Political parties — love ’em or hate ’em, they’re a necessary mechanism

In the North County of New York state, there appears to be a common conviction regardless of political affiliation or ideology. It is a belief that we don’t have to succumb to partisanship. That the polarization and resulting dysfunction in Washington, D.C. will not define us. Rather, relationships can be built, even if we disagree, to find common ground that keeps us moving forward. Goals can be accomplished even when disagreement prevents any one side from achieving everything they wanted.

So do we even need political parties? Argument can be intelligently made for and against that question. In the end, I believe it is inevitable. Like-minded people form groups to pool resources in an endeavor to obtain their goals. Democracy can be messy, but it is necessary for any free society. Political parties are organized much like our country. The structure is in the form of a republic (representative), not a simple democracy.

The base of any political party is the registered voter. They choose (by election or petition) local representatives. These are the town or city committees. Within a county, these committees are brought together to form the county committee. From the counties, representatives are chosen (by election or petition) to form the state committee. Finally, representatives (by election) from every state committee will make up the national committee.

One of the fundamental responsibilities of a political party is to provide a way candidates can be placed on the ballot. It can be void of any form of vetting by the party, or it can include a process where the candidates are scrutinized and perhaps one candidate receives the endorsement of that party. Regardless if, or how, a vetting process is employed by a party, candidates can always make it to the ballot by petitioning to primary. In our congressional district this year, the Republican vetting process was performed independently by 12 county committees. Literally hundreds of local Republicans interviewed the candidates. The county chairs met afterwards, and each county committee decision was revealed. The Democratic vetting process was handled somewhat differently. Only the Democratic county chairs (and reportedly a few individuals from the state and national democratic committees) participated in that process.

The endorsed Democratic candidate is Aaron Woolf. He has been oddly non-communicative to the public. Almost two weeks after receiving his party’s endorsement, he has been silent and conspicuously absent. Like most, I know very little about him.

A Republican primary is almost a certainty. Declared Republican candidates are Elise Stefanik, who has received the endorsement of her party, Joe Gilbert, who participated in the vetting process but did not win the party’s endorsement, and Matt Doheny, a candidate in 2009, 2010 and 2012 who decided to avoid the vetting process that won him endorsements in 2010 and 2012. These three candidates, and perhaps others, will each need to collect 1,250 valid signatures from registered Republicans within the district to appear on the primary ballot. This is regardless of any party endorsement. Once that is achieved, it will be the registered Republican voters who come to the polls on June 24 who will decide which Republican candidate is on the November ballot.

Love them or hate them, our political parties provide the mechanism necessary to bring candidates forward to the voters. It is sometimes fraught with ideological rhetoric and partisan misrepresentation. But without our political system, it remains unclear to me how we would ever give voice to our beliefs and values. Low voter turnout is likely the reason incumbents with single-digit approval ratings are returned to office. We can bemoan this fact, or we can participate and change it. I strongly believe that the larger the voting pool, the better the outcome. Please register to vote, and then come to the polls. Ask questions of your party representatives.

Raymond A. Scollin lives in Saranac Lake and is chairman of the Franklin County Republican Committee.