Fusion Under Attack Again


New Orleans   My bad!  I called it way wrong.

After the New York legislative session where under the influence of a Democratic majority and progressive forces, major breakthroughs occurred, especially around expanding rent control access to cities around the state and closing landlord loopholes that had existed for decades, I interpreted the progress as having achieved peace-in-the-valley between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the good guys, especially the Working Families Party and the former New York ACORN, now called New York Communities for Change.  Jonathan Westin, the executive director of NYCC, had been quoted favorably on the session at the tail end of several articles, including in the New York Times. 

Now, coming back into the good old USA, I find out while reading my stack of two-week old papers, that I had made a very bad assumption.  I had presumed that Cuomo was better than Trump, and had allowed his pique and bitterness at being opposed in the primary by “Sex in the City” star, Cynthia Nixon, favored by the left and the Working Family Party, to be old hat.  He had in fact agreed to be on their ballot line in the general election polling 100,000 votes.

Now it seems he had continued to stew and has been conspiring to eliminate fusion in order to knock parties like the WFP off the ballot.  The WFP, on the left, and the Conservative Party, on the right, have both sued to try to preserve fusion and their ballot lines against a faux commission being developed by the governor as a stalking horse to eliminate fusion.

Fusion, as some will remember from long ago American history classes, was very common throughout the country in the 19th century until about 1896.  Various political parties organized around various issues and interests, and in many cases “fused” or combined to endorse a specific candidate, like William Jennings Bryan, who represented their views.  All the votes were counted towards the candidate’s total of course, but having separate ballot lines allowed parties and their supporters to be identified with their views and allegiances.  After that watershed election, the two dominant parties went to work on state legislatures they controlled and over the next dozen or so years managed to eliminate the fusion opportunity for the vast majority of states, leaving only about seven including New York, Vermont, South Carolina, and others allowing voters to express themselves this democratically.

ACORN was one of the founding organizations in the New Party, which tried a legal and organizational strategy to restore fusion nationally, albeit unsuccessfully at the Supreme Court level, and the Working Families Party in New York several years later.  If you believe in the fullest expression of democratic practice, you embrace fusion.  If you only believe in the power of a party as opposed to the power of the people, you oppose fusion.

Bill Lipton, the director of the Working Family Party of New York and the Cuomo forces engaged in a bit of ad hominem attacks, but it’s really a simple question.  The fact that fusion is enshrined in the New York state constitution may end up protecting the existence of the WFP in New York, but it shouldn’t really come to a courtroom.

I may have been wrong to have believed there was already peace, but I’m right to argue that there should now be peace among progressives.  Governor Cuomo argues that we should define progressiveness based on his actions.  Eliminating fusion would permanently erase any such pretense.