Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guest Post: The Bankruptcy of the Two-Party System

by Damon Eris of Poli-Tea Party

The ongoing debacle in the New York State Legislature in Albany has bolstered the positions of downstate cynics and would-be reformers. At the opening of the Ringling Brothers Circus in Coney Island, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg dubbed the state government "the second greatest show on earth." Former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, on the other hand, has suggested that Albany convene a state constitutional convention, apparently unaware of the irony involved in calling up the arsonists to put out the fire.

The chaos in New York's state government is yet another symptom of the bankruptcy of the two-party system, in which entrenched elites and the special interest groups that back them seek to maintain their hold on power at all costs, and deprive voters of even the opportunity to drive their so-called representatives out of office. It is but one instance of a nationwide phenomenon. Among political scientists it is common knowledge that elections in the United States have become significantly less competitive over the course of the last century. In an Op-Ed for the New York Times in April, entitled 'No Country for Close Calls,' Nate Silver and Andrew Gelman of FiveThirtyEight noted that competitive elections for the House of Representatives are "exceedingly rare." They wrote: "in the past decade, there were 2,175 elections to the United States House of Representatives held on Election Days 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Among these, there were 41 instances — about 1.9 percent — in which the Democratic and Republican candidates each received 49 percent to 51 percent of the vote (our calculations exclude votes cast for minor parties). In the 1990s, by contrast, there were 65 such close elections. And their number increases the further one goes back in time: 88 examples in the 1950s, 108 in the 1930s, 129 in the 1910s."

This trend is apparent, and even more pronounced, at state and local levels. As Danny Hakim notes on an article of the power of incumbency in Albany: "Last year, more than half of the 212 legislators in the Senate and Assembly won with more than 80 percent of the vote. Fifty-seven ran unopposed . . . The average senator has served for nearly seven two-year terms." Given such numbers, one could be led to conclude that the people of New York were highly satisfied with their representatives in the state government. But the reality is quite different. Consider the following example. According to the New York State Board of Elections, 161, 786 voters turned out for the 2008 election in the state's 1st Senate district. The State Senate seat was won by Kenneth P. LaValle, who ran unopposed and garnered 63, 058 votes. On the other hand, 80, 692 voters preferred to vote for "Blank" rather than Mr. LaValle when filling out their ballots. The situation is equally dire in our local politics. According to the Shawanagunk Journal, in the upcoming county elections in Ulster, New York, "there are only four candidates running for four seats . . . the four candidates have been cross-endorsed by each of the two major political parties." One of the candidates went so far as to frame what basically amounts to bipartisan back-room dealing as a triumph of democracy: "I'm hoping that it's a testimony to the fact that we've done a good job."

The alleged "coup" in Albany is nothing of the sort. It is merely the latest scuffle between the duopoly parties over who precisely will control the flows of money and power in New York State. The real coup has taken place slowly, over the course of the last century, as the Republican and Democratic Parties have tightened their grip on control of our local, state and federal governments. Though they agree on little else, in virtually every state of the Union the Republican and Democratic Parties have come to the consensus that third party and independent candidates must be kept off our ballots at all costs. Since they view the disenfranchisement of voters as enlightened administration, it is no surprise that they have successfully turned our electoral process into little more than a formality necessary to extend their power and influence for the benefit of their corporate paymasters and to the disadvantage of the people they supposedly represent.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Guest Posting

I am pleased to report that Poli-Tea Party blog author, Damon Eris, has graciously accepted to guest post on The Rotterdam Windmill. Damon is an astute writer who examines and critiques the two-party system and duopoly politics. I hope you’ve already taken the opportunity to explore his blog – there’s a link to it on the sidebar – but if not, I encourage you to check it out.

His latest entry on Poli-Tea, The Ideology of Duopoly and the Infantilization of the American Voter, pointedly illustrates the untapped power of the ranks of independent voters. The post lays bare the fundamental potential ready to erupt and upset the current duopoly dynamic.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I’m often accused of being too idealistic. I’m okay with that. I haven’t encountered anyone yet that disagrees that achieving some of the things I suggest isn’t worthwhile. They just don’t believe these things can be achieved anymore.

Let’s be clear. I don’t operate with my head in the sand. I’m crystal clear on the realities of certain situations. Does that mean that the “idealistic” goals are unachievable? I don’t believe so. Usually anything worth accomplishing has some obstacles in the way of achieving it. Most of us take our freedoms in this country for granted, for example. But the reality is we gained them through extreme sacrifices and exceptional effort and desire. To realize anything that seems insurmountable, it requires the same type of fortitude, determination, and sacrifice. I know…fancy talk again, right? The fact is if you don’t first believe, then you’ve already begun to lose the battle for whatever you’re fighting for. I’m a believer.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Reason Why

I’ve encountered a few people that seem a bit bewildered by my entry into the political arena. They have a hard time understanding why I’d subject myself to the possibility (likelihood?) of unsubstantiated negative personal attacks. Politicians, in general, are not held in the highest regard. So why would I be interested in what they view as a “game?”

I have to admit that I asked myself the same question early on before committing to getting more involved.

The answer though, is pretty simple. As I stated in another recent post, I don’t accept the apparent futility of trying to achieve what appears to be an unachievable goal. Perseverance yields results. I can attest to that personally. More importantly, it’s not a “game,” even if the politicians treat it as one. That’s part of the problem. I’m not a politician. I’m not getting involved to “play the game.”

I have an objective that I believe the vast amount of town residents share with me. It includes relieving our tax burden, protecting our Quality of Life, and ensuring that proper Comprehensive Planning gets done.

