Help Us Build Progressive Strength in New York

by: Justin Krebs

Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 12:00

This open letter to the Netroots from Netroots New Yorkers is posted by other signatories on The Albany Project and Daily Gotham

Democrats are on the ascent, nationally and in states like ours, where the decades-old Republican stranglehold on Albany may finally be broken in less than one week.

If the Democrats are victorious, then the real battle will begin: how do we hold them accountable to progressive values against the enormous pressure they will face to play it safe?

It's going to be a big challenge, so we'll cut to chase: we need your help. New York needs your help. The single biggest thing we can do right now to boost progressive power in the Empire State is to strengthen our very own progressive third party - the Working Families Party.

As you may well know, they've led many of the big battles over the last ten years, from raising the minimum wage to putting paid family leave on the map, to fighting for affordable healthcare for all, public transportation, and most recently taking on Mayor Bloomberg's extremely undemocratic plan to extend term limits without a public vote.

Justin Krebs :: Help Us Build Progressive Strength in New York
The term limits fight deserves a close look.  The WFP, with the help of bloggers and parts of the city's labor movement, was able to turn what would have been an overnight power grab into a very real - and only narrowly lost - fight.  They did it by quickly assembling a grassroots coalition, online and in the streets, to put pressure on a City Council that had expected none.

The term limits battle is another reminder that voter anger is not enough - winning means having progressive institutions with the resources to respond when push comes to shove.

The fights of the future will be no different. The more strength the WFP has, the better our chances are of keeping Democrats from drifting rightward in 2009.

To do it, we need to get every progressive we can reach to vote for Barack Obama - and the Democratic candidates for Congress and the state legislature - on the Working Families ballot line.  

That's where you come in. Thousands of Netroots activists in New York already vote on the Working Families line, but need a reminder.  Many thousands more would find their happy home on "Row E" - if we let them know (repeatedly) about the opportunity.  

They've set up a great website to do just that:  Vote Change Like You Mean It.  

Our task is to make sure enough people read what's there. Tell your friends, family, all your fellow New York progressives. Blog, Twitter - whatever your thing is, do it.

It's simple. Working Families votes not only let us "vote our progressive values," they carry an important implicit threat.  The WFP and its allies online and off have a track record defeating incumbent Democrats through primary challenges when those Democrats let us down.

The more Working Families votes there are this November, the greater that threat becomes, and the more likely we are to win the big votes for affordable housing, campaign finance reform, a fair budget, and everything else next January and beyond.

On November 4th we have a chance not just to kick Republicans out of the White House and Albany, but to start making Democrats better from day one.

We hope you'll join us. Go to: -- tell your friends, fellow activists, and every New Yorker you know. The more votes, the more progressive power.

To contact the WFP about helping directly, email Dan Levitan at


Phil Anderson and Robert Harding, The Albany Project

Michael Bouldin, Daily Gotham

Justin Krebs, Political Organizer

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Explanation Please (0.00 / 0)
I live in New York, and have lived here for six years.  Generally speaking I am well to the left of the Democratic party leadership (and, I think, to the left of any Democratic elected to national office).  So the Working Families Party looks like it should be just my game.  But in the six years I have lived here the only thing I have seen from WFP is a space on a ballot where the Democrat's nominee can be found (even centrist democrats like Clinton, and noxious democrats like Schumer).  I live in one of the most left wing areas of the state (Ithaca) outside of the city itself, so I would think that I would have seen a rally advertised, or someone handing out fliers (at one of the spots where I have done anti-war pamphleteering).  But I have seen nothing.

So one way to build a party is to simply nominate another party's candidates for every election, but it seems to me a better way is one that includes doing some actual footwork, and explaining to people like me (who sometimes vote for the Socialist party here in NY) who you are, what you do, and what your principles are.  So I would like an explanation of why you deserve support from the left.  Because, to speak frankly, among the extremely left wing community here in Ithaca (or at least the people I talk to in the anti-war community), the WFP is treated as at best a joke, and at worst a way to trick genuinely left wing voters into supporting a proxy party for a very centrist NY state democratic party.

Now I am one of those activists who does not do much work for political parties (which I am sure makes me not very popular here), so I admit that it is possible that I just don't know what is going on, and that the WFP is doing lots of real work besides getting ballot access.  Even if that is so, you should be worried that so many left wing people in my community don't know better either.

I would agree (0.00 / 0)
I actually came back here to ask in what way was this a "third party" instead of a wing of the Democratic party? I'm not objecting to there being factions that vote as a block within the party - that seems a reasonable way to go in the current 2 party oligarchy.  But a genuine 3rd party movement seems to require genuine 3rd party candidates.  Like - it might have made sense to run 3rd party candidates at the local level and Obama at the top of the ticket - to draw on coattails.  

Anyway - in what way is this a 3rd party, and how does it intend to act upon its principles?


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[ Parent ]
3rd party... (0.00 / 0)
thanks for these great questions.

i'm asking some of the WFP folks themselves to answer more in depth, but here's my take.

