by Wade Rathke
September 15, 2020
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!
Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International.