New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion

By Sarah F. Liebschutz; Robert W. Bailey et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Political Parties and Conflict

Jeffrey M. Stonecash

Political parties are central to New York politics. They draw their electoral bases from different constituencies and areas of the state. They "organize" political debates by taking differing positions on policies. Policy negotiations revolve around positions taken by the legislative parties. At the same time, however, parties are experiencing change. Public identification with parties has declined in recent decades, and split-ticket voting is on the rise. In many elections, independents are the pivotal group that candidates must win.

These two situations--the enduring dominance of parties while partisan attachments are declining--might be seen as contradictory. They are not, however. More voters are hesitant to identify with parties, but regional concentrations of partisan attachments persist. These regional divisions provide strong electoral bases for each party. There are areas where loyalties are divided, and these become political battlegrounds, but most areas have clear partisan inclinations. These differing electoral bases lead to parties taking differing policy positions and a continuing role for parties in the process.

This chapter reviews the electoral bases of the parties, the decline in attachment to the parties, and the response of party organizations to these changes over the years. The role of the parties in structuring the political debates within the state is then examined.


THIRD PARTIES

The focus in this chapter is on the two major parties. State law also allows for additional parties. Any party whose gubernatorial candidate receives at least 50,000 votes is certified as a legitimate party until the next election. In New

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