1. i'm a die-hard Dem and long believed in reforming the party from within (i still do, which is why i don't actively engage in green party politics even though there's a lot i like about them).  as an electoral strategy, i happen to like it when wfp acts as a wing of the Dems (wfp may not like hearing that).  it allows me to essentially strengthen the left-wing / progressive caucaus / whatever term you want to use.

so, yes, this sometimes elects centrist dems -- but then it gives this group the leverage to push those dems (and all dems) to actually pass progressive reforms.  and having sheer numbers, and being able to communicate about reforms, gives wfp strength.

2. they pick their battles.  WFP may cross-endorse some mediocre Dems, but they put their field operation in support of the really worth ones.  they helped pick up congressional seats last time, and state senate seats as well, by focusing their ground game on those.

that's my thinking anyway...

[ Parent ]
leverage? (0.00 / 0)
clearly you've still got a log way to go with the 'clean it up from inside' mission - the continued corruption in Brooklyn, and the term limits vote to name but two

not seeing the leverage quite yet

[ Parent ]
A Seperate Third Party? (4.00 / 1)
What makes the "fusion" model so attractive for progressives is that we can both operate within the Democratic Party and but also have our own institutional force. For the same reason that the WFP endorsed Obama on the national level, the WFP usually endorses Dem candidates down ballot who have a record for fighting for working families.  

Doing so lets us be part of the winning coalition.  And having our own Ballot line means we can actually hold Democrats accountable once they are in office.  

[ Parent ]
fear (4.00 / 2)
the WFP has by far the best, most effective ground operation in the state and everybody knows it. knowing that a strong and potent WFP is out there helps focus the mind somewhat of some of our more deadweight dems, especially given the big part they played in knocking off a longtime sitting incumbent in the dem primary last month.

dems across the state didn't think it was possible. it was. in the end, it wasn't even that close.

that got everyone's attention. that fear can be useful.

It's time:the albany project.

[ Parent ]
being able to credibly threaten a primary challenge (4.00 / 1)
is a good point. If you can tell an elected official how many Row E voters are in their district - pointing to the election results to prove it - and couple that with a strong field operation then you can credibly threaten to primary that elected official. And being knocked off in a primary is something electeds have an irrational fear of.

With fusion, you can vote for the Democrat and threaten them to shape up at the same time.

[ Parent ]
Fantastic Question (0.00 / 0)
While it is true the WFP has not been super active in Ithaca (you should think about starting a chapter!) - it has been one of the more active voices for progressive change across the state.

The important victory of raising the minimum wage in New York was from a charge led by the Working Families Party.  The WFP passed a two dollar rise of the minimum wage for literally millions of New York workers.

They have also led critical fights to pass a state-wide paid family leave program, to expand health care coverage to ensure that budget cuts don't fall entirely on Working Families, and last month were the leading voice to block Mayor Bloomberg's campaign to extend term limits without a public vote ( )

In the Electoral arena, the WFP has been critical in breaking up the Republican State Senate Majority, which has been the biggest obstacle for progressive change in the state.  

Right now the WFP is working on five key State Senate races - from Erie county to Long Island to defeat the GOP state, knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors to get out the down ballot vote.  

But the best reason to vote Working Families is that it lets you "vote your values". Y ou get to vote for a winning a candidate, but at the same time you get to send a powerful message about the change you want to see.

[ Parent ]
Boycott the Rethugs as a first step (4.00 / 1)
How about getting so called "progressives" like SEIU 1199 to stop heavily funding the Rethuglicans in New York as they have been doing?

The Head of Acorn, thanking Open Left - Asking people to vote WFP. (4.00 / 1)
This was up yesterday, but i figure it is on topic.

working families party is not always progressive (0.00 / 0)
The wfp in New York has no doubt done some great work. It has a terrific ground operation and helped some good candidates. However, it suffers from the same problems that other single issue groups have. In the past the WFP has endorsed non progressive Republican candidates in order to get an economic bill passed. These candidates were horrible on many other progressive issues such as gay marriage, the death penalty, and the Rockefeller Drug laws. Their endorsements also helped these Republicans maintain control of the NY Senate and as a result, all sorts of progressive ideas never saw the light of day.

WFP = political club (0.00 / 0)
I will give you props for taking a stand on the term limits issue - I'm with you on that.

But listen - you guys don't get to call yourselves a political party until you

A) have your own candidates

B) have registered members

Having a space on the ballot for Spitzer and Senator press conference doesn't count as a political party - Lenora Fulani did that, too.  And don't tell me that you have clout with these people - I'm sure that Schumer and Clinton ive as much thought to the WFP as they do to Greens, which is NONE.

Principled progressive voters should support the candidate who stands for single payer healthcare, a foreign policy based on human rights, and who doesn't believe in the myths of clean coal and safe nuclear power.  That would be the Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney.

WFP 1, Green 0 (0.00 / 0)
WFP has had one Council Member elected over a Democratic opponent.  The Green Party has had zero.

I agree with you on the issues; but my frustration with Green Party presidential runs is that they suck energy away from local Green Party races, where downticket candidates might win.

We should absolutely have a Green Council Member beating out Democratic hacks.  Why hasn't it happened?  Well, a lot of reasons, I know...but maybe it says something for the WFP's approach that they've notched one.

[ Parent ]

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