The Party Problem

Aaron Metras

Looking at the political landscape in New York’s largest cities, it is fair to say, most people are left out of the political process and only a fraction of New York voters are making our state’s political decisions.  

In our large cities, the winners of sometimes competitive Democratic primaries coast to victory with almost no legitimate challenge in the general election.  It is clear our two-party system is barely holding on and sadly, one party rule is now the norm.  Consider this, in the past 20 years, only Democrats have won the mayorship in New York’s 5 largest cities – with the exception being Michael Bloomberg, who is at best an independent and ran as a Democrat for President last year.

According to Pew research, 53% of New Yorkers are Democrats.  Having a one-party system technically skews to the majority, but does anyone truly believe leaving out 47% of voters is a healthy long-term strategy?  These numbers become infinitely more concerning when we realize that only 20% of registered Democrats vote in NY primaries. That means only 10.6% of registered voters are deciding the direction, policies, and future of our state. 

But sadly, the current system has been designed to smother alternatives. Third parties are restricted into a state of non-existence, with primaries are closed to non-party affiliates and local party bosses handpicking their successors knowing only their most loyal supporters will be voting in the primary.

Why do we accept this?  There are numerous reasons. First, the two major parties themselves tell us that a third-party vote is throwing your vote away. Their message is one of self preservation — if you don’t vote with the big guys you will be ignored. They also push us to believe that a majority of their voters hold the same views as the fringes and therefore their primary candidates are the best for the job.  The statistics cited above clearly demonstrate this to be false.

This leaves most of us in the middle constantly pushed to the extremes through rhetoric instead of well-reasoned arguments. The combative nature fostered by this system urges us to see anyone with a different opinion as the enemy. The current party system welcomes these viewpoints because it ensures their continued success as the only players in the game.

If we want a New York that is prepared for the future, we need to embrace the thoughts and opinions of all New Yorkers not just the fringes pretending to speak for us.  We need to embrace ranked choice voting, embrace third parties instead of sidelining them and encourage participation from all New Yorkers not just those chosen by the party.  We can, and must, have candidates and voters that speak for all of New York, not just those toeing the party line.