Erick Erickson: “No third party is or will ever be viable.”

Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState.com and a conservative commentator for CNN, has a new book coming out. Here he gives us a sample of what to expect. He doesn’t have much good to say about the two major parties, but dismisses third parties out of hand.

They’re all terrible. All of them. Democrats. Republicans. The so called “leaders” of both parties do nothing but compromise away our freedoms. The good guys are few and far between and need reinforcements…

Therein lies the terrible conundrum for voters. We’re not choosing the lesser of two evils. We are choosing between the assorted evils of two lessers. The problem is compounded by a very simple fact: there are no betters than these two lessers. No third party is or will ever be viable. The deck is stacked against them. [emphasis mine]

37 thoughts on “Erick Erickson: “No third party is or will ever be viable.”

  1. Jacob Richter

    Better yet, would he support mass mobilizations to unstack the deck through constitutional amendments, most notably for proportional representation?

  2. d.eris

    The logic espoused by the likes of Erick Erickson is that of the completely reactionary ideologue of the ruling political class, who defends the status quo at all costs. And cynically so, as he admits to the utter bankruptcy of the Republican and Democratic parties but argues always and everywhere that we must simply submit to the tyranny of the two-party state and duopoly system of government. He appears to be simply incapable of imagining a politics dedicated to freedom and independence.

  3. RedPhillips Post author

    There are conservatives who could say what Erick is saying here and seem authentic, but it doesn’t seem authentic coming from Erick. First, because he runs a blog called RedState. Second, because he has a history of being a hyper-partisan in the past. And third, because he has a history of suppressing dissenting voices. He famously banned Ron Paul supporters from RedState, and recently banned birthers. Not that I’m a birther, it just suggests he is more interested in protecting the brand than in tolerating dissent.

  4. Bryan

    The way our government is set up there may never be a “third party” that is viable. However, the republicans are only ~150 yo now.

    There is every reason to believe that another party could overtake one of the “big two”, probably with many of their former supporters.

    I would however like to see proportional elections…this would allow everyone a voice in the government.

  5. Richard Winger

    Many “third parties” in Canada in the last 40 years have been very successful, even winning control of provincial governments in a slight majority of Canadian provinces. And the British “third party”, the Liberal Democrats, is very successful, now part of the ruling coalition and making a difference in British government policies. And yet both Canada and Great Britain have the same “first past the post” election system we have. The difference is equal and lenient ballot access laws and much fairer standards for getting into national TV debates.

    Back when the US had no ballot access laws our nation had powerful minor parties, especially in the 1850’s and 1890’s and 1910’s.

  6. George Phillies

    Erickson is obviously correct. The notion that our glorious Federalist Party can ever be replaced is absurd on its face. These Whigs should just go home and quit.

  7. Melty

    How about a return to the good old days of privately printed ballots? Imagine the bipartisan distain for such a movement as that.

    Myself, I see processes that strive for the “proportional representation” ideal as desirable only for filling boards of appointees.

    Proponents of alternative voting methods heatedly disagree with one another to no end. I think new voting method ideas get no traction mainly because, for most offices, there’s only two candidates to choose from, or if not two, than one. What everybody can agree on is the merits of none-of-the-above printed right on the ballot and counted (along with write-ins counted). Maybe nota’s the thing to propound.

  8. Michael H. Wilson

    We need to put more effort into the product and less into the process. We worry too much about minor stuff and not enough about telling the world what are ideas are about and how they will improve the present situation.

  9. Nicholas Stix

    “No third party is or will ever be viable. ”

    The man is a propagandist for the GOP, which started out as a third party. What’s wrong with this picture?

  10. Michael H. Wilson

    Looks like I need to learn the difference between are and our as in # 13.

  11. Robert Capozzi

    So far, Joe Bast’s 05 prognostications have not been correct.

    http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results/17130/June_2005_A_Libertarian_President_Dont_Laugh.html

    And I’d say Erickson overstates. For a 3rd or 4th major party to become electorally viable, it seems the Rs and Ds would need to schism, as Bast suggests. Whether the LP as structured could exploit any such schism is an open question in my mind. The embedded gotchas in the foundational documents might not make that possible.

