Freedom Rider: The Working Families Party Must Go
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“It is time to admit that leftists have no influence in the Democratic Party.”
Here in New York state, the uselessness of the Democratic Party “progressive” wing is on full display. The Democrat in name only governor, Andrew Cuomo, was not only re-elected but did so by knocking the phony progressives down a peg and down a line on the ballot. The Working Families Party (WFP) has suffered a well deserved comeuppance, having spent the past year betraying the causes it claims to support.
Known as Governor 1%, Cuomo was elected in 2010 with the endorsement of the WFP, a union-financed party who can run their own candidates but instead give Democrats an additional ballot line. Despite the endorsement, Cuomo made good on his threat to lay off state unionized workers and cut their salaries. Cuomo said nothing when corrupt Democrats in the state senate switched sides and gave Republicans the majority in that chamber. He has made no secret of his liking for this arrangement and his disdain for other Democrats and for the WFP.
He temporarily said all the right things to win another WFP endorsement in 2014 and then promptly formed a rival party in order to punish them. The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) has a similar name which confused some voters, as it was meant to do. Cuomo didn’t need the new party to get re-elected but he did want to show the WFP who was boss.
The Democrat response to their self-inflicted wound was to beg progressives to vote on the now discredited WFP line and for the man who kicked them when they were down. They pulled out all the stops, using everything from celebrity endorsements to getting The Nation magazine to put its seal of approval on the political disaster.
“Cuomo didn’t need the new party to get re-elected but he did want to show the WFP who was boss.”
But progressive voters in New York really had only one choice all along, and that was to vote on the Green Party line. The Democrats gave them no choice with their incompetent back room dealing and subservience to big money. The WFP was stuck with a governor whose name they didn’t even want to use even as they asked for votes.
It is easy and accurate to describe governor Andrew Cuomo has an evil bully but that has been obvious for many years. Cuomo cut his teeth as his father Mario Cuomo’s “hatchet man” while still a young man. He was a known quantity four years ago but the WFP endorsed him anyway. They thought they had a deal to endorse him again in 2014 without embarrassing themselves but Cuomo is nothing if not consistent. Angry that he had to bend at all, he gave the WFP the finger, publicly backtracked on a pledge to help Democrats get elected, expanded the number of charter schools and bragged about giving tax relief to corporations and wealthy people.
Having been played for fools, the WFP was stuck with the endorsement but they didn’t back down from their habit of bringing knives to gun fights. They exhorted progressives to vote on their line and even tried to convince foolish people that they were hurting Cuomo by voting for him.
The whole sorry episode is a result of the Democratic political class in action. The unions who fund the WFP don’t really want to fight for their members or to strengthen working people. They want to have an in with the powerful and create a life line of high paying jobs for their insiders. The WFP is nothing but the Democratic party rebranded to appear more progressive than it actually is.
“It is better that the Green Party, which is pro-public education and single payer health care, moves ahead of the WFP.”
The careerists and opportunists in the WFP have been found out and should be finished in New York state politics once and for all. It is fitting that their amateurish and duplicitous machinations have resulted in the Green Party getting more votes and moving ahead of them on the ballot. The WFP, like the rest of the Democratic Party, doesn’t want real progressive politics anyway. It is better that the Green Party, which is pro-public education and single payer health care, moves ahead of the WFP. We should have true progressives in electoral politics but the Democratic Party and their supposedly left wing want to prevent that from happening. Ironically Cuomo did New York a favor by making that all too clear.
Democrats in New York state are like their counterparts across the country, talking a good game about being progressive but never delivering when they have an opportunity to do so. The loss of the United States Senate to Republicans is not as bad as we are led to believe. The Democrats controlled the White House and both Houses of Congress in 2009 and 2010 and could have increased the minimum wage. Now they only raise the issue when Republicans are in control and they can do nothing about it.
It is time to admit that leftists have no influence in the Democratic Party. No one has to beg the Green Party to move left because they are authentically there to begin with. Old tropes about wasted votes must be discarded and unpleasant truths must be acknowledged. The experience in New York state shows that third parties aren’t spoilers, it is the Democrats who do that all by themselves.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.