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Politics: Let Parties Pick Their Candidates

Updated on December 7, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Kennedy-Nixon 1960 Debate

Kennedy - Nixon Debate 1960
Kennedy - Nixon Debate 1960

Two-Party System Challenged

Former Third Party Presidential Candidate Ross Perot
Former Third Party Presidential Candidate Ross Perot

"What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar."

It was Thomas Riley Marshall, 1854-1925, who made that insightful declaration way back when.

Times sure have changed, haven't they? A nickel isn't a nickel anymore, and smoking cigars has long since become an anti-social act.

Nevertheless, Marshall's statement, in my opinion, remains as cogent as ever. There's no way that I could be as eloquent as Marshall, but, if I were to try to update his remark, I would put it this way: "What this country needs is a good, affordable public golf course."

But, as important as golf is, it isn't what inspired me to pen this rambling piece.

Difficulty Finding Candidates

Rather, it was a recent article in The Hour (newspaper) that compelled me to pick up the quill. The article, by Alfred R. Branch Jr., quoted officials of the major political parties who spoke of the difficulty they're having finding Common Council candidates to fill their slate for the fall elections.

I don't have any names of potential candidates to give the political parties, but I can tell them why I wouldn't be a candidate for office, even if -- heaven forfend! -- someone wanted me to be.

Party politics

Years ago, political parties (for the most part just two: Republicans and Democrats) were closely knit units in which the leadership, and the membership, pretty much agreed on the basic issues facing the city, state and country. That is to say Republicans agreed with Republicans, Democrats agreed with Democrats.

Everyone was of like mind, more or less, so it was the leadership's job to choose which party member could most effectively carry the party's banner -- and go on to win the next election.

'Smoke-filled Rooms'

People like to denigrate this historic process by referring to the "smoke-filled rooms" in which party leaders met to make their selections. But, the truth is, the system worked -- wonderfully well.

About the time of our country's problems in Vietnam, some voters began to talk about "voting for the man" rather than the party, and candidates like Richard Nixon and George McGovern began to shun the "party bosses" and "political machinery." Nixon created the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) And McGovern's banners proclaimed "President McGovern," both men leaving their respective political parties to fend for themselves.

Disintegration of Major Parties

All this has led to substantial disintegration of the major parties, and to (Ross) Perot, and even to (Lowell P.) Weicker. Eventually, by voting "for the man" voters will end up with lots of untried candidates, all of whom fail to win a majority. The "winner" will be forced to make deals with other factions to hold power, eventually tying the hands of government so thoroughly that virtually nothing of importance can be accomplished.

The Insolence of Office

Without the backing of the party, and the common support of like-minded citizens, who would want to run for office? Besides, Americans these days seem to want to destroy their politicians as fast as they elect them. How many qualified people who might otherwise run for office have stayed in the private sector simply to avoid the kind of treatment politicians face today?

What's wrong with parties choosing candidates they know and respect, and who represent the views of their membership?

What this country needs, I say, is a good, old-fashioned two-party system!

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Sept. 9, 1995. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

Is the Two-Party System Vital to America?

See results

The American Two-Party System -- Part One

The American Two-Party System -- Part Two


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    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'm pretty cynical, AlexK2009, but not that cynical. As a practical matter, I don't think liberals and conservatives could ever make such an agreement to divy up the spoils. With more than two parties, nothing will ever get done -- it's bad enough with two parties!

    • AlexK2009 profile image

      AlexK2009 7 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Hmmm..... In the UK the local party selects the candidate to represent them but anyone can stand as an independent. We do not get a better quality politician as a result of this.

      A two party system means the parties could make an agreement whereby each takes a dive in turn thus sewing up government for ever.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Always true, The Phantom Blot. Thanks for commenting.

    • The Phantom Blot profile image

      The Phantom Blot 9 years ago

      Like everything else, it has its advantages and disadvangtages.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      If we can get a Supreme Court that will reverse its decision that corporations are "persons," Congress could limit the amount spent on campaigns to a reasonable amount. Presidential campaigns need not be longer that 3 to 6 months. This primary system is way out of line. Happy New Year Ralph!

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      There's a lot to be said for the smoke-filled room. Media moguls and bloviaters, and cash contributors have too much influence now.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, MrMarmalade. You've given my New Year a really nice kick start. Here, the government also gives huge sums of money to the questionable campaigns of minor candidates. If we can stay with the two-party system we might be able to get Congress to approve sensible campaign reform legislation. I wish you the best of everything for the New Year, including the tastiest marmalade in the world.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney

      I could not agree more.

      Our Government changed just recently and the Opposition took over Government on votes that were voted to another party entirely. Not good.

      We had a lady politician went to jail for electoral fraud. Came out formed another party did not get enough votes to get into power but she scored sufficient votes to get substantial money paid to her.

      She repeated the same stunt this last election and is aledged to have earnt some $AUD178,000, for 6 weeks work. Not bad.

      Shea has threatened to run in the next elections three years away. Australians certainly are the biggest collective fools you can imagine.

      Thank you all for an incredible couple of months. I have enjoyed the hubs immensely and learnt a vast amount.Please enjoy to night and have a better 2008 than ever.