    There are a LOT of institutional reasons why schism by the major seems unlikely. Were it to happen, I could imagine it being a regional thing. For ex., despite the Scott Brown anomaly, the Rs are becoming irrelevant in the NE states. My sense is Yankee Rs are kind of embarrassed by the direction the GOP is going.

    Similarly, southern and some western Ds are increasingly finding the national Ds a detriment.

    All far-fetched speculation, I admit, but Bast-type schisming is not beyond the realm of possibility.

    It’d probably need a crisis of some sort to get the ball rolling. Indeed, times of crisis are moments of opportunity, if seen aright.

  12. Thomas L. Knapp

    “Whether the LP as structured could exploit any such schism is an open question in my mind. The embedded gotchas in the foundational documents might not make that possible.”

    The founding documents of the LP have no bearing at all on whether it could exploit an opening created by schism within on or both of the major parties.

    And in any case, the deck is stacked to make such exploitation as nearly impossible as … well, as possible.

    Starting with the adoption of the “Australian ballot” in the 1880s, the Republicans and Democrats have colluded (whether intentionally or through an invisible hand process) for about 130 years to strangle potential rivals at the ballot access level.

    Although the Constitution requires neither geographical districting for the US House nor single-seat “first past the post” elections, both are the norm and neither major party is likely to consent to any substantive changes on them.

    Combining those two factors with pervasive gerrymandering gives each major party an effective lock on some districts.

    If a state went to all at-large US House seats, top X candidates win (e.g. Missouri is entitled to 9 US Reps; hold a statewide election, top 9 candidates each win a seat), a “third party” candidate might have a shot. Coming in first ahead of two “major party candidates” in a district gerrymandered to virtually guarantee one of those major parties a majority is a much more difficult thing to do.

    Then, of course, there’s the “debate” dog and pony show, in which “major party” candidates who don’t have a shot in hell at their party’s nomination are invited, but “third party” candidates must demonstrate a polling minimum (which, if they meet it in one election, will generally be raised for the next).

    Finally, the media generally caters to the status quo and treats any alternative as, at best, an entertainment sidebar.

    Erickson is right to an extent — in the current system, third parties are screwed. A schism within a major party will almost certainly redound to the benefit of the other major party, not a “third” party.

    But that doesn’t mean the system itself can’t and won’t come apart around the “major parties.” The Communist parties of eastern Europe had their own monopolies even more tightly sewn up, but things finally turned to shit for them even in the absence of organized partisan opposition.

  13. Robert Capozzi

    tk: A schism within a major party will almost certainly redound to the benefit of the other major party, not a “third” party.

    me: Thought experiment…let’s say something VERY serious happens on the geopolitical front. Say Israel uses tactical nukes on Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear-development program.

    In response, the GOP starts getting like the Constitution Party, perhaps one “better.” The GOP’s leaders start to say things like, “these are the end times. We must begin a crusade unlike any other.”

    Playing this out, this is a popular view in some places in the country. In other places, this sort of talk is considered WAY over the line inappropriate. It’s so bad that the VT GOP decides to disaffiliate from the national GOP. Not only do the GOP leaders in VT disagree with such apocalyptic talk in principle, but they see that the independent voters will absolutely NOT vote R, perhaps for decades. Disaffiliating from the GOP would actually be an act of survival!

    They briefly consider joining the LP, but they recognize the crypto-anarchism hidden in the SoP and the other booby-traps in the ByLaws. These VTers might be liberty lovers but they don’t resonate with the NAP in either theory or (especially) practice. Instead, they call themselves the Federalist Party or something.

    Far fetched? Probably…hopefully. My read of the current flow of things, however, suggests less unlikely by the day. I do hope I’m incorrect!

  14. Steven wilson

    I believe it depends on the people and their threshold for pain. The tea party is a knee jerk reaction to communism, so their threshold is now identified. What republicans talk about is now irrelevant, because the threshold won’t allow for any more listening.

