Tag Archives: Working Families Party

Voting on the Working Family Party Ballot Line

New Orleans      New Yorkers are lucky.  Not only do they get to vote with relatively little hassle, but they get to send important messages to politicians about where they stand by voting on unique ballot lines that identify their politics not in broad strokes, but along sharp edges.  Why? Because New York State remains one of the handful in the United States that allows multi-party fusion, even if the established party duopoly hates the practice.

This isn’t hard.  Multi-party fusion means that different political parties, with the concurrence of the candidates, can support the same candidates on their ballot line in an election.  The term “fusion” has become somewhat archaic, as the major parties have pulled their wagons in a circle over the last 125 years to exclude other parties, but simply put to fuse means they come together in agreement.  A dictionary perfectly explains that the synonyms of the verb “fuse” are “associate, coalesce, combine, conjoin, conjugate, connect, join, link, marry, unify, unite…” and so forth.  How wonderful for us to be able to fuse, and how frightening we have found it is for others.

Certainly, ACORN thought it was a great idea and along with the Communication Workers of America and New York Citizen Action joined with Dan Cantor as executive director to form the Working Families Party in New York in 1998.  The WFP has since then hewn to a progressive path in local races and in political positions with grit and conviction, meaning that the party has attracted steadfast friends and supporters and determined enemies, including Governor Andrew Cuomo.  They had the temerity to take a principled stand about the governor’s détente and tacit support for the Republicans controlling the legislature and endorsed his opponent in the last race.  He paid them back by winking and nodding to Democratic party officials and their friends in a hand-picked commission to make it harder to maintain a ballot line, hoping to knock them off the list, and be rid of this avenue for pesky progressives to pressure him to move his program forward.

The test they face this November is straightforward.  The WFP must get 2% or 130,000 votes, whichever is higher, polled on its ballot line for Biden and Harris or we lose our automatic ballot line for the next several years.  As I said, New Yorkers are lucky.  They can have their cake and eat it, too.  They can have their vote counted for Biden-Harris, and at the same time wave their progressive colors.  A lot of us will be pulling the Democratic lever this fall wishing we weren’t offering carte blanche to some uncomfortable positions, but not New Yorkers.

Sadly, the WFP is having to spend time and money and call in chits from Senator Chuck Schumer, Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, and other candidates where its line and energy has made a difference to make itself the issue, rather than its positions, so that the party can protect its line.  In this troubled time, New Yorkers are fortunate to have this chance to send a message on where they stand on the political spectrum.  It’s a contest, but I’m betting on the WFP once again to be able to take this threat and turn it into an opportunity to build its base and electorate.   Now is the time for New Yorkers, near and far, to run up the score for the Working Families Party!


Please enjoy No Justice by Blake Havard.

Thanks to WAMF.


Fusion Under Attack Again

New Orleans   My bad!  I called it way wrong.

After the New York legislative session where under the influence of a Democratic majority and progressive forces, major breakthroughs occurred, especially around expanding rent control access to cities around the state and closing landlord loopholes that had existed for decades, I interpreted the progress as having achieved peace-in-the-valley between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the good guys, especially the Working Families Party and the former New York ACORN, now called New York Communities for Change.  Jonathan Westin, the executive director of NYCC, had been quoted favorably on the session at the tail end of several articles, including in the New York Times. 

Now, coming back into the good old USA, I find out while reading my stack of two-week old papers, that I had made a very bad assumption.  I had presumed that Cuomo was better than Trump, and had allowed his pique and bitterness at being opposed in the primary by “Sex in the City” star, Cynthia Nixon, favored by the left and the Working Family Party, to be old hat.  He had in fact agreed to be on their ballot line in the general election polling 100,000 votes.

Now it seems he had continued to stew and has been conspiring to eliminate fusion in order to knock parties like the WFP off the ballot.  The WFP, on the left, and the Conservative Party, on the right, have both sued to try to preserve fusion and their ballot lines against a faux commission being developed by the governor as a stalking horse to eliminate fusion.

Fusion, as some will remember from long ago American history classes, was very common throughout the country in the 19th century until about 1896.  Various political parties organized around various issues and interests, and in many cases “fused” or combined to endorse a specific candidate, like William Jennings Bryan, who represented their views.  All the votes were counted towards the candidate’s total of course, but having separate ballot lines allowed parties and their supporters to be identified with their views and allegiances.  After that watershed election, the two dominant parties went to work on state legislatures they controlled and over the next dozen or so years managed to eliminate the fusion opportunity for the vast majority of states, leaving only about seven including New York, Vermont, South Carolina, and others allowing voters to express themselves this democratically.

ACORN was one of the founding organizations in the New Party, which tried a legal and organizational strategy to restore fusion nationally, albeit unsuccessfully at the Supreme Court level, and the Working Families Party in New York several years later.  If you believe in the fullest expression of democratic practice, you embrace fusion.  If you only believe in the power of a party as opposed to the power of the people, you oppose fusion.

Bill Lipton, the director of the Working Family Party of New York and the Cuomo forces engaged in a bit of ad hominem attacks, but it’s really a simple question.  The fact that fusion is enshrined in the New York state constitution may end up protecting the existence of the WFP in New York, but it shouldn’t really come to a courtroom.

I may have been wrong to have believed there was already peace, but I’m right to argue that there should now be peace among progressives.  Governor Cuomo argues that we should define progressiveness based on his actions.  Eliminating fusion would permanently erase any such pretense.