For the Working Families Party, those are fighting words. In today's Times Union Jim Welch, the Troy WFP leader, fights back with a defense of cross-endorsement -- or as he prefers to call it, "electoral fusion." Welch argues that eliminating electoral fusion "won't address [the] problem" raised by the Bethlehem primary, but would "diminish the people's voice at a time when that voice is already difficult to hear over the din of money."
How so? By denying the people the right to put one candidate on every party line? Apparently not. Electoral fusion, as Welch sees it, is voters' equivalent of the president's signing statement in which he expresses caveats about the bill he's just approved. It's a kind of electoral supplement that allows voters to "send a message" to the people they vote for. I'll let Welch explain.
Last November when I, in the company of more than 140,000 fellow New Yorkers, voted for Andrew Cuomo on the Working Families ballot line instead of the Democratic line, I was telling the now-governor that I have a somewhat different idea of his duties and obligations to his constituents from that of his wealthy and increasingly corporate sponsors.
If anything, the "message" sent through a cross-endorsement vote has less force than a presidential signing statement. All Governor Cuomo needs to know about WFP voters is that they voted for him. He also knows that his margin of victory over his closest rival last November was nearly ten times the number of WFP votes cast for him. On top of that, Cuomo knows (though Welch chooses to forget) that he only deigned to accept the WFP endorsement after the scandal-plagued party compromised many of their "somewhat different" principles out of desperation to retain their guaranteed spot on the state ballot. The main motive for cross-endorsement, from a practical standpoint, is to enable an "independent" party to get enough votes in a statewide election to retain that guaranteed spot in the next such election. That necessity automatically limits the leverage parties like WFP claim to exert and the amount of influence their specific message can have with a major-party candidate or incumbent. Working Families has not done the hard work undertaken by the Green party, for instance, to earn its own ballot line with its own candidate. It is dependent on Democrats for its survival, while Democrats rarely depend on WFP votes to win in New York. That message is loud and clear every time, and WFP euphemisms can't cover it up. The practice of cross-endorsement should end, not because its unconstitutional or undemocratic, but because it's stupid.