Remember Jimmy McMillan?
McMillan was the man who, four years ago, upstaged Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino in a gubernatorial debate better remembered for McMillan’s “Rent is 2 Damn High Party” than serious discussion.
Minor party lines are part of a long tradition in New York, one of the few states that bolsters the powers of small parties by allowing them to “cross-endorse” star candidates running on mainstream ballot lines.
It’s a system that leads not just to a long list of ballot lines, but the outsized trading that inevitably occurs as politicians bid for lines that deliver a sliver of the electorate.
Call it “designer party syndrome.”
With the emergence in recent weeks of even more ballot lines aimed at wooing single-issue voters, here’s a few more parties-du-jour that could highlight New York at its best:
Tolls, Tolls and More Tolls: There are few things that make state leaders clam up than Thruway tolls. The Thruway Authority’s executive director had a moment of clarity last week as he acknowledged it was “fair to say” a toll hike could be in the state’s future as the Thruway Authority borrows money to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. Within hours, the agency was out with a clarification to the clarity – no one’s talking about toll hikes this year. In future years? That’s anybody’s guess.
Political points: Western New Yorkers know building a legacy bridge is tough. Somebody’s got to pay.
For the Elite, by the Elite: Politicians bend over backwards to tell stories about the hardworking people they represent. Not this party. These candidates make no bones about who they serve. You might elect ‘em, but they’re in it for themselves.
Political points: Honesty.
Our Votes Really are For Sale: While we’re being honest, here’s a party that owns up to political reality.
Political points: Donors will flock to the party that makes it abundantly clear that money equals influence.
26 and Counting: Legislators seem to be leaving in droves, and Citizens Union has crunched the numbers. As of June, 26 legislators had left office since 1999 because of criminal or ethical issues. And that’s just the State Legislature. Eliot Spitzer’s swift departure doesn’t even make its list.
Political points: New York should be No. 1 in something.
None of Your Business: Forget those pesky public information laws. This party will push for doing the public’s business the way many elected officials wish they could – in secret. Who needs to air negotiations over spending or reveal details of new state laws in time for the public to give them a full review?
Political points: State lawmakers have plenty of practice.
Oh, Nevermind: Cuomo started the Moreland Commission to look into corruption. Then Cuomo stopped the Moreland Commission from completing its work looking into corruption. As Cuomo explained this spring to Crain’s New York, “I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it’s mine.” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara seems to have a different view.
Political points: Corruption? What corruption?
Jimmy McMillan might have brought the minor party line to dubious prominence in his eccentric 2010 run for governor. But it’s the same old political circles that bring the nonsense to the ballot.