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New York Times Columnist Gail Collins Comments on Role of Political Parties

Published on June 12, 2010, by in General.

Gail Collins, a regular columnist for the New York Times, has this June 12 column which talks about the recent South Carolina Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. She concludes by saying, “We’ve spent decades now working on the assumption that the problem with American politics is the strength of political parties. This week, California eliminated party primaries entirely in favor of a system where all the candidates run on one ballot and the top two finishers move on to the November election. We’ll see how that works…the alternative to parties is an every-voter-for-herself system that would inevitably leave people staring at endless choices among candidates they’ve never heard of. The polling places become casinos where you pull the lever and pray. Maybe the real answer is not to make the parties weaker but to make them better.”

She could have said, although she didn’t, that another answer is to make it possible for new parties to compete in a level playing system.

8 Responses

  1. Phil Sawyer

    We must consider the source, of course. The “New York Times” is not known for promoting, let alone even acknowledging, the activities of independent, maverick, and/or “minor party” campaigns.

    The late, great, Eugene J. McCarthy was an independent candidate for president in 1976 and an independent/”minor party” candidate for president in 1988. When he was running for president in the Democratic Party primaries in 1992, he was ignored by that newspaper, and many others, despite being one of the most famous people in the history of United States politics.

  2. etjb

    I would agree with the columnist to the extent that political parties can provide some — more or less — guidelines to a prospective voter when they nothing else about the candidate. Although, in this day of the Internet and mass media that probably applies more to certain state or local races. I would also agree with Richard that making it difficult for a party to get on the ballot is a bad idea.

  3. Demo Rep

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V. — even in New York for the N.Y. Times to write about.

  4. In SC, it appears that neither the media or the political party vetted the candidates.

    Imagine if there had been debates?

    As for any malfeasance, if it were with the voting machines, that would be incredibly hard to address since South Carolina uses paperless touchscreens on election day. (iVotronics made by ES&S).

    What if this is a case of low voter info?

    What if Alvin Greene, whose campaign is compliant with state election laws (says SC Election Commission )
    actually were to win the general election?

    Consider some of those we’ve elected already.

  5. In response to Richard’s last paragraph, making parties better means having more of them.

  6. Phil Sawyer

    Bob Richard (#5): That is not necessarily true. As a matter of fact, we already have more than enough political parties in this country. It would really be helpful, actually, if some of the parties would merge with one another (and this applies to parties from the left through the center to the right). There is strength in unity and there is wisdom in collectivity and negotiations!

  7. Richard

    The number of nationally-organized political parties in the U.S. which actually contest a good share of offices is very low, especially when one compares the U.S. to other nations with free election systems. Great Britain has more parties represented in the House of Commons than the United States has parties who actually get on the ballot before most of the voters of the U.S. in presidential elections. In 2008, and in 2004, the only parties on the ballot for President in enough states to theoretically win the election were Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, and Constitution. That’s only five parties. Certainly for a nation of over 300,000,000 people, with a wide diversity of people and ideas, that is not too many parties!

  8. Phil Sawyer

    Richard (#7):

    You actually helped to prove my point. I don’t know if you were responding to my comment or not, though. One of the main reasons that we have so few strong parties in the United States is because of all the factional fighting, splintering, and so forth. Yes, we need more strong paries; and, we need to eliminate the “circular firing squads.” If adults do not set good examples for maturity, how can they expect their children to grow up to be responsible citizens?

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