Monday, December 05, 2005

Weak New York Political Parties

I spent much of the weekend pondering the events of last week's GOP unravelling, and then comparing it to what happened to the NY Democratic party when Al D'Amato was effectively running the state (even Cuomo had to cut a bargain with D'Amato to keep his office).

Imagine my surprise this morning to find out that I was not the only one wondering what the future of politics in NY is going to be:
It's time for changes in NY party lines

Dan Janison

December 5, 2005

Sixty-eight years ago, Democrat Jeremiah Mahoney racked up 890,756 votes for mayor, but lost in a record landslide to Republican Fiorello LaGuardia.

Last month, Republican Michael Bloomberg drew only 753,089 votes, but basks in the glow of what some compare to LaGuardia's romp of 1937.

How? Simple. Two of three registered voters sat out the election.

The city in 2005 saw 1,315,360 ballots cast for Bloomberg, Fernando Ferrer, Tom Ognibene and everyone else - combined. The total includes dozens of write-ins, whose names, as soberly certified by the Board of Elections, included Serpico, William Clinton, Jesus Christ, Bella Abzug and Daffy Duck.

Compare that to 1937, when an astounding 2,300,220 people voted. And the city then had as many as a million fewer residents than it does today. All by himself, LaGuardia that year garnered 1,344,630 votes, according to figures dug up by consultant Joe Mercurio.

Even if you suspect that many more of the dead were voting back in the old days, the contrast is glaring.

The city's depressed turnout is nothing unique. Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, also glided to re-election Nov. 8 as about one in three local voters showed up. And Nassau even had some added drama that led to the ouster of a veteran Republican district attorney.

Because New York is one of those rare states that grows its own minor parties, perhaps it is time to found a few new ballot lines that will restore participation by marketing and better reflecting the diverse moods of voters.
Now, Janison in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, goes on to name several, um, narrow-focus parties.

But he has a point: in New York State there is an effective mechanism for giving a minor party a fair shot at ballot access and matching funds access. What's really odd is, those few parties that have accomplished this not-mean feat have seemingly squandered an opportunity to get an effective message across.

I'm thinking in particular of the Working Families Party, of course. You'd think a party that describes itself as "grassroots, community and labor based" would be a slam-dunk to gather some political heat in a state where labor unions have a very strong hold, especially in the civil service sectors.

Apparently not. They've merely assumed the mantle that the old Liberal Party in New York once claimed: a mirror for the Democratic candidates to appear on TWO party lines (with some exceptions) on the ballot, thus negating the Republican/Conservative duopoly (and make it that much more confusing for voters).

One wonders what it would take to combine organized labor, suburban family voters and young urbanites into a cohesive party that would stick together on social issues like gay marriage and fiscal issues like property tax relief (as well as an equitable distribution of income tax relief for city residents who provide essential services for commuters).

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