The New York Times discovers a problem: Too many political parties

By Patrick Martin
3 October 2015

Thursday’s New York Times carried an editorial making the remarkable discovery that there are “Too Many Parties on the Ballot in New York.”

The editorial complains: “New York State has two big political parties—Democratic and Republican—on its ballot as well as an assortment of smaller parties. That might seem harmless, but in the strange, convoluted netherworld of New York politics, a lot of the minor parties are useless and mysterious. They clog the ballot, warp the debate and confuse the voters.”

The nominal target of the editorial is the fusion voting system, peculiar to the state of New York, where candidates can appear on the ballot lines of several parties, and the votes received on each line are combined into a single total. Last year, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared on the Democratic, Working Families, Independence and Women’s Equality Party lines. His Republican opponent appeared on the Republican, Conservative and Stop Common Core Party lines.

The Republican Party is now seeking to disqualify the Women’s Equality Party, and the Times editorial is a declaration in favor of this campaign. The newspaper argues, “[T]heir challenge to the Women’s Equality Party is just and makes sense; it was a fake party to begin with.”

There is no question that the fusion voting system is affected by the political corruption and horse-trading for which New York state politics is well known. The Working Families Party, for example, was created by a section of the unions with the support of pseudo-left groups. It endorses right-wing Democrats like Cuomo because the votes cast for Cuomo on the WFP line allow it to retain ballot status as an asset in future elections. The union officials offer access to that line to selected Democrats in return for political favors, while occasionally running WFP candidates to keep up the pretense of “independence.”

Bourgeois politics is equally corrupt, however, in states that have no such multi-party system. Moreover, the corruption in New York state does not arise from the fusion system, but is rooted in the sordid connections between politicians of “the two big political parties” (to use the language of the Times) and real estate and financial interests that profit from state contracts, ranging from construction to the issuing of bonds. The latest editorial is only part of a long record of opposition on the part of the Times to any challenge to the political monopoly exercised by the Democrats and the Republicans. Indeed, as the language of Thursday’s screed suggests, the editors can barely contain their revulsion at the prospect of the voters being offered any alternative to the two-party system. The editorial concludes with the wish that the “extraneous parties” should “simply disappear.”

One would think, from the strident language of the editorial, that New York voters were confronted with 100 parties that divided the vote among them into tiny segments, rather than with a political monopoly exercised by two right-wing, pro-corporate parties that agree on the defense of big business and concentrated wealth. The Democrats and Republicans truly are the parties of the one percent, while the vast majority of the population goes entirely unrepresented.

The political problem facing working people in New York, as throughout the United States, is that the entire electoral system is rigged against them. Working class political parties in particular, like the Socialist Equality Party and its predecessor, the Workers League, face onerous requirements for obtaining ballot status, involving the collection of vast numbers of signatures on petitions which are then reviewed by officeholders of the Democratic and Republican parties who use every possibile technicality to keep our names and our candidates off the ballot.

The Times attacks even a glimmer of a political alternative for working people. As the authoritative spokesman for the liberal wing of the capitalist ruling class, it senses the mounting threat from below, the seething mass social discontent, and it reacts with an acute class instinct to insist that any opening for an independent political movement of the working class be suppressed.