3/6/08

The rise of a hard-left union front-group

The Nation has been covering the ascendancy of The Working Families Party since it was started in 1998 by a group of labor and community activists who wanted to end the rightward drift of the Democratic Party and reinvigorate the fight for economic and social justice in New York. In fact, The Nation actually played a small but significant role in the birth of the WFP, running an editorial calling on our New York readers, who then numbered over 20,000 (now we've grown!), to vote for the WFP candidate on the party's ballot line. Based on a sophisticated statistical analysis of our subscribers' zipcodes and the 1998 voter precinct results, I like to claim that the WFP owes its ballot line to The Nation!

But The Nation is "the organ of no party," as our founders wrote back in 1865. And we've demonstrated our independence of the WFP by running critical articles of it. The WFP, in turn, has demonstrated its independence of us by writing letters to the editor taking issue with those articles, and sometimes endorsing candidates that we've criticized.

That said, The Nation and the WFP support the same things for our society: jobs for all that pay a living wage, universal health care, quality public education, a revived role for organized labor and a real voice for average people in the decisions that affect their lives, deep campaign finance reform, tolerance for and celebration of our diversity. And we both believe that the path to a revived progressive politics runs through a revived labor movement and must be built on a multiracial foundation.

I also admire the WFP for showing progressives-- with its in-the-trenches, savvy organizing and sophisticated policy ideas-- what "The left wing of the possible" looks like in these turbulent years.

In these last days, The Working Families Party of New York continues to impress with its combination of electoral savvy and policy ambition. After playing a major role in last week's State Senate upset victory in the North Country, the WFP has turned its attention to re-framing the state debate on taxes.

So, it was very good to see the WFP get its due in the New York Times. Today's paper has a big story about how "the politically influential Working Families Party" is pushing a proposal to simultaneously provide serious property tax relief to middle and working class New Yorkers while also closing the budget gap. How? By repealing some of the huge Pataki-era tax cuts. It's so obvious, but of course it goes against 30 years of right-wing orthodoxy on taxes, so it takes actual muscle to move such an idea forward.

Will Governor Spitzer weigh in in favor? That's the million-dollar question.

Meanwhile, you can learn more about the WFP here.

(thenation.com)

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