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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Do We Work Within The Two Party System?

Okay- discussion point for the week: should American libertarians[1] work within the confines of the two party system and operate through the Republican Party for instance, in order to achieve an ideal government?

Or should we seek out third parties like the Libertarian Party and Constitution Party? Or ought we to stay entirely outside the purview of partisan politics altogether and simply focus on educating people about the principles they have forgotten (or- more likely- have never been taught)?

[1] Note the small "l" - I use this word to denote those who believe in the principles of liberty, whether they style themselves liberals, conservatives, or something else altogether)


  1. Well, I can't speak for others, of course, but my husband and I always vote for any candidate that has Libertarian ideals. They used to be Republicans but I think that party is now lost too (just like the Dem's). Therefore, I believe that henceforth, we will vote only Libertarian or Constitutional Party. Either one works for me.

    (I'm here because of the 'advertisement' on Left Coast Rebel's blog. Your blog is the RIGHT stuff too. :)

  2. I believe that working within the GOP is the best action. It is always easier to reform than to build up a party within a system geared against the rise of 3rd parties.

    The complaint by many is "The Republicans won't give us a fair shot; it's to hard." may be hard, but it is a cakewalk compared to building a viable 3rd party. If we don't have the will to work within the established parties, we sure don't have the will to see victory outside the party structure.

    Let me make this clear: We should not vote for Republicans that betray our principles, but we should work within the party to put up candidates we can be proud of.

  3. I believe the country needs a multi party system in which the executive must form a coalition to govern and can be removed with a vote of no confidence by the congress. Essentially a Parliamentarian system of government.

    Our two party system is corrupt and mutually self supporting. Whether it be democrats or republicans in the majority the end result will be the same. The only difference being the rapidity of the eventual socialist/statist takeover of our entire system.

    So my vote goes to libertarians running as libertarians and constitutionalists running as constitutionalits and socialist running as socialist etc. Perhaps then we would know who and what we are voting for.

  4. Sparky- Thanks! Now I'm just playing "devil's advocate" here for the sake of exploring the question thoroughly:

    1) What do you say to people who think that you are "throwing away your vote" by voting for a party that "will never win?"

    2) What do you think about Daryl's argument?

    3) Would you vote for a Republican or Democrat who had what you considered libertarian credentials?

    Daryl- So you wouldn't agree with the assertion that the two-party system is itself intrinsically abhorrent to liberty, and necessarily the vehicle of continued state expansion and tyranny?

    Rational Nation- As Daryl argues, there are some seemingly insurmountable obstacles to that strategy. What particular operational and tactical maneuvers should we libertarians employ to create a viable third party?

  5. 1) In answer to the first question, ask them to name any election where one vote mattered. Ever.

    2) The problem with the republicans is that they are in bed with the democrats. It is one elite getting the spoils instead of another. The whole system needs an overhaul. Show me a republican president or congress that ever had the federal government shrink under their watch. Under Reagan the federal government grew. Start looking and start giving up on them.

    3) I would, even though I think political parties are anti democratic and should be abolished.

    Its not an either or proposition though. It isn't should we work with the republicans, should I educate people, should we work on a new party? All those have merit and there is no reason to eschew any of them

  6. I disagree with the third party idea. If there are a majority of people that do believe in conservative/libertarian ideals, then why start a third party? Why not simply retake one of the two existing one's? Supposedly, that is what progressives have done, so logically, it should not be crazy for the opposite to occur.

    Strategically, consolidating conservative/libertarian ideals into a third party paints these movements with a big red bulls eye and allows both sides to attack it and discredit it while it is weak and infantile. Progressive thought has shown just how effective the strategy of working within the party can be.

    "Or ought we to stay entirely outside the purview of partisan politics altogether and simply focus on educating people about the principles they have forgotten (or- more likely- have never been taught)?"

    I believe this is the better option. The problem is not the people in power, but the lemmings that have been created in the wake of the progressive movement. I have long argued that the real arena is not a political one, but an ideological one. One does not need to make abortion illegal, we need to convince people to stop having them. The same is true with any political goal. We don't need to establish a third party, but stop the popularity of socialist candidates.

  7. Talleyrand- You are quite correct that one vote simply doesn't count in an election as large as that which occurs on a state and national level.

    I would say however, that groups of people voting together does make a difference, and your one vote does help contribute to the aggregate.

    So if a candidate is worth spending your time putting together "mobs" of people through activism and campaigning, then applying your vote towards that mob is rational, and worthwhile, and wins elections.

    As for this statement: "Its not an either or proposition though," I have to say I like that answer very much.


