.

Two professors, on the other hand, take the opportunity provided by the British elections to argue against the very idea of third party and independent political activism, and in favor of restricting political choice to the false choice between the Democratic and Republican Parties. At The Daily Beast, an associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York, Peter Beinart, responds to those who argue for third party and independent alternatives in the United States, writing:

Good luck with that. The more you know about what’s happening in Britain, and the more you know about the history of third-party candidacies in the U.S., the more dubious the whole idea becomes.

Beinart then goes on to "debunk" a series of mis-representations, slogans and talking points relating to third party and independent politics that pass for common wisdom in the corporate media and the American academy (if time permitted, it might be interesting to respond to his piece point by point). Ironically, however, and like so many apologists of the ruling political class, Beinart fails to note that the more you know about what's happening in the United States, and the more you know about the history of the Democratic and Republican parties, the more dubious the idea of reproducing the reigning two-party state and duopoly system of government becomes.

In the second piece, a guest post at Balkinization by David Schleicher, the assistant professor of law at George Mason University School of Law provides an informative and interesting comparison of plurality voting and proportional representation, but concludes by arguing that more should be done to discourage third party and independent political activism in the United States. Schleicher writes:

However Britain reforms its political system, let's hope they do something. And let us use its example as a lesson. If the United States persists in having a FPTP elections, we should use our election law rules to ensure that we get the benefits of using that system. Our election laws should encourage a healthy competitive atmosphere inside the parties so that groups try to succeed inside the two-party system. And should we keep the oft-criticized rules that discourage the development of national third parties. Abandoning these rules, or closing up our primaries, would lead us to where Britain is today.

Yes, the Democratic and Republican Parties have clearly not been allowed enough leeway in debasing our discourse and poisoning our politics; gerrymandering and district rigging are the very embodiment of "healthy competition"; and the ruling parties effectively represent the tens of millions of Americans they systematically disenfranchise in the interests of maintaining and expanding the global warfare and corporate welfare state.

While Republicans are fond of arguing that academics are nothing but Democrats with advanced degrees, and Democrats often fancy academics as objective observers or enlightened technocrats – the two above specimens suggest a third possibility, namely, that American academics profess nothing but reactionary support for the existing relations of power and the ruling political class, the reproduction of the two-party state and duopoly system of government. They could learn a thing or two from their students.

Update: In the comments, Shawn provides a link to a post at his Ranger's Arrows blog taking aim at the Beinart article mentioned above. Ranger's Arrows, by the way, is aimed directly at the two-party state: end the duopoly.

Study: Third Party Registration Increases while Duopolist Dead-Enders Continue to Decline

As more and more Americans realize that the Democratic and Republican Parties exist primarily, and almost exclusively, as a vehicle to forward the interests of multinational corporations and the global warfare state – and hence serve interests that are diametrically opposed to those of the people of the United States, it is only logical that fewer and fewer Americans will identify themselves as Republicans or Democrats or with the Democratic and Republican Parties.

I have speculated before, half-jokingly, that we may soon reach a point at which the only people who are willing to identify themselves as Democrats and Republicans are those who are paid to do so – the professional apologists of the two-party state and duopoly system of government. Since the 2008 presidential election, there has been an expected decline in the number of registered Democrats, Republicans and (to a lesser extent) independents, but also an unexpected rise in third party affiliation. Ballot Access News and IPR relay news of a report by Michael McDonald at Pollster, which analyzes current voter registration data and finds that:
Trends in party voter registration since the 2008 presidential election suggest that a small, but perhaps meaningful, number of registered voters are abandoning the major political parties in favor of minor political parties or are forswearing any party affiliation . . .

these trends are consistent with the notion that some American voters are willing to express their frustration with the major parties by registering with a minor political party or affiliating with no party. Indeed, the increase in unaffiliated registrations is a long-term phenomenon observed since the 1970s . . .

as discussed in Paul Herrnson and John C. Green's edited volume Multiparty Politics in America, people who identify with minor political parties tend to be more sophisticated than those who are unaffiliated with any political party. These people tend vote and volunteer for campaigns more often than the general public. Their absence from the major political parties may adversely affect major candidate campaigns, particularly where a minor party candidate is on the ballot.
Read the whole thing for caveats, graphs and other tidbits.

