Against the Nay-Sayers: Countering the Stock Arguments for the Two-Party State

Proponents of third party and independent politics are certainly familiar with the most common arguments against third party and independent political activism forwarded by partisans of the two-party state.  Last week at Poli-Tea, I published an article that considered five of these arguments, and provided links to previous posts aimed at their refutation.  From Poli-Tea:

As election day approaches we are likely to see proponents of the two-party state publish more and more articles railing against third party and independent voting, against third party and independent candidates for office and against third party and independent politics as such.  Any thoroughgoing analysis of the ideology that underpins the two-party state would eventually have to produce a taxonomy of the duopolist ideologue’s arguments against third party and independent political activism.  Longtime readers of Poli-Tea might recall any number of posts detailing the inconsistencies and weaknesses of the most common arguments put forward by partisan Democrats and Republicans when they seek to dissuade others from building a viable opposition to the tyranny of the Democratic-Republican two-party state.  For example:

the historical argument states that because many third party and independent candidates have been unsuccessful in the past, they will never be successful in the future
the tautological argument states that third party and independent candidates will never win an election because we have a two-party system
the spoiler argument presumes that a vote for a third party or independent candidate is a wasted vote
the procedural argument states that third party and independent candidates cannot win elections because the rules of the game are rigged against them
• the hysterical alarmist argument states that there is no time to build a third party or independent political movement because if we don’t vote for a Democrat or Republican in the next election, we’re all going to die
• and so on . . .

It might be rather interesting to construct a psycho-political profile of the duopolist ideologue from these various arguments.  One might easily conclude, for instance, that the proponent of the two-party state is:

• an historical determinist, a fatalist even;
• incapable of independently-minded critique of the antiquated institutional forms that dominate our politics;
• a reactionary eager to prop up the ruling party-political establishment;
• always on the lookout for a means of rationalizing his unwillingness or inability to declare his independence from the politics of the two-party state;
• a perennial political apocalypticist, without a historical sense
• and so on . . .

It may be helpful to keep these potential traits in mind when countering the ideologues of the two-party state.  The onslaught of 2010 is already in full swing.

Read the rest.  Anyone familiar with other common talking points against third party and independent political activism?  Jot them down in the comments along with your favorite counter-arguments.

3 thoughts on “Against the Nay-Sayers: Countering the Stock Arguments for the Two-Party State

  1. Gene Berkman

    The historical argument against third party voting is strongest in the case of Presidential elections. Since 1852, every President has been elected as a Democrat or Republican. In that same period, scores of third party or independent candidates have been elected to Congress, the US Senate and to Governorships.

    People will vote for an outsider candidate, even a “radical” that they know in their community, but they will not vote for someone they have never heard of to hold the immense power of the Presidency.

    Many of these issues are dealt with in another article @ Poli-Tea on The Cult of the Executive: http://politeaparty.blogspot.com/2009/10/two-party-system-and-cult-of-executive.html

    Even if they lose, third party candidates for Congress almost invariably get a higher percentage of the vote than third party candidates for President. Then our opponents point to low vote totals for the Presidential candidate, and say “your party always loses.”

    We need to start in our communities and our counties before our alternative parties can effectively challenge the two party system.

  2. d.eris

    “We need to start in our communities and our counties.”

    Indeed, but ballot access law creates a lot of problems on this score. It incentivizes third parties to run candidates for higher offices, that they know they are very unlikely to win, in order to surpass the threshold to assure the ballot line for later candidates for lower offices. Nader lost in 2000, but he won ballot access for the Greens in Massachusetts for years going forward. Similar arguments can be made for gubernatorial elections. Waste of resources to run a campaign you’re very unlikely to win, but gaining ballot access is a good investment.

    Obviously, Democrat and Republican lawmakers seem to have made gaining ballot access difficult in this way on purpose, but the system also provokes third parties to run what they call spoiler candidates! It’s really a ridiculous situation.

  3. Gene Berkman

    Aactually I favor statewide campaigns. They can get access to media that is unavailable to local campaigns, and they can guarantee ballot access.

    None of the alternative parties is capable of moving from the scale of a state-wide campaign to a meaningful national challenge of the two-party system.

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