Adaptation is Key for Working Families Party and Winning

New Orleans   Joe Biden, good mainstream liberal and former Senator and Vice-President under Barack Obama, seems to be toast.  He didn’t pass the torch, he got torched in the recent candidates’ debate.  Bernie Sanders, the standard bearer of the left last time, seems almost left behind now.   Where is this all going?

A Pew Research survey finds that only 46% of Democrats see themselves as liberal or very liberal.  37% say they are moderate and 15% hail conservative.  A Gallup poll indicated that Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents indicated that 54% wanted the party to be more moderate and 41% more liberal.  Democrats are younger than Republicans with 43% under 40 and 12% over 70.  A 56% majority are women, and 54% are white.  They are lower income with 36% making less than $30,000 and 37% having a high school or lesser educational degree with two-thirds still claiming a religious affiliation.  Contrary to the Republican-Fox News opposition, these are not flamethrowers, and really for all of the talk, neither are candidates like Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris.  They are full-steam ahead for sure, but they aren’t exactly rock-the-boat people.

We could see that in the recent desertion by the moderate Democrats on the $4 billion plus migrant support bill.  House of Representative progressive Democrats had insisted on a clear standards of care protocol for migrant families and their children, but were abandoned by moderates who joined with Republicans to pass a Senate-version of the bill, undercutting Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

To win more progressive programs and policy, we need to look at local elections that can build that base. The recent legislative session in New York State where after years of fighting between the progressives and the left, Democrats won control of the body, and acted like it for a change, most amazingly in the area of rent control and tenant protections.  They were about as bipartisan as Republicans in Alabama, North Carolina, or Wisconsin.  Part of this story has been the high-wire act of the Working Family Party, where ACORN and its successors have been long-time mainstays from the founding.  The WFP in New York took almost death-defying risks in opposing Governor Cuomo’s re-election and faced an existential threat when the Governor upon returning to office threatened legislation to end fusion or multi-party ballot endorsement that affords WFT a ballot line.  The Democratic wave in the 2018 election and their grassroots work and base saved them.

The Working Families Party has to be both progressive and adaptable to grow.  It’s not enough to be just one or another.  They missed a bet by going with the incumbent in the House race won by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the now famous AOC socialist firebrand in Congress, but they learned the lesson quickly.  A 31-year old public defender who had never stood for public office, Tiffany Caban, just toppled the incumbent district attorney in the Queens borough of New York City in the Democratic primary and credited the WFP and Socialist Party work and support for her victory.  The Wall Street Journal reported that “WFP New York State director Bill Lipton said the party’s legislative agenda for 2020 includes raising taxes on the wealthy, public financing for elections and fully legalizing marijuana.”

To win and then covert victories into change, a real grassroots political party has to be nimble, learn from its mistakes, and push the envelope, and go with candidates willing to bear their standard.  Hillary Clinton should have taught every candidate and the Democratic Party that lesson.  If she didn’t, the Working Family Party in New York and around the country, bears watching, because as one of our organizers constantly says, “Ya gotta learn!”


The Voting Numbers Say We Must Organize our Communities Now!

latinovotersNew Orleans   The post-mortem on the US election continues but as more data and information becomes available some of the early guesstimates are not as compelling as they were the morning after. It’s not that they were completely wrong, but they are not right enough to point the directions forward. Over and over again it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Clinton loss does not just fall heavily on her shoulders because she was such a flawed candidate, especially since Trump was even more flawed, but points to a massive failure of organization, and not just hers, but all of ours.

Karl Rove, the political mastermind behind George W. Bush, is not a go-to nonpartisan, objective analyst on this or any election, but as a columnist for The Wall Street Journal he’s always worth a read to understand not only what Republicans are thinking, but also as a reality check that we are not drinking our own Kool-Aid. A couple of days ago he made several interesting points based on a pretty deep review of exit polls, admittedly from Fox News, but whatever.

Among them were the following:


· “Both candidates this year won fewer white votes – Mr. Trump 1.6 million and Mrs. Clinton 2.3 million – than four years ago.”
· “…Trump didn’t win because he greatly expanded the GOP….”
· “…Clinton lost a significant chunk of the Obama Coalition. Compared with 2012 she dropped 1.8 million African-Americans, one-million voters age 18-29, 1.8 million voters aged 30-44, 2.6 million Catholics, and nearly 4.5 million voters with family incomes of $30,000 or less.”
· “…Clinton received nearly 9.4 million Latino votes, up 180,000 from Mr. Obama’s total in 2012. But because Mr. Trump won 29% of Hispanics, up from Mr. Romney’s 27%, the president-elect won 4.2 million Latino votes, roughly 690,000 more than Mr. Romney.”
· “Only 18% of voters had a high school education or less, down from 24% last time….Trump received 12 million votes from them, 2.2 million fewer than Mr. Romney, Mrs. Clinton got 10.6 million votes, 5.8 million fewer than Mr. Obama.”
· “…Trump’s advantage among voters with some college outweighed Mrs. Clinton’s among people with four-year degrees.”


You get the picture. This election was won and lost among low-and-moderate income families. These are our families and the heart of base. This election was also lost by our inability to convert Trump’s blatantly racist and anti-Latino campaign into actual voter turnout in our communities. Before the election I thought that if Clinton won she owed her victory to black and brown voters. In the same way she may owe her defeat to her inability to inspire these votes and our collective failure to build effective organization.

If progressives want to win, we have to go on the offense on issues and actions. The numbers also say that even more importantly we have to go back to the neighborhoods and barrios of our communities and organize people at the grassroots in the kind of organizing that has been the hallmark of ACORN. To the degree that is not happening as broadly and deeply in the United States as it needs to in white, black, and brown communities, these families are grist for the conservative mill, and not only voting against their interest, but more powerfully not voting at all. 43% of the electorate didn’t vote in 2016 with their feet but with their butts, and just sat this one out.

Rove makes one more interesting point which is a warning to Trump and should be a wakeup call to all of us. The numbers say it wasn’t globalization and trade, but the economy, stupid, and the lack of distribution and trickle down to our base.

This is call to go into our communities and rebuild effective organization or this crisis won’t be about the next four years but an entire generation or as long as it takes for us to get back to the streets and do the work.