    Conservative Generation- I agree whole-heartedly that the most fundamental task is awakening hearts and minds (always beginning with our own).

    As for working in the party system, you make a great point about the "progressives" (regressives- more like) and their hijacking of the American Democrat Party.

    Then again I think everyone here has made really good points with their comments. How do we choose between them? What makes your point take precedence over Talleyrand's(?): "Show me a republican president or congress that ever had the federal government shrink under their watch."

  8. C-gen has a salient point above and one that we as libertarians and true conservatives must take heed of.

    Progressive thought has shown just how effective the strategy of working within the party can be.

    And that is why I would vote for 100% support for the liberty-minded GOP candidate and remain leery of 3rd parties, though I am completely understanding of the temptation of such.

    If socialist-statists can hijack the entire Democrat party then why can't their antithesis counterpart do the same in the confines of the GOP.

    Also, primaries are crucial for the liberty candidate in the Republican party. It is during this process that we can best flex our muscles and make more of a difference than 'merelely one vote'.

    Great topic Wes.

  9. Republicans have lost their way, but the majority of them don't believe in the radical ideology and infringement on a persons liberty and freedom, as do the Democrats. Plus, if you divide the conservative base that pretty much guarantees that Obama gets elected next time around. There are some fresh new faces up and coming that are running in the 2010 election cycle that do believe in the core principles of conservatism.

  10. Left Coast Rebel & Teresa: This being the case, what can we- who stay active and involved in the Republican Party- do to make absolutely sure that we don't just elect more "country club" Republicans who vote for bailouts and unconstitutional expansions of Federal power?

    What can we do to make absolutely sure that instead of getting the lesser of two evils, we start getting positively good candidates in office?

  11. Party names are just party names. This country has gone through so many political changes and consequently, party names, that I think it's important we look beyond the title and into the men and women we vote for. Is it important that we stick to our titled belief system(Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Conservative etc.) or stick to our beliefs and vote accordingly. Unfortunately, you can no longer trust that your party will uphold what it stands for, instead you must make your decision on voting records(and I say voting records because that's the only evidence of a politicians word).

    Case in point, Ron Paul: he ran under the Republican banner, but his voting record and belief system was decidedly Libertarian. Would you ignore him in an effort to boycott the incredibly corrupt Republican and Democrat parties or look closer to see that he represents your beliefs too? On the flip side, is Michael Badnarik, who ran against Bush and Kerry in the 2004 election, under the Libertarian party. He was arrested for attempting to attend a debate, which he should have been able to debate his opinion with the other parties(by which I mean the Republican and Democrat parties), but wasn't permitted. Don't we want a leader who will fight to have the truth heard and votes for freedom?

    Does your vote matter? No. The media will pick and choose which campaigners to support and broadcast them in surplus while all but ignoring the ones they disagree with. Does your vote matter? If not, why not vote for the man or woman you want? Will you just shrug your shoulders against the wind and vote with the herd? If we always quit the race before it's finished, we will never win.

    So again is the question which party? Or which person?


  12. The Republican and Democratic Parties do not stand for, but rather against the very notions of freedom and liberty. Voting for and continuing to support the Democratic and Republican Parties is tantamount to ensuring our own continued servitude. There is no question as to whether or not people who believe in liberty should work within the two-party system. The two-party system is hostile to liberty.

  13. Ideas, principals, a proper philosophy of governance, and integrity are all things lacking in both major parties. Admittedly there are some, such as Ron Paul, that do have these values but they are in the minority.

    The major parties very structure work against any candidate that attempts to run within the party structure (Ron Paul)and get elected on the national level ie; presidential.

    If the Libertarian Party (or any other) can find an effective method of attracting people with independent mindsets to the party and work to elect them to legislative and senatorial seats within state government the process will have started.

    State government, including governorships, are stepping stones to the national level. By focusing early efforts on building grassroots
    support for a third party at the local and state level eventually the impact will be felt nationally.

    To do this is without a doubt a huge and daunting task. However the alternative of working "within the existing system" will ultimately render more of the same.

    If I am not mistaken the last time an effective leader attempted to effect change within the republican party it was short lived. I believe that being the Reagan years. We ended up as a party 20 years later more corrupt and less effective than we ever were.

    What is to lead one to believe working within the republican party now will yielded lasting and meaningful results and change? Call me a cynic I guess.

