Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mugwumps And Other Parties That Go Bump In The Night

Once upon a time, third parties gave their associations some truly entertaining and descriptive names. As with the Tea Party, such names had nothing to do with the efforts associated with the mayfly groups.

In New York, the names of the parties have been quite entertaining up until recently when more pedestrian monickers have taken over, such as Liberal, Conservative, Working Families, and Right To Life. Zzzzzz.

Back in the day, as they say, party names such as Locofoco were the vogue. Locofoco? The Locofocos were a radical workingman's party in New York City in the 1830s whose slogan was "Bread, Meat, Rent, And Fuel! Their prices must come down!" Their actual name was the Equal Rights Party, and they attempted a kind of sit-in at the Democrats' Tammany Hall, upon which the main-streamer Democrats turned off the gas lights to clear the building. In turn, the radicals lit the newly-invented safety matches whose brand name was - Loco Foco. The Whig press in the city slapped the Locofoco label on them, which the splinter group eventually embraced.

The Soft Shells-Hard Shells - yes, as in crabs - denoted a rapprochement between two separate branches of the Democratic Party in New York. The Soft Shells were pro-slavery nationally in the 1850s and the Hard Shells anti. (New York State had abolished slavery in 1825.) Fernando wood won the city mayoralty in 1854 under the Soft Shell-Hard Shell banner, uniting the factions over local issues.

Wood, who had come to loggerheads with Tammany, won again in 1859, this time running on the Mozart Hall ticket, Mozart Hall being the rival clubhouse within the Democratic Party positioned against Tammany.

From the Civil War onward for about 60 years or so, the party name game slowed down. The Fusion Party, a nice musical, we-are-the-world party popped up, sure.

But nothing much happened until Fiorello LaGuardia, a hybrid Italian-Jewish Congessman, ran for re-election in 1937 on the City Fusion-Progressive-American Labor-Republican ticket. He ran against Jeremiah Mahoney who ran on the Democrat-Trades Union-Anti-Communist ticket.

In 1945, Newbold Morris, descended from the famous colonial Morrises and husband to the daughter of Judge Learned Hand, ran on the No Deal Party ticket and garnered almost one-quarter of the vote. And in 1950, Vincent Impelliteri won the mayor's office running for the Experience Party.

In 1961, Louis Lefkowitz lost while running on, among other party lines, the Non-Partisan ticket.

Perhaps the most entertaining and famous third party with New York roots is Teddy Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" party, really the Progressive Party. Sad to say, though, the over-the-top name was taken from T.R.'s running mate in 1912, California governor, Hiram Johnson who said, "I'm as strong as a bull moose!"

I have a letter in to the Tea Party leaders suggesting that, in New York State anyway, they strongly consider changing their name to the Crackpot Party. Truth in advertising, my friends. Truth in advertising.

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