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The Political Decapitation Of New York’s Third Parties

You have heard Black Westchester discuss the importance of third parties in our local, county, state and national politics. For too long the two party system has had a stranglehold on the political process. In strong Democratic cities like Mount Vernon, even the Republican party cannot compete or successfully run a candidate for local office because they are greatly outnumbered. This is one of the major reasons for the Democratic Party taking the Black Vote for granted for far too long.

Now I expect to loss some of the leaders of the major parties and the voters that are blindly loyal to them. But I speak for the people and I believe the people deserve choices.

American electoral politics has been dominated by two major political parties since shortly after the founding of the republic. Since the 1850s, they have been the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Since the last major party realignment in the mid-20th century, the Democratic Party has been the center-left and liberal party, and the Republican Party has been the center-right and conservative party. What if voters do not like either candidate, the two major parties nominate.

What is the answer, the emergence of third parties? The Independence Party, The Working Family Party, The Conservative Party, The Green Party, The Serve America Movement Party also known as SAM, The Libertarian Party are just a few of the 50-plus Third (Minor) Parties in the nation.

Third party is a term used in the United States for American political parties other than the Republican and Democratic parties. Sometimes the phrase “minor party” is used instead of third party. These parties give viable candidates a chance to run candidates they feel are more inline with their agenda and values.

I think another answer is Open Primaries, where every registered voter can have a say in who has the privilege to run in the General Election instead of just who won the party primaries.

An open primary is a primary election that does not require voters to be affiliated with a political party in order to vote for partisan candidates. In a traditional open primary, voters may select one party’s ballot and vote for that party’s nomination. As in a closed primary, the highest voted candidate in each party then proceeds to the general election. In a nonpartisan blanket primary, all candidates appear on the same ballot and the two highest voted candidates proceed to the runoff election, regardless of party affiliation. The constitutionality of this system was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2008, whereas a partisan blanket primary was previously ruled to be unconstitutional in 2000.

But Open Primaries is a subject for a future editorial, let’s get back to the importance of the Third Parties and what appears to be a political decapitation to take them out.

Now for years, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and some Democratic leaders have had an antagonistic relationship with the left-leaning Working Families Party, a labor-backed group whose increasing influence and independence have only widened the divide, the New York Times reported.

Many believe since the Working Family Party supported Cynthia Ellen Nixon, an activist and actress – most known for her portrayal of Miranda Hobbes in the HBO series, Sex and the City – against Cuomo in the Democratic Primary in 2018, the governor and state leaders decided to expand a public campaign financing commission’s authority — giving it a mandate to rewrite election laws affecting smaller political parties — the independent party’s leaders feared the worst.

On Monday, Nov. 25, 2019 their concerns were realized: The commission approved a slew of changes that will make it harder for political third parties to survive in New York, leaving four parties falling short to meet the state’s new requirements. As of now, only the Working Families Party and Conservative Party garnered enough support to keep their ballot lines past the end of this year. 

“The choice of the NYS Democratic machine to make such a decision does imply that it regards the Third Parties, as a meaningful threat,” Barbara Kidney, Chair and founding member of the Hudson Valley Green Party (HVGP) comprising Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties (Westchester does not currently have an official affiliate chapter of GPNY) shared with Black Westchester. “If it didn’t, why bother to take definitive measures to silence us? So that obvious implication is rather flattering, and indicative of our success to date.”

By a 6-3 vote, the commission voted that in order for political parties to maintain a guaranteed line on the state ballot, they must draw either 2 percent — or 130,000 votes — of the general election vote for governor or president every two years. In 2018, the Conservative Party was the only third party to receive more than 130,000 votes in the New York governor’s race.

Before the commission’s changes only 50,000 votes were required every four years, during the governor’s race, was required to allow multiple smaller parties on both ends of the political spectrum to qualify for state ballots. Should a third party fail to garner the required number of votes, it can still regain a ballot line for a candidate through petitions.

But the commission agreed to make that process harder, too: It voted to raise the number of signatures required to petition onto the ballot to 45,000, from 15,000. This is the beginning of the political decapitation of NY Third Parties.

The Green Party who ran Howie Hawkins in the 2020 Presidential election only received 397,666 votes which was 0.25% of the overall vote, obviously did not make the cut.

“I’m not terribly surprised by the injustice of one person, a Democrat– ironic label, given this most undemocratic decision– deciding for all the citizens of the state what the criteria for party ballot status will be,” shared Barbara Kidney, who is also the NYS rep to the National Committee of GPUS and a member of the GPUS Women’s Caucus and NYS Greens for Peace Action. “To set criteria as 2% of the vote for the presidential election, in this election, when the electorate has been primed to vote for either Trump or Biden, would make it incredibly difficult for any other presidential candidate to garner 2% of the votes, particularly in the absence of Ranked Choice Voting, particularly for a party like ours, which as a matter of principle refuses any corporate donations. Consequently, the GP has minuscule funds compared to the GOP and Democrats.”

