29 July 2010

A 'Battlefield Ballot Line' is Not Independent

The local papers today had the latest chapter in the sorry saga of the Rensselaer County (NY) Working Families Party, which the Albany Times Union describes as a "battlefield ballot line." The WFP is, on paper, an independent party, but as the description indicates, in Rensselaer County the party is a plaything of the local Bipolarchy. It lacks a committed local cohort, or a sense of distinctive partisan identity, capable of resisting attempts at control, direct or indirect, by Republican and Democratic operatives. In the past, the GOP has been canny, arranging for a sufficient number of loyalists to register as WFP members in order to vote in the party primary and elect stooge candidates for the sole purpose of diverting liberal or progressive votes away from the Democratic candidate. In an effort to thwart the Republican strategy, local Democrats are alleged to have committed election fraud through the manipulation of absentee ballots. I've told this story before, but I repeat it often in the hope of getting it more widely noticed. The Working Families organization in New York State as a whole is virtually a textbook case on how not to develop a truly independent party. Through cross-endorsements it has a spot on state ballots, but in at least one locality it lacks the means or the manpower to make use of it for the party's presumed purpose. In Rensselaer County the WFP ballot line isn't a battlefield but an abandoned building contested over by squatters and looters. Whatever metaphor you prefer, you can't call it an independent party if it's so helplessly vulnerable to transparently hostile takeovers. If such an allegedly independent party becomes nothing but a Bipolarchy plaything, shouldn't there be some way to put it out of the electorate's misery rather than allow the Bipolarchy parties to compete in deceiving the public? At the very least, the case of Pedro Espada, the state senator targeted for purging by Democratic party leaders, suggests that WFP members who truly cared could attempt a necessarily more extensive purge of their own ranks. I'm aware of no such attempt. It would seem to be imperative, however, if an independent party wants to be actually independent.