Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, October 24, 2016

As Election Day approaches, I want to mention why I plan to cast a ballot that may at first seem contradictory. My aim is to admonish Andrew Cuomo for behavior unbecoming the “progressive” governor that he says he is, so I’m going to vote for him — on the Working Families Party line.

For me, voting the Working Families line is nothing new. I’ve supported the small but scrappy outfit’s “fusion” approach to politics in New York, where it is allowed by law to cross-endorse Democrats, ever since its founding in 1998 by a coalition of union leaders, community organizers, and labor activists.

Over the past decade or so, the party has expanded into other states — including Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Maryland — and won some important victories on issues such as the minimum wage, drug law reform, and paid sick leave. In New York City, the party has helped elect dozens of progressive Democrats to the City Council and in 2013 vaulted one of its leading candidates, Letitia James, into citywide office as Public Advocate. (For a deeper understanding of the party’s history and strategy, it is worth reading this smart, thoughtful profile in The American Prospect.)

Earlier this year, the party was required to choose between Andrew Cuomo, the incumbent Democratic governor it endorsed in 2010, and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor challenging him in the Democratic primary. Like every minor party in New York, the Working Families Party must renew its ballot status every four years by winning at least 50,000 votes for its gubernatorial candidate – an outcome that hardly seemed guaranteed with Teachout before her surprisingly strong showing in the primary.

So the WFP nominated Cuomo, despite his various shortcomings, in a deal that obliged him to endorse the party’s program, notably public election financing, a Democratic-led State Senate, and higher minimum wage. Cuomo has since reneged publicly on important aspects of that agreement, which is bad enough, but seems to be attempting something even worse. He has sponsored another entity — the “Women’s Equality Party” — which seems designed mainly to drive the Working Families Party off the ballot by siphoning away its votes. There is no need for a separate women’s party, as feminist legend Gloria Steinem emphasized with her endorsement of the WFP, which she calls “the most important vote this year.”

Now some activists who despise Cuomo — and remain angry with the WFP for endorsing him — are urging progressive voters to support the Green Party candidate. But that is always a political dead end: The only significant consequence of a Green Party vote during the past 20 years was the Bush-Cheney administration.

Nothing quite so awful will happen this time, but the demise of the Working Families Party would mark the premature end of one of the most successful experiments in progressive politics that America has seen in decades – a combination of idealism and pragmatism, growing from the grassroots, that deserves to expand. Its thousands of activists have worked long and hard to build a vital institution with real power. Wrecking the WFP for the sake of a “protest” vote would be the electoral equivalent of a destructive tantrum.

Ironically, the only way to sanction Cuomo, who will win by a large margin on Tuesday, is to vote for him on the WFP line – and by doing so, frustrate his apparent wish to ruin them. I’m not alone in this approach, which has been stated eloquently by Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and former Teachout campaign manager Mike Boland. Mayor Bill de Blasio has endorsed Cuomo on the WFP line, too.

If the state’s most powerful politician is scheming to get rid of the Working Families Party, then that may be the single strongest argument for keeping them on the ballot. But it is by no means the only one.

Photo: Pat Arnow via Flickr

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • If NY state could rid itself of NYC, Cuomo would not have a chance, along with any other liberal or democrat. Cuomo is even more corrupt than what we have in our White House. His SAFE act alone should have had him removed from office.

    • BillP

      Well I’m sure that the NYC metropolitan area- NYC+ Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk would gladly let the north and western parts of NYS go on their own. More tax revenue would stay in the metropolitan area. Another gun lover speaks out on the SAFE act.

      • I’m sure the rest of the state would love to have their taxes not go to NYC. As far as the SAFE act goes, damn straight. One of THE MOST UNCONSTITUTIONAL laws ever passed, forced on NYS residents without ANY input.

        • BillP

          The most of the state tax revenue comes from the lower part of NYS. People who live in NYC and the surrounding counties pay more taxes than the rest of the state. You stated you wanted rid NYS of NYC, why don’t you start a movement to do this? The SAFE act hasn’t been declared unconstitutional by a very conservative Supreme Court so unless your are a constitutional lawyer or scholar, both extremely unlikely you have no basis to declare a law unconstitutional. They didn’t give you that power in LALALA right wing world, did they?

          • Considering that most expensive places in the WORLD to live, most of the taxes would come from there. Yet, the rest of the state takes up the slack to support the area. In western NY, I can buy a house for around 70K. The EXACT same house in White Plains sells for over 600K. White Plains is one of the most restrictive places to live also. Unbelievable building codes, and inspections, and more regulations than in almost all other parts of the country.
            The SAFE act will be struck down eventually, but probably not before major damage is done. The courts have already struck down portions, but with the god father of governors in charge, nothing will change for the better, in fact, Cuomo has already added to the SAFE act, further curtailing American rights.

          • BillP

            I think you meant to claim that NYC is the most expensive place in the world but that wasn’t what you wrote, moron. Get your facts straight NYC and the surrounding counties supply the vast majority of the NYS tax revenue. Here is the breakdown fool ”
            Personal Income Tax by Place of Residence
            NYC – 45.1% Downstate Suburbs – 27.4%, Capital Region – 3.8% & Rest of State – 23.8%. So NYC & Suburbs pay 72.5% of all NYS tax revenue, the rest of the whole state pays 27.6% that means we pay more 3 times what you pay. Yeah I know the Emperor changed all of these numbers to make us Liberal liars happy. Here is another bit of info for you: the rest of the state gets 42.2% of state expenditures while contributing only 27.6%, while NYC and Suburbs get 57.7% while paying 72.5%. So you and the rest of the state can leave NYC & its Suburbs as a separate state, we will be happy with our extra revenue.
            As for the SAFE act there have been motions to repeal the act or parts of it. Nothing has been acted on yet.
            Please start a movement to leave the downstate city and counties, it would mean less tax for me to pay.

      • And still no snappy comeback?

        • BillP

          yes Ken throw out NYC and its suburbs, we will not miss any free thinkers like you. My friends in Buffalo will want to be part of the NYC bloc.

  • Thomas Hillgardner

    The premise of this call to action is fallacious. If Howie Hwkins and the Green Party garner the third largest vote total, the Green Party will snag Line C – much to the chagrin of the Democratic Party.