So I guess the answer is I’m not getting involved to “play the game,” but more to end the game. {I know the thought “It can’t be done,” just crossed your mind so see my post Tell Me I Can’t before proceeding.} It’s important I try (at least to me and I hope to you.) I need to be able to look myself in the mirror each day and know I tried to do something about what I perceived to be wrong. Do I believe the current politicians are evil? Of course not. I do believe they have lost touch though with what the residents really need.

I’ve been “involved” for a number of years now. All from the perimeter, never as an elected official. Some things got done, other things didn’t. It’s the things that didn’t get done that compel me to take the next logical step to trying to make sure they do get done.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tell Me I Can't

I love it when someone tells me “it can’t be done.” The argument usually goes a little something like people have tried before to do it and didn’t succeed so you’re wasting your time. It doesn’t seem to matter if they desire the change or not. They just are resigned to the fact that it can’t ever change. Never. Ever.

I’ve been told exactly that several times in recent memory. The first instance is when I started to try to get the residents of Masullo Estates involved to obtain long-overdue road reconstruction and drainage relief for the neighborhood. Every single person I encountered said it would never happen. I was wasting my time. Did I know how many times they had already tried and failed? This was a decades old problem that no one was ever going to address. Never. Ever. Thankfully, enough people were willing to go along with my foolhardy notion that this time might be different. They didn’t believe me but they were willing to stand with me. John Mertz was among them. He may have been the only other person to actually believe we could do it. He certainly was as committed as I was. It took nearly 5 years, but we persevered and emerged with an approved project.

During that period, I also mounted an effort that most everyone thought was sheer lunacy. I opposed Wal-Mart and their plans to build a new super center in an inappropriate location. No one believed that the behemoth that was Wal-Mart could possibly be thwarted…but we prevailed there too…despite the declarations that it simply couldn’t be done. Strangely enough, John Mertz was an advocate with me on that victory too.

I’ve been told that to run an independent campaign against the major parties, with limited resources, and without mud-slinging was also a pipe dream, no matter how noble. We’ll find out soon enough if I can prevail on that count.

Lately, I’m hearing a similar sentiment when I talk about my 0% tax pledge. There is no doubt in my mind that it’s the right message and is attainable. Still, I occasionally run into the person that says, “It can’t be done.” When I ask them why they think that the reply is something like, “because taxes always go up – it’s just the way it is and you’ll never be able to change that.” Incredible isn’t it? They just reluctantly throw up their hands and say oh well, that’s the way it is so I guess I have to accept it. I don’t accept it.

I had the great privilege of watching my oldest daughter obtain her MBA from Union College this weekend. I can’t describe in words how proud of her I am. She worked hard. I bring this up because the commencement speaker struck a theme of perseverance I could personally relate to. Interestingly, his remarks contained a secret I learned myself long ago and perhaps is the reason for my own successes. Failure is a key component of success. Every time you fail, you actually get one step closer to your desired goal, because you learn something. You learn what doesn’t work. It sounds cliché, but it is the absolute truth. It’s all about perseverance. You don’t have to accept the status quo simply because it is. You can change it.

So please… tell me I can’t. It’s the biggest motivating force there is. The more I hear it, the more confident I become that I’ll eventually reach the goal. I won’t ever stop persevering. Never. Ever.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Be Yourself

I am a giant fan of Chris Cornell.
I find the song “Be Yourself” from their album “Out of Exile” to be particularly inspiring. The lyrics are simultaneously straightforwardly simple and insightfully complex.

…To be yourself

is all that you can do (all that you can do)


Be yourself

is all that you can do

even when you've paid enough
been put upon or been held up
with every single memory of
the good or bad, faces of luck
don't lose any sleep tonight
I’m sure everything will end up alright

you may win or lose


to be yourself
is all that you can do


To be yourself

is all that you can do…

I take these simple words to heart every moment of every day. My campaign for elected office will reflect this simple truth.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Did you feel that? A political tectonic plate shift occurred today when John Mertz announced his intention to seek re-election to the Rotterdam Town Board, despite not receiving the Republican Party endorsement. Good for him! Though often tasked with being the front-man for all issues controversial, Mr. Mertz was always a strong voice for the residents. As arguably the largest vote-getter among the incumbents seeking re-election, his entry into the race throws down the gauntlet to the existing Republican Party establishment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Those who read my blog regularly know I announced my candidacy for Rotterdam Town Board last week. Justin Mason, reporter for the Daily Gazette did a nice piece on my announcement which I fully appreciate. The link to the article can be found on my campaign website.

Those familiar with New York State Election Law know how prohibitive it is for third party candidates such as me to satisfy the requirements to gain access to the ballot. But it can be done and I intend to do it.

Designating Petition signature-gathering for the major parties begins one week from today, Tuesday, June 9th. Independent Nominating Petition signature-gathering doesn’t begin until Tuesday, July 7th. Since only the first signature counts, it is easy to see the disadvantage placed upon a third party challenger. As a result, I will be seeking the Republican ballot line against those already endorsed. That will allow me to begin my effort alongside the major party candidates. The real fun begins though July 7th, when I’m able to reach out to everyone, especially all those registered blanks that dominate the eligible voter registration roll.

I respectfully ask that anyone approached to sign a candidate petition be especially thoughtful in giving their support. Remember, it’s the first signature that counts. If you desire alternatives to appear on the ballot, then please reserve your right to sign for the candidate that will best support your interests. I’m hopeful that candidate is me. I intend to earn your petition signature and eventually your vote by demonstrating my commitment to delivering a 0% tax increase.