Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Threat to the Democratic Party: Alliance of Working Family Party and Democratic Socialists

“W.F.P. had the strategy and the know-how and we combined that with what D.S.A. does best, which is boots-on-the-ground organizing,” Ms. Cabán said.
The new leader of the Working Families Party in New York hopes to remake the progressive group to attract the energized left.
“Damaging the W.F.P. is small potatoes when you consider the much broader movement being built,” said Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change, a grass-roots organizing group. “There is a growing anger on the left about where we need to be going and that the Democratic Party has not gone there.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/06/nyregion/aoc-working-families-party-ny.html
There are signs that the Democratic Party is heading for a crisis and possibly a split or the emergence of a new party to the left. The key is the ability to have deep grassroots (the Dem Party has an organized machine at the neighborhood levels). Imagine the scenario where the progressive wing feels denied in the 2020 election process. There is such hatred of Trump that people will bite their tongues - other than the far left which doesn't want any entanglement in electoral politics -- but that is the fringe, so ignore them for now. But it can't be top down and must have roots at the community level.

The on the ground work of DSA and other groups in challenging Democrats that are not viewed as left enough has created a lot of tension in the party -- why the AOC victory of Crowley who was/is a typical Dem boss, was so  huge. There's more to come, with a lot more challenges to long-time Dem politicians coming. The question is can the left actually take control of the party - and at this point I can't see that happening - which can only lead to some kind of formation of a new party - but it can't be a fringe but a coalition of sorts of the left wing of the current Dem Party which is clearly growing.

Remember the Green Party? They run for president and NY Governor and have a splattering of candidates in local races. But they have been far outstripped by the DSA in many places. I believe the current political crisis will force various segments of the left to come together - even if they have to grin and bear it.

That is why the article I cite here is so interesting: A working relationship between the Working Families Party, which was just screwed over royally by the Cuomo vendetta against them which will probably cost them their place on the ballot -and also the abandonment of union support - with the UFT as prime deserter -- and the DSA is intriguing and a first step in the consolidation. But one thing has to be clear. DSA is anti-capitalist and as I pointed out in yesterday's post (How the Cool Kids of the Left Turned on Elizabeth Warren - POLITICO), there is much synergy between DSA and Jacobin, groups clearly out to end capitalism and establish some version of socialism - and there's the rub there as that wing has engaged in ideological warfare for the past 150 years.

The article points out the mine field in the potential for cooperation:
The W.F.P. and the D.S.A. may not agree on everything. The W.F.P., for example, has endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic presidential primary; the Democratic Socialists have endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders.
What the reported is missing is the level of vituperation directed at the WFP by the Jacobin crowd for endorsing Warren as that Politico article I cited. This alliance won't be an easy one. But if it worked it could have an impact on the Dem party here in the city.

I've written in the past about the potential of the Democratic Socialists (DSA) which has grown tenfold since 2016, in challenging the Dem Party machine at the neighborhood level in gentrified areas. There are eight NYC branches geographically located throughout the city with a 9th citywide Labor Branch rooted in union members from around the city  - a group where the current MORE leadership has rooted itself. (But more on that angle in the future.) I've attended a few south Brooklyn DSA branch meetings and was impressed with the level of activity in so many areas (housing, health to name a few - though ironically not much on education) on a grass roots level. If the other branches are doing the same, these are deep roots that in certain neighborhoods can compete with the Democratic Party machine. The real problem for DSA is that it is rooted in the gentrified areas and dominated by fairly young whites, a majority male but increasingly female.

The work of DSA is so antithetical to the usual Dem Party machine politics and DSA has aligned with other left wing groups to challenge the machine in areas where it can build alliances. As pointed out in the article that I almost missed in Saturday's NYT, the Tiffany Caban challenge for the Queens DA race was an example. The left points out how she lost by only 50 votes to the machine candidate, Melinda Katz (who was forced to lean left by the campaign). But I also point out that there were 7 candidates running who were not really left and if it were Caban/Katz head to head it wouldn't have been close. And that is the essential weakness of the DSA/left - their strength is in the white progressive gentrified areas - like northwest Queens. Most of the rest of Queens - and I include the black areas in southeastern Queens - is nowhere close to where DSA stands. One of the reasons I have begun to distribute the leftist monthly, The Independent, in Rockaway libraries is to expand that point of view.
Nnaemeka’s background as a black woman who is the daughter of immigrants was a signal that groups like the W.F.P. and D.S.A. were listening to the criticism. “The progressive left is a multiracial coalition,” Ms. Nnaemeka said. “Blacks are progressive. I’m a black person who considers herself part of a strong progressive left who wants to expand possibilities for working-class people.”
The weakness of DSA has been in its inability to attract people of color - nothing new - just look at a group like MORE in the UFT. At almost every meeting for 6 years we heard complaints about how white the group is- and still is - and white male dominated. But The Squad is a sign of change. And locally, there is hope that an alliance between DSA and WFP can remedy that.

A Political Party Aligns Itself With Ocasio-Cortez

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/06/nyregion/aoc-working-families-party-ny.html


Sochie Nnaemeka is the new leader of New York State Working Families Party, which is aiming to strengthen ties with groups like the Democratic Socialists of America.

