29 September 2011

Independent in name only

We're used to seeing one of the major parties try to knock a new independent party off a ballot by challenging the validity of its petition signatures, but not to seeing one independent party challenge another's right to contest an election. That's what's happened in Rotterdam, New York, a factious town with at least three local party lines jostling for space with the established state parties. Among these are a Republican "splinter" group, the No New Tax party, and a group "allied" with the Democrats, the Lower Taxes Now party. To be accurate, that's what the latter was called until yesterday, when the two allegedly independent parties settled a suit filed by No New Tax accusing Lower Taxes Now, among other things, of attempting to deceive voters by pretending (presumably) to be an anti-tax party with a name similar to No New Tax. The Lower Taxes Now organizers understandably protested that no party has an exclusive right to the word "tax," but backed down in the face of a challenge to their petitions and changed their name to Reunite Rotterdam.

The Albany Times Union report of this travesty doesn't even attempt to hide that fact that this purported squabble of independents is actually a struggle between the Republican and Democratic parties -- though it also notes that the No New Tax spokesman is a registered Conservative. Thanks to New York's allowance for cross-endorsements, nothing in the Empire State stops the two major parties from setting up dummy parties to exploit growing popular dissatisfaction with the two-party system. Disgusted with the Republican party? Vote for the exact same guys on the No New Tax line! Sick of the Democratic party? Vote for the exact same guys on the Lower Taxe--er, I mean Reunite Rotterdam line! I had thought that the possibility of one candidate winning the Republican and Democratic primaries was the reductio ad absurdam of the cross-endorsement principle, but the Rotterdam episode suggests that the absurdity of the situation may know no limit, until lawmakers impose one, once voters insist on it. Until then, we need a new acronym for shorthand partisan zoology. We already have RINOs (Republicans in name only) and DINOs (Democrats in name only), but our Rotterdam expedition has only reconfirmed the existence of the IINO (pronounced "I know!") -- Independent In Name Only -- a parasite whose proliferation only degrades the political ecosystem.


d.eris said...

I don't know what the situation is with the No New Taxes Party today, but you might recall that one of its original founders was Michael O'Conner from the Rotterdam Windmill blog. He originally petitioned for the ballot line with a couple guys from the Conservative Party in 2009(?), if I remember correctly. He wrote a couple guest posts for Poli-tea and was a regular commenter for a while.

I like "I know" for IINO. But I'm wondering whether a virus might be a better metaphor than a parasite in this case. It's like the D and R parties invade the cells of the foreign host party, replicate themselves, and spread the contagion.

Samuel Wilson said...

Another article on the subject mentioned that NNT had formed in opposition to the GOP in '09, but had apparently resolved its differences and is now running almost a complete GOP slate this year.