LONSBERRY: Time to End NY Fusion Voting

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid anything containing the word “fusion.”

               My apologies to jazz fans, restaurateurs and the occasional crank physicist, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

               Especially in politics, and especially in New York.

               In New York, “fusion voting” is an interesting practice in which one political party will endorse the candidate of another – cross endorsement writ large. In 47 states, it’s illegal. In New York, it’s insidious.

               And maybe it’s going to go away.

               In the newly Democrat-controlled state legislature, party purists are pushing back and hoping to end fusion voting.

               Here’s hoping they’re successful.

               Here’s how it works.

               The New York political world is divided into Democrats and Republicans. Each major party is like a giant shark followed by various little sucker fish that survive off its scraps.

               The Democrats have the Working Families Party and variously named ad hoc parties created for the needs of an election cycle or two. The Republicans have the Conservative Party and the Right to Life Party and sometimes the Independence Party.

               Which would be great, if there were as many candidates as there are parties. That would provide variety and choice, and break the stranglehold of the major parties’ bosses.

               But that’s not how it usually works.

               Usually, the little sucker-fish parties endorse the candidates of their respective giant-shark parties. In last year’s gubernatorial election, two minor parties endorsed the Democrat candidate and two other minor parties endorsed the Republican candidate.

               In situations like that, the minor parties are rubber stamps on the decisions of major-party bosses.

               And they are that because they want to feed on the political scraps. They want to carve for themselves a piece of the pork pie that is New York’s political system. They get favors, jobs, infusions of cash.

               And the voters get played.

               Defenders of the sucker-fish parties say that running a Republican on, say, the Independence line allows a Democrat who could never vote on the Republican line to nonetheless vote for a Republican candidate.

               Which is a stupid assertion.

               Anyone who is so hidebound by partisan labels that they can vote for John Doe as a Working Families candidate but not as a Democrat candidate is too dumb to vote.

               The system needs to be flushed.

               The biggest reason being that in too many situations the sucker-fish parties end up being the brains and the manipulators of the giant-shark parties. By playing a game of endorsement barter, parties with meager enrollment can end up determining who gets to be a major-party candidate and who doesn’t.

               That violates the principle of “one man – one vote” and empowers the petty tyrants and political adventurers who run the sucker-fish parties.

               The Democrats have problems with minor parties which provide cover for candidates who back-stab the Democrat agenda. The Republicans have problems with minor parties which take over everything from judicial races to congressional contests.

               In the New York state Senate, the turncoat Independent Democrat Caucus was propped up for years minor-party support. In Monroe County politics, judgeships and Republican congressional nominations are owned by the Conservative Party’s chairman.

               And none of that is right.

               There’s a reason almost nobody else does it this way – because it’s corrupt and illogical.

               The Democrat hotheads in the Assembly and Senate are right. It’s time to break the stranglehold minor parties have on New York politics.

               End fusion voting, end cross endorsements.

               If you’re going to be a political party, run your own candidate. If you’re going to be a candidate, be on the ballot line of one party.

               New York voter turnout is among the lowest in the country, because voting in New York is meaningless. Because the candidates are typically dolts produced by a corrupt system of endorsements and cross endorsements that taints every candidacy with loyalty to bossism big and small.

               Disempower the petty despots in the sucker-fish parties and stop the backroom deals.

               And make the minor parties, if they are going to exist, exist for some reason other than the enrichment of their bosses.

               If you need to be an independent party standing for some philosophy or some cause, then get a candidate who uniquely represents that philosophy or cause. That would provide choice at the ballot box. If the best you can do is point to a major party and say its candidate is good enough, then you serve no purpose and should go away.

               If the Working Families Party is the Democrat rubber stamp, get rid of it. If the Conservative Party is the Republican rubber stamp, get rid of it.

               The Green Party and the Libertarian Party – with their own candidates – are real parties. The Conservative Party and the Independence Party – which typically do nothing but cross endorse – are not real parties.

               The ballot should offer choice, not repetition.

               Fusion voting is a cancer on New York politics. It’s time to cut it out.

               Here’s hoping the Democrats in the legislature do it.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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