Third Parties

by Henry Farrell on November 2, 2004

“Mark Schmitt”: on the appeal of third parties:

bq. Finally, a less-predictable endorsement, for all of you in New York: Please vote for your candidates on the Working Families Party line, Row E. You don’t live in a battleground state, and your votes for Kerry and Schumer may not have much immediate impact on the outcome of those races. But you can make a difference by supporting the idea of an independent political organization that is aligned with the Democratic Party when its values are right, and not when they aren’t. For example, Working Families enabled an alternative to the Democratic nominee in the special election for City Council in Brooklyn last spring, who ultimately won, and Working Families offers alternatives to the corrupt system of judicial selection in Brooklyn. Further, when the labor and community activists of the Working Families Party can approach, for example, Senator Clinton and point out that the number of votes she received on their line was greater than her margin of victory, that’s a message that no ordinary constituency group can deliver. WFP is only five years old, and it’s still in many ways an experiment. If it works, perhaps we’ll see interest in other states in opening up to “fusion” parties — those that can endorse Democrats or Republicans sometimes, or their own candidates if they need to. This is a reform that will dramatically open up the electoral system and also create strong, modern organizations of the type that are winning this election for Kerry. Voting on the Working Families line sends a message to the New York political system, and also beyond.



Ken Houghton 11.02.04 at 2:29 pm

I think it was Eric Alterman said the same thing in 2000 or 2002.

It was correct then, and it’s correct now.


jonathan 11.02.04 at 4:37 pm

As a New York resident, I’ve been a strong supporter of WFP since its inception. Thanks for the reminder as I prepare to hike to Brooklyn to cast my ballot.


leppojoove 11.02.04 at 4:56 pm

That is one thing I really miss about voting in NY (I grew up in NY but I’ve lived in Ohio for the last seven years) — there are more than two parties in NY, and it was nice to vote for the Democratic candidates on the Liberal line (now replaced more or less by the Working Families Party). That way I could be an idealist and a realist at the same time, by showing my displeasure with the Democrats, but still voting for the best realistic candidate available.

In Ohio, there’s only one party, plus a group that shows up for a few weeks at election time that calls itself the Democratic Party. (Does this Eric Fingerhut guy really exist?)


fyreflye 11.02.04 at 4:57 pm

If Kerry wins the electoral college but comes up short in the popular vote (not as unlikely as you may think) those WFP votes will have enabled a claim of “illegitimacy” that the Republicans will be flogging for the next four years. Kerry needs every vote everywhere.


Matt Weiner 11.02.04 at 5:08 pm

Fyrelyfe, I think the point is that a vote on the WFP line is a vote for Kerry (and Schumer). New York is one of the few states that allows fusion ticketing, where a candidate can appear on more than one party’s line.


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a 11.02.04 at 5:57 pm

You know, at leat in upstate New York, the Independence and Conservative parties have, as far as I’ve seen, split their endorsements between third candidates and the two majors. I remember in Ulster County there was a four month-long negotiatiations as to which slate of candidates the Conservatives’d back


Louis Proyect 11.02.04 at 6:05 pm

The Working Families Party is a gussied up version of the discredited Liberal Party. It simply exists to provide an alternative ballot line for Democrats. If it were a serious third party challenge, it would be subjected to the Orwellian hate campaign being mounted against Ralph Nader this year.


Uncle Kvetch 11.02.04 at 6:22 pm

The Working Families Party is a gussied up version of the discredited Liberal Party.

That’s completely untrue. There’s no relationship between the two. The WFP was formed by various New York state chapters of the now-dormant New Party. It was able to finally displace the Liberal party from the ballot because it has a bona fide grassroots organization, whereas the Liberal “Party” was essentially a patronage machine.


R J Keefe 11.02.04 at 7:18 pm

By sheer chance, I glanced at this post a minute before I walked out the door to vote.Great idea!

I was surprised that WFP hadn’t proposed an alternative to Pete Grannis, our Yorkville Assemblyman. I have always voted for him, and I have nothing against him, but Liz Krueger (our State Senator and Joan of Arc) he ain’t.


Anticorium 11.02.04 at 8:00 pm

the Orwellian hate campaign being mounted against Ralph Nader

By this, I can only assume you refer to the Democrats cruelly refusing to let Ralph get onto state ballots, even though he clearly has in his hand a petition signed by Donald Duck eighteen thousand times.


JPed 11.02.04 at 8:42 pm

Are you saying cartoon characters don’t have a right to vote? Or was your point that he should have been registered in Chicago, where voter fraud is a sacred tradition?


harry 11.02.04 at 9:26 pm

bq. let Ralph get onto state ballots, even though he clearly has in his hand a petition signed by Donald Duck eighteen thousand times.

In Wisconsin, the Dems put a lot of money and effort into getting him off the ballot, despite the fact that doing so will disadvantage Dems in close races, and desptie the fact that it was pretty clear from the beginning that there was nothing untoward about his qualifications; only partisan control of the judiciary would have won it for them. They are displaying an ‘any means necessary’ mentality. In doing so they, ironically, have opened themselves up to reasonable-sounding attacks from Republicans who can paint them as not really interested in wide participation and democracy (as they like to say they are). They have probably lost some votes among moderates. They have not, in the end, succeeded, to the probable relief of some of their candidates who, in close races, will be glad of the voters Nader brings out (who will vote for them as well as Nader).

The WFP simply faces the straightforward problem of all third parties in fusion states — once you get influential they’ll try to absorb you. It will not be attacked, but not because its not a real thrid party, but because in fusion states third parties aren’t spoilers unless they try to be. Once they field candidates *against* Dems they will face exactly the same opposition Nader has.

BTW, I’m not pro-Nader. But the Dems can get off their high horse about purity when attacing Republicans.

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