DGA and RGA Launch Attack Ads and Smear Campaigns against Viable Independent Candidates for Governor in the Northeast

Though the ideologues of the two-party state and duopoly system of government never tire of reiterating that a vote for third party and independent candidates for any office is a wasted vote, that all independent and third party candidates for elected office are doomed to failure and defeat, that we are fated to suffer under the misrule of Democratic and Republican party apparatchiks for all eternity – it is noteworthy that the Democratic and Republican Governor's Associations both clearly perceive a number of strong independent gubernatorial candidates to be threats to the corporatist puppets backed by the ruling parties.

It was reported last month that the Republican Governor's Association had put Maine independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler under video surveillance, a tactic the independent called a "juvenile practice" that "distracts from real campaign issues." The RGA has also launched a series of advertisements attacking Massachusetts independent gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill, calling the Democrat-turned independent "reckless." The group also appears to be behind a fairly pathetic Facebook page called "The Cahill Report" dedicated to gaining a wider exposure for the RGA's advertising campaign against the independent.

Now the Democratic Governor's Association has launched a new website attacking Rhode Island independent gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee. The Providence Journal Politics blog reports:
The Democratic Governors Association has taken aim at former U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee's independent campaign for governor with the launch of a new web site that ridicules his call for a sales tax on items currently exempt, and tries to blame him for the Iraq war, the excesses of Wall Street and "the economic hardship facing Rhode Island today.'' . . .

Chafee campaign manager J.R. Pagliarini denounced the Democrats' "third party effort to attack Chafee and bolster Caprio and Lynch without having either of their fingerprints on it.''

While denouncing the Democrats' "smear campaign,'' he also issued this statement: "It's obvious that Senator Chafee's successful campaign has the national Democratic party very nervous . . ."

If both the Democratic Governor's Association and the Republican Governor's Association have already begun attacking independent gubernatorial hopefuls, they have clearly determined that these candidates represent credible threats to the continued hegemony of the Democratic-Republican Party apparatus precisely because they are viable candidates for the office. What was it again that the ideologues of the two-party state and duopoly system of government are always saying about independent candidates?

The Return of the Whig: Centralization and the Crisis of Democracy

Following a work-related blogging hiatus, Septimus is back online at The Whig, and in force. Catching up on news from recent weeks, he reflects on the Pew Research survey which found record levels of public distrust and discontent with Democratic-Republican Party government. Arguing that the public mood stems from "a dissatisfaction with the two political parties, and the concentration of power in Washington," Septimus focuses in on the latter, writing:
Power is being taken away from the local politicians that you can meet and know. When the national government is deciding where to build a local road, what the local speed limit is, what the local drinking age is, what the local building code is, whether you can resell children's toys at a garage sale, what the policies of your local elementary school will be, what local business gets a tax break, who your local bank will lend money to, whether a local factory gets built, whether a local port can expand, where your local mass transit can buy their vehicles, where your health care comes from (and on and on and on...) what real authority does your local government still have, exactly? What are your chances of real participation? How can you hold your local politicos to account when in all probability, their hands are tied?

That is not to say that there is not a good reason for each federal regulation or power. Each one can undoubtedly be justified. But when combined, it is not only overwhelming, but also unresponsive and distant. As the Russians say, "Heaven is high above, and the Czar is far away." Now you may reply, "But at least we get to elect our Congress." But how much do we really?

Most of us live in districts so gerrymandered, that we don't really have a choice in November. Combine complex campaign finance laws and large political donors, with unresponsive and corrupt political machines in the Democrats and Republicans, and the real question is not the large number that are discontent, but that so many remain content.
This situation is only exacerbated by the fact that the only choice voters are afforded – or rather, the only choice they believe they are afforded –, is that between reproducing the problem, i.e. voting Republican against a Democrat or voting Democrat against a Republican, on the one hand, or not voting at all, on the other. We have already reached a point at which the great majority of eligible voters simply do not vote in the majority of elections. This is a crisis of democracy that undermines the promise of representative government. Needless to say, Democrats and Republicans are unresponsive to this crisis because it is, arguably, a primary condition of their continued lock on the levers of power. However, the fact remains that the American non-vote is a vote of no confidence in the two-party state and duopoly system of government.

