Political Parties in
New York City Governance
Political parties structure the electoral process, the most important aspect of achieving democratic accountability in the governance of the city. Just as significant, however, the evolution of interparty as well as intraparty politics in New York City explains some of the shifts in attitudes of the political system toward issues of race and ethnicity. To a lesser extent, inter- and intraparty politics explains the city's economic development imperative as well as the city's relationship with the state and federal governments. Party politics are usually most visible just before and during election campaigns. Primary and general election campaigns become the battlegrounds where the values, or ideologies, that control the direction of the political systems are debated. What role will the political system play in the promotion of economic development? To what extent will the demands of minority groups get a positive or negative response? What role for other levels of government will the city seek? As the stewards of electoral politics, political parties have a role in the continuous debates that seek to answer these questions. Party competition or the lack of party competition may affect the quality of these debates.
With the exception of the mayoralty, the Democratic Party has dominated electoral politics in New York City for the last several decades. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a factor of more than four to one. For the past several decades the Democrats have occupied most of the elected positions in the city's political system. How did the party come to enjoy this advantage? In many parts of the city, the Democratic Party has had a superior organization that reaches down to the neighborhood level. In some cases this organization dates back to the nineteenth century. As a result Democrats have been and continue to be capable of responding to wave after wave of new immigrants. Throughout the