    The rules are stacked, but in a republic that has voting, and voting is a consent mechanism, the people can vote for more choice.

    In games, when the game player has more choices, they are more selfish. They take their time and choose based on as many variables that match with one of the choices.

    Americans can still make a difference with voting. The one thing the two major parties count on is a certain amount of apathy every election cycle. Republicans use it as part of their strategy. Democrats rely on the charisma of the candidates.

    If their is no apathy, then the game changes. Choice is freedom. The more parties you have would almost guarantee 100 % voter turnout.

  15. Good luck ----- the year(s) that could have been .......... Lake

    and why should alternate politics get ahead, after all the top two are soooooo good at representing us:

    Sat Jul 31, 9:59 am ET
    WASHINGTON (Reuters)

    – President Barack Obama called ethics charges against Representative Charles Rangel “very troubling” on Friday and said he hoped the lawmaker could end his career “with dignity.”

    Democrats have urged the New York lawmaker, one of the most senior members of Congress and its former chief tax writer, to settle the charges to avoid a trial they fear could hurt them in congressional elections in November.

    Obama’s comments may be seen as indirect encouragement for Rangel to cut a deal or step down for the good of the Democratic Party. If he resigned, that would effectively end the congressional investigation.

    Rangel faces 13 counts of violating House of Representatives ethics rules, including failure to report rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic and use of a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign committee.

  16. Sean Scallon

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if a group of elected politicians, like say the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, broke away from the GOP and ran as a separate Tea Party. IN a sense that’s how the GOP formed, well established Northerners (Lincoln, Greely, Weed, Seward) forming their own party

  17. Robert Capozzi

    rs: Define viable.

    me: Yes, that is the question. I assume Erickson means “electable” by “viable.”

  18. Robert Capozzi

    ss: … Tea Party Caucus in Congress, broke away from the GOP and ran as a separate Tea Party…

    me: Yes, that’s not beyond imaginable. Personally, I’m ambivalent about that particular scenario, as I’d like to see the “Cooler Heads Caucus” break away from the majors. The Tea Party has much to commend it, and has some L strains to it, but it also seems to attract extremists and hystericals, especially of the right-wing variety.

    The prospect of breaking the duopoly has some side benefits even if a Tea Party were to emerge that wasn’t aligned with liberty and peace.

  19. Ross

    This is not news. Not sure why it’s posted here. It’s ignorance of history and political gaming, that’s all.

  20. Good luck ----- on the current corrupt system .... Lake

    Elected Officials and ‘Donations’ per: politicalpartypooper | July 31, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Tags: America, bank bailout, Banks too big to fail, Congress, Democrats, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Politics, republicans | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/phL9x-nB

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also begun to bribe elected officials, again, after taking a one year hiatus in 2009. Freddie Mac has contributed $21,250 while Fannie Mae dished out $17,241.

    Combined, Fannie and Freddie received almost $150 Billion in bailouts. To date, NOT ONE PENNY has been paid back. We believe that an additional $150 Billion may be required for Fannie and Freddie to meet their disastrous mortgage-backed-security obligations in the future.

    Did you catch the part about “to date, NOT ONE PENNY has been paid back”?

  21. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob @ 18:

    If we remove the fairy tale /fantasy aspects (“They briefly consider joining the LP, but they recognize the crypto-anarchism hidden in the SoP and the other booby-traps in the ByLaws”) of your scenario … or hell, even if we leave them in there for a chuckle or two …

    … The outcome of the scenario is that the Democratic Party dominates Vermont (as if it didn’t already — 22 Democrats, 1 Progressive, 7 Republicans in the Senate; 94 Democrats, 5 Progressives, 3 Independents and 48 Republicans in the House) either in perpetuity or until the GOP rebuilds itself there.

  22. Robert Capozzi

    tk, in a situation where the national GOP becomes SUCH a millstone, the VT contingent might fall to 0 or close. Of course, a non-literal mind would recognize that it might be NH or even OR, for that matter.