If the Founding Fathers Were Alive Today, They Would Be Turning Over in Their Graves: It is Time to Break with the Two-Party State

Among both conservatives and progressives, the ideologues of the two-party state and duopoly system of government are unified in their support for an anti-incumbent electoral strategy that I have elsewhere termed the primary folly. Democratic double-thinker Katrina vanden Heuvel recently summed up the strategy by quoting conservative con-man Richard Viguerie:
he warns against the "third-party trap," which would split the vote. Instead, he counsels, the movement should run "principled" candidates in the primaries and support the most like-minded main-party candidates surviving for the general
The fatal flaw in this strategy is almost too obvious to necessitate elaboration. If the primary challenges fail, voters are stuck with the sitting stooges of the ruling parties. However, even if they succeed, the strategy ensures that our representatives will continue to be nothing more than the puppets of the ruling parties, as the strategy can only ever result in the reproduction of the existing two-party state and duopoly system of government. Summing up the results of this week's primary elections in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina, Chris Cillizza writes:
The establishment wing of both national parties scored wins in Tuesday's Senate primaries in Ohio and Indiana -- and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina.
The "strategies" promulgated by the likes of Viguerie and vanden Heuvel refute themselves. The primary system and its accompanying strategy is the means by which the Democratic and Republican parties ensure their continued control over the government of the United States, which they rule in the service of the corporations that own them. Our interests, those of the people of the United States, will not be represented by our government until we succeed in dismantling the Democrat-Republican two-party state and removing the ruling political class from power. At the New America Foundation, Blair Bobier writes:
With only two choices on the ballot and two parties in Congress, Americans are condemned to an eternal ride on a political see-saw. Our “two party system” is an artificial construct. Nothing in the Constitution or federal law requires two parties—or any parties at all. It is the two major parties themselves which have done a superb job of squashing any potential competition by enacting a series of restrictive state laws designed to keep new parties and independent candidates off the ballot. This process is reinforced by the press and pundits who view elections as a horse race and ignore any campaigns which won’t place first or second.

Ending the two party monopoly of the ballot would encourage more candidates from all over the political spectrum; giving voters more choices and stimulating public debate about the future of our country.

While easing excessive ballot access restrictions is a highly desirable reform, it nonetheless remains the case that third party and independent candidates for office can already be found on ballots across the country for races at all levels of government – but only rarely are they ever elected. Even if we were to end the existing Democrat-Republican ballot access regime, we would nonetheless still have to confront the Democratic-Republican Party's monopoly on the minds of voters. The two-party state is very much a state of mind. At Pajamas Media, Ryan Mauro returns to the writings of the founding fathers to argue in favor of supporting independent candidates for elected office against the stooges of the Democratic and Republican Parties:

If Americans still have faith in the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, they should break out of this intellectual and political jail cell [that is the two-party system] by supporting, and running as, independents.

George Washington warned about “the baneful effects of the spirit of party,” calling it “truly their [Americans] worst enemy.” John Adams used especially prescient language, saying: “There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures into opposition to each other. This … is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

Washington was so concerned about political parties that he devoted a major part of his Farewell Address to fighting against them . . . James Madison had similar thoughts, spending a great deal of time warning about factionalism. In Federalist Paper No. 10, he warns of a future where factionalism “inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” If anything has come to define our current two-party system, this is it . . .

Skeptics will say it is impossible to break out of the two-party system. With the exception of Washington, the Fathers took part in political parties while vigorously warning about their potential consequences. Seeing these concerns actualized today, they likely would remain unaffiliated. In fact, they made it clear that Americans should try to resist joining political parties. “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all,” Thomas Jefferson once said. . . .

Giving political independents a strong voice in all levels of government may sound like wishful thinking based more in hope and grandiose goals than reality. The Founding Fathers didn’t think so. Washington called for Americans to actively “discourage and restrain” political parties. It’s about time we followed his call.

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