The Working Families Party, an influential, labor-backed organization that has helped push Democrats to the left, is moving toward a new identity: It wants to align itself with the movement that spawned Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The shift comes amid recent internal debate between the labor unions that helped found the W.F.P. in the late 1990s and the party’s more progressive faction — fissures that have caused key unions to withdraw their support for the party in New York.

Rather than try to repair those relationships, party leaders are moving further to the left, seeking to strengthen its alliance with groups like the Democratic Socialists of America, an early backer of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional campaign in 2018.
“There are social movement actors from Occupy Wall Street all the way to the resistance movement to Trump, who are looking for an electoral political home,” said Maurice Mitchell, the W.F.P.’s national director. “The next iteration of the Working Families Party is intent on being that political home.”

Leading that shift in New York will be Sochie Nnaemeka, whose appointment as the head of the New York State Working Families Party will be announced on Saturday.

Ms. Nnaemeka, 31, an activist who most recently served as the director of emerging organizing and leadership at the Center for Popular Democracy, will assume her role at a time of great success but also looming trouble. 

Instead of designing a strong system of public financing of elections, this commission has designed a weak one, as a cover for a politically motivated attack on @NYWFP. @NYGovCuomo and @JayJacobs28 were hell-bent on punishing the WFP for our independence.
“Damaging the W.F.P. is small potatoes when you consider the much broader movement being built,” said Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change, a grass-roots organizing group. “There is a growing anger on the left about where we need to be going and that the Democratic Party has not gone there.”

Ms. Nnaemeka seemed confident of the party’s future.
“There are new formations that are aligning. The D.S.A. is growing, and there are all sorts of other insurgent left groups that we are in a deep relationship with,” she said in an interview, referring to the Democratic Socialists of America.
“We were still on an upward trajectory,” she added. “We still delivered on progressive visions even as our party changed shape.”
Bill Lipton, whom Ms. Nnaemeka is replacing, said he would be involved with the state party through the 2020 election, then work on climate issues for the national party.
The W.F.P. and the D.S.A. may not agree on everything. The W.F.P., for example, has endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic presidential primary; the Democratic Socialists have endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders.
“The endorsement of Elizabeth Warren is not a choice we would have made, but everyone knows that beating Trump requires a coalition,” said Cea Weaver, a member of a D.S.A. steering committee in New York City. “We help each other be more left versions of ourselves.”
The partnership nearly scored a monumental upset in this year’s Democratic primary for Queens district attorney, which was ultimately won by Melinda Katz, the candidate backed by the Democratic county machine.
Tiffany Cabán was a little-known public defender when she picked up the endorsement of the D.S.A. for her bid for the Democratic nod. The W.F.P. soon came on board.
“W.F.P. had the strategy and the know-how and we combined that with what D.S.A. does best, which is boots-on-the-ground organizing,” Ms. Cabán said.
After a lengthy recount, Ms. Cabán lost the Democratic primary by about 60 votes to Ms. Katz, who went on to win the general election last month.
The D.S.A. is currently backing a slate of candidates in Brooklyn to challenge several incumbents, including state Assembly members Erik Martin Dilan, Félix Ortiz and Walter Mosley, and Senator Velmanette Montgomery.
“We’d love to be able to replicate that Tiffany Cabán model,” Ms. Weaver said. The W.F.P. has not made a decision about endorsements in those races.
But the burgeoning partnership may help fuel a perception that progressive groups are made up of mainly white, middle-class people who are pitting their views against more established groups of people of color.
“Historically, the W.F.P. has this reputation of being the white progressives, and the white progressives who get on my nerves,” said L. Joy Williams, a political strategist and president of the Brooklyn N.A.A.C.P. who worked with Ms. Nixon during her primary run. “This tension is prevalent in places like Brooklyn, where we have these pockets of white progressives.”
Membership in the D.S.A. has jumped to 50,000 from 5,000 after the election of President Trump, and the group has acknowledged that it needs to diversify its ranks.
“We’ve always had to deal with the paternalism that exists and that’s not absent in the white, progressive circles,” said Jumaane D. Williams, the New York City public advocate who was supported by the W.F.P. and D.S.A. during his run for lieutenant governor, and is a member of the D.S.A. “The W.F.P. didn’t always represent the communities they organized, and they changed that. D.S.A. can do the same.”
Emma Wolfe, chief of staff to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said Ms. Nnaemeka’s background as a black woman who is the daughter of immigrants was a signal that groups like the W.F.P. and D.S.A. were listening to the criticism.
“The progressive left is a multiracial coalition,” Ms. Nnaemeka said. “Blacks are progressive. I’m a black person who considers herself part of a strong progressive left who wants to expand possibilities for working-class people.”

Correction: 
An earlier version of this article misidentified three state elected leaders. Erik Martin Dilan, Félix Ortiz, Walter Mosley are state assemblymen, not state senators.
Jeffery C. Mays is a reporter on the Metro Desk who covers politics with a focus on New York City Hall. A native of Brooklyn, he is a graduate of Columbia University. @JeffCMays

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