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Is the Party Over?

Everyone likes a party. But in politics, we like parties less and less.

Red, blue and green all in crisis

Everyone likes a party. But in politics, we like parties less and less.

Take the Republican Party.

The Syracuse version of what was once known as the Grand Old Party went through an embarrassing summer-long spectacle that resulted in an empty slot on the ballot for mayor. The party’s chair, Tom Dadey, went to court to keep the one guy who wanted the position off the party line. Dadey won that dustup with Ian Hunter, and then put his own name on the ballot as a placeholder, only to move out of town, cleverly buying the party time to find someone to carry the fight to Stephanie Miner in November. For a while, they inserted the name of a candidate for judge who insisted all the while that he really was running to be a judge, not mayor, but he was at least able to say that he lived in the city.

All through the Democratic primary process, most attention focused on the question of whether the likely, and eventual, runner-up, Pat Hogan, would switch hats and run as a Republican in the fall. Hogan kept everyone waiting for a week after he lost the primary, then said what the mayor had been goading him to say all along: that he is a loyal Democrat and couldn’t see himself running under the GOP banner. No one, including Dadey, would speculate about the third Democrat in the race, Alfonso Davis, running as a Republican. (Even though Hogan says that he’s not running, it is noted that his lawn signs are coming down at a very slow pace. Perhaps he is taking on that task himself, alone.)

The Onondaga County Legislature is controlled by Republicans who spend much of their energy disrupting the initiatives of their own party’s county executive, Joanie Mahoney, mirroring the way their Democratic counterparts on the city’s Common Council treat the mayor who shares their party affiliation.

Mahoney, you will recall, first won her post as an insurgent, pitting her family of volunteers against a party establishment that preferred Dale Sweetland and suggested that Mahoney should stay home and raise her kids. In the last mayoral election, the Republican leadership endorsed Otis Jennings for mayor and couldn’t deliver him the vote in the primary, watching as Jennings was beaten by Steve Kimatian. That made two big races in a row in which the party failed to persuade its own members to go along with its choice—and this year, they have no candidate at all.

At the state level, the Republicans are led by the aging son-in-law of Richard Nixon. It would seem that no more need be said in that regard, but there is this. The party chair, Ed Cox, has the same problem as Tom Dadey: He can’t find anyone to run for governor.

A year before Andrew Cuomo faces the voters, the only one who wants to run is (with apologies to the legitimately crazy population) crazy Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino. Paladino is Cox’s Ian Hunter, so far beyond the pale that Cox can’t get away from him fast enough. Most recently Cox was heard to suggest that Paladino’s role on the Buffalo Board of Education was too important to have him leave that post and move to Albany. Not very convincing.

Meanwhile, in Washington, this John Boehner fellow recently announced his party’s top priorities for this session of Congress were to: 1. cut spending; and 2. to protect the American people from Obamacare. This insistence on repealing Obamacare is beginning to border on the pathological. When Republicans talk about the Affordable Care Act, they characterized it as something that was passed during a brief period of military rule. They alternate between saying that it was passed too late at night, it has too many pages, and it didn’t get any Republican votes. And these are the people who excoriate anyone who might have questioned the questionable events in Florida that led to the George W. Bush presidency. Yet the Republicans insist that unless the Democrats agree to cut out the spending for a health care bill that was passed by both chambers, withstood a challenge in the Supreme Court, and was ratified in November’s presidential election, they will not authorize the government to pay its bills. By the way, no food stamps, either.

It was not always thus. Republicans once counted in their numbers noted liberals and moderates like Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits. They ran a presidential candidate they called “Mr. Conservative” (Barry Goldwater) in 1964 who considered abortion to be no business of government at all.

It’s not so much that the party has drifted ideologically to the right, it has drifted into isolation, hiding in heavily weighted conservative districts in the South and West, unable to cope with the diversity of thought and background that defines our 21st-century nation.

So is it not time for a new party to emerge to challenge the status quo? Well, the Greens have presented us with a very tall, very likable and very talented fellow by the name of Kevin Bott. Bott, in the unlikely event he should be elected Syracuse mayor in November, would be elected for a term that is longer than the total number of years he has lived in this town.

Hardly the way a party serious about winning elections behaves.

Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary every week in the Syracuse New Times. You can reach him at edgriffin@twcny.rr.com.

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