    But that would be asking too much. 😉

  23. RedPhillips Post author

    “This is not news. Not sure why it’s posted here.”

    Ross, this is my first post. I debated whether it was newsy enough, but decided it was because Erick Erickson is a fairly significant political commentator. It seems to have generated a good debate.

  24. RedPhillips Post author

    “In response, the GOP starts getting like the Constitution Party, perhaps one “better.” The GOP’s leaders start to say things like, “these are the end times. We must begin a crusade unlike any other.””

    Robert, the Constitution Party tends to be non-interventionist. Just ask Alan Keyes. And I don’t have data for this, but I suspect based on my own interactions and what I know that its Christian members tend to be disproportionately Reformed types more so than run-of-the-mill dispensational pre-mil evangelicals and as such would not be likely to conceptualize some modern scenario regarding the State of Israel in terms of the “end times.”

    Also, I tend to agree with those above who have pointed out that the goal of a third party in our system is not to be “viable” (however that is defined) but is to eventually replace one of the big two.

  25. Robert Capozzi

    rp, my point is that the CP — last I checked — makes explicit references to religious doctrine. I of course cannot know how the GOP leadership might react if there was a major geopolitical event, but I could imagine that those in the Huckabee/Palin type space could become even MORE bloodthirsty in their rhetoric, and possibly use religious doctrine to justify their stance.

    I consider myself a spiritual person, and I am not taking a jab at religion. Like my Islamic friends who find things like Wahhabism a tortured form of Islam, many/most Christians align with the message of peace that Jesus preached. Unfortunately, there are elements within Christianity that justify all sorts of unpeaceful behavior based on tortured interpretations of passages from the Bible. IMO.

    Put under stress, I could imagine this neocon-led element to become even more ascendant, esp. in the GOP. If they become even more polarizing than they are now, I could imagine a GOP schism, as Bast suggests.

    (I recognize that the CP tends to be non-interventionist. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.)

    As for being “viable,” I’m not sure what that might mean. Personally, I’d like to see the LP become more relevant and less theoretical. What comes of that in terms of viability is written in the stars. 😉 Put the best product we can out there, market it, and with a little luck people buy it.

    Who knows, we might even create a category killer! Politics is like a business in that way. IMO.

  26. Ross

    Red, I think it would be more relevant if he were commenting on something specific. But to me it just looks like the same drivel that comes from partisan Democrats and Republicans all the time.

  27. paulie

    First, because he runs a blog called RedState. Second, because he has a history of being a hyper-partisan in the past. And third, because he has a history of suppressing dissenting voices. He famously banned Ron Paul supporters from RedState

    Red State…like USSR? LOL

  28. Burbulous

    The way a third-party type movement can succeed is to take over one of the two major parties — by filling up the party structure, winning internal elections, running its candidates in primaries, and then using the party structure to win those primaries.

    This is what the right wing has successfully done to the old Republican Party. Around 1978 they wised up to their pointless wasted energy and repeated failures to create the George Wallace party, the AIP, a national Conservative Party, a John Birch party, and others. None of those got more than a few percent of the vote — and only helped to elect liberals in tight races.

    Credit these guys for being more strategic and just plain smarter, starting back then, than the left still is now. Sigh.

    Ralph Nader still won’t admit that he brought us George Bush’s America, in exchange for nothing at all; where is Nader’s party today?

  29. paulie

    Ralph Nader still won’t admit that he brought us George Bush’s America, in exchange for nothing at all;

    He did no such thing.

    where is Nader’s party today?

    Nader has always been an independent. In his ’96 and ’00 races he was endorsed by the Green Party. In ’04 and ’08 he wasn’t. He never joined.

    The Green Party still exists and ran different candidates in 2004 and 2008. They have also run candidates for other offices, and in some cases won at the local level.

  30. Bill Wood

    George Wallace, I thought he ran as a Democrat 3 times for President, his 4th time as a different party.

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