The United States of America prides itself on its democracy.
Americans strongly believe that the country gives its citizens the right to choose the course of their lives, much as they can choose to elect a leader of their liking. It is a mantra that President Abraham Lincoln encapsulated in his prayer for at Gettysburg in 1863, about freedom in the USA, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”
Embedded in those words is the notion that ALL people have the ability to serve in the U.S. government for the benefit of ALL Americans.
But remarkably, there are some families that seemingly have a stranglehold on political office. They have names like Bush, Clinton, Kennedy and Cuomo. Brothers, sons, wives and cousins with the same last name show up as presidents, senators, governors and congressmen. Decade after decade.
The notion that any and all Americans have a shot at being a leader in government feels more like a fairy tale than a foundation principle of the country.
And it is rooted in corrupt mechanisms that those people in power use to cement their positions in government.
Governor Andrew Cuomo
and the Women’s Equality Party
Andrew Cuomo is the current Governor of the State of New York. He served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration from 1997 to 2001 (often accused of creating the foundational mess for the great housing and stock market collapse in 2008-9 due to encouraging banks to provide housing loans to people whom could not afford them) before becoming Attorney General of New York and then Governor.
Not coincidentally, his father Mario Cuomo also served as governor of New York.
But it is not just the famous name, lineage and connections that help cement Andrew Cuomo in power (his brother Chris Cuomo is a famous TV journalist). It is also very much about his gaming the system in his favor.
In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo – the most powerful Democrat in the State of New York – decided to launch another separate political party. If that sounds too outrageous to be true, you haven’t looked into New York politics.
Noting how many women were voting Democratic, Andrew Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party. A new party, beyond his Democratic Party, solely focused on women’s issues.
And who did the Women’s Equality Party support for governor? A woman? Of course not. It backed its creator, Andrew Cuomo.
When an average New Yorker went in to the voting booth to elect a governor in 2014, did he or she get to choose from a wide array of candidates? There were many parties listed on the ballot including the Green Party and the Independence Party and the Reform Party…. so many choices beyond the major Democratic and Republican Parties.
But the long list of parties posted a fiction. There was no choice.
Andrew Cuomo was not only listed as a candidate by the Democrats, but by the Working Families Party, the Independence Party, and the Women’s Equality Party. Rob Astorino of the Republican Party also showed up under the Conservative Party and the Stop-the Common-Core Party (now called the Reform Party).
Two individuals showed up seven times to voters!
How impressive these candidates must have been that so many parties endorsed them! And the Women’s Party endorsed Cuomo too! He must be extremely pro-women, even if no voter could recall anything he did for women as the sitting governor. (Of course there was no footnote on the voting form that Cuomo himself created and named this new party to ensnare those single-issue voters).
But the Cuomo machinations were not done.
You see, New York State has some funky rules for getting on the Voter Registration Form. A party must have at least 50,000 votes in the governor contest to appear as an “official party” over the next four years. For Cuomo’s new entity to get staying power, he needed to funnel some of the votes that would normally come to him via the Democratic, Working Families and Independence Parties to come through the Women’s Equality Party to establish it for the next several years.
And wouldn’t you be shocked to learn, that of the over 2 million votes that Cuomo received in 2014, just over 53,000 – barely enough – came from the Women’s Equality Party. Just enough to be on the New York Voter Registration Forms. What a happy coincidence! Wink.
Not only did New Yorkers have few choices for governor despite the multiple parties in the race, they were deceived and manipulated by Cuomo and the New York Board of Elections.
Libertarians – The Invisible Third Party
In the 2014 New York governor contest, the Green Party and Libertarian Party each promoted a distinct candidate not named Cuomo or Astorino. The Green Party candidate won almost 5% of the vote, but the Libertarian candidate only gathered 17,000 votes. Due to New York State rules of needing 50,000 votes to be an “official party,” the Libertarians are now invisible on New York State Voter Registration Forms.
The Libertarian Party had the third greatest number of votes in the 2016 presidential election. The Libertarians won more votes than all of the minor parties COMBINED.
But if you want to register as a Libertarian in New York, you have to skip over eight other choices and go to the “Other” category and type in “Libertarian.”
Don’t think there’s an impact? Here are the totals of registered voters in New York as of April 2018:
- Democrat 6,201,033
- Republican 2,823,758
- Independent 481,831
- Conservative 155,500
- Working Families 46,453
- Green 29,787
- Other 7,329 (including Libertarian)
- Women’s Equality 4,675
So how does the Women’s Equality Party get 53,000 votes when fewer than 5,000 people are registered with the party? Well there are over 2.6 million people that didn’t affiliate with any party. And of course, there’s Cuomo’s influence that helped make it happen.
It would have been so much easier to just be a politician from royalty and cook up your own political party…
The Majors at the Margins
and the Minors at the Edges
Voters are increasingly disillusioned by the Democratic and Republican Parties, which have become more and more extreme as they fight to appeal to the excited base at the margins through their respective primaries. As of 2017, Liberals accounted for 48% of the Democratic Party, dwarfing the middle of the road Conservative Democrats which are down to just 15% of the party (and shrinking). The Republicans’ situation is not better. To review the Republicans on the Judicial Committee which approves judges, is to look at a cast of characters that are all almost exclusively Conservative purists (only three of eleven members had a GovTracks rating of under 0.85 – Chuck Grassley; Lindsay Graham; and Ben Sasse).
Meanwhile the small niche single-issue parties like the Green Party continue on their extremist ways. They either push an extremist candidate like Jill Stein (Green Party), or endorse the Democrat or Republican candidate, to stay relevant and on the voter registration forms. Ideological purists on one hand, or tools of the establishment and election committees on the other.
The dynamic has led to a false array of choices which have become more extreme, and single issue marginal candidates. You can either binge watch Law & Order on Netflix or three different cable channels OR you can watch SproutTV and wait for the cable channels to drop it from the visible universe.
It is time to dramatically overhaul our election system to bring genuine mainstream choices back to voters.
- Any political party that wins at least 2.5% of the votes in the last presidential election should be on every state’s voter registration form
- If a political party does not field a distinct candidate from the other parties for two consecutive election cycles, it gets removed from the state’s voter registration form
- If a political party does not field a distinct candidate from the other parties for three consecutive election cycles, it does not appear on the election form
- The threshold of reaching the voter registration form should be 1.0% of the gubernatorial election, not 50,000 (in New York). An absolute number is unfair, especially if few voters turn out, and it should become a standard for all states.
- Any candidate from any party that calls for violence against a U.S. citizen must be removed from the ballot. It is time to bring back the most basic level of civility.
The founding fathers of the United States imagined a country based on the principles of freedom and liberty and feared the abuse of power and the coercive nature of people who played games with election process, money and judges. President James Madison may have had Andrew Cuomo (and his family, appointees and political parties) in mind when he said:
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
Americans are being robbed of quality moderate choices for leadership positions, and the runaway train seems to be just gathering steam.
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