While their candidates for President of the United States and Congress have little chance of being elected, America’s third political parties have historically played a major role in bringing about sweeping social, cultural, and political reform. They can also play major role in local politics.

The latest move isn’t the first attempt of political decapitation of NYS Third Parties, that we covered. In June 2014 the a judge ruled that Rob Astorino, the Republican Westchester county executive and candidate for governor, threatened to “decapitate” party leadership in a bid to win the Independence Party’s support as he ran for re-election in Westchester the year before. The  judge has ordered the removal of 4000 associates and family members of former Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who sought and received the Independence Party endorsement in 2003 and 2009 when he ran against incumbent CE Andy Spano. This was the first time I had heard of the term Political Decapitation. In 2018 the two major parties remixed the game plan and simply made it harder for the third parties to compete by rewriting election law.

Damon Jones and I even tried to break up one-party control in heavily Democratic Mount Vernon in 2015, by becoming chairman and treasurer of the city Independence Party, respectively. With the death of the County Chairman, Dr. Giulio Cavallo, the presence of the Independence Party in Westchester County has since dwindled. But Frank MacKay, Chairman of the NY State Independence Party says running candidates locally will be easier and the party will be able to compete in the 2022 Governor’s race. MacKay feels they will start 2023 in it’s strongest position in over a decade, despite the new state regulations.

“The slate of candidates that the Independence Party will run in 2021 will achieve ballot access through a different petition process than ever before,” Mr. MacKay shared with Black Westchester. “Strangely enough, qualifying these candidates will be a much easier task for all Town & County races in the state. Our challenge will come in 2022 when our first statewide candidates will need to fulfill the newly increased requirements for NY State offices. That being said, we are completely confident that we will have the proper funding in order to field respected & recognized names for the positions of Governor & Lt. Governor in 2022. In all sincerity, the Independence Party sees 2022 as a “reset” and we expect to start 2023 in a stronger position in more than a decade.”

While the following is far from all of the recognized third parties in American politics, the Libertarian, Reform, Green, and Constitution Parties are usually the most active in presidential elections. Locally in New York State and Westchester County it was the Independence party that made a major difference supporting the candidate they believed in from the two major parties and in many case being the difference between winning and losing.

The Working Family Party has since emerged as the Minor Party to take serious. We interviewed the new New York Working Family Party State Director Sochie Nnaemeka, Sunday, October 4, 2020 to talk about her new position, breaking the the two-party duopoly that is that is killing American democracy, the importance of Third parties and how they play a relevant role in American politics and much more, click link above to hear the interview.

The Working Families Party is leading the fight for social, racial, and economic justice in New York state. By pushing for progressive legislation and by also training, recruiting and supporting progressive leaders to run for office, they have formed a unique bridge between progressive activism and electoral success. Again some believe the new state regulations was retaliation for the WFP supporting Cynthia Nixon against him.

“New York’s progressive movement is stronger than ever,” WFP State Director Sochie Nnaemeka said in a statement. She called the party’s apparent success at maintaining its ballot access “a victory for our party and our movement.”

What I find most interesting is the two parties who hold congressional hearing to break up monopolies are in fact trying to succeed as one, protecting their position by making it harder for minor parties to exist. By killing off your competition you are becoming the most dangerous monopoly. I guess the correct word would be a duopoly in NY state, but the Dems have made themselves a monopoly in Westchester County, especially in cities like Mount Vernon, where they strongly outnumber Republicans.

The current ruling two-party duopoly is so ubiquitous that we take it as a given. We teach the “two-party system” in government classes. Taxpayers pay for their primary elections, notwithstanding that legally, parties are private associations. We have allowed the two ruling parties to institutionalize themselves in our political and governing systems. They get preferential ballot access and legislative committee assignments and campaign finance laws are rigged in their favor . . . . just to name a few of the advantages they are afforded.

Did you know, just before the end of his second term, George Washington – who never was not a member of a political party – wrote a letter to his “friends and fellow-citizens.”  It was published in newspapers throughout the country and later came to be known as his Farewell Address. Nearly a third of Washington’s address is devoted to warning his fledging country about the dangers of political parties and encouraging his fellow citizens to never allow political parties to gain control of the government. 

Donald Trump has helped further divided the country right down the middle of the two parties lines. And the 2018 ruling shows that the two parties will do whatever it takes to remain in control at any cost, even it if it means stamping out the minor party that dare to stand up and offer the people more choices.

The importance of both political third parties and open primaries are a threat to the duopoly – the stranglehold the Dems and GOP have on the system – because they give all the voters a voice and a choice. They give voters a choice to not have to select the lesser of two evils – a popular phrase used by members of both parties – and will allow all voices to be heard. They can only get away with the political decapitation of the politician third parties if you the voter allow it.

As always we welcome and even encourage feedback from all our readers, whether you agree or disagree. We want to hear from all of you. Leave you thoughts and feedback on the topic at hand below in the comment section.

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About AJ Woodson (2278 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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