  14. You pose an unnecessary dichotomy. It is possible to work on both fronts. In most states you can be a registered in a party other than the Libertarian but still be a dues paying member of the LP. Right now all third parties are crippled by laws created by the Ds and Rs to protect their duopoly. It is therefore most important that we work in non-partisan efforts like those of Fairvote ( to reform the electoral system itself. Working in such groups not only "gets your ticket punched" as we used to say, but will introduce your to other people whose ideas may be closer to your own than you think. Libertarians tend to spend too much time talking to each other. Work for the cause where ever you feel most comfortable but in doing so but don't be afraid to push your comfort envelope a bit either.

  15. The reason that the Republican party will not be taken over by anti-progressives or as C-Gen so aptly put it regressives is because doing that would mean giving up power. How many politicians want to give up power? I fear the best we can expect from Republicans in the near future is to be "yellow dog dems." It will take getting several independent conservatives or libertarians into the House, and a few into the Senate scare Repubs straight. The end result would shock the government, and the American people. This small group would be an immediate force in the Senate because nothing would pass without their support. I believe the Republican party would move towards this group politically or dissolve altogether due to inaction, leaving a Libertarian (type) Party in it's place. I really hope this happens in 2010 as I believe that the political mood is ripe fo a move away from both mainstream Republican and liberal Democrats. I believe many incumbents will go down in primaries in 2010 too. More than I have seen in my life.

  16. These are a lot of excellent thoughts. I am hopeful that with an abundance of energy, hard work, and conviction we can- as some commentators suggested- do "All of the Above" by strengthening the viability of third parties, reforming the Republican (and get this, even Democrat) Party, and changing the individual hearts and minds of Americans. At the very, very least- we are honor and duty-bound to try.

  17. I might suggest we look to history and the demise of the Whig Party, which was replaced by the Republican Party. The Whigs were torn apart from within over slavery when the anti-slavery faction actually stopped the renomination of it's own party's incumbent President. The party fractured and most of the base went to the Republican party.

    I think we are very much seeing candidates begin to come to the forefront who have more libertarian ideals than we have seen in some time. Peter Schiff and Rand Paul obviously immediately come to mind at the forefront.

    Even at the state and local levels, the energy in politics is altogether different than I can recall in my (albeit short) lifetime.

    Overall we seem to have an issue at hand that is nearly every bit as divisive as was slavery. And that is the Economy.

    If we recognize that neither the Republican Party or the Democrat Party have been stewards of honest money and a sound economy, but have rather taken turns expanding their preferred areas of big government (military on the right, social welfare on the left), then we find the wedge to drive into the fissure in the Republican Party.

    GOP faithful are still incredibly belligerent to the idea that one might ever suggest decreasing military operations. It's a debate worth having, without even concerning the middle east at all. We still have tens of thousands of troops each in Germany, Korea and Japan, and who knows where else. Many of them could easily have been reallocated to the middle east, thereby reducing demand for new troops and new expenses. It could still be done as a way of reducing military expenses.

    At some point, we have to be able to acknowledge that, while unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare are without question the biggest strains on our federal government's purse strings, War is the next biggest item. Every dime of all things beyond normal operations is funded by borrowing and monetizing the debt through the Federal Reserve.

    There is the fissure. There will be Republicans who continue on ignoring the issue of a sound economy, and there will be libertarians in the Republican Party who do not. Ultimately, the survival of the Republican Party is going to depend on how many libertarian-minded people end up in it. Otherwise, I feel they will by default fall by the wayside as did the Whigs, and the voter base will go to the Libertarian Party.

    Understanding that, I think it is important that we take a lesson from the progressives "long, slow march" through the educational system. We all complain that nobody understands or has been taught libertarian ideas, much less things like Austrian Economics. Well it's because nobody teaches it. We need a long, slow march of our own, not only through the educational systems, but through the political systems. Libertarian thought resonates with a lot of people, because it is all about common sense freedom.

    I see no reason that we cannot infiltrate BOTH parties, WHILE growing a third party that stands ready to inherit the crumbling pieces of a failing major party.

  18. If we as libertarians want to further our political fortunes, we're going to have to attack the root cause. Working from within the GOP not only means pretending we fully agree with their platform in order to see election results, it also means the libertarian party as a whole doesn't gain any ground. All we see is the occasional victory.

    The root cause is this: the Plurality election methodology (i.e. winner is he who collects the most votes) prevents any but the two most popular parties from winning consistently. In order for a 3rd party (any 3rd party) to take the place of one of the juggernauts, that juggernaut has to first implode, as did the Whigs. As must the Republicans. A simple loss of popularity will not suffice.

    We can see how often that happens.

    We need a different methodology, like Condorcet, Approval, or Range Voting. One that always elects the most preferred candidate, without regard to how many clones are running (like in the primaries), and without requiring voters to abandon their favorite in order to